Visual Studies Ph.D.

The History of Art and Visual Culture Department (HAVC) at the University of California, Santa Cruz offers a course of study leading to the Ph.D. in Visual Studies. The Ph.D. is designed to steep our graduates in the most theoretically relevant methodologies for understanding the significance of visual artifacts and the social and cultural qualities of human vision (termed visuality); provide students with exposure to a range of cultural perspectives and visual artifacts drawn from around the world; and cultivate in our graduates the necessary skills and knowledge to secure and excel in academic and curatorial positions. The program is both interdisciplinary and flexible. Students work closely with their advisors and the director of graduate studies to craft a personalized course of study that advances their intellectual and professional goals.


The program employs a wide range of visual evidence for examination, without being constrained by traditional hierarchies of art or art history. Fine arts, architecture, photography, film, performances, rituals, utilitarian objects, and popular entertainments all are primary material in the investigation of visual culture. Our program at Santa Cruz is particularly adept at illustrating significant differences in how disparate cultural groups interpret their visual worlds, given the breadth of cultural perspectives taught by our faculty.  With scholars focusing on cultures in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific Islands, Visual Studies at Santa Cruz offers students an unparalleled opportunity to consider the role of social and cultural forces in guiding how and what their members see. 

Applications for 2018-19 will be accepted from October 1- December 15, 2017. For official information about the application process and to apply, please visit the UCSC Graduate Division and the application instructions.