Who we are

CAAS is an interdisciplinary working group of faculty and graduate students dedicated to the contemporary arts. Our group brings together critics, art historians, and arts practitioners: our shared interest is what the arts have been up to since approximately the 1960s, and especially what they are up to now, today.

Started in 2004 as an official research group at the University of Tennessee, the group has been relaunched in 2015 as a research seminar. As a research seminar, CAAS is designed to offer opportunities through regularly scheduled meetings for faculty and graduate students to investigate and develop new areas of research through sustained intellectual collaboration. According to our mission statement, we are “dedicated to understanding the arts today within and across contemporary social, political, and aesthetic contexts. CAAS will consider current trends in the arts, broadly defined (e.g., literature, film, theatre, dance, the visual arts, architecture, music, cyber-art) in order to theorize an ongoing ‘history of the contemporary.'”

The group is by invitation only and meets on the first Monday of each month during the academic year. The addition of new core participants is by invitation of the chairs. A demonstrably active research agenda in the post-1945 arts is a prerequisite for participation. Graduate student members of the seminar are invited to participate on an annual basis and take part in all components of the seminar, presenting their research to the seminar as appropriate and at the discretion of the chairs. Core participants and graduate students may be joined for one or more workshops by other faculty and advanced graduate students with relevant interests and active research agendas. When in attendance, such faculty and graduate students will be expected to participate in full.

Each year, CAAS chairs, in conversation with core participants, determine the seminar’s focus within these broad parameters. Our meetings have three components: (1) core participant research workshops, in which core participants present their own current research; (2) visiting scholar research workshops, in which two workshops each year are devoted to bringing to campus young faculty and advanced graduate students whose work is both intellectually promising and relevant to the research interests of the seminar’s participants; and (3) six current scholarship workshops annually, in which core participants will read together and critically analyze a significant new monograph on the contemporary arts (part of the seminar budget allows participants to purchase the monographs for discussion).

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