An International Approach: History of Art at SOAS

by Yana Shapkina, ARTiculation Alumni 2015


Art is an invisible thread that goes through the core of all societies in the world and links them with their past, present and future. It is a universal language that everyone could speak; it is a discourse that brings people together. Art is a mean of understanding others and what, if not understanding, helps us to prevent conflicts?

School of Oriental and African Studies adopts an international approach to the study of art and celebrates the unity of cultures in their diversity. The History of Art course explores various forms of visual creativity in Asia and Africa. It deconstructs conventional orthodox perceptions of art and shows how this concept changes in different parts of the world. Each region has its own specific cultural understanding of visual creativity and that is why the lectures have a strong emphasis on social studies. This is also the reason why this course allows students to build wide knowledge of the subject.

Chanoyu, Japanese Tea Ceremony


In the first year, newcomers are introduced to a broad survey of international art subdivided into four categories: South & Southeast Asian art, East Asian art, Islamic art and African art. Then they could either continue doing courses on every geographical area available, or specialise on more specific subjects, for example Korean contemporary art. Also, it could be very rewarding to combine this course with language modules, especially if you  already know your area of specialisation (it is possible to take a free term language course). Even if you don’t, SOAS is a great place to find yourself and discover your interest, sometimes in unpredictable fields. After all, in my  opinion, SOAS  is one of the greatest places in the world to study international art, thanks to its world-leading research centre and absolutely amazing library.

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