Global visual cultures of intersectional identities and activism
Driving my research is the question of how contemporary visual cultures localize and respond to global challenges of identity formations, especially mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. The combined analysis of cultural objects, their makers, and the social as well as exhibition contexts has been central to my three funded research programs’ ability to map and critically evaluate diverse practices of aesthetics and political action.
As a visual culture scholar primarily interested in the seeability and sayability (visual legibility and discursive intelligibility) within an episteme, I have studied lens-based art, digital culture, performance, installation, painting and drawing. Across these mediums, I consider the following intersecting dimensions of cultural identity by interweaving insights from their respective critical fields of study: sex/gender, desire/sexuality, race/ethnicity, dis/ability, post/coloniality.
Within LUCAS my research profile is situated within the Modern and Contemporary research cluster and the research strands of “The Global Challenges of Cultural Memory, Trauma, and Identity” and “Politics and Aesthetics.” In addition, I am an associated member of the LDE Strategic Alliance Centre for Global Heritage and Development situated within the theme group of “Heritage and Identity,” an expert at LeidenGlobal for North America, Europe and Southern Africa, and affiliated researcher of the Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities (LUCDH).
Eliza Steinbock is Assistant Professor in Cultural Analysis at Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society. They were awarded degrees in Cultural Studies (MA with distinction from Leeds University, 2004) and in Cultural Analysis (funded PhD from the University of Amsterdam, 2011). Eliza takes an interdisciplinary perspective towards the following socially relevant challenges: the aesthetics of bodily difference, the politics of visual culture, the practice of inclusivity and cultural participation. This research brings them to a wide range of visual culture mediums like film, digital media, photography, painting, and museum display, with a special focus on analyzing the intersecting dimensions of gender, sexuality, race, and ability.
They currently lead the NWO Smart Culture project “The Critical Visitor: Intersectional Approaches for Rethinking and Retooling Accessibility and Inclusivity in Heritage Spaces” (2020-2025). The Critical Visitor investigates how heritage institutions can achieve inclusion and accessibility within their organization, collection, and exhibition spaces that meets the breadth of demands placed by today’s “critical visitors.” Fifteen heritage partners collaborate on activities to develop language and tools that dismantle intersecting oppressions, forms of exclusion, and marginalization. The project asks, “How can initiatives in the Dutch cultural sector become more intersectional, in the sense of developing multi-issue approaches to inclusion and accessibility?”
The research team is comprised of Steinbock, PhDs at LUCAS (Liang-kai Yu and Nina Littel), Hester Dibbits of the Reinwardt Academy/Erasmus University and Dirk van den Heuvel of TU Delft/Het Nieuwe Instituut. The PhDs will spend time embedded in partner institutions studying how heritage and identity operate, and the consortium will convene through the research formats of Field Labs (evaluative on site sprints), Archival Interactions (artistic research with archives), and a Queer Salon (seminar series with intersectional groups).
Previously on an NWO Veni grant (2014-2018), Eliza researched contemporary transgender (self) portraiture in the wider field of visual activism. The in-development book project is based on ethnographic research and interviews with cultural producers living in Toronto, Berlin, Cape Town and Johannesburg. This project was formally concluded with the international conference “Art & Activism: Resilience Techniques in Times of Crisis,” held at the Volkenkunde Museum (13-15 Dec. 2017, Leiden).
Published by Duke University Press, Shimmering Images: Trans Cinema, Embodiment, and the Aesthetics of Change (2019) traces how cinema offers alternative ways to understand gender transitions through a specific aesthetics of change. The book not only offers a corrective to the gender binary orientation of feminist film theory; it opens up new means to understand trans ontologies and epistemologies as emergent, affective, and processual.
One reviewer summarizes it’s importance as: “Deftly combining film theory, affect theory, trans studies, and aesthetics, Eliza Steinbock's scintillating new book makes a bravura contribution to each of the fields it draws from. They argue that, in delinking and relinking sounds and images across literal cuts, filmmaking necessarily enacts a ‘transsexual logic of cinematic embodiment.’ The brilliance of the book lies in the sophistication with which it develops that fundamental insight into a full-fledged practice of reading, watching, feeling, thinking, and interpreting. It's a game-changer.” — Susan Stryker, coeditor of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly
In terms of service work, Eliza is involved in critical diversity issues at Leiden University through being a member of Leiden University Diversity and Equality Network (LUDEN), and serving on the Klankbordgroep Diversiteitsbeleid (KBGD) that reports to the executive board. In the recent past Eliza was invited to speak at open and closed events on gender-neutral language, trans inclusive policies, feminist curation and intersectional art.
Nationally, Eliza serves as a member of the advisory board for the interdisciplinary NIAS-Lorentz program and for the Queering the Collections Network, and on the education council for the Netherlands Research School for Gender Studies (NOG). Their professional international service includes being the co-editor with Susan Stryker for the book series ASTERISK: Gender, Trans-, and All That Comes After at Duke University Press, a managing editor at Museums & Society, section editor of Art & Culture for TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, and a member of the editorial board for Capacious: Journal for Emerging Affective Inquiry. Eliza also regularly contributes to exhibitions as a curator and as a consultant on concept and text.
Eliza is the coordinator for the university-wide minor Gender and Sexuality in Society and Culture. With their specialization in visual culture studies and display practices of material culture, Eliza is broadly deployed in the Faculty of Humanities’ Art history BA program Arts, Media and Society, the BA Film and Literary studies, and MA Media studies programs. Eliza also contributes teaching to Leiden’s campus in the Hague for the BA International Studies’ Cultural Studies track and Leiden University College’s elective package in Gender Studies. A list of current and past courses can be located through the e-Prospectus.
Eliza is interested in mentoring scholars, and available to supervise a dissertation on any topic related to their research expertise, for instance, in the fields of visual culture, heritage and museum studies, (trans)gender, sexuality, critical race, and animal studies, artistic and cultural production, activism and political engagement.
Temporary research visits and supervision can be arranged if you have your own funding or means. Please note that funded “internal” salaried positions are advertised on the Leiden University website, or can be applied for through an annual competition organized at the faculty-level and NWO called PhDs in the Humanities (deadline in early December). “External” positions require a PhD to have their own means to support themselves, or funding from their home country.
Steinbock currently serves as co-promoter for the following LUCAS PhD projects:
Nina Littel, “Founding an Inclusive Space: Legacies of Alternative Archiving Practices in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany” (With Monika Baár and Hester Dibbits, from Feb. 2020-2025)
Liang-kai Yu, “Queering the Museum: Contemporary Artists and Curators as Critical Visitors and Their Creative Intervention into Dutch, British, and German Cultural Institutions,” (With Kitty Zijlmans and Dirk van den Heuvel, 2019-present)
Lieke Hettinga, “Against Accommodation: Disability and Transgender Embodiment in Euro-American Politics of Visibility,” visiting from Department of Gender Studies, Central European University, funded by CEU Doctoral Research Support Grant (Sep-Dec 2019 *Temporary Daily supervisor)
Wenxuan Peng, “Lesbianism in China: Gender Images and Self-Identification as Reflected in Online Pop Culture,” (With Maghiel van Crevel, 2018-present)
Zexu Guan, “Chinese Beauty Bloggers: Gendered Labor & Bodies in Cultural Industries,” (With Ernst van Alphen, 2016-present)
Jiyu Zhang, “Rethinking Chinese Cinema in the Global Era: Nation, Culture and Ideology,” (With Ernst van Alphen and Peter Verstraten, 2016-present)
No relevant ancillary activities