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Durham University

Centre for Visual Arts and Culture


The University has long invested in staff and infrastructure (primarily in the form of library holdings, including a collection of rare colonial films from the Sudan Archive). The establishment of the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures (CVAC) in 2013 renewed and reinvigorated the University’s commitment to the visual arts, including cinema. CVAC brings together scholars from across and beyond Durham University in order to provide a dynamic setting for wide-ranging interdisciplinary research and debates about visual culture, a field that entails the study of vision and perception, the analysis of the social significance of images and ways of seeing, and the attentive interpretation of a range of visual objects, from artworks to scientific images. Naturally, film plays a central role in the Centre’s strategic vision. It provides fora for interdisciplinary discussions, fosters a vibrant postgraduate community, and benefits from partnerships with its colleges to bring cinematic culture into the broader education of all its students. CVAC seeks to forge mutually beneficial relationships through collaborations with external bodies. It has established working partnerships in the region, including with the Bowes Museum on the forthcoming workshop ‘Fashion in Film: Film in Fashion’ to coincide with the YSL Exhibition, and Tyneside Cinema.

Collaborative ideas

While CVAC and associated staff are open to all ideas for collaborative ventures, initial discussions have revealed several ideas for further exploration:

  • Educational events, drawing on film as a means of providing insight into modern languages, history, literature, geography, anthropology, and science. Such collaborative activities could range from primary to adult education;
  • Collaborative research projects, leading to funding for joint research activities, exemplified by the recent application to the AHRC led by Andy Byford (Modern Languages) on ‘Cross Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community’;
  • Joint events hosting film-makers, such as the forthcoming visit by Syrian- Catalan film director Hammudi Al-Rahmoun Font;
  • Film tie-ins with local exhibitions and events;
  • Pop-up cinema events in towns and villages;
  • Pre-show talks, round-table discussions, programme notes and materials;
  • Themed festivals, drawing on joint expertise;
  • Funded internship opportunities for students, through the doctoral training programmes (Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Programmes, Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme).


Colleagues across several Departments have research interests in film, some nascent, others more developed; some with considerable experience in working with museums, international film organizations, the media, and cinemas. The Faculty collectively covers significant chronological and geographical ground, from early cinema to contemporary film. Although CVAC has three primary research themes for the period to (Constructions of Knowledge, Environments and the Sacred), there are several cross-cutting thematic groupings, such as the Natural World and Environment, Science and Medicine, Propaganda and Surveillance, and National and International Cultures.

Primary expertise may also be found in the research of key individuals:

Modern Languages:

Dr Marie-Claire Barnet’s research interests include 20th century French literature and visual arts, surrealism, autobiography and work and image studies, contemporary writers and artists, critical theory, Derrida, gender studies and psychoanalysis. Dr Barnet is currently finishing a book on the representation of childhood in contemporary literature, photography, film and art installations. Collaborated with Tyneside Cinema through the organisation of a film festival and conference with the French filmmaker Agnes Varda in 2012.

Dr Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze’s research focuses on three main areas: Nineteenth-Century French literature and culture; the theory of parody and French cinema. Her next book project focuses on the French film director Claude

Chabrol. She retains a strong interest in the French cinema of the 1920s and 1930s (Renoir and Carné) and on contemporary French cinema (Bruno Dumont). Dr Dousteyssier-Khoze has collaborated with Tyneside Cinema during a film festival, conference and talk with French film maker Agnes Varda in 2012.

Dr Santiago Fouz-Hernandez’s research interests include gender, sexuality and body in contemporary Spanish cinema. He is the author of Cuerpos de cine (2013) and, with Alfredo Martínez-Expósito (University of Melbourne), Live Flesh: The Male Body in Contemporary Spanish Cinema (2007), as well as editor of the book Mysterious Skin: Male Bodies in Contemporary Cinema (2009). He has organised events in Durham with Catalan director Ventura Pons, who presented a film at the Gala Theatre in 2010. In 2015 two actors of Pons' film Ignasi M came to Durham for a screening and Q&A session as part of Durham Pride UK events. Fouz-Hernández is now working on a project on Spanish erotic cinema, which will produce two edited collections and a monograph on director Bigas Luna. He is organising a series of public events linked to this project in the USA, Spain and in the North East of England (in collaboration with Tyneside Cinema). He is a member of NECS (European Network of Cinema Studies) and SCMS (Society for Cinema and Media Studies), as well as a member of the editorial board of Studies in Spanish and Latin American Cinemas.

Dr Abir Hamdar’s primary research specialism is in modern Middle Eastern literatures, film and cultures with a particular interest in questions of health, illness and disability, literature and religion, particularly literary and filmic representations of Islamism from the Middle East and North Africa.

Professor Chris Lloyd’s research covers two main areas, reflected in six books, five edited volumes of conference proceedings and many refereed articles: (a) the late nineteenth-century novel; (b) fiction, film and culture in France since the Second World War. His latest monograph focuses on the film director Henri-Georges Clouzot.

Professor Jonathan Long has research interests which include literary theory, theory of photography and visual culture, twentieth-century German literature, writers and photography.

Dr Claudia Nitschke’s current research looks at concepts of statehood in literature and film and seeks to explore the aesthetic perception and interpretation of the state and its functions by examining questions of national identity, integration, legality, and, first and foremost, justice.

Professor Andrea Noble is a Latin Americanist with research interests in visual culture studies -- particularly film and photography -- and Mexican cultural history. Her work to date has engaged with a range of methodological approaches, including those derived from feminist and gender studies, cultural memory, history of the emotions, reception and spectatorship, semiotics, and visual anthropology.

Dr Dušan Radunović specialises in Russian theory (Bakhtin, Formalism, Shpet's Circle), and Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet cinemas (Bauer, Eisenstein, Georgian Cinema). He has published widely on Soviet cinematography.

Professor Janet Stewart, Director of the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures, came to Durham University from the University of Aberdeen in January 2014. Research interests are in oil and energy with film as an archive for oil history.

Dr Michael Thompson’s research focuses primarily on the work of dramatists writing in Spain since the early 20th century, especially Antonio Buero Vallejo (1916-2000), José María Rodríguez Méndez (1925-2009) and Paloma Pedrero (born 1957). He has a particular interest in historical theatre and in cinematic adaptations of history plays.

Dr Simon Ward came to Durham University from the University of Aberdeen in January 2014, where he was previously a Senior Lecturer in German and Film & Visual Culture. He possesses experience of collaborating, in particular, with the Picture House cinema in Aberdeen. Research and teaching interests include European film, with a focus on German cinema of the past 40 years.


Dr Sarah Davies’s specialism is in the cultural, social and political history of the Soviet Union, soviet cinema, and the cultural Cold War.

Professor Jo Fox has published on the cinematic cultures of Britain and Germany during the Second World War, exploring the connections between film, propaganda and popular opinion. Current projects include: rumor and oral propaganda in the First and Second World Wars and on the 'afterlife' of wartime propaganda narratives from 1945. Research interests include film history, Nazi Germany, the First and Second World Wars, the history of propaganda in the twentieth century.


Dr Michael Mack’s research focuses on the mind-body divide, questions of stereotyping and exclusion (and integrative diversity) in film, literature, philosophy and medicine.

Dr Sam Thomas has research interests which include resistance politics and terrorism in fiction and film from the Cold War era to the present day, US crime narrative, region and labour history. Dr Thomas is currently collaborating with the Tyneside Cinema as part of research into US crime narrative. Speaking at a special Cinema Book Club screening of ‘Life of Crime’ (adapted from Elmore Leonard’s ‘The Switch’) and for the release of ‘Inherent Vice’ (adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name) in 2015.

Dr Sarah Wootton has a wide interest in film in English, creative alternatives to screen adaptation, iconic heroes and period drama. Research and teaching interests are in the Romantic and Victorian periods with a particular focus on the afterlives of nineteenth-century writers in fiction, art, and screen adaptation.

School of Applied Social Sciences

Drs Mark Cresswell and Kate O’Brien have research interests in cultural criminology and cinematic representations of trauma.


Mr Alastair Fraser, Assistant Librarian, published Ghosts on the Somme: Filming the Battle June-July 1916 (2009) as an analysis of the film the Battle of the Somme 1916 which was screened at the Gala theatre.