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PhD seminars

Below are doctoral courses taught by our full-time faculty members. Find the complete listings of graduate seminars offered by the Interuniversity PhD in Art History program on their website.

For previous years, browse our archives. 

ARTH 809 Theories and Methods of Art History: Sensory & Atmospheric Methods

  • Instructor: Dr. May Chew

This seminar focuses on experimental and experiential methods mobilized by researchers, writers, and artists to grasp the ungraspable. Critical attunement to the realms of the sensory, affective, immersive, and atmospheric requires flexible, capacious, and interdisciplinary methods drawn from art history, media studies, critical theory, philosophy, and other fields. We first address how we think with and as bodies, while at the same time challenging dominant understandings of what a body is and can do. We will draw on theorists and practitioners who challenge theories predicated on Western-centric understandings of embodiment and subjectivity, and heed anticolonial theories urging for epistemic, sensory, and somatic realignments beyond colonial paradigms. From here, we will also turn to the growing field of affect and atmospheric studies which prods us to decenter the human and to attend to the porous terrain between bodies, environments, climate, emotions, and minds. Relatedly, we will explore how writers and artists approach that which might be termed “emergent sensibilities,” which have developed alongside targeted economies of attention and therapeutic management, and investigate how the latter continuously reshape our understandings of technology, embodiment, and agency. We will examine how the sensorial and atmospheric have also been understood as politically-laden terrains, paying attention to ways in which they are choreographed in institutional and commercial settings, and the everyday. An underlying thread of this course also probes what it means to be “moved” by aesthetic and sensorial encounters, and how such experiences can reaffirm or challenge bodily and subjective boundaries. This also calls for a study of how art can make space for diverse forms of embodiment and felt knowledges. 


ARTH 801 Periods and Territories: Archival Inquiries in Black Diasporic Art

  • Instructor: Dr. Joana Joachim

Archives serve a crucial purpose through their personal, social, academic, and historical contributions to our societies. Similarly, speculation, critical fabulation and archival inquiry in art open the possibility for artists and researchers to practice and investigate new perspectives on pressing issues, past and present. From a Black studies standpoint, archival inquiries peel back the layers of oft untold and misconstrued histories of African descended peoples. In this course, we will delve into the works of Black artists and scholars in and around Canada whose practices, theories and methods continue to map the shapes of Blackness in archival spaces. We will ask how the stakes and uses of archives in Black art practices developed and evolved across time. We will examine the contexts which yielded critical engagements with historical and contemporary archives in visual art and consider how it mirrors and is mirrors by Black studies in other areas.

Drawing from the works of Hortense Spillers, Saidiya Hartman, Tina Campt and Denise Ferreira da Silva, among others, this seminar will examine the slippery nature of Blackness in the Archive and we will contend with the stakes of archival inquiries in visual art as they relate to the collective project of Black liberation. As such, this seminar aims to align our reflections with cross-temporal gestures toward liberation. This seminar will take a Black feminist approach and conduct a deep study of creative texts which engage with Black liberation, critical fabulation, memory work, critical archival inquiry, poetics, and Black feminist hauntology. This course will explore the significance of critical archival inquiry in art history considering such creative texts as case studies. Questions about the stakes of archival inquiries towards liberation through Black visual art are particularly crucial given the continued impacts of historical and systemic anti-Black racism enmeshed in institutions such as art museums and galleries.


For administrative questions contact

For academic questions contact the Graduate Program Director, Alice Jim

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