Welcome to Refract: An Open Access Visual Studies Journal!


Refract and the University of California

A statement from Refract’s Editorial Board addressing our connection to the UC system, the gatekeeping practices of academia, and our commitment to challenging structural inequalities within the system of academic publishing.

Visualizing Banaba: Art and Research about a Diffracted Pacific Island

My book, Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba, about the impact of British, Australian, and, New Zealand phosphate mining on one of my ancestral homelands, felt like a mission to Mars. And while I’m so pleased the book has been taken up in several anthropology, history, Pacific studies, and Indigenous studies classrooms, the chapter I love most is the one that reviewers and editors had almost nothing to say about.

Mission and Vision

Refract is an online journal founded and operated by graduate students and dedicated to conversations about visual culture, non-canonical methodologies, and divergent histories. We publish early-career and established scholars, students, and artists, in the genres of the academic essay, critical review, creative work, and experimental artist statement/essay. We are interested in work that employs visuality as a lens to engage geographies and histories that diverge from U.S. political and academic empire, and uses the tools and methods of visual studies and artistic practice in pursuit of equity and justice. We encourage submissions from multiple academic fields, expansive considerations of artistic practice/s, and multiple ways of knowing. We seek pieces that theorize, dream, and imagine as intervention, as well as pieces that challenge the author’s, artist’s, and editorial board’s intellectual commitments as they reflect on the visual as a site of encounter, entanglement, and social change. 

As an open access digital journal, we believe that constantly working toward universally designed and accessible spaces disrupts concentrations of power, broadens the range of voices legible to academia, and expands the terrain of visual studies discourse. Our peer review process is characterized by rigor, care, and cultivation of an author’s and artist’s strengths and style. We work closely with our contributors to develop pieces that meet the field’s standards of excellence and foreground individual interventions and voices.

Refract is an open access journal that allows readers to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of its articles and to use them for any other lawful purpose.

Refract is housed in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and run by a multidisciplinary group of graduate students. The journal receives funding and resources from the Art Division at UCSC and has an institutional relationship with the University of California’s eScholarship publishing platform.

Logo for the Arts Division at University of California, Santa Cruz. A red box with white text and "The Art of Change" beneath it, and two multicolored circles listing each of the departments.