Research area

The politics of art and visual culture

Two women looking at wall art
This research cluster brings together academics from art history. Our research explores the role of art, architecture and visual culture and it's contribution to social and political forces.

Based on the assumption that all forms of visual culture emerge from and contribute to the mediation of social and political forces, much of our work explores the role of art, architecture, and other types of visual culture in the assertion, negotiation, and contestation of power.

We do so by pursuing a variety of topics, such as the role of Renaissance visual culture in framing the social problem of infant abandonment, modernity’s entanglement with the visual culture of repressive political regimes, and the production of objects by contemporary activists in pursuit of social change.

Throughout our work, we emphasize issues of autonomy, agency, dissent, and the contestation of the public realm.

Visit our members staff profiles for more information on their publications and works relating to the social and political implications of art, architecture, and visual culture. You can also contact members of staff for information on research supervision opportunities.

Our members

Senior Lecturer, School of Philosophy and Art History
Research interests: Modernity in Latin America; Visual culture; Space and politics; Memory politics; Human-nature relations; Water, hydraulics, liquid ecologies in the arts; Environmental aesthetics; Photography; Digital culture; Contemporary visual production in Latin America; VENEZUELA RESEARCH NETWORK. With Dr. Penélope Plaza (University of Reading), Dr. Rebecca Jarman (University of Leeds).
Head of School - Professor (R), School of Philosophy and Art History
Research interests: visual hagiography; charitable institutions (hospitals, confraternities); visual culture of social problems; late medieval and Renaissance Italian visual culture (1300-1600); reception theory; visual culture of the mendicant orders; gender and sexuality; medical humanities
Senior Lecturer, School of Philosophy and Art History
Research interests: modern and contemporary art history; art and politics; activist-art; institutional critique and its futures; visual and material cultures of social movements and of social control; aesthetics and affect in social movements; curatorial studies; intersections of curating, critique and political organising
Reader, EBS - Organisation Studies and Human Resource Management
Research interests: cultural production and contemporary capitalism; social theory; artistic labour; social and political imaginaries; communication technologies; avant-gardes and aesthetics; continental philosophy; social movements; intellectual and social history
Senior Lecturer, School of Philosophy and Art History
Research interests: Spectatorship; Histories of modernism; Exhibition design and curation; The relationship between art and politics; The use of digital technologies in museums and galleries; Intersections between pre-modern and modern art

Highlights of our research



  • Read about the exhibition ‘Disobedient Objects’, co-curated by Gavin Grindon, in the BBC News.


Related courses

Are you looking to study an art history degree at undergraduate, masters or PhD level? Explore some of the exciting courses below, or visit our subject areas to find out more about the degrees and modules that Essex has to offer. If you're not sure which subject is right for you, you can always search for a course. If you're looking for research opportunities, or to find a supervisor, you can use our research finder by searching for your research interests.


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