Global Arts and Cultures

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Courses

GAC offers a rigorous and thought-provoking core of courses that stimulates new ways of thinking about critical theories and research methods in global arts and cultures. Small class sizes allow students to develop close working relationships with faculty mentors and thesis advisors. These seminars are supplemented with elective classes that span the breadth of faculty expertise in the liberal arts and diverse interests of GAC students.

To meet graduation requirements, students in the 1.5-year program need to complete:

  • 15 credit hours of core coursework (including the Prospectus Seminar)
  • 12 credit hours of GAC electives (including one taken during RISD’s five-week Wintersession in January/February)
  • 12 credit hours of thesis work culminating in a 60-page critical essay

Core courses

Critical Globalisms

In the globalizing world of the 21st century, many established certainties and naturalized forms of knowledge—national, gendered, linguistic and disciplinary, to name just a few—are being challenged and redefined. In this course, we will address the major issues and debates pertaining to global arts and cultures, and in so doing also interrogate the theoretical frameworks and forms of knowledge shaping these debates.

We will begin by interrogating what we mean by “global” and “globalization” and how these terms intersect with cosmopolitanism, internationalization and postcolonialism. We will then focus on the dynamics of cultural globalization and its impact on what we understand as “the arts.” What has been the impact of globalization on the production and reception of the arts and culture? How, in turn, have culture and the arts traced, responded to, shaped and complicated what we understand as globalization? What roles do new media technologies and the establishment of international markets play in this process? What are the cultural, economic, political and environmental underpinnings and consequences of these transformations? How have scholarly approaches like national studies, regional studies, hemispheric studies, transatlantic studies, oceanic studies, archipelagic studies, etc., transformed ways of engaging arts and cultures? How might we most ethically think about arts and cultures, multiculturalism, multilingualism, and transcultural exchange?

Six credits, offered in the fall. GAC students take this course during their first semester in the program.

Research Issues Seminar

Critically understanding arts and cultures in relation to multiple and dynamic contexts worldwide requires comparative and transdisciplinary research. Such an approach is based on not only knowledge about disciplinary methods and epistemologies from the humanities and social sciences (e.g. practice-based, archival, ethnographic, sociological, scientific, digital, etc.) but also how the intersection of such disciplinary perspectives can enhance analysis and understanding. In this course, students explore a variety of interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisiciplinary approaches to thinking about cultural imagination and cultural production. By building on standard and new research practices, students explore their own research habits, consider those that might be most suitable for the kinds of projects they want to pursue, and explore the viability of more experimental and interdisciplinary approaches.

Key to the work of the course is exploration of the challenges (definitional, practical, ethical) that arise in doing different kinds of research. Reading, discussion, and case studies introduce and ask students to navigate such challenges. Through individual exploration of case study texts, objects, and practices, students are expected to push the bounds of their familiarity and build not only their “research toolkit” but their capacity for assessing problems, thinking through lines of inquiry, and moving between different perspectives and methods. In the end, students will develop greater awareness of the potential and pitfalls of research about arts and cultures at different scales, from local to global, disciplinary to experimental.

Three credits, offered in the fall. GAC students take this course during their first semester in the program.

Politics and Ethics of Representation

This course aims to address the complex challenges that confront those who engage with meaning-making in art and design. Students engage with contemporary case studies and pressing global scenarios in the study of global arts and cultures. The course also introduces students to different geographies and peoples of the world, and engages strongly with issues of difference and diversity.

The first segment of the course establishes a theoretical framework and introduces an interdisciplinary vocabulary and methodology for students to address questions of ethics and representation in art and design. The second segment interrogates specific topical issues in the politics of representation. A case study method aims to ground these larger debates in specific art and design contexts. Each week introduces a topic of importance and draws together texts from various disciplines in order to cross-fertilize approaches and encourage creative thinking. Run as a seminar, students will complete weekly reading assignments and regular writing assignments, and will engage weekly in class discussion.

Three credits, offered in the spring. GAC students take this during their second semester in the program.

Prospectus Seminar

The Prospectus Seminar is devoted to identifying and developing topics of inquiry that will culminate in the production of a solid, well-researched and intellectually engaging research prospectus. The course is therefore organized around key phases: framing a productive research question; conducting relevant research and locating your work in relation to existing scholarship (which includes identifying a mentor for your thesis); exploring writing and revision strategies; and presenting and communicating your work (which will include the writing of a formal conference paper and a syllabus).

Each section of the seminar is organized around reading and writing assignments that will increasingly be focused on student work and interests as the semester progresses. While the first part of the seminar is focused on the discussion of a number of tenets and case studies of scholarship that will ground the production of a proposal, the second part of the semester is driven by group analyses and workshops of student work. At the end of the semester, students submit their research prospectus to the First and Second Readers of their MA Committee. Acceptance of the prospectus is a requirement for continuing to the Thesis.

Three credits, offered in the spring. Students take this during their second semester in the program.

Thesis

A master’s thesis is a substantive, research-based paper of at least 60 double-spaced pages that makes an original intervention in the field. It should demonstrate the student’s theoretical knowledge, research proficiency and ability to situate the object of study in relevant contexts. The thesis will demonstrate the student's ability to produce original scholarship of publishable quality, one that makes a significant contribution to the field and expands the knowledge base of the particular disciplines it engages. If approved through the prospectus process, a student may complete a Capstone Project equivalent in scope and level of scholarship to the MA Thesis.

Students in this course work independently, in conversation with peers and in individual consultation with their MA Thesis Committee to develop, complete, revise and finalize the Thesis. Students will develop it through in-depth research of the topic (as approved through the prospectus process), regular submission of work, incorporation of feedback from peers and faculty, and revision of their work.

Twelve credits. Students take this course during their final semester in the program.

Topic-based courses

Cities of the Global South

Critical Discourse on the Black Female Body

Design Anthropology

Eating the Way Back Home: Food, Literature and Identity

Fashioning the Modern

Global–Local–Contemporary Art

Indigenous Knowledge

The Media of Design

Noir Goes Global

Theater, Performance and Politics

Visual Culture of Freud's Vienna

A faculty of hybrid thinkers

These and other inspiring opportunities for deep learning are shaped by scholars whose intellectual interests often defy traditional categorization. Like the program itself, GAC faculty embrace the discovery of unexpected connections between ideas and disciplinary approaches.