Graduate Division

Visual Studies Ph.D.

Section 1


  • Visual Studies explore the meanings, practices, and processes of looking and imaging across historical periods and diverse cultures.
  • Visual Studies is inclusive and broad-ranging both in its methods and approaches and in its objects of inquiry, which include digital technologies, photography, film, painting, exhibition histories, television, performance, sculpture, video, sound, the built environment, and popular culture.
  • UCI offers one of the premier graduate interdisciplinary programs worldwide, with core faculty from Art History and Film & Media Studies.
  • In addition to the doctoral program, we offer an emphasis in Visual Studies available to Ph.D. and M.F.A. students in all departments at UCI.

What Sets Us Apart?

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Our particular strengths include cultural studies, critical race theory, feminist and queer studies, postcolonial theory, and digital technologies. In addition, our graduate students may choose to supplement their Visual Studies degrees with graduate certificates in Critical Theory, Feminist Studies, Asian American Studies, Latin American Studies, and Chicano/Latino Studies.
  • Following in the footsteps of our impressive group of students and graduates, every year we welcome an equally diverse and talented first-year cohort, coming to UCI from all across the globe that brings an incredible variety of interests.
  • Alongside with our stellar group of current students, past alumni and core faculty members we strive to maintain historic and present vibrancy of Visual Studies at UC Irvine that portends an equally electric future.
  • We work on the long-term challenge of changing expectations of career outcomes for doctoral students by engaging both faculty and students in collaborating in professionalization opportunities that prepare students for multiple career paths.

Quick Facts

Program Type

Doctoral Program

Normative Time to Degree

7 years

Capstone Type


Accordion Section

Admissions Requirements

Applicants should follow and meet all eligibility requirements as stated by the UC Irvine Graduate Division.

Academic Qualifications (see "What is required to apply to UCI?")

Additional Information for Prospective Students

Applicants for admission must hold a Bachelor's degree or its equivalent from an accredited institution of higher learning. While many of our applicants majored in Art History or Film Studies as undergraduates, we have also admitted students with majors ranging from Studio Art to Economics. In short, we are interested in students with a rich educational background, who have demonstrated an engagement with issues of vision and visuality as cultural processes.

We also entertain applications from students holding Master's degrees, again from a variety of disciplines. When the application dossiers are evaluated, the faculty will consider the relevance of the Master's degree to the student's proposed course of study at UC Irvine.

Students seeking to transfer out of a current graduate program into Visual Studies must follow the same application process as any only applicant. There is no transfer process.

The Program in Visual Studies only admits students who intend to complete the Ph.D. through our program at UC Irvine.
Students seeking a terminal Master's degree should not apply.

What does the application require and how do I submit it?

Please refer to the Online Application for UCI Graduate Admissions.

Financial Support

Upon admission, all students receive a five-year fellowship support package which is comprised of a combination of fellowship(s) and teaching assistantships. These support packages provide students with a stipend or salary, as well as tuition and health insurance coverage.

For U.S. citizens who are non-residents of California, it is students’ responsibility to establish California residency by the beginning of their second year, which will exempt them from all future nonresident tuition bills. Please see for information on how to establish residency. For international students, we strive to cover non-resident tuition.

The 5+2 provides a unique opportunity for students’ postdoctoral years. Students who file their dissertations and receive their Ph.D. degrees by the end of their fifth year become eligible for an appointment as Mellon Humanities Faculty Fellow (MHFF) (For international students, this is contingent on securing valid immigration status and work authorization before the expected start date.) These appointments are contingent on excellent performance as TAs during students’ second, third, and fourth years, and demonstration of strong scholarly promise. The MHFF positions can be renewed for a second year, again contingent on a record of excellent teaching and scholarship. The appointments will normally be at 2/3 time, and the salaries will be based on that of a beginning Assistant Professor. The MHFF positions include teaching but are designed to provide recent alumni with time for research and professional development as well. Our goal is to give graduates two years to hone their teaching skills, prepare material from their dissertations for publication, engage in professional activities, and apply for jobs for permanent employment elsewhere. Of course, it is up to alumni whether to accept the MHFF appointment; they should regard these positions as opportunities rather than as obligations. If alumni secure a faculty position or another post-graduate opportunity, they are free to decline the MHFF.

More on financial aid:

Visual Studies 5+2 Program
Fellowships and Teaching Assistantships (Funding)
Additional Financial Support

All applicants who are not citizens of countries where English is either the primary or dominant language, as approved by the Graduate Council, and who wish to be considered for a Teaching Assistantship (TA) appointment must meet the English Language Proficiency Requirements for International TAs International applicants should refer to the additional information provided by UC Irvine Graduate Division about qualifications, language testing, etc.

Tuition & Fees

Graduate/Credential Student Fees 2018-19

  Fall 2018 Winter 2019 Spring 2019 Annual
Student Services Fee 376.00 376.00 376.00 1,128.00
Tuition 3,814.00 3,814.00 3,814.00 11,442.00
Assoc. Grad Students Fee 9.00 9.00 9.00 27.00
Student Center Fee 137.88 137.88 137.87 413.63
Bren Events Center Fee 23.00 23.00 23.00 69.00
Recreation Center Fee 88.00 88.00 88.00 264.00
eTech Fee * 60.00 60.00 60.00 180.00
Document Fee † 80.00 0.00 0.00 80.00
Student Health Insurance 1,348.00 1,347.00 1,347.00 4,042.00
Total California Resident $5,795.88 $5,794.88 $5,794.87 $17,385.63
Nonresident Supplemental Tuition 5,034.00 5,034.00 5,034.00 15,102.00
Total Nonresident $10,829.88 $10,828.88 $10,828.87 $32,487.63

Posted 10 August 2018 at

The tuition, fees, and charges posted to your billing statement or account are estimates based on currently approved amounts. These figures may not be final. Actual tuition, fees, and charges are subject to change by the Regents of the University of California and could be affected by increases or reductions in State funding, or other developments. Accordingly, final approved levels (and thus your final balance due) may differ from the amounts shown.

The non-refundable eTech Fee is required of all students and is used to support the maintenance and improvement of existing education technology, and new services and capabilities. The eTech fee is listed separately as the charged amount varies based on the amount of undergraduate units the student is enrolled in and is assessed later in the term than the other fees listed. The fee is $4 per unit of undergraduate lecture course, up to a maximum amount of $60 (or 15 units) per quarter. It will be assessed after the third week of instruction. The $60 eTech Fee included on this chart reflects the maximum possible fee.

† The Document Fee provides lifetime access to official transcripts and academic verifications without a fee for in-person pickup or delivery by USPS. In addition, there is no fee for mailing the initial diploma. Effective Fall 2018, new undergraduate, professional, and graduate students are assessed the one-time document fee. Eligible students are able to use financial aid to cover the Document Fee.

Core Faculty

Eyal Amiran, Ph.D. University of Virginia, Professor of Comparative Literature; Film and Media Studies; Visual Studies (digital media theory, twentieth-century literature, narrative and textual theory, psychoanalysis, modern and postmodern intellectual history)

Catherine Benamou, Ph.D. New York University, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies; Culture and Theory; Visual Studies (Hispanophone and Lusophone cinema and television, U.S. Latino media, Orson Welles and maverick cinema, transnational flows, spectatorship, cinematic memory and cultures of preservation)

Roland Betancourt, Ph.D. Yale University, Assistant Professor of Art History; Visual Studies (Byzantine and Medieval Art, Critical Theory)

Matthew P. Canepa, Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2004, Art History, Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair in Art History and Archaeology of Ancient Iran (Art and Archaeology of Persia and the Ancient Iranian World; Achaemenid, Seleucid, Arsacid, Sasanian empires; Hellenistic Iran and Central Asia; Eurasian late antiquity; cross-cultural interaction; critical theory)

Bridget R. Cooks, Ph.D. University of Rochester, Associate Professor of African American Studies; Art History; Culture and Theory; Visual Studies (African American art, museum studies, feminist and post-colonial theory)

Sohail Daulatzai, Ph.D. University of Southern California, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies; African American Studies; Visual Studies (African American studies, postcolonial theory, race, hip hop, Muslim diasporas)

Aglaya Glebova, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, Assistant Professor of Art History; Film and Media Studies; Visual Studies (history and theory of photography and film, European avant-garde, Russian and Soviet art)

Bambi Haggins, Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies; Visual Studies (Black [African American] comedy in film, television, digital media and performance, television history, comedy as social and political discourse, African-American studies, American studies)

Kristen L. Hatch, Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, Director of the Graduate Program in Visual Studies and Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies; Visual Studies (American film history; stardom; histories of race, gender, and sexuality; childhood; melodrama)

James D. Herbert, Ph.D. Yale University, Professor of Art History; Visual Studies (modern European art)

Lucas Hilderbrand, Ph.D. New York University, Professor of Film and Media Studies; Visual Studies (Queer cultures and media, cultural studies, documentary, pornography, popular music, video art, histories of technology)

Victoria E. Johnson, Ph.D. University of Southern California, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies; African American Studies; Culture and Theory; Visual Studies (television, critical race theory, sound, media policy, sport)

Peter O. Krapp, Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara, Department Chair and Professor of Film and Media Studies; English; Informatics; Music; Visual Studies (digital culture, media history, cultural memory)

Felicidad (Bliss) Lim, Ph.D. New York University, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies; Visual Studies (Philippine cinema, temporality, postcolonial and feminist film theory, transnational horror and the fantastic, film archives)

Catherine Liu, Ph.D. Yale University, Professor of Film and Media Studies; Comparative Literature; Visual Studies (Hou Hsiao-hsien, culture wars, Frankfurt School, historiography of critical theory/cultural studies, surveillance, cold war culture and neoliberalism)

Lyle Massey, Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, Associate Professor of Art History; Visual Studies (Italian Renaissance and early modern European art, gender theory, science studies)

Margaret Miles, Ph.D. Princeton University, Professor of Art History; Religious Studies; Visual Studies (Greek and Roman art, archaeology)

Tyrus Miller, Ph.D. Stanford University, Dean of the School of Humanities and Professor of English; Art History; Visual Studies (modernist and avant-garde studies in literature and visual arts; critical theory and aesthetics; modern architecture and urbanism; East-Central European studies; culture of socialism and post-socialism; Frankfurt School theory)

Glen M. Mimura, Ph.D. University of California, Santa Cruz, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies; Visual Studies (minoritarian and political film; media and race; popular culture and social movements)

James P. Nisbet, Ph.D. Stanford University, Associate Professor of Art History; Visual Studies (modern and contemporary art)

Alka Patel, Ph.D. Harvard University, Associate Professor of Art History; History; Religious Studies; Visual Studies (South Asian and Islamic art and architecture, historiographies, Islamic diasporas in Cuba)

Allison J. Perlman, Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin, Associate Professor of History; Film and Media Studies; Visual Studies (history of broadcasting, American social movements, media law and policy, media activism, popular memory)

Amy Powell, Ph.D. Harvard University, Associate Professor of Art History; European Languages and Studies; Religious Studies; Visual Studies (Late medieval and early modern art of northern Europe, critical theory)

Fatimah Tobing Rony, Ph.D. Yale University, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies; Culture and Theory; Visual Studies (ethnographic film, race and representation, film production)

Braxton Soderman, Ph.D., Brown University; Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies (Digital and New Media Studies, Video Games, Networks, Digital Art & Electronic Literature, Media Archaeology, Critical Theory)

Cécile Marie Whiting, Ph.D. Stanford University, Professor of Art History; Visual Studies (American art, 20th century visual culture)

Bert Winther-Tamaki, Ph.D. New York University, Department Chair and Professor of Art History; Asian American Studies; Visual Studies (modern Japanese art and visual culture, Asian American art, art and globalization)

Roberta Wue, Ph.D. New York University, Associate Professor of Art History; Visual Studies (modern Chinese art, photography, print culture)

Academic Data

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Career Outcomes

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Students & Alumni