BA Liberal Arts

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Arts and the City: People, Power, and Protest

Course unit fact file
Unit code SALC21152
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Manchester is a culturally significant and diverse city in the North-West of the UK. Like any city, it faces a number of challenges as a result of global industrial shifts, new patterns of work and leisure, and flows and frictions between different cultures and ideas. Once a bastion of the Industrial Revolution, and now, in its post-Industrial state, at the forefront of innovations in computing and technology, a hotbed of revolutionary ideas, and important in sport and the arts, Manchester has gone through many changes and yet it retains a cultural identity.  

This module takes Manchester as a starting point for interdisciplinary exploration in the arts and humanities. We examine the values and politics of researching a complex city, reflecting on what different methodologies and methods might be suitable for examining key social issues in the contemporary city. Through a variety of media, the course examines different case studies from Manchester, enabling you to analyse themes around historical memory, gender and sexuality, race and religion, ecology and industry, with a key focus on issues of social change. 


  • To develop students’ insights into the connections between the academy and society;
  • To familiarise students with the cultural context of Manchester and its dynamism;
  • To highlight the importance of the arts in shaping and reshaping culture.


Topics can include:  

  • Revolution and protest – radical memory and history  
  • Inequality and poverty  
  • Religion and migration  
  • Creative walking and placemaking  
  • Urban planning and health inequalities  
  • Trauma and collective memory  
  • Sustainability and urban ecology  
  • Race and oral history  
  • Queering Manchester  
  • Social responsibility and the civic university  

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly interactive lectures, seminars, and skills workshops; in addition, students are encouraged to attend weekly office hours to discuss queries and/or feedback. 

Knowledge and understanding

  • An understanding of the dynamics of Manchester’s rich, diverse, multifaceted culture;
  • Familiarity with some of the issues facing Manchester;
  • An understanding of the importance of context and an ability to approach this through interdisciplinary methods (i.e. historical, geographical, intellectual, cultural);
  • More detailed and critical knowledge of some of the challenges through summative assessments.  

Intellectual skills

  • Use Manchester as a laboratory for Liberal Arts (i.e. interdisciplinary, challenge-led) learning;
  • Identify and select appropriate sources for the development of independently-researched written and oral work;  
  • Apply skills to problem-solving tasks and examination of case studies through seminars;
  • Articulate, and suggest contributions to, the relationship between the arts (and art-based research) and culture;
  • Begin to develop ideas and resources for the Engagement Project in Year ¾. 

Practical skills

  • Critical reading and application in development of an argument;
  • Group work and communication of ideas in co-operation with others;
  • Ability to prepare and deliver a research reflection
  • Independent approach to research;
  • Reflective and self-aware learning. 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • An interdisciplinary competence;
  • Critical and analytical skills highlighted through engagement with key texts and key themes and issues;
  • Self-organisation skills and an ability to plan research in order to meet course deadlines;
  • An ability to work independently, including conducting independent research, and to work with others in group work tasks;
  • Effective oral and written communication skills. 

Employability skills

- An ability to apply intellectual discussions to real-world situations through case studies, problem-solving activities, and an emphasis on challenge-led learning; - An ability to appropriately balance breadth and depth of research; - An understanding of different disciplinary approaches and an ability to empathise with, listen to, and respond to different perspectives.

Assessment methods

Assessment taskFormative or SummativeLengthWeighting within unit (if relevant)
Reflective Portfolio PlanFormative500 words0%
Research EssaySummative2800 words70%
Reflective PortfolioSummative1200 words30%


Feedback methods

Written (and optional oral) feedback on short essayFormative
Oral feedback on contributions to class discussions from peers and teaching staffFormative
Written (and optional oral) feedback on summative assignmentsSummative


Recommended reading

  • DiYanni, Robert and Anton Borst, eds., Critical Reading Across the Curriculum, Volume 1: The Humanities (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2017)
  • Beckett, John, Writing Local History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • Glick Schiller, Nina, ‘Localized neoliberalism, multiculturalism and global region: exploring the agency of migrants and city borders’, Economy and Society 40.2 (2011): 211-38
  • Matras, Yaron and Alex Robertson, ‘Urban Multilingualism and the Civic University: A Dynamic, Non-Linear Model of Participatory Research’, Social Inclusion 5.4 (2017): 5-13
  • Nevell, Michael, Manchester: The Hidden History (Stroud: The History Press, c2008)
  • Wildman, Charlotte, Urban Redevelopment and Modernity in Liverpool and Manchester (London: Bloomsbury, 2016)
  • Janet Wolff and Mike Savage (eds.), Culture in Manchester: Institutions and Urban Change Since 1850 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013).
  • Charlotte Wildman, ‘Urban Transformation in Liverpool and Manchester, 1918-1939’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 55, No. 1 (2012), pp. 119-143.
  • Stuart Hylton, A History of Manchester (Chichester: Phillimore, 2003).
  • Lynne Pearce, ‘Manchester: The Postcolonial City’, in Lynne Pearce, Corinne Fowler, and Robert Crawshaw (eds.), Postcolonial Manchester: Diaspora Space and the Devolution of Literary Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), pp. 20-78. 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Wren Radford Unit coordinator

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