Critical Studies – Arts, Theory, History

Masters Programme

How are power relations gendered?
How does capitalism organise the web of life?
How do the arts intervene in fields of conflict in the present?
How is the common organised?

Social reproduction, capitalocene, micropolitics of the arts, or commonism denote current problematic situations that are transverse to traditional university disciplines. They are exemplary objects of cultural studies that take a critical view of the present. With a claim to topicality and a focus on the arts, theory and history as central perspectives of cultural studies, the Master in "Critical Studies – Arts, Theory, History" combines political philosophy and knowledge, visual arts and queer theory, literature and ecology, migration and technology, decoloniality and Marxism, history and digitality, deconstruction and posthumanism, in order to critically unfold the present in its development, to analyze current lines of conflict and to become capable of speaking about problematic situations.

Programme director Prof. Dr. Erich Hörl on the Masters in Critical Studies

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 Masters programme teaches cultural studies knowledge about current social transformation processes, which are only outlined by terms such as globalism, capitalism, ecology, migration, coloniality or digitality and by the increasing contestation of enlightenment, democracy and social sex (gender). It provides a diagnostic, analytical, methodical and critical approach to those problematic situations that characterise our conflictual and complex present. The study programme combines theory and philosophy with the analysis of artistic productions under historical perspectives and a cultural history of knowledge. Theory and philosophy thereby provide the conceptual framework for the socio-cultural and political conditions that the arts articulate on a material, sensual and intellectual level, thereby traversing forms and configurations of knowledge.

Arts includes contemporary art, modern art and literature, performative arts as well as art theory, aesthetics and art criticism, primarily from a transcultural perspective. With their claim to critique, the arts intervene in established forms of perception, their media and institutions and are a constitutive component of a critique of the present that articulates itself along current as well as historical lines of conflict, both sensually and materially as well as intellectually.

Theory encompasses philosophy, cultural theory, aesthetic theory, media theory as well as various approaches to critical theory formation such as feminist, posthumanist, postcolonial and decolonial theory as well as queer theory and economic critique. The present appears as a pivot point where the inherited concepts and theories are enriched by new approaches that develop an inventive power for reading and interpreting the conflictual present.

History points to the historical depth dimension of the problematic fields, which is indispensable for a cultural-scientific diagnosis and analysis, and which can only be grasped from the perspective of how they have become. History and geneaology open up the space in which a critique of the present becomes conceivable. They reveal the historical conditions of contemporary thought and action. The Masters programme opens up current conflict situations in the history of culture, knowledge, philosophy, media, art and literature.

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 programme "Critical Studies – Arts, Theory, History" is no longer organised along disciplinary lines – for example, through the formation of subject-specific focal points or the subject-specific assignment of modules – but is curated thematically: the major lines of conflict of the present are explored historically, systematically and methodically from different perspectives, whereby the arts, theory and history are interwoven with each other, whether in the respective seminars or in the modules.

The conceptually highly advanced programme is supported by exceptional researchers and teaching personalities who originally come from different disciplines – such as art studies, philosophy, literary studies, media studies, sociology, political science, cultural history and history of science – but are united by a strong cultural studies perspective in which they bring together their expertise with great passion and pleasure in thinking. The Masters programme in Critical Studies is unique in this form, at least for the German-speaking world. It stands in line with prominent international programmes in Critical Studies and, overall, undertakes a pronounced updating of cultural studies that clearly sets it apart from the usual cultural studies landscape. In addition, the programme is located in a research-intensive environment – such as the DFG Research Training Group "Cultures of Critique" – which provides additional impulses in terms of content and increased internationality. Through lectures, workshops and conferences, students can participate in a lively research culture. Students can also attend public events of the Center for Critical Studiesand the Leuphana Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture and Society. This research environment offers students an excellent opportunity to get to know international researchers and the latest approaches in cultural studies, humanities and social sciences.

Most of the core modules on the "Critical Studies – Arts, Theory, History" cultural studies programme are taught by: 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. Lynn Rother (Provenance Studies),  Prof. Dr. Roberto Nigro (Philosophy, specialising in continental philosophy), Prof. Dr. Beate Söntgen (Art History), Dr. Ben Trott (Visiting resarcher, Political Philosophy and Queer Studies), Prof. Dr. Christina Wessely (Cultural History), Prof. Dr. Serhat Karakayalı (Migration and Mobility Studies), the Professorship for Practical Philosophy, and the Professorship for Transcultural Art History.

The integration modules and electives are taught by various lecturers from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Topics of the seminars in recent times among others: Ownership and Property in Contemporary Art and Cultural Theory / Fugitivity of the (Under)Commons / The Motif of the Master-Servant Dialectic in the History of Philosophy / Critique of Neoliberal Subjectivity / Feminine Desires: Art and Politics /Production and Reproduction: (Female) Labor in Art and Cinema / Critique of Environmentality / About the End of Nature. Extinction in Contemporary Literature, Art and Culture / Scenes of Criticism. Theory, History, Practices.

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
Project meeting in Kunstraum Leuphana University Lüneburg ©Michael Schindel
Andrea Fraser, Helmut Draxler et. al., "Services", 1993-1994, project meeting with Beatrice von Bismarck, Renée Green, Diethelm Stoller, Fred Wilson, Ulf Wuggenig and others, Kunstraum Leuphana University Lüneburg

Studying abroad

You can integrate a stay abroad into your studies in the 3rd or 4th semester, either as part of the Erasmus programme + or with one of our non-European partners. There are around 30 faculty-related exchange programmes to choose from. You can find more information on the partner universities on the pages of the International Office.

Culture, Language, Literature

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. Click here for the programme Culture, Language, Literature

Career prospects

Students pursuing a Masters degree in Critical Studies - Arts, Theory History are prepared both for an academic career, whether at university or in research centres, and for careers in the field of culture, art, media and creative industries. In all these fields, which in the broadest sense belong to cultural production, key cultural-scientific-diagnostic competences and a clear ability to articulate are expected. Publishing houses, museums, exhibition companies, theatres, journalism, print and online editorial offices or cultural festivals are just a few examples. In addition, a growing field of professions beyond the cultural production sphere also requires a capacity for critical reflection as well as clear and confident communication, especially when it comes to opening up problems in a complex and constantly changing world. This includes professions in civil society as well as political organisations and civil society and political foundations, but also private-sector business.

With the Doctoral Track, particularly research-interested and qualified Masters students have the opportunity to simultaneously receive admission to doctoral studies and enrol in the doctoral programme from the 1st semester of their Masters programme. This means that students are involved in scientific research at an early stage and can plan their Masters and doctoral studies to build on each other.

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: 31 August
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