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Portrait of Lisa Uddin

Lisa Uddin

Associate Professor of Art History, Paul Garett Fellow


Professor Uddin is a teacher-scholar working across visual culture, architectural history and critical race studies. She grew up in a Swedish and Bengali white-collar immigrant family in suburban Toronto, and with artists, architects and community radio broadcasters in urban Montreal. Before coming to Whitman, she taught art history at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington D.C. and did postdoctoral research in the environmental humanities at the University of Minnesota and Brown Universitys Pembroke Center. At Whitman, she helps students learn histories and theories of art and design and connect that knowledge to critical- reparative projects, from climate change science to movements for social justice.


Ph.D. Visual and Cultural Studies
University of Rochester

M.A. Visual and Cultural Studies
University of Rochester

M.A. Media Studies
Concordia University-Montréal

B.A. North American Studies
McGill University

Courses Taught by Professor Uddin

  • Photographing Difference
  • Architectures of Race
  • Critical Art History
  • Mayhem, Machines, Manifestos: Modernism in Art and Architecture
  • Blackness and the Arts
  • Indigenous Aesthetics: Native North American Art and Visual Culture
  • Senior Seminar in Art History

Professor Uddin is the author of Zoo Renewal: White Flight and the Animal Ghetto (University of Minnesota Press, 2015), which examines the shift from “naked cages” to naturalistic enclosures in U.S. zoos of 1960s and 70s. Reading architectural designs, institutional histories and popular zoo media, the book situates global wildlife conservation within the racial and spatial logics of U.S. urban renewal. Uddin shows how the material and symbolic emergence of endangered species displays in and around American zoos unfolded as the resurgence of white anti-urbanism in the long postwar period. Reviewers praised the book as a “surprising perspective on urban and racial issues” (Planning Magazine) that “adds a new dimension to what has become the standard historical understanding of zoos' relationship to race and empire” (Buildings and Landscapes) and “helps us to see zoos, and cities more widely, as multispecies environments, where humans and animals came together to shape the contours of urban life.” (Journal of American Studies). Research materials for this book are now housed at the Whitman College and Northwest Archives.

Prof. Uddin also co-edited with Michael B. Gillespie (NYU) Black One Shot, an online art criticism series devoted to blackness and the arts. Launched in 2018, and written by leading and emerging scholars and curators of black visual and expressive culture, the series consisted of 85 pieces over 21 transmissions. Essays had a 1000 word limit and each were devoted to a single work of art, broadly conceived. Contributors resisted the pressures to formulate complex discussions of blackness for easy public consumption by making creative-critical space for its often speculative, ambivalent, and irreconcilable forms.

Her current research, “Open Black: Arrivant Spaces of the Settler West,” reads spaces of blackness in contemporary visual culture of the Western United States. This work asks what happens—conceptually and materially — when settler colonial formations of “open space” reconfigure through the African diaspora and its aesthetic practices.

“The Fugitivity of Black Panther Oakland,” in Design Radicals: Spaces of Bay Area Counterculture, eds. Greg Castillo and Lee Stickells (forthcoming with University of Minnesota Press).

Black One Shot, eds. Lisa Uddin and Michael Boyce Gillespie, ASAP/J, 2018-2022. 

“And Thus Not Glowing Brightly: Noah Purifoy’s Junk Modernism,” in Race and Modern Architecture, eds. Mabel O. Wilson, Irene Cheng, Charles Davis. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020.

Radical Shit: Countercultural Autonomy and Composting Toilet Design,” ASAP/J, February 13, 2020. 

“Thumper’s Descent,” ASAP/J, August 13, 2018.

The Matter of Black Life," Los Angeles Review of Books, January 7, 2016.  

Zoo Renewal: White Flight and the Animal Ghetto, University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

2019, Louis B. Perry Faculty-Student Summer Research Scholarship, Whitman College 

2018, Paul Garrett Fellowship for excellence in research, teaching and service, Whitman College 

2017, Getty Library Research Grant, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA 

2017, Sally Ann Abshire award for faculty-student research, Whitman College

2012, Corcoran College of Art and Design Faculty Development Research Grant 

2009, Quadrant Fellowship in Environment, Culture and Sustainability, University of Minnesota, MN 

2008-09, Pembroke Postdoctoral Fellowship, Brown University, Providence RI 

2007, Smithsonian Predoctoral Fellowship, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington DC 

2007, Douglas Dockery Thomas Fellowship in Garden History and Design, Garden Club of America and Landscape Architecture Foundation

2004, Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender & Women’s Studies, Graduate Research Grant 

2004, University of Rochester, Celeste Hughes Bishop Award for academic accomplishments, teaching achievements, and general contributions 

2002-06, Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Doctoral Fellowship 

2002-04, Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture, Québec, Doctoral Fellowship

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