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Institute of Art History

Mission Statement

CARAH (Collective for Anti-Racist Art History) is an initiative of art historians at the University of Zurich that aims to critically question and break down racist ideologies that are rooted in art history. The collective sets itself the task of exposing and counteracting racially based inclusions and exclusions as well as blind spots in the methodological tradition of art history as an academic discipline in order to help deconstruct and overcome racism.

CARAH focuses on the fact that art and visual representations as well as art history have all contributed and still contribute to the establishment and consolidation of racist stereotypes and structures: Despite its implicit claim to universal validity, art history is characterized by a Eurocentric and Western perspective; the art historical canon comprises mostly works by white artists, discussed by white art historians from the global North, who more often than not, fail to reflect their own position and the normalized whiteness of the discipline.

CARAH aims to show how racist ways of seeing and working, as well as racist language are inscribed in scholarly work, teaching, research, and in the university environment. With reference to Visual Culture Studies, Black Studies and Critical Whiteness Studies, the collective advocates for a (self-)critical approach to racist bodies of knowledge and ways of thinking.

CARAH strives to champion anti-racist methods and theories in the engagement with art and visual culture, in order to clarify the relation between past and present racisms in art history. We understand ourselves as mediators and creators of a forum for reflection and discussion, where race will be negotiated in terms of the production and reception of art, not least in relation to other categories of difference such as class, religion, gender, and sexuality. This is the only way to initiate future-oriented, anti-racist approaches in art history, focused on diversity and participation.