Critical Studies - Arts, Theory, History

Masters Programme

How are power relations configured?
How does capitalism organize the web of life?
How do the arts intervene in contemporary areas of conflict?
How is what we share organized?

Social reproduction, the Capitalocene, the micropolitics of the arts and Commonism all denote current problems that cut across traditional university disciplines. They are exemplary subjects of cultural studies  that take a critical look at the present. Topical and with a focus on the arts, theory and history as central cultural studies modes of perspectivising, the degree programme links political philosophy and knowledge, the visual arts and queer theory, literature and ecology, migration and technology, decoloniality and Marxism, history and digitality and deconstruction and posthumanism in order critically to explore our present, analyse current lines of conflict and enable students to speak on and engage with key issues.

Critical Studies – Arts, Theory, History – The Programme

  • Topics
  • Picture
  • The Programme
  • Study regulations/Subject-specific schedule
  • Programme Director
  • Deputy Programme Director

Critical Studies – Arts, Theory, History – The Programme


The programme teaches cultural studies expertise on current processes of social transformation, for which terms such as globality, capitalism, ecology, migration, colonialism or digitality and the growing debate on enlightenment, democracy and gender offer only a vague outlined. It provides a diagnostic, analytical, methodical and critical approach to the problems that characterise our conflictive and complex present. The degree combines theory and philosophy with an analysis of artistic production from a historical perspective and in the light of the cultural history of knowledge. Theory and philosophy provide the conceptual framework for sociocultural and political circumstances to which the arts give expression at a material, sensory and intellectual level, crossing the boundaries of the forms and configurations of knowledge.

The artsinclude contemporary art, modern art and literature, performative arts, art theory, aesthetics and art criticism, primarily from a transcultural perspective. The arts seek to critique and intervene in established forms of perception and in the media and institutions of those forms, and they are a constitutive aspect of a critique of the present articulated in sensory, material and intellectual terms along both current and historical lines of conflict.

Theoryincludes philosophy, cultural theory, aesthetic theory, media theory and a range of approaches to critical theory development such as feminist, post-humanist, post-colonial and decolonial theory, queer theory and economic criticism. The present is the central point at which inherited concepts and theories are expanded with new approaches offering the creative power to read and interpret the present and its conflicts.

History shows us the historical dimension and depth to issues that can only be understood in terms of what they have become – a dimension that is essential to cultural studies diagnosis and analysis. History and genealogy open up a space in which a critique of the present becomes possible. These disciplines show us the historical factors that have shaped present-day thought and action. The programme explores current conflicts on the basis of cultural, knowledge, philosophical, media, art and literary history.

Xavier Téllez, O Rinoceronte de Dürer, 2010, Digitaler Film, Filmstill ©Xavier Téllez. Mit freundlicher Genehmigung des Künstlers.
Xavier Téllez, O Rinoceronte de Dürer, 2010, Digitaler Film, Filmstill

The Programme

The Cultural Studies Masters in Critical Studies – Arts, Theory, History is a departure from the boundaries and structures of a specific discipline. Instead of subject-specific specialisations or modules, the approach is thematic: the course takes a historical, systematic and methodical approach and explores major lines of conflict in today's world from a range of different perspectives, with a mixture and combination of the arts, theory and history in the seminars and modules.

The success of this advanced and pioneering concept is ensured by outstanding researchers and teaching staff. Originally from a wide range of fields such as cultural studies, philosophy, literature, media studies, sociology, political science and cultural and scientific history, they are united in their strong cultural studies approach in which they bring their expertise and passion for critical thinking to bear. The degree programme is the only one of its kind in the German-speaking world. It is one of a series of leading international critical studies programmes and is renewing and rethinking the discipline, a pioneering approach that sets it apart from conventional cultural studies. The programme also operates within a rich research environment – for example with the DFG Research Training Group "Cultures of critique" – and this fuels development and sharpens the course's international perspective. Lectures, workshops and conferences involve students in a vibrant research culture.

Most of the core modules on the "Critical Studies – Arts, Theory, History" cultural studies programme are taught by: Prof. Dr. Karen Benezra (Art - Theory - Critique), Dr. Ben Trott (Guest scientist), Prof. Dr. Christoph Brunner (Cultural Theory), Prof. Dr. Erich Hörl (Media Culture and Media Philosophy), Prof. Dr. Sven Kramer (Modern German Literature/Literary Cultures), Prof. Dr. Susanne Leeb (Contemporary Art), Prof. Dr. Roberto Nigro (Philosophy, specialising in continental philosophy), Prof. Dr. Beate Söntgen (Art History), Prof. Dr. Christina Wessely (Cultural History), Prof. Dr. Serhat Karakayalı (Migration and Mobility Studies), and the Practical Philosophy Professorship.

The integration modules and electives are taught by all lecturers at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Here you can find further information on the course content of the Masters programme Critical Studies - Arts, Theory, History.

Study regulations/Subject-specific schedule

The General Assessment Regulations and the Subject-Specific Schedules can be found here.

The Subject-Specific Schedule shows the subject-specific curriculum. The modules to be taken and their content, the types of courses, the type and number of examinations are formulated in detail and in a legally binding manner.

Programme Director

  • Prof. Dr. Erich Hörl

Deputy Programme Director

  • Prof. Dr. Susanne Leeb

Semester abroard

As part of a German-Italian partnership with the University of Genoa, students can choose to spend the second year of their Masters at the Università degli Studi di Genova and acquire two Masters degrees in two years on the basis of a specially coordinated curriculum.Go to Culture, Language, Literature

You can also organise a semester abroad in the third or fourth semester through Erasmus + or with non-European partners. There are around 30 faculty-related exchange programmes from which to choose. You can find more information on our partner universities on the International Office pages.

Career prospects

The Critical Studies – Arts, Theory, History Masters prepares students for a career in research or academia at university or research centres, and for work in the arts, history and creative industries. All these fields, which are part of cultural production in the broadest sense, require key cultural studies, diagnostic competencies and excellent communication skills. Publishing houses, museums, galleries, theatres, journalism, print and online publications and cultural festivals are just some examples of potential professional options. A growing number of professions beyond the cultural production sector are now also requiring critical reflection skills and clear and reliable communication, above all for exploring problems in a complex and constantly changing world. Such professions include civil society and political organizations, civil society and political foundations, and also private-sector businesses.

Masters students with the necessary qualifications and a particular interest in research can join the Doctoral Track and be admitted for a doctorate and enrol on taught doctoral modules alongside their Masters from the first semester of their Masters programme. This involves students in scientific research from an early stage, and allows them to plan their Masters and doctorate together so that the latter builds on the former.

Impressions of the programme

Admission requirements & Application

You can find all information about the admission requirements, the application and the selection procedure on our "Apply" page.

At a Glance

Degree awarded: Master of Arts (M.A.)
Application deadline: 1 June
Type of programme: Thematic relevance
Study places: 25
Start date: October 1
Extent: 120 ECTS
Duration: 4 semesters
Language: German, single classes in English
Semester contribution: ca. EUR 320

Contact and Counselling

First contact point

The Information Office (Infoportal) is your contact point for

Information Office

Building 8, Ground Level
Fon +49.4131.677-2277

By telephone
Mon - Thu 9 am - 4 pm
Friday 9 am - 12 noon

Campus opening hours
Mon - Thu 9.30 am - 12 noon +
1 pm - 2.30 pm
Fr 9.30 am - 12 noon

Student Counselling

To make an appointment with our Student Counselling Service, please call the Information Office under the number +49 4131 677-2277.

Appointments are usually available in the following time slots:
Tuesday 2 - 4 pm
Wednesday 3 - 4 pm
Thursday 4 - 6 pm