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LIAS PhD Seminar: Canon and Culture


Admission requirements

In addition to LIAS and LUCSoR PhD students, this course is open to students of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), the MA Asian Studies (research), and the MA Classical and Ancient Civilizations (research). Interested students from other relevant Research MA programmes are kindly advised to contact the co-ordinator of studies, Dr. Nicole van Os, before registering for this course.

Course Content

How does knowledge gain cultural authority, and what do authoritative bodies of knowledge mean and do in human societies, in social and political terms? This course uses the notion of the canon as a heuristic for addressing this question. While the term canon may typically evoke a textual corpus, authoritative bodies of knowledge are not transmitted exclusively through texts, and we will also study embodied, material, visual, and performative traditions. We will examine the histories of particular canons, their political implications, and their interactions within local and trans-regional agendas. We will consider how cultural values inhere in canon and how notions of authoritative knowledge relate to hierarchy, power, and resistance.

Incorporating perspectives from anthropology, cultural studies, philology, religious studies, art history, and archeology, the course will highlight key issues in critical area studies.

This course will be linked thematically to the LIAS Canonical Cultures Research Network. Students are welcome to attend other activities organized by the network.

Course objectives

  • Familiarity with key theoretical works dealing with the production of authoritative knowledge in the humanities and critical area studies;

  • Further development of your methodological skill set;

  • Enhancement of oral presentation skills and the ability to engage and synthesize arguments orally in debate and workshop settings.


See timetable of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or the timetable of the MA Asian Studies (research).

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenor needs to be informed without delay of any classes missed because of illness or misadventure. In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

Total course load: 5 EC x 28 hours 140 hours
Preparation (c. 10 hrs/wk), attendance (2 hrs/wk), assignments c. 70 hours
If the course is taken for credit: a research paper c. 70 hours

Assignments may include presentations and moderating the discussion.

Deadlines for paper submission are set by the convener, after consultation of the students. Papers must be submitted at a date that enables marking and administrative processing within maximally six weeks after the Seminar’s final session.

Assessment (ResMA students only)

ResMA students can take the course for credit, in which case they will write a paper worth about 70 hours of work. Information on the requirements for the paper will be provided by the instructor at the start of the course. The course will be graded as Pass or Fail.

Academic Integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.
Students must submit their assignment(s) to the Blackboard through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.


Blackboard will be used for the distribution of course materials and for other communications.


ResMA students taking the course for credit are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English. You can also have a look at the FAQ.

Contact information

Dr. Rafal J. Felbur