You are here

Visual Studies Ph.D.

A graduate degree focused on the social and cultural qualities of human vision 

The Visual Studies Ph.D. in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department (HAVC) at UC Santa Cruz is an interdisciplinary program designed for students with diverse academic backgrounds from across the arts and humanities who wish to pursue a graduate degree focused on the social and cultural production of human vision (visuality) and on the distinctive roles played by art and artifacts in societies from around the globe. 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 advance their intellectual and professional goals. Our graduates study a range of theoretically relevant methodologies for the study of visuality, explore diverse cultural perspectives across time and space, and develop the necessary skills and knowledge to secure and excel in academic, curatorial and other professional careers.

The program employs a wide range of visual evidence for examination, without being constrained by traditional hierarchies of art or art history. The primary sources examined in our courses and in the work of our faculty and students include materials as diverse as landscaping, ritual, performance, material culture, bodily adornment, popular entertainment, digital art and data, photography, film, advertising, and design, as well as painting, sculpture and architecture. Our Ph.D. program 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 humans see. 

Core Faculty [more]

Raoul Birnbaum
Elisabeth Cameron
Carolyn Dean
T.J. Demos
Maria Evangelatou
Jennifer González
Stacy Kamehiro
Boreth Ly
Derek Conrad Murray
Albert Narath
Kyle Parry



Program Learning Outcomes
PLO 1: Core Knowledge. Students will demonstrate mastery of the history of visual culture theory and methods by being able to describe and analyze the internal and external criticisms, debates, and reformulations of the field, both historical and current.

PLO 2: Research. Students will demonstrate the ability to use research methods and analysis appropriate for carrying out their independent and original research.

PLO 3: Pedagogy: Students will demonstrate the ability to plan curricula and learning programs, to express ideas clearly and explain them to others, and to assess student work fairly and accurately.

PLO 4: Scholarly Communication. Students will demonstrate effective communication skills in presenting research findings in oral and written forms.

PLO 5: Professionalism. Students will demonstrate professional preparation including the ability to write grants, to submit publications to journals and presses, and to participate in professional organizations and conferences.

Applications for 2021-22 will be accepted from October 1- December 10, 2020 at 8:59pm (Pacific Standard Time). For information about the application process and to apply, please visit UCSC Graduate Studies and the application instructions.

For additional information, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator at