Durham University’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Training Programme in Visual Culture

Readers of the CMH blog will be interested to note the launch of Durham University’s Interdisciplinary Training Programme in Visual Culture. This new Leverhulme-funded training scheme, headed by the Centre for Visual Art and Culture (CVAC), will run for five years, with intakes in 2015, 16 and 17. Applications may now be made for the first intake in Autumn 2015, and proposals for medical humanities focussed projects are welcome.

The natural sciences have long been interested in the nature of vision, while the humanities and social sciences have developed their own sophisticated visual theories and methods of visual analysis. Characterised as it is by visual saturation, the contemporary world demands an integrated approach to understanding visual culture. We interpret visual culture studies as a development that brings together the study of vision and perception, the analysis of the social significance of images and ways of seeing, and the interpretation of a range of visual objects from artworks to scientific images. To study visual culture is to develop ‘critical visual literacy’, the importance of which cannot be exaggerated. Our programme is designed to equip future intellectual leaders with the means to comprehend visual phenomena and to appreciate that many fields of knowledge contribute to the analysis of visual culture. It will provide them with the skills that will enable them to understand a major aspect of human experience which, curiously, has received less attention than texts. This programme offers a new form of collaborative and genuinely interdisciplinary training and access to professionals with competencies beyond the academic. Above all it offers the opportunity to work with an enthusiastic community of scholars with proven track records of supervision, successful interdisciplinary research and public engagement. This programme is coordinated by the Centre for Visual Art and Culture (CVAC).

CVAC unites some fifty members of academic and curatorial staff who are engaged in research on a variety of visual forms, objects and practices. The Centre, a relatively new creation, builds on considerable and long-standing Durham strengths in the field of visual culture, in which members of the University have shaped debates, pioneered new visual research methods, and engaged extensively with visual practitioners. Other key parts of the University researching in visual studies include the Institute of Advanced Research Computing (iARC) and the Centre for Vision and Visual Cognition (CVVC). CVAC co-ordinates their participation and that of other relevant University bodies – including the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), the Biophysical Sciences Institute (BSI) and the Centre for Medical Humanities (CMH) – in order to draw on Durham’s full breadth of expertise in visual culture research.

The scheme offers a collaborative, interdisciplinary and innovative form of doctoral training around the idea that critical visual literacy is of exceptional current importance across all disciplines. Successful candidates may wish to follow either academic or non-academic careers. After completion they will become ambassadors for the approach taken and for the Centre for Visual Art and Culture, which has designed and is responsible for implementing the programme.

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