How Art Works

A sociological and historical perspective on art and popular culture
Verbredende minor
10 weken


Do you want to get a ‘behind the scenes’ look into the arts? From classic art museums to major music labels, many organizations and groups of people working together make sure a steady stream of art and culture is at people’s disposal – from posh auction halls all the way to the fingertips sweeping a smartphone. How does this  process work? How do new genres of arts and culture emerge? And how do we come to value art – financially and/or culturally?

In this minor, we will consider both the ‘high arts’ and popular culture. We will study actual developments within these domains, as well as cutting-edge ideas on how to make sense of these developments and the operation of culture and the arts more broadly. Students who have completed this minor will have an in-depth understanding of how the arts and culture sector works; changing how you perceive a museum, theatre or the process of choosing a Netflix film.

The first course, Art, Culture and History, introduces you to the arts from a historical perspective. We will consider the developments in the arts from the Middle Ages to contemporary society (looking primarily, but not only, at the visual arts), taking into account the political, economic and religious contexts in which they took place.

Second, the course Art, Culture and Society considers the arts and culture as social domains. By taking a sociological view, addressing the production, distribution and appreciation of art, it will become clear that art and culture can only be meaningful when considered as situated in society.

Third, the course Popular Music: Industry and Society focuses on popular music as one of the most popular and important art forms today. Taking an interdisciplinary perspective, this course focuses on the economy and sociology of popular music.

Learning objectives

After completing the minor, students:

  • have a wide-ranging knowledge and critical understanding of theory, history and the practice of the world of arts and culture, in the Netherlands as well as internationally.
  • are familiar with the academic thinking about relations between art and society and how art and culture are embedded within larger societal and economical developments.
  • are able to apply relevant theoretical concepts from within art and cultural sociology in the arts and culture practice.
  • understand and are able to critically reflect on prevailing classifications (such as high and low art, popular culture, …).

Special aspects

Proficiency in spoken and written English is essential. We advise a VWO-final examination grade of 7 or higher, a TOEFL-test minimum score of 100 or an IELTS-test minimum score of 7.

Overview modules

Module 1: Art, culture and History (CC9001)

  • Code: CC9001
  • EC: 5
  • Content: The aim of this course is to present to non-arts students an introduction to the historical development of (Western-)European art and culture from the late Middle Ages onwards. We question how developments of the past have resulted in the art world as we know it today. Students will be able to reflect on these developments and the context in which they took place, and be able to identify and discuss important works of art/art movements in visual arts, architecture, literature, music, and philosophy.
  • Teaching method: Lectures.
  • Teaching materials: Will be announced.
  • Contact hours: 2 hours per week.
  • Self study: 11 hours per week.

Module 2: Art, Culture and Society (CC9002)

  • Code: CC9002
  • EC: 5
  • Content: This course provides an introduction to the sociology of culture and the arts as a scientific discipline. The goal is to familiarize students with the social character of the production, distribution and appreciation of art and cultural products by applying relevant theoretical sociological concepts and approaches to the practice of the broad art and cultural sectors. We will start with the relations between art and society as they were considered in classic sociological perspectives, but then take into account how this is complicated by intermediate layers of stakeholders. In this respect, we will focus on such questions as what is an artist, who is involved in constituting the arts, how do we know what is art (and what is not), how do the cultural industries decide what to make, why do people consume art and why do they differ so much when it comes to taste for the arts.
  • Teaching method: Lectures.
  • Teaching material: Victoria Alexander. Sociology of the Arts, Exploring Fine and Popular Forms (second edition - 2020). ISBN10: 0470672889; (ISBN: 9780470672884)
  • Contact hours: 2 hours per week.
  • Self study: 10 hours per week.

Module 3: Popular Music: Industry and Society (CC2052B)

  • Code: CC2052B
  • EC: 5
  • Content: In this course, students will be made familiar with both the sociology and the economy of popular music. On the one hand, students are invited to theoretically engage in the critical and systematic study of popular music’s role in society. On the other hand, an industry approach will familiarize students with the functioning of the music industry – both at the level of musicians and global media companies. Students will discuss popular music law, regulation and technology – particularly in a time of rampant illegal downloading/streaming and DIY music production. Moreover, industry and organizational structures are discussed in combination with artistic career development. This perspective will also allow us to get a glimpse of the future of music: Web 2.0 and 3.0, the metaverse, algorithmic taste prediction, and the global hegemony of IT companies such as Google and Spotify.
  • Teaching method: One lecture per week; three hours each
  • Teaching material: Research articles; book chapters
  • Contact hours: 3 hours per week.
  • Self study: 10 hours per week.


Method of examination

Module 1 - Art, Culture and History:

  • one assignment
  • written exam

Module 2 - Art, Culture and Society:

  • group assignment
  • written exam

Module 3 - Popular Music: Industry and Society:

  • group assignment
  • final essay

Composition final grade

Module 1 - Art, Culture and History      

  • assignments (30%)
  • written exam (75%)

Module 2 - Art, Culture and Society     

  • group assignment (20%)
  • final essay (80%)

Module 3 – Popular Music: Industry and Society            

  • group assignment (30%)
  • final essay (70%)

There will be a possibility to view the corrected exams.
Essays with corrections and feedback will be returned to the students.

Frequently asked questions


Contact information 

Dr. M.J. Berghman
room: M7-14

Faculty website

Verbredende minor
10 weken
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication
Studiepunten (EC)
Campus Woudestein


Please read the application procedure for more information. 

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