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Equity in Art History



Art history in the US academy emerged as part of the western historical tradition. The present moment asks that we evaluate seriously the limits and the possibilities of that disciplinary frame as we aspire to grow and change in pursuit of greater diversity in the field and of new perspectives on art, visual and material practices, and the study of the built environment. The Department of History of Art at the University of Michigan has long committed to diverse perspectives and viewpoints when interpreting the material past, but we acknowledge the need for more. We work to expand the limits of the field geographically as well as methodologically. Our department welcomes the ongoing critique of past practices and seeks knowledge that will enrich our field heading into the future.

In support of recent social movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, we reaffirm our commitment to a range of viewpoints and areas of research in art history, and to opening our field to those who have been and continue to be underrepresented there. Recent social movements have enabled us to question structures that limit access to art historical knowledge, that establish modes of art historical inquiry, and that obscure the entanglements of art and social representation. In acknowledging and altering these structures, we expand knowledge of our fields. As a department, we confirm our commitment to eradicating bias in our field, and to creating an inclusive community in which issues of gender, class, race, ethnicity, caste, and culture can be openly discussed and debated.(1)

We thus turn our gaze inward, as scholars and individuals, in order to interrogate the ideologies and assumptions that drive art historical epistemologies. The legacies of art history, while they include an early focus on connoisseurship and art as elite practice, also reveal a serious ethnographic engagement with culture and representation. Today, we seek to encourage scholarship, pedagogies, and interpersonal dynamics that make the discipline more equitable and relevant. We hold ourselves to advancing art history through a culture of supportive inclusivity and collegial disputation. Finally, we promise to create institutional change to advance the growth of our field over the long term--to bend the arc, as it were, towards more representative epistemological practices.


(1) Among university resources related to discrimination, see U-M SPG 201.35 (Non-Discrimination), and under SPG 201.89-1 (Discrimination and Harassment). All forms of discrimination are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.