Greetings from Irvine and from all the staff, faculty, and students in the Visual Studies PhD Program. Under the initiative of our wonderful Graduate Coordinator, Clara Quijano, we are introducing a newsletter this year to share our latest updates and to offer insights into who we are and what makes us unique. It is an exciting time to have the honor of directing our program at UCI, and thinking about the past, present, and future of Visual Studies. Since our founding in the 1990s, our program has remained at the forefront of innovative interdisciplinary scholarship in the social and cultural production of visual expression. In this issue, four of our core faculty members—Catherine Liu, Lucas Hilderbrand, and Roland Betancourt and Bert Winther-Tamaki—reflect on their own scholarly paths within this ever-changing field, and one of our newest graduate students, Sam Carter, discusses why she decided that UCI would be the best place to pursue her doctoral studies.
This year we are delighted to welcome a new faculty member into the fold. In fall 2017, Bambi Haggins began as an Associate Professor in the Department of Film & Media Studies, joining Visual Studies, as well, as one of our core faculty members. A renowned expert in the study of Black comedy in film, television, digital media, and performance, Professor Haggins is the author of Laughing Mad: The Black Comic Persona in Post-Soul America (2007) and editor of US Television & Cultural Studies (2009). Having previously taught at the University of Michigan and Arizona State University, Professor Haggins’s arrival at UCI substantially bolsters existing areas of strength in our program in African American Studies, American culture and media, and the study of television.
2017 has also been a banner year for our students. During the spring convocation ceremony, seven of our graduate students received their degrees, completing dissertations that range from examinations of Michael Jackson’s enactments of racial identity to the biopolitics of makeover television to postwar feminist performance art. Our current students have been equally successful in winning fellowships and active participants in professional activities spanning the fields of Visual Studies, Film and Media Studies, and Art History. One of the special things about our community is the camaraderie shared by our graduate students, all of whom hail from different places, walks of life, and work on a wide array of different topics, but who all find a home in the experimental and supportive environment of our program. Led by PhD candidate Anirban Gupta-Nigam, in the past couple of years, our students have been meeting throughout the academic year in the evenings to give informal presentations and exchange ideas about one another’s research.
Following in the footsteps of this impressive group of students and graduates, we are welcoming an equally diverse and talented first-year cohort of thirteen students in to the program this fall. Coming to UCI from all across the globe and bringing an incredible variety of interests, this entering class, alongside our stellar group of current students, suggests that the historic and present vibrancy of Visual Studies at Irvine portends an equally electric future.
With my best wishes,