Visual and Sensorial Cultures

The minor Visual and Sensorial Cultures introduces you to key aspects of modern visual and sensorial cultures over the period 1850 to today. You will be taught methods, theories and conceptual frameworks enabling you to delve deeper into this extensive domain of study.


Number of EC

30 EC

Number of courses

4 compulsory courses


Block 3


Dr. Patrick van Rossem

Course overview

Visual and Sensorial Cultures

Minor code


Entry requirements

At least 45 EC for category 1 (Bachelor Introduction)

Associated MA-programmes
Register between 4 November and 22 November 2024

Make sure to register for the minor as well as all its courses


The minor Visual and Sensorial Cultures introduces you to key aspects of modern visual and sensorial cultures in the modern and contemporary period (1850 to today), with a strong focus on the experiential, political, social and artistic dimensions of the visual and the sensorial. To do so, different experts from history, art history and visual culture as well as literary history are brought together. The minor has a distinctive trans- and interdisciplinary focus: it bases its view on theories from historical and literary science, social science, visual studies, psychology and perception theory, philosophy and theory of the senses, political science and other relevant methodologies and theories.

Questions that we look at are amongst others:

  • Why is our culture so ocularcentric? How do the senses co-determine our behavior?
  • How did the hierarchy of the senses come into being? What do we know about intersensory experience? 
  • What is the perceptual impact of the so called lower senses (touch, smell, taste)… ?
  • How is visual culture used by politics in times of crisis and situations of political and social conflict?
  • How do artists, writers, designers, architects… use art and images politically?
  • How do we visually and sensorially experience images, concerts, installations, artworks, spaces, performances…
  • How do visual and performance artists use art, images and the senses to create specific experiences
  • How do artists, film- and documentary makers deal with sensory pollution in their work?

You will learn methods, theories and conceptual frameworks enabling you to delve deeper into this extensive domain of study. You will learn to consider the societal and ideological treatment of images and the political and economic realities in which they circulate. You will learn how to contextualise artistic Manifestos and you will learn different methodologies by which you can research our sensual and visual experience of art, literature, film, and other both artistic as well as non-artistic cultural objects and events.

After completing this minor, you will:

  • have survey knowledge of theories with regards to the political use of images and art, the visual sense, visuality and the sensory experience of art and culture;
  • be acquainted with the most important conceptual approaches and research traditions with regards to visuality, the senses and the experience of images, art and other cultural objects and events and have learned to apply these to concrete cases;
  • be able to recognize political strategies in the use and production of art and images as well as recognize the role of the different senses and their interplay in the experience of art, images and other cultural objects and events;
  • be able to understand present challenges and developments with regards to the study of sensory and visual culture and be able to understand and explain the necessary trans- and interdisciplinary perspectives needed to study the field
  • have practiced and applied academic skills such as academic writing and research;
  • have explored and tested learning by doing methods

Matching bachelor's programmes

The minor represents a useful practical and theoretical addition to almost every track imaginable within the Department of History and Art History, as well as Taal- en Cultuur studies, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Media en Cultuur, Media and Culture and Literary Studies.


The minor in Visual and Sensual Cultures consists of 4 courses to be followed in block 3 and 4 (30 EC in total).

The course Manifesto: One Hundred Years of Avant-Garde looks at how artists, architects, writers, designers have called for the political use of art, images, culture in order to subvert society’s status quo. In the course Politics of Images the focus lies on the power and political use of images and art and further introduces critical writings, theories and methodologies to deal with the visual and the political use of visuality and art. The senses in culture and society introduces you to basic theories on our sensory lives as well as historical and philosophical theories on the sensorial in a broad perspective (film, art, performance, material culture, ecology, smell and cities, taste and food, concerts) using learning by doing methodologies and re-enactments of existing sensory experiments. Audiences for Art, film and Photography continues this approach. You will not only learn basic theories about spectatorship, audiences and related concepts such as users, participation and so on, but you will be asked to be an audience and analyze your own behavior, sensory experience and the development of your thoughts and insights while experiencing, art, film, photography.  

Application and registration

How to register for this minor and its course modules, depends on whether you are a student of Utrecht University or not.

More information

If you wish to know more, or have questions about this minor, please contact the Student Desk Humanities.