School of Philosophy and Art History

Our research

Artwork above bed in a hotel room depicting forces member in pillow fight with civilian militant

Investigating issues through philosophy and art

The School of Philosophy and Art History is internationally recognised for our research across a wide range of areas in continental and analytic philosophical traditions, and the history and theory of art.

We were ranked in the top 10 art history departments in the UK for research excellence and top 10 philosophy departments in the UK for research quality in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, with more than three-quarters of our research considered ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

Throughout our work, we emphasise issues of autonomy, agency, dissent, and the contestation of the public realm. Our transdisciplinary approach facilitates critical engagement beyond the traditional canons of philosophy and art history, enabling us to deliver research which is both impactful and relevant.

Research strengths

We specialise in a wide range of areas relating to the broader concepts of philosophy and art history. In particular, our research strengths include:

Philosophy specialisms

  • Ancient philosophy
  • Classical German philosophy
  • Contemporary French philosophy
  • Ethics, including applied ethics
  • Frankfurt School and critical theory
  • Kierkegaard
  • Phenomenology
  • Philosophical aesthetics, philosophy of art and literature
  • Philosophy and human rights
  • Philosophy and psychiatry
  • Philosophy and psychoanalysis
  • Philosophy and public policy
  • Philosophy and religion
  • Social and political philosophy

Art history specialisms

  • 1960s counterculture
  • 19th and 20th century European sculpture
  • Activist art
  • Art and science
  • Contemporary architecture
  • Curating - practice and theory
  • Exhibition and museum history
  • History of photography
  • History of tattooing
  • Medical humanities
  • Renaissance art and architecture
  • Social issues in Renaissance art
  • Theories of the sublime
  • Urbanism and the built environment

Research projects and focuses

Our academic staff are involved in several major research projects. Some of our recent projects and focuses include:

Essex Autonomy Project

The Essex Autonomy Project is a research and knowledge-exchange initiative funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The project aims to clarify the ideal of self-determination in history, theory and practice, both for its own sake and to guide public policy makers and frontline professionals in dealing with the complex issues surrounding mental competence, and the capacity of vulnerable individuals to make decisions for themselves.

The Ethics of Powerlessness

The Ethics of Powerlessness: the Theological Virtues Today is a major research project that aims to clarify ethical challenges arising from experiences of powerlessness, particularly in palliatvive and end-of-life care situations. The three-year project is being carried out by Professor Béatrice Han-Pile, Dr Daniel Watts and Dr David Batho, and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Research focus: Dr Gavin Grindon

Dr Gavin Grindon, co-director of our Centre for Curatorial Studies, recently co-curated the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, one of the best attended shows in the museum’s history, which focused on objects of art and design produced within social movement cultures internationally since the late 1970s.

He has also widely published on activist art in leading journals such as Art History and recently co-curated a Museum of the Occupation at Banksy's Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, as well as a section of Banksy's Dismaland.

Research focus: Dr Matt Lodder

Dr Matt Lodder's research is focused on getting under the skin of tattoo history. He recently co-curated Tattoo London at the Museum of London tracing the history of tattoos in the capital and celebrating some of its heroes. His latest project Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed, a groundbreaking exhibition at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, is being shown in Falmouth until January 2018.

Postgraduate research

Our postgraduate students actively contribute to our research profile. Our lists of current PhD theses shows the broad range of philosophy and art history research being carried out in our School. You can view completed PhD theses in our Albert Sloman Library. 

Our postgraduate students also edit two journals, re·bus and Arara


Our academic staff have produced a number of major publications in philosophy and art history. See our individual academic staff profiles for full lists of publications by our staff or search our University's research repository.