Statement on Department’s Commitment to Openness and Inclusion
Written and posted in November 2016, the paragraph below does not adequately address the crisis of the days that have followed the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many others. This recent crisis itself, to be clear, is not an exception but a reflection of centuries of antiblack racism embedded deep within the daily life and institutions of our society. Given the individual and collective failings many of us must acknowledge, the genre "institutional statement on current events" cannot but appear inadequate or even hypocritical. Yet at the same time many of us feel it is incumbent on us to place ourselves on the record. With this amendment to our 2016 statement, we thus pledge to examine critically our department's embeddedness in structural racism, privilege, and policing; to act to change it, our department, and ourselves accordingly; to be open to dialogue and critique; and to seek justice.
The Department of Art History is committed to openness and inclusion. Our research and teaching commitments are varied: faculty and students in our department study artistic practices around the globe, issues of race and ethnicity, cross-cultural exchange, gender, and histories of oppressed people’s visual expression. Our devotion to intellectual inquiry compels us to take a stand against acts of intimidation and expressions of hate, whether they use the rhetoric of xenophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, misogyny, or some combination thereof. We affirm our commitment to Northwestern’s and our own department’s diverse intellectual community and to the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. We affirm solidarity with Muslims, the undocumented, and other minority and historically oppressed groups, and ask to be held accountable to those most affected by recent political events.
The faculty of the Department of Art History studies art and visual culture in their many guises.
Our methods are nearly as wide-ranging and diverse as our objects of study, yet we share a horizontal approach to scholarship. We are alert to the ways in which artworks and other artifacts are tied to near and distant cultures and locations by relations of exchange, encounter, coalition, competition, domination, performance, religion, ritual or resistance.
We conduct research and train graduate and undergraduate students from a global perspective in the fields of Modern and Contemporary, African American and African Diaspora, Early Modern, Asian, Ancient Mediterranean, and Medieval art history. Our Department's comparative and cross-disciplinary orientation has contributed to the breadth and integrity of our curriculum and resulted in additional areas of strength:
- Black studies
- Built environments and spatial theory
- Colonial and postcolonial studies
- Critical theory
- Environmental studies and ecocriticism
- Gender and sexuality studies
- Materiality and materialisms
- Science, technology, and the circulation of knowledge
- Theories of cultural exchange
These areas of focus place our program at the forefront of current debates within art history: our research and teaching are informed by critical approaches from across the humanities that put pressure on the historical presuppositions of the discipline in order to chart new areas of scholarly inquiry. At the same time, we remain committed to intensive archival research, object-based study, and rigorous methodological engagement. It is our belief that the careful scrutiny of forms, objects, and practices is not only integral to the historical analysis of particular cultural imaginaries, but also offers vital lessons for students at all levels about the reigning logics of visual production in the present and means of critiquing them.
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