Image: JR, "Migrants, Mayra, Picnic across the border, Tecate, Mexico - U.S.A., 2017."


Founded in 2002, the Center for Visual Cultures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison supports curricular innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration from faculty and students in the emerging field of visual cultures. We sponsor a yearlong speaker series on topics of general and critical interest and invite members of the community and the university to meet speakers and participate in events and workshops. For students, we offer a Ph.D. Minor and a Graduate Certificate in Visual Cultures. Join us in exploring the multiple visual cultures around us and around the world.


Students need the skills in visual literacy and criticality that we teach, if they are to participate and succeed in the rapidly expanding field of Visual Cultures. What we mean by this is that, while the study of visual cultures is an interdisciplinary field in its own right, its rise as a field stems from the fact that we live in an image-dominated world. As a growing consequence, a demonstrated capacity to analyze and critically and creatively intervene in that visual world becomes increasingly an aspect of professional demand for students pursuing degrees in a wide range of traditional disciplines from Anthropology to History. Thus, there are two primary reasons to pursue the Ph.D. Minor and its associated Graduate Certificate that we take into consideration. First, training in visual literacy and criticality enhances qualifications, and thus job prospects, for students across disciplines. Second, students across a range of disciplines pursue research for their home degrees (i.e., theses, M.F.A. exhibitions, dissertations) that requires skill in visual analysis training for which is not provided by their primary host degree program. The rigorous course work for the Ph.D. Minor and the Graduate Certificate ensures that students who complete the program have a solid understanding of critical methods, field training, and theories in visual cultures. The strength of the program is demonstrated by the professional success of its graduates.


Over the years, the Center has been fortunate to host artists and scholars from around the world. Their visits have contributed significantly to the creative, academic atmosphere that we strive to foster on campus. The study of transdisciplinary and critical work with the visual is radically dispersed across not just departments within the College of Letters and Science but also across schools and colleges. From its inception and largely for this reason of atomized dispersal, the Center and its degree program have offered a way to create the kind of robust intellectual community necessary for advanced research and professional training (including re-training). The lectures, exhibitions, and workshops that we host enable all students with interests in Visual Cultures to tap into a ready-made academic structure with a community of scholars, artists, and activists. Currently, our faculty affiliates and an ever-expanding number of students are based in departments across colleges and schools, ranging from Afro-American Studies, English, Art, Communication Arts, History, Art History, Gender and Women Studies, and Languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German, French) to Design Studies, Geography, Genetics, Ethnomusicology, and Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, among others.


We offer a Doctoral Minor and a Graduate Certificate for masters and professional students. Students enrolled in a terminal M.A. or M.F.A. program are eligible for a Graduate Certificate whereas Ph.D. students are eligible for a Doctoral Minor.

Doctoral Minor

Graduate Certificate

The Doctoral Minor and the Graduate Certificate in Visual Cultures are intended for students from across the University who desire training in the interdisciplinary study of visual cultures. The field of visual cultures analyzes the social construction of images as well as their impact in our social world. Visual Culture Studies differs from other related disciplines in two ways: first, its field of inquiry includes an expansive array of visual cultural artifacts and practices; and, second, its methodologies focus on the constitution of power relations through visual markers of race, gender, disability, and nationality. As the world continues to become increasingly understood through, and reliant on, the visual (the internet, films, television, scientific graphs, data visualization, video games, and advertisements), the need for people trained with the ability to critically interpret, create, and evaluate those mediums is essential.


Visual Cultures
Publishing Now:
Exploring Collective
and Alternative
Academic Forms

Tuesday, September 21, 2021
4:30 PM-5:30 PM CDT via Zoom 

Please join the Center for Visual Cultures and the Program in Visual Cultures for a vital conversation on Visual Cultures publishing now! We come together to celebrate the publication of “Inquisitive Survival: Burning Questions from the Necro-Scene,” in  Pause.Fervour. Reflections on a Pandemic, the joint initiative of the Journal of Visual Cultures and Harun Farocki Institut in Berlin now out as an open-source book available as a free download. Hear from the authors, an open collective of current graduate students and recent alumni, about how this intervention in current academic publishing in visual cultures emerged out of reckoning together that began in Professor Jill H. Casid’s seminar, “Necrocene, Necropolitics, Necrolandscaping,” the spring 2018 version of AH802, the seminar on topics in visual cultures required for the doctoral minor and graduate certificate in Visual Cultures. Our virtual conversation considers concrete ways in which the academic program in Visual Cultures actively prepares students to publish early in their careers and explore alternative formats—which is becoming a necessity. Members of the collective will share their publication and process to open a forum on visual cultures publication with emphasis on exploring collective and alternative forms. We look forward to seeing you there!


Through the prism of global pandemic and protest, this year-long theme confronts visuality and power via the emergent ways of seeing and doing that manifest in and through visual cultures—with particular attention to the dynamics of lives lived ever more via the online interface. We aim to go beyond the recognition of COVID-19 as the great revealer, to think with and at the limits of who has access to new modes of online communication and how increased visibility of political protest in the face of exacerbated structural inequity and heightened surveillance at the intersections of BIPOC, queer, feminist, ecological, crip activism and theorization visualize our constant struggles. In framing this year’s theme in terms of the potentials of the return of the gaze, we have invited talks and other events that focus on a wide range of approaches to how art, theatre, performance, film, bodies, and theorization in and through practice explore these topics.

Please join us!


Anirban Baishya // Lecture: “GIF(ted) Bodies: Embodiment, Affect, and Gender in GIF Art” on Thursday, September 23, 2021 @ 4:00 PM CDT via Zoom (click here for more info and for the Zoom link) // Workshop: “Thinking through the GIF Economy” on Friday, September 24, 2021 @ 12:00 PM CDT via Zoom. Space is limited for the workshop. Please RSVP to to receive the link.

Patrick Anderson // Lecture: “‘Someone is Dying Before Your Eyes’: performance theory and  police violence” on Thursday, October 7, 2021 @ 5:00 PM CDT via Zoom (click here for more information and for the Zoom link) // Workshop: “Oversight for Artists” on Friday, October 8, 2021 @ 12:00 PM CDT via Zoom.  Space is limited for the workshop. Please RSVP to to receive the link.

Jorge Marcone // Lecture: “With Natural Lighting: Painting and Filming History and the Invisible Amazonia” on Thursday, November 4, 2021 @ 5:00 PM CDT, Elvehjem L160 // Workshop: “How to Tow a Net: Reciprocity and Collaboration in Amazonian Visual Arts” on Friday, November 5, 2021 @ 12:00 PM CDT, UClub, Room 212 (432 East Campus Mall). Space is limited for the workshop. Please RSVP to

Paula Amad // Lecture: “Cin-aereal attractions: F.W. Brinton and the Technical and Fantastical Correspondences between Early Aviation and Cinema” on Thursday, November 18, 2021 @ 4:00 PM CST via Zoom (click here for more info and for the Zoom link) // Workshop: “‘Shadow Sites’: Clouded Vision in the Archives of Aerial Photography” on Friday, November 19, 2021 @ 12:00 PM CST via Zoom. Space is limited for the workshop. Please RSVP to to receive the link.