Abstract

The development at Sheffield Hallam University of a discrete module entitled ‘Transculturation’ was the result of our determination to address the current debates in art and design history concerning the Western bias of existing curricula. The question raised was whether to begin by extending the content of current modules or to address visual culture from outside the Western tradition in a new, dedicated module.

This paper aims to trace the process through which we arrived at teaching strategies that would enable us to think about world cultures without claiming definitive knowledge or suggesting a static, ‘authentic’ other, and that would enable students and educators to develop skills and gain experience with which to approach artefacts from societies other than our own.

Our strategy was to select a regional case study, in order to gain some sense of the very complex range of determinants that constitute a given visual culture. To ensure an awareness of the specificity of each case study, and in order to avoid generalizations, we studied and returned to a range of theoretical texts that had potentially wider application.

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