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A. Joan Saab

  • Susan B. Anthony Professor
  • Professor of Art and Art History
  • Professor of Visual and Cultural Studies
  • Vice Provost of Academic Affairs
  • Interim Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences & Engineering

PhD, American Studies, New York University, 1999

519  Morey Hall
(585) 275-7922

Office Hours: By appointment, via Zoom

Research Overview

Research Interests

  • Twentieth-century American cultural history
  • media and culture
  • urban and community studies
  • popular culture
  • cultural studies
  • aesthetic categories and values

Courses Taught

  • AHST 584:  Research Seminar in Visual and Cultural Studies
  • AHST 583:  Colloquium in Visual and Cultural Studies
  • AHST 520/320:  Politics of Space
  • AHST 492/292:  Representing Modern City
  • AHST 474/274:  Cultural History of American Architecture
  • AHST 466/266:  African American Visual Culture
  • AHST 456/256:  Vernacular Architecture in the USA
  • AHST 137:  Intro to Modern Architecture
  • AHST 102:  Ways of Seeing: Highbrow/Lowbrow

Selected Publications


  • A Concise Companion to Visual Culture, Lead Editor with Aubrey Anable and Catherine Zuromskis, Co-Editors. Wiley Blackwell 2021.
  • Objects of Vision: Making Sense of What We See. Studies in Sensory History Series, Penn State University Press, Mark Smith, ed. 2020.
  • For the Millions: American Culture Between the Wars. University of Pennsylvania Press. The Arts and Intellectual Life in Modern America Series, Inaugural Volume. 2004. Paperback ed. 2009.
  • Searching for Siqueiros. Multi-media book project that explores the history of David Alfaro Siqueiros’s 1932 mural America Tropical and its legacy in Los Angeles over the past 75 years.  Written and published on the Scalar Platform (Complete manuscript under review, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Wiley Blackwell Companion to Visual Culture, Lead Editor. Aubrey Anable and Catherine Zuromskis, Co-Editors (under contract). 

Articles in Journals and Anthologies

  • “Lake Effect: Buffalo in the 1970s,” in Currents: Buffalo at the Crossroads, Peter Christensen, ed. (under contract with Cornell University Press, expected publication 2018)
  • “The State Cultural Apparatus,” in American Literature in the 1940s, Christopher Vials, ed. (Cambridge University Press, under contract and in production, forthcoming Winter 2018)
  • “Chicano Park Samba,” in Resistant Strategies, Diana Taylor, ed. Durham: Duke University Press. (under contract, forthcoming Fall 2017)
  • “Rochester: Smugtown Sprawls,” in Third Coast Atlas: Prelude to a Plan, Daniel Ibanez, Clare Lyster, and Charles Waldheim, eds. Cambridge, MA: Actar Press, 2017
  • “Radical Craft: Exhibiting Homelands in Rochester New York,” Journal of American Studies (Summer 2016)
  • “Painting Community: America Tropical and The Multi-Sited Mural” (Forthcoming, Social Text)
  • “Modernist Networks: Taxco: 1931.” Modernism/Modernity (Spring 2011)
  • “Neither New nor Urban: Nostalgia and the City of Tomorrow.” Journal of Planning History (Fall 2007)
  • “Creating a Life or Opting Out: Anti-Feminism and the Popular Media.” Journal for Research on Mothering (September 2006)
  • “Gucci Babies: From the Madonna and Child to Madonna and Children.” Americana (Summer 2005)
  • “Citizen Worker, Citizen-Artist: The Federal Arts Project and the Desacralization of American Art,” in David Holloway ed. American Visual Cultures (London: Continuum Press, 2005)
  • “Jacob Lawrence” entry for The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Routledge. 2005)
  • “History Goes Hollywood and Vice Versa: Historical Representation and Distortion in American Film.” Review Essay. American Quarterly (Winter 2002)

Book Reviews

  • “Fair History.” Ganz, Cheryl. 1933 Chicago World's Fair: A Century of Progress. Reviews in American History, Volume 37, Number 2 (June 2009)
  • “The Life and Death of Images.” The Life and Death of Images: Ethics and Aesthetics by Diarmuid Costello (Editor), Dominic Willsdon (Editor). Photography and Culture, Volume 2, Number 1 (March 2009)
  • Review of Visual Culture: The Study of the Visual after the Cultural Turn by Margaret Dikovitskaya. CAA Reviews (Spring 2008)

Invited Talks and Symposium

  • “Crafting Progressivism: National Contexts, Local Projects” Keynote Speaker. Getty Research Institute. Los Angeles, California. November, 2011.
  • “Animating Archives.” Brown University. December 2009.
  • “Performing Visuality.” Workshop participant, Hemispheric Institute, Encuentro. “Staging Citizenship: Cultural Rights in the Americas.”  National University of Colombia. Bogotá, Columbia. 
August 21-30, 2009.
  • “America Tropical: David Alfaro Siqueiros and the Markets for Global Modernism.” University of Texas, Austin. November 2, 2008.

Conferences Organized

  • “Now, Visual Culture.” Inaugural Conference for the International Visual Culture Association. May31-June 1, 2012. New York University.
  • “Visual and Cultural Studies: The Next Twenty Years.”  University of Rochester. Two-day event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Visual and Cultural Studies Program at the University of Rochester. October 2009.
  • “Visual Memories.”  University of Rochester. Two- day event combining keynote speakers and seminars in conjunction with Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor.  May 2008.
  • “Visual Culture and the African Diaspora.“ Year-long collaboration between the Frederick Douglas Institute and the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies. Culminated in day-long symposium on “Reclaiming Negative Imagery.”  2005-2006.

Selected Awards/Grants

  • University of Rochester Provost’s Research Grant, “Animating the Archives: Claude Bragdon and American Architecture”
  • NEH-Vectors Fellow, “Broadening the Digital Humanities” Summer Institute, University of Southern California. July-August 2010
  • The Mellon Foundation, Scholarly Communication Grant (co-PI). 2009-11
  • University of Rochester Humanities Project (PI), “New Ways of Seeing.” Year-long series on New Media and the Humanities. 2009-2010
  • The Mellon Foundation, Planning Grant (co-PI). 2007-08
  • Institute for Historical Studies, University of Texas, Austin. Visiting Fellow. November 2008
  • Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies. Travel Grant, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
  • Society for the Preservation of American Modernism, Publication Grant. 2003
  • Faculty Development Grant, Eastman School of Music. Fall 2003
  • Catherine Filene Shouse Arts Leadership Program, Course Development Grant. Spring 2002
  • Dissertation Fellowship, The Wolfsonian Museum. May 1997
  • Penfield Fellowship, New York University. 1991-1992, 1992-1993
  • Assistantship, American Studies, New York University. 1993-97
  • Fellow, The Committee on Theory and Culture at New York University. 1991-92, 1994-95
  • Teaching Fellowship, Expository Writing Program. New York University. 1992-1997
  • New York University Travel and Research Grants. 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998
  • Developmental Teaching Grant, General Studies Program. New York University, Fall 1996


  • Humanities Labs Working Group, University of Rochester, 2008-present.
  • Enrollment Group, University or Rochester, 2007-present.
  • Curriculum Director, Susan B. Anthony Institute for Women and Gender Studies, University of Rochester, 2008-present.
  • George Eastman House Working Group. Member of Planning Committee to foster inter-institutional exchange between the University of Rochester and the George Eastman House and International Museum of Photography and Film. 2006-present.
  • Executive Committee, Frederick Douglas Institute for African and African American Studies, University of Rochester 2006-present.
  • Editorial Board, Women and Performance 2011-present.
  • Vice Chair, Visual Culture Caucus. American Studies Association. 2006-2009.
  • Advisory Board, InVisible Culture, University of Rochester, 2005-present.
  • American Studies Association
  • Organization of American Historians
  • College Art Association
  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies
  • Association of Historians of American Art

Current Projects

  • Tales from The Crypt: Vincent Price and American Visual Culture (working title for book length project).
  • Modernist Networks: Global Commodities and the Modern American Marketplace. Book-length study that explores the global circulation of material objects and aesthetic ideologies in museums, department stores, and international tourist markets from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century in the United States and Mexico.
  • “Animating the Archives: Claude Bragdon and American Architecture”