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ANTH offers new Masters in Cultural Production

By Jenna Fernandes

Section: News

November 11, 2005

The Brandeis Board of Trustees has recently approved the creation of a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Cultural Production, an interdisciplinary graduate program of the Department of Anthropology.

According to the Anthropology Department website, the program, set to begin Fall 2006, is dedicated to the critical exploration ofquestions at the intersections of art, imagination, technology, space and politics. This focus includes investigations into how cultural forms, such as art, performance and music, are produced, preserved and struggled over in the contemporary moment and what contributions artists, musicians, performers and other producers of culture [are] making in re-imagining public spheres, forms of citizenship, and struggles for social justice.

The requirements for the program include theory-based discussion classes, as well as directed research and an intensive internship. According to the Anthropology website, the courses in the Program investigate how historical, expressive, and aesthetic representations are generated, circulated, and interpreted in both local and global contexts.

Faculty from several different departments are involved in the new interdisciplinary program. The Director of the Program is Prof. Mark Auslander (ANTH). Other faculty involved in the program are Profs. Eric Hill (THA), Paul Jankowski (HIST), Thomas King (ENG), James Mandrell (ROCL), Charles McClendon (FA), Laura J. Miller (SOC), Richard J. Parmentier (ANTH), Harleen Singh (GREA), Ellen Schattschneider (ANTH), Nancy Scott (FA) and Faith Smith (ENG, AAAS).

In addition to mastering analytical and comparative skills necessary for the study of cultural forms and their public spheres, students [will] gain practical expertise, through credit-earning internships, in developing and coordinating cultural productions, ranging from museum installations and heritage festivals to civic memorials and historical archives, according to the Antropology web site.

Internships will include opportunities at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston National Historic Park, the American Reperatory Theatre, and the Boston Public Library.

Upon receiving their degree, graduates of the program will be prepared for careers in museums, memorial institutions, and performing arts organizations, helping, for example, to deepen relationships between cultural institutions and historically underserved communities, according to the website. There is also a strong focus on emerging technology, especially the growing utility of the internet, and its contribution to evolving cultural forms.

Auslander related the origins of the program, which he said arose out of conversations among [faculty] and students which have been happening for approximately two years. He realized from talking to undergraduates that there was a need for such a program.

While there are PhD programs that bring together art, philosophy and social sciences at universities such as the University of Chicago and the University of California at Santa Cruz, there are no M.A. programs like the one launched at Brandeis. Auslander believes Brandeis is uniquely positioned to accommodate this type of program, which he says resonates with the feeling at Brandeis that the artsbind together many different kinds of communities. He also feels that the ideas behind cultural production are deeply embedded in Brandeis twin commitment to arts and social justice.

Auslander hopes to begin with three or four graduate students and plans to expand to between 9 and 12 within a few years. While full-time students are welcomed and encouraged, the program is also designed to accommodate the needs of mid-career professionals who can only commit to a part-time schedule. A full-time student would complete the program in one academic year, while a working student taking one class at a time would complete it in eight semesters.

Auslander is very excited about undertaking this project, especially given the variety of faculty members. He says it epitomizes what leads us to love Brandeis to love teaching. He says that this program represents the deep hope that our intellectual pursuits have social and moral relevance. It presents the professors with the possibility for thinking creatively about our common humanity, [which is] why we got into this whole business.

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