90558 - Ethnography Of Arts Administration

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Luca Zan

  • Credits 6

  • SSD SECS-P/07

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language English

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Innovation and Organization of Culture and the Arts (cod. 0902)

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

Student is expected to understand the impacts of managerialism in cultural organizations.

Course contents

Course description or course overview

Arts management faces enormous differences in contexts across the world, in backgrounds and social aspects affecting both consumption and production of arts, in addition to major differences in terms of administrative traditions. While reconstructing systematically these differences will require a whole program on its own on international cultural studies, the course will provide a basic understanding of the variety of contexts within an international comparative view, providing some basic analytical tools and developing skills to deal with these aspects. The focus will be on countries outside the Anglo-Saxon world. Based on extensive field research in the last two decades, case studies provided are – with one exception – outside the realm of influence of the common law and commonwealth tradition.

A first set of differences refers to ways in which management itself is conceptualized and taught. At a general level in fact differences can be found in the emphasis given to the notion of leadership as opposed to more participatory notions of management as social practices. Also, a different attention can be found towards (hidden) assumptions about decision making and the role of unanticipated consequences of human action in managing – not as “errors & mistakes”, but as normal conditions in complex organizations, according to a bounded rationality perspective. Consequently, a different importance emerges about the role of goals versus processes.

Another set of differences relates more specifically to the world of arts & culture, where serious variations in managing are related to the different role played by philanthropy, the market or the State. While understanding basic principles of fundraising is crucial for any art manager, and the dialectic between profit & nonprofit, most of students will face a different context in their countries, where arts management is embedded in public sector. Elements of public administration are needed to interact with these different contexts, and the huge processes of change characterizing them worldwide. Different meanings assumed by cultural polices also need to be understood.

A further set of differences is related to the prevalence of different forms of arts. While performing arts and contemporary visual arts are relevant all over the world, the role of – and the attention to – history can be perceived as crucial in other countries, impacting the ways in which arts are conceived, promoted and consumed (see contemporary arts exhibitions in ancient buildings or inside industrial heritage settings; or preforming in archaeological sites). This requires for an art manager the capability of dialoguing with a variety of disciplines and agenda in a more holistic way.

Finally, cultural heritage in particular represents an important chapter in arts management in countries which have a greater attention to history and cultural traditions. Dealing with cultural heritage requires additional knowledge and skills, interacting with specialists from humanities (archaeologists, historians, museologists), with delicate issues of balance between preservation and uses, long term sustainability, and soft implications in terms of identity that need to be understood and faced in some ways. These aspects are challenging, but also represent huge opportunities. A relevant portion of the labor market in countries where cultural heritage plays a crucial role (Europe, China and Asia, but also Latin America and possibly Africa) is calling for the contribution of arts managers. This also represents a challenge and potential opportunity for US students, to be part of a process of awareness building of heritage even in the US; and in any case, to be ready to interact with international cooperation wherein heritage is part of arts management.


The basic text of reference is: Zan & al, 2015, Managing Cultural Heritage. An International research Perspective, Ashgate (re-issued by Routledge, 2016).

Two pre-readings should be read before the beginning of the course:

  • Normann, R., 1977, Management for Growth, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, chap 3& 4
  • Mintzberg H., “Patterns in Strategy Formation”, Management Science, XXIV, 9, 934-48, 1978

    In addition, the following readings will be provided during the course:

  • Chandler, A., 1962, “Introduction”, in Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of Industrial Enterprise, Mit Press, Cambridge.
  • March J., 1978, "Bounded Rationality, Ambiguity, and the Engineering of Choice", The Bell Journal of Economics, Vol. 9, No. 2: 587-608.
  • Pettigrew A., Whipp R. & Rosenfeld R., 1986,Competitiveness and the Management of Strategic Change Processes: A Research Agenda”, working paper, University of Warwick.
  • Smith A.W., 1996, ‘Is the British Museum losing its marbles’, The Independent, 18.11.
  • Tommasini A., 2001, "Critic's Notebook; The Vision For Carnegie, Fresh but Ambiguous", New York Times, April 9.
  • Zan L., 2000, “Management and the British Museum”, Museum Management and Curatorship, Vol. 18, No. 3: 221-270.
  • Zan L., 2014, "Cultural Heritage in China between policies, development, professional discourse and the issue of managing", Public Archaeology Journal, special issue on Archaeology and Economic Development, Vol. 13, Nos 1-3: 99-112.

Teaching methods

Active teaching, raedings and class discussion

Assessment methods

The grade will be based on the contribution to the class discussion (40%), and on the quality of a final report that the student will be asked to submit after the end of the course.

Teaching tools

Prereadings, case duscussion, and post readings for each class

Office hours

See the website of Luca Zan