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Dr. Balbir K. Singh

Canada Research Chair in Art and Racial Justice
Assistant Professor, Art History
Director, Dark Opacities Lab

Dr. Balbir K. Singh
Office: S-EV 3766  
Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex,
1515 St. Catherine W.
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 4704

Dr. Singh is Canada Research Chair in Art and Racial Justice, as well as Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History. She is the Director of Dark Opacities Lab, a hub for BIPOC political and aesthetic study and strategy.

Singh is an interdisciplinary scholar trained in cultural theory and ethnic studies. Broadly, her work centers the racial, gendered, and sexual politics of embodiment, surveillance, and policing. Using anti-colonial methods of reading and sensing, Singh builds on theories of opacity across two book-length projects. The first, her in-progress manuscript “Militant Bodies: Racial/Religious Opacity and Minoritarian Self-Defense,” takes a materialist feminist approach to explore questions that center post-9/11 racial and religious hyper-policing of Muslim and Sikh bodies. Through a politics of religious dress, hair, and adornment, this project interrogates the related racial, gendered, and queer life of turbaned and hijabi bodies to analyze the twinned expansion of contemporary Islamophobia and surveillance culture. The second book project, “Opacity in Black and Brown: Race, Aesthetics, Anonymity,” will further analyze opacity, anonymity, and autonomy as essential to a radical politics beyond representation for minoritarian peoples.

Currently, she serves as Reviews Editor for the College Art Association’s 
Art Journal. Singh has been published in journals including Sikh FormationsCritical Ethnic StudiesQEDSurveillance and SocietyRhizomes, and the Journal of Asian American Studies. She received her PhD from the University of Washington, held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign and the University of Texas at Austin, and served as an assistant professor at Virginia Tech prior to her arrival in Montréal. 


“’Anchorless Unknown’: Affective Annotation and the Komagata Maru Beyond Repair.” Journal of Asian American Studies, 24 (1), Winter 2021.              

“Fashion as Armor.” The Fashion and Race Database. Winter 2021.

 “‘No Pigs in Paradise’: Speculative Materialism in the Spirit of Black Constellation.” Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, 36, Summer 2020.


“Decoding Dress: Countersurveillance Poetics and Practices Under Permanent War.” Surveillance and Society, 17(5), Special Issue: “Queer Surveillance.” Fall 2019.


“The Commodity Fetish of Modest Fashion.” QED: A Journal of GLBTQ Worldmaking, 4 (3). Fall 2017.


“Unjust Attachments: Mourning as Antagonism in Gauri Gill’s ‘1984.’” Critical Ethnic Studies, 2 (2). Special Issue: “What Justice Wants.” Fall 2016.


“On the Limits of Charhdi Kala: Oak Creek and Sikh Philosophy in an Age of Terror.” Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory. Taylor & Francis. Fall 2013.


Teaching activities

Teaching Interests

Dr. Singh teaches courses in Asian and Arab diasporic cultural studies; race, affect, and aesthetics; visual culture and surveillance studies; and the politics of fashion and the body.

Courses Taught

"Dark Aesthetics" (ARTH 663: Art History Social Justice), Fall 2022

"Ornamentalism: Feminist Theories of the Body" (ARTH379: Postcolonial Theory in Art History), Winter 2023

"The Right to Look: Race, Aesthetics, Politics" (ARTH386: Art and the Viewer), Winter 2023

"Theories Methods of Opacity: Race, Surveillance, Aesthetics" (ARTH805: Art Histories Methodologies), Fall 2023

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