Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter

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The Johns Hopkins Department of History of Art denounces the racist killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tony McDade, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and too many others at the hands of police and vigilantes acting under the cover of deferred justice, as well as the structural racism that undermines politics, policing, civility, and the quality of lives for so many in Baltimore, throughout the USA, and across the world. We repudiate the racism that pervades academic life and that continues to be fostered by the institutions in which our discipline is implicated—the museum, the art world, the spaces of subsidized research. 

The faculty of the Department of History of Art at Hopkins, in collaboration with colleagues across the globe, engage in conversations and critical research that seek to lay bare the ideologies of race, nationalism, Eurocentrism, and colonialism that have shaped the discipline from its inception in the 1700s. Nonetheless, we acknowledge the historically persistent and ongoing elements of racial bias that undergird our discipline, and that there remains much work to be done on our part to rectify these. We acknowledge the historical injustices perpetrated by the institution within which we work and act. In our own department, despite recent successes in recruiting students of color, we also acknowledge our history of unsuccessful attempts to admit and recruit BIPoC students and to hire and recruit BIPoC faculty. In that regard, we endorse the comprehensive statement on racial justice by our colleagues in the Department of History: both its resolutions, and its exposure of histories of racial injustice at Hopkins. In particular, we echo History’s condemnation of the university’s push to form a private police force and join them in encouraging the university to deepen its commitment to working with the community of Baltimore, our home and the majority Black city so crucial for Hopkins’ continued success.

As scholars and teachers we recognize the increased urgency of a systematic and thoroughgoing response to the crisis of racism—by broadening the focus of our teaching and research, by working to facilitate accessibility to specialist training and professional opportunities in History of Art for communities of color in this country, and by furthering a departmental conversation on diversity and inclusiveness outside as well as inside the classroom. We see History of Art as equipped with the critical apparatus to interrogate entrenched preconceptions of race, culture, geography, and gender. Visual representation, the use and resignification of symbols, the erection, revision, and toppling of monuments, the relation between visual culture and politics—all of these concerns are at the heart of our discipline. 

We declare our commitment to serving a student body that reflects the diversity of our city and our nation. We declare our commitment to offering a diverse curriculum that actively promotes anti-racist practices. We declare our commitment to mentoring and supporting BIPoC undergraduate and graduate students in their academic pursuits across all the fields of art history that we represent: Ancient Mediterranean, Near Eastern, European Medieval, Islamic, European Pre-Modern, the Americas, South Asian, and Modern and Contemporary, broadly conceived.  We declare our commitment to diversity in the recruitment of staff and faculty.

The following measures will be adopted:

We will advocate to increase our program’s coverage of African, African Diaspora, and African American art history, a move that is all the more important in light of the rich collections in our neighboring institution, the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Our graduate workshops will now give special emphasis to discussions on critical race theory and on decolonizing art history in pedagogy, scholarship, and the museum.

Our annual program of visiting lectures will change from its emphasis on scholars in areas currently covered in the department to prominent voices across all areas of study, with especial attention to inviting BIPOC scholars.

We will continue to examine and revise our curricular offerings, particularly those that are specifically required for the major (Introduction to the History of Art and Historical and Conceptual Bases of Art History), to ensure that they actively interrogate the imbrication of race and racism within our discipline, and include a diverse body of material and a diverse selection of scholarly voices and primary texts.