History of Art and Visual Culture

D-201 Porter College
(831) 459-4564

Programs Offered

History of Art and Visual Culture B.A.

History of Art and Visual Culture Minor

Visual Studies Ph.D.

Visual Studies Designated Emphasis

Undergraduate Program

In the History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC) Department, students study the production, use, form, and reception of visual products and cultural manifestations past and present. Objects of study include paintings, sculptures, and architecture, which are within the traditional purview of art history, as well as art and non-art objects and visual expressions that sit beyond disciplinary boundaries. The HAVC Department offers courses covering a wide variety of material from the cultures of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific Islands, including media as diverse as ritual, performative expression, bodily adornment, landscape, the built environment, installation art, textiles, manuscripts, books, photography, film, video games, apps, websites, and data visualizations.

HAVC students at UC Santa Cruz investigate complex questions concerning the social, political, economic, religious, and psychological impact of images from the perspective of their producers, users, and viewers. Visual objects play a central role in the formation of values and beliefs, including the perception of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, and class. Through attentive historical study and close analysis, students are taught to recognize and assess these systems of value, and are introduced to theoretical and methodological frameworks for future research.

Courses for Non-Majors

HAVC courses numbered 10-85 are lower-division introductory courses appropriate for non-majors. Most upper-division HAVC courses are also open to non-majors, but we recommend first completing at least one year of university coursework before taking upper-division classes.

Graduate Program

The Visual Studies Ph.D. offers an interdisciplinary program focused on visual-cultural scholarship, comprising specialized coursework and individual dissertation research in close coordination with faculty supervision. The expansive expertise of our diverse faculty addresses, and offers a broad scope of supervisory possibilities in researching, a variety of art forms and visual cultures with historical and contemporary perspectives and with global reach, including such regions as Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, North America, Latin America, the Indigenous Americas (including pre-colonial California), Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific Islands. Our program provides students with unparalleled opportunities to consider the role of social, political, and cultural forces in both shaping and being shaped by assorted modes of visual experience and their relations as well as to complex workings of multisensory perception. Areas of particular concern, both historical and current, include spatial and visual theories, environmental, social, and racial justice, colonial and decolonial visual culture, Anthropocene and Indigenous studies.