AUC students visit Malta for ‘Culture Lab’ coursework

22 June 2018

A group of 14 AUC students, led by Prof. Dr. Murray Pratt (Dean of AUC) and Dr. Pedram Dibazar (AUC lecturer and tutor), have been in Malta since 11 June for the second edition of the AUC course “Culture Lab”.

Second edition of Culture Lab goes to Valletta

Following the success of the first edition in Cyprus in 2017, Culture Lab once again looks to provide students with project-based and self-directed learning experiences about culture and cultural festivals, European identity-building and the role of cultural interventions in addressing issues for cities and citizens within European contexts. Each year, the course takes the annual European Capital of Culture (ECC) event, and one of its host cities (this year in Valletta), as its object of study.

Experiential learning in the European Capital of Culture

Culture Lab is a Humanities course that takes place in the June semester which sees AUC students embark on an intensive study trip to one of the European Capitals of Culture for twelve days. Cities chosen for the European Capital of Culture organise multiple cultural events to highlight the uniqueness of place and history linked to the city. It is also often an opportunity to bolster the international image of a city, jump-start regeneration projects and examine what makes these cities special.

Through experiential learning, AUC students engage with a variety of cultural theories and practices, observe illustrative case studies and explore how to use cultural anthropology methodologies in the field to examine the impact of such city promotion.

Culture lab working with ECC stakeholders

During their visit, the class will meet with various stakeholders of the ECC, including the organisers of the European Capital of Culture for Valletta, representatives of the Dutch embassy, lecturers from the School of Anthropology in Gozo and those involved in the tourism industry. They will learn about the intended outcomes of the organisers and also consider these outcomes from a variety of stakeholder perspectives, including local residents. 

By meeting with locals, artists, governmental organisations and private businesses  involved in the event, students are able to gain a deeper understanding of the consequences, relevance and complexities surrounding the Valletta ECC event. Students will follow various workshops, receive tours, and attend lectures and events hosted by local experts in order to produce a final project that analyses one of the aspects, difficulties or consequences of urban development through culture.

Alongside these cultural events, students are also able to better understand the uniqueness of “place” and the impact of a pan-European event.  For example, students will have the chance to visit Gozo, a small island in the northern part of the Maltese archipelago to explore the effects of tourist promotion, and to visit the Mayor of the City of Valletta’s office to learn more about the challenges that the attention of being designated a European Capital of Culture has brought.

A second European Capital of Culture: Leeuwarden

Each year, two cities are chosen as European Capitals of Culture. For the 2018 edition, the other capital happens to be the Dutch city of Leeuwarden in the province of Friesland.

Upon returning, the students of the Culture Lab course will also have the opportunity to journey to Leeuwarden in order to better understand the different contexts in which the two cities operate. Their visit will include a stroll through the Lân fan Taal (“Land of Languages”), a project on multilingualism which is especially relevant for a region with a distinct language (Frisian) spoken by around just 480.000 people.   

Additionally, the participants of Culture Lab will also have the privilege of meeting with Jurjen van der Weg, the coordinator of the European Capital of Culture team for Leeuwarden/Fryslan 2018. By meeting with Mr. van der Weg, students will have the chance to gain insight into the politics, networking and various efforts involved in making the European Capital of Culture event happen.

Follow them on their blog

All students of the Culture Lab course will be publishing multiple blog posts to reflect and document their experiences while in Valletta and Leeuwarden. Numerous blog posts are already online and you can find more information via the link below.

Published by  Amsterdam University College