Critical and Visual Studies B.A.

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Critical and Visual Studies is a Bachelor of Arts program for independent thinkers and those training to be public intellectuals, curators, visual artists or cultural workers who are interested in addressing pressing social concerns through cultural and visual analysis and skill building.

At the core of the program is the exploration of every aspect of social and cultural life—from street and gallery art to climate change, from social media environments to the Global South. The program provides opportunities for autonomous and guided learning towards a research project that more deeply explores artistic, social, visual critical and political meanings of cultural and aesthetic production.

Critical and Visual Pedagogies

Our program features a core curriculum that builds upon visual analysis and interdiscipline approaches to the social sciences, and the humanities. We focus on the writings and methods of the most exciting contemporary thinkers who are of special importance to critical theory and visual studies. Students choose from a new curriculum that focuses on themes such as immigration, settlement, aesthetics, feminist theory, critical race theory, global urban cities, the histories of resistance, cultural narratives, and the art of protest. Students can minor in Sustainability, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Psychology, History, Social Justice / Social Practice, and from within the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and across the Institute in architecture, art history, art and design, and urban planning.

The BA in Critical and Visual Studies gives students critical tools to be able to become key leaders in public intellectual spheres, preparing students to engage in the arts, social debates, and develop writing and critical skills.

The program will give you:

  • A critical understanding of society and the visual arts that is grounded in history, global artistic production, qualitative methods, aesthetics, and intersectionality.
  • Competency in social theory, analytical structures, techniques of communication, and familiarity with a range of research methods and perspectives.
  • The ability to develop and critically integrate written, oral, visual, and spatial expression.
  • The flexibility to pursue both in-depth studies as well as opportunities to make links between academic work and the working world through internships in cultural institutions, especially non-profit arts and public service agencies.
  • A faculty whose scholarship and teaching is on the cutting edge of cultural criticism and analysis.

We see Brooklyn and New York City as a social lab of opportunities to engage pressing social and cultural issues. The Critical and Visual Studies curriculum allows students the opportunity to take electives in the traditional studio arts and in new media. Students can work in a variety of media, developing their writing skills and working experimentally to integrate the verbal and visual, creating new combinations of word and image.

Our faculty’s diverse teaching and research interests include philosophy, sociology, ethnography, cultural studies, media studies, globalization, imperialism, colonialism and post-colonialism, decolonization, critical theory, psychology, gender and sexuality, world history, history and historiography, cinema and documentary film, literature and creative writing, theater and performance studies, landscape and space, environmental studies, sustainability, and the sociology of science and technology. The faculty’s area specialties include the Americas, Africa, the Mediterranean, Central Asia, Middle East, the Pacific Rim and Indian Oceans.

Our events underscore the program's emphasis on the critical understanding of culture and the social world of art and social life. The nature and format of our events are open to the range of student and faculty interests. Some long running events and series include:

Lectures, Forums, and Speaker Series as well as the department’s regular Scholar-In-Residence appointment bring renowned scholars and intellectuals to the Institute and give our students the opportunity to meet and interact with many distinguished thinkers and academics.

Film Screenings are designed to be provocative forums for current issues and timely debates. Filmmakers accompany their film screenings and address interested students after the screenings, making for lively discussions that extend beyond the classroom. Students and faculty are also active in the Pratt Film Society and Pratt Radio (WPIR), with plans to expand that participation.

The Wallabout Film Festival is a student film festival produced and curated by an interdisciplinary team of students from Pratt Institute. Showcasing films by innovative student filmmakers from around the world, Wallabout is a platform for students to screen their work to a diverse community of peers, artists and industry professionals, initiating conversation and collaboration. It has become an important platform for supporting student filmmaking and for adding to the vibrant creative culture of Brooklyn.

Field trips and Site Visits are organized by faculty of the Critical and Visual Studies program, provide opportunities to see current museum and gallery exhibitions; to network with artists, architects, designers, critics and curators; and to engage with the city at large. Many of our courses also focus on site visits and field trips. We also encourage and facilitate internship opportunities.

Senior Thesis Readings are public presentations by seniors of their thesis research. These presentations and discussions are a chance for students to get to know the work of peers and to gain perspective on their own intellectual development.

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