Visual Studies emerged as a research stream in the beginning of the nineties.

As such, it encompasses a wide range of phenomena connected to vision, visualization and visual domains, considered in the variety of their embodiments, their foundational codes and boundaries, their circulation and functioning modes. Because the field is so far-reaching, it addresses such various components as the devices at work in the visible dimensions of human cultures, the  neuro-cognitive mechanisms of perception, or the profuse array of both old and so-called "new images".

Even though the very definition and sheer theoretical breadth of Visual Studies still remain actively discussed, no one can deny that it defies any easy categorization into any exclusive traditional discipline. Indeed, it requires a strong interdisciplinarity in a way that remains quite innovative in the French academic context, fueling necessary collaborations between specialists of :

- social and human sciences (art history, material and cultural history, compared anthropology, sociology, philosophy, information and communication sciences…)

- hard sciences and engineering sciences (neurosciences, cognitive psychology, scientific imagery, fundamental computer sciences, electronics…)

- artistic creation and its analysis (artists, contemporary designers - audiovisual and multimedia -  graphic designers, experts in museography…)

France hasn't implemented any interdisciplinary program devoted to Visual Studies yet, unlike many other countries and universities (Cornell University, Rochester University, Pennsylvania University, University of California (Irvine), Chicago University, Duke University, KULeuven, University of Brighton, Lund University, Jacobs University (Bremen)...).

Because of this specific context, and in order to promote on an international level the French scientific community, the advent of a research field devoted to Visual Studies comes across as a critically important endeavour. 


The RTP Visual Studies... was created to the IRHiS (UMR 8529 falling under the Université Lille 3 and linked to the CNRS - INSHS). From 2007 on, the IRHiS worked out a close collaboration with the department of "Art, Art History and Visual Studies" at Duke University (NC, USA) through the International Graduate Program in Art Markets and Visual Studies (supported by the Partner University Fund of the FACE foundation and the region Nord-Pas-de-Calais).

This partnership triggered an intellectual reflection on the very notion of Visual Studies, giving way to an international symposium held in Lille on June 22nd and 23th, 2009, that brought together professionals and researchers from France, the USA (Duke University, Visual Studies Initiative) and Germany (Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany, Visual Communication and Expertise Program).



     «Il faut beaucoup de temps
    pour apprendre à voir»
        J.-J. Rousseau, Emile, 1762 

    «[l’oeil] choisit, rejette, organise,
    distingue, associe, classe, analyse,
   Il saisit et fabrique plutôt qu’il ne reflète
   [...] Rien n’est vu tout simplement, 
    à nu».
    N. Goodman, Langages de l’art, 1990

A Thematic Interdisciplinary Network project (RTP) of the Institut des Sciences Humaines et Sociales (CNRS).