Reflections on an academic career in Art History
Professor Dorothy Price, University of Bristol
Self Portrait of Dot
It’s a great privilege and honour to have been invited by the fabulous editors of Root-ed zine to offer a brief reflection on my career to date - how I got here, snags along the way and tips for other BBPOC women who may be interested in following an academic career pathway in the visual arts. In 2019 I was (finally) promoted to a Professorship after an unbroken three decade academic career in the UK across 3 Universities and one major national museum (the V&A).
As far as I am aware, this made me the first woman of colour to be appointed to a Chair in Art History at a Russell Group University in the UK. The only other precedents of women of colour as Professors of Art History were from outside the Russell Group: Rina Arya, Professor of Visual Culture and Theory at the University of Huddersfield since 2018; the others whom I can think of are either outside the UK or else are artist-pratitioners first and foremost and also relatively few and far between. When I was promoted though I didn’t feel the unbridled joy that I would have wanted to, had I been promoted a decade earlier alongside many of my white male (but also white female) peers who had achieved the same or often less work than I had achieved by the same point in our careers. I was angry that it had taken so long for my University to acknowledge my achievements.
I was tired of the many hoops I had to jump through for a seat at the Professorial table as a woman of colour in the structurally racist spaces of UK Higher Education. But as Toni Morrison has taught us, among many things, anger and exhaustion must be channelled in order to help break the cycle and ‘set someone else free.’ I hope that writing for platforms like this one, a space beautifully created by Fauziya and Amber, can give those of you reading some food for thought, some strength and some determination to set your own goals, reach for the moon and never, ever waver in your own self-belief.
The five decades of my life so far have been spent navigating the structures of whiteness in a unique position as a brown, transracial adoptee into a white Anglo-German academic household. I hold positions of both privilege and difference and this has opened my eyes to many difficulties but also many possibilities. But the number one take-home message from me to you today is that if you have a passion for art and its histories, no-one can take that away from you. It’s the flame inside you that keeps burning brightly and giving you energy. Only you can keep it alight; others might try to snuff it out but always remember, it’s not theirs to take.