Kim Miller

Professor of the History of Art


Phone: 508-286-3579


Ph.D., M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.A., George Washington University


Main Interests

  • Monuments and memorials and their role in orchestrating memory and forgetting
  • Contemporary African visual culture, specifically South Africa, specifically politically-engaged artists
  • Women’s visual culture
  • Women’s leadership and its representation
  • Feminist theory and practice
  • Memory, trauma, and their expressions in visual culture including commemorative sites

Other Interests

I have done consulting work an external reviews for Women’s Studies Departments at other Institutions, for the Smithsonian Institution, and I served on the advisory board for the film, Shield and Spear: Art, Music, and Freedom in South Africa (Ajna Films).

I am also currently a Research Associate, the Research Centre, Visual Identities in Art and Design, University of Johannesburg


“ ‘The Walls are So Silent’: Spaces of Confinement and Gendered meanings of Incarceration in South African Commemorative Art,” in Troubling Histories: Public Art and Prejudice. Special issue of De Arte,
53 (2) (Fall, 2018)

“The Pain of Memory and the Violence of Erasure: Real and Figural Displays of Female Authority in the Public Sphere,” in Kim Miller and Brenda Schmahmann, Bronze Warriors and Plastic Presidents: Public
Art in South Africa, 1999 – 2015, (Indiana University Press, 2017).

Editor, with Brenda Schmahmann, Stone Elephants and Plastic Presidents: Public Art in South Africa, 1999 – 2014 (Indiana University Press (2017)

“Inter-weaving Art and Activism: Sandra Kriel’s Heroic Women,” in Joanna Grabski and Carol Magee, eds., Bodies of  Knowledge: Interviews, African Art, and Scholarly Narratives (Indiana University Press, 2013).

Editor (with Brenda Schmahmann). Gender and South African Art.  Special issue of African Arts, 45.4 (Winter, 2012).

“Selective Silencing and the Shaping of Memory: The Case of the Monument to the Women of South Africa.”  South African Historical Journal, 63:2 (Summer, 2011).

“’Fire, Water, Forests, Swarms’ Penny Siopis discusses Who’s Afraid of the Crowd? With Kim Miller,” In Penny Siopis: Who’s Afraid of the Crowd? (Cape Town: Michael Stevenson Gallery, 2011).

Entries on Sue Williamson, Akiga Sai, Eleanor Nwadinobi, Delphine Zanga Tsogo, Nkoyo Toyo,Twins Seven Seven, Dorothy Nyembe, Josie Palmer, Madie Hall Xuma, Pumla Kisosonkole, in Henry Louis Gates, ed., Dictionary of African Biography (Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2011).

“Moms with Guns: Women’s Political Agency in Anti-Apartheid Visual Culture.” African Arts. Volume 42, no. 2. Summer 2009.

“Iconographies of Gender, Poverty, and Power in Contemporary South African Visual Culture.” in National Women’s Studies Association Journal, special issue on feminist activist art. Spring 2007.

This article was anthologized as “Iconographies of Gender, Poverty, and Power in Contemporary South African Visual Culture.” The Visible Woman: Female Representation in Performance and Visual Culture: A NWSA Journal Anthology. Olga Mesropova and Stacey Weber-Feve, co-editors. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

“Women’s Cooperatives and Self-Help Projects.” Berg Encyclopedia of Dress and Fashion,edited by Joanne Eicher. Essay co-authored with Brenda Schmahmann, 2010.

Special edition of African Arts entitled Trauma and Representation: Imaging Violence in Africa and the African Diaspora. Co-edited with Shannen Hill. Autumn, 2005, vol. 38 no. 3.

“First Word: Trauma and Representation in Africa.” (co-authored with Shannen Hill). In African Arts. Volume 38, no. 3. 2005.

“Trauma, Testimony, and Truth: Contemporary South African Artists Speak.” In African Arts. Volume 38, no. 3. 2005.

“T shirts, Testimony and Truth: Memories of Violence Made Visible.” in Textile: the Journal of Cloth and Culture. Volume 3, Issue 3. 2005.

“The Philani Printing Project: Women’s Art and Activism in Crossroads, South Africa.” in Feminist Studies (vol. 29, no. 3) Fall, 2003.

“Crossdressing at the Crossroads: Mimicry and Ambivalence in Yoruba Masked Performance.” in Susan Fillen-Yeh, ed. Dandies: Fashion and Finesse in Art and Culture New York:New York University Press.

Recent Conference Presentations

2018 Presenter, “ ‘First and Foremost, We Need to Feel’: Women as Breakers of Silence at the Johannesburg Women’s Jail,” Honoring Ancestors in Africa: Arts and Actions, African Studies Program Symposium, Madison (April).

2017 Convener, Troubling Histories: Public Art and Prejudice Conference, Presenter, “‘The walls are so silent’: spaces of confinement and gendered meanings of incarceration in South African commemorative art,” University of Johannesburg (November)

2017 Presenter, “Crafting a political hero: art and feminist intent in the work of Sandra Kriel,” 17th Triennial Symposium on African Art, Ghana (August) paper delivered in absentia

2017 Presenter and Discussant, “Information Fluency in the Disciplines Workshop in the Arts: History, Theory, and Criticism,” Association of College andResearch Libraries and the Council on Library and Information Resources Workshop, New Orleans (April)

2015 Invited Speaker, “Apartheid and After: Gendered Images of South Africa’s Struggle,” Department of Art History, Fifth Annual Speaker Series on War/Art/Peace, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota (April). Link to poster (pdf).

2014 Presenter and co-chair: “Doing Feminist Activism and Research Digitally,” National Women’s Studies Association Conference, San Juan Puerto Rico, (November)

2014 “The Pain of Seeing vs. the Anguish of Oblivion: Representing Suffering in South Africa’s Public Sphere,” Walter Rodney African Studies Seminar Series, Boston University (April)

2014 “Depictions of Trauma and the ‘Innocent Eye’: Some Tensions Surrounding the Commemoration of Pain and Suffering from the Apartheid Past,” 16th Triennial Symposium on African Art, Brooklyn (March)

2014 “The Museum, the Archive, and ‘the Space Outside’: Locating Women’s Political Voice in South Africa’s Memorial Landscape,” Digital Humanities Initiative Speaker & Workshop Series on Women, Feminism, and Digital Humanities, Hamilton College (April). Link to poster (pdf)

2014 “The Place that Used to be Hell has been Changed to Heaven”: Women’s Incarceration, Agency, and the Reinvention of Space in a South African Prison,” Institute of African Studies Research Seminar, Emory (February)

2013 “Protest, Pain, and Place: Locating South African Women’s Activism Against Apartheid,” Department of Women and Gender Studies, The College of New Jersey (March)

2012 “Silences/Violations/Interventions: Mapping the Cultural Landscape of Women’s Political Lives,” Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State University (February)

2011  “Memory, Mourning, and Militancy: New Directions in Researching and Writing Women’s Lives,” Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Amherst, (June)

2011  “Feminist(s) Approach(es): Feminism and the Shaping of African Art” 15th Triennial Symposium on African Art, UCLA, (March)

2010 “Transforming the Core: Integrating Transnational, Activist, and Food Feminisms to the Women’s Studies Major,” Program Administration and Development Pre-Conference, National Women’s Studies Association Conference, Denver (November).

2010 “Disappearing Acts: The Visual Geographies of South African Women’s Activism Against Apartheid,” National Women’s Studies Association Conference, Denver (November)

2010 “Regarding Heroes: The Visual Geographies of South African Women’s Activism Against Apartheid” Remembering Africa and its Diasporas, Ottawa (October)

2010 “Places of Protest, Places of Pain, and the Politics of Commemoration,” North Eastern Workshop on Southern Africa Burlington, Vermont (April)

2010 “Singing, Sewing, Sitting: Commemorating Women’s Political Roles After Apartheid,” Third Biennial Symposium of the Department of Art History, Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (February)

2009 “Teaching and Researching the Visual Culture of Women and War: Political Engagement in African Societies,” American Association of Colleges and Universities Conference on Integrative Learning: Addressing the Complexities, Atlanta, GA (October)

Teaching Interests

I teach or have taught the following courses:

  • African visual cultures
  • Contemporary African arts
  • Art and social justice
  • Introduction to women’s studies
  • Women and war
  • Black feminist theory
  • Women’s studies senior seminar
  • Commemorating Conflict (a First Year Seminar)

Student Projects

Independent Studies Supervised on the Following Topics

Black Lesbian Theory: Because Visibility Matters (Monique Wright ’07)
Men in the Women’s Movement (Melanie Sosinski ’10 and Alex Demers ‘10)
African Visual Cultures, upper level (Lindy McAra ‘09)
Women’s Advocacy and Action in India (Rekha Aidasani ’10)
Islamic Feminisms (Rasheeda Abdul-Musawwir ’13)
Feminist Advocacy (Kayla Kennett ’14)
Feminist Parenting (Kate Gannon ’16)

Student Honors Thesis Committees:

Rebekah Howland ‘14, Honors in Women’s and Gender Studies, “An Exploratory Study of Women’s Engagement with Pornography”
Julie Travers ’14, Honors in History, “College Women to Housewives: Cultural Ideas during the Post World War II Period
Anne Maraike Crom ’13, Honors in Economics, “Too Few Women at the Top: The Causations and Potential Solutions for Gender Inequality in Upper Management”

Research Interests

For the past fifteen years, I have been motivated to examine the relationship between visual culture, gender, and power in African arts. I am primarily interested in the ways in which artists use visual culture for the purposes of promoting social justice, and the ways in which women use art as a form of activism and empowerment. Several of my publications concern an artmaking cooperative called the Philani Printing Project, which is located in the township of Crossroads (South Africa). The women artists who work here have formed an amazing place where art and feminist politics intersect with political action. I have also written about the place of visual culture in relation to memory, trauma, and recovery.

The book that I am currently writing, How Did They Dare?: Women’s Activism and the Work of Memory in South African Commemorative Art, examines visual representations of women political activists in South Africa both during and after the struggle against apartheid. Specifically, I examine the extent to which women’s participation in the struggle for democracy is represented and remembered, and in many cases forgotten, in contemporary South African visual culture and commemorative sites. I argue that in the context of the country’s urgent and ongoing debates about national transformation, the rich visual rhetoric that once helped create political identities and recognition for women has now largely disappeared.

Because I am primarily interested in the role and evidence of art in the question of political agency for women, my book should be of interest to scholars and practitioners interested in integrating the experiences of women into studies on conflict-affect areas more generally.  Given that women in several transforming countries continue to struggle to make the dynamics of gender salient, the account of experiences of women in South Africa may very well have relevance for other contemporary contexts.

My research has been supported and recognized through a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2010), the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics (2010), the Andrew Mellon Foundation (2007), the American Association of University Women (2000), the Woodrow Wilson Foundation (1999), and the Smithsonian Institution (1996).