Christopher B.  Steiner

Christopher B.  Steiner

Lucy C. McDannel '22 Professor of Art History and Anthropology
Director of Museum Studies Certificate Program

Joined Connecticut College: 1997

B.A., M.A., Johns Hopkins University
M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University


History of Photography

African Art

Offbeat Museums and Visionary Art

Stereotypes in Art and Visual Culture

Art Market and Collecting

Kitsch and "Bad" Art

Christopher Steiner teaches a range of interdisciplinary courses in art history, anthropology, and museum studies. His classes cover topics on the traditional and contemporary arts of Africa; on the visual representation of race and ethnic identity in art and film; on the history of museums, as well as on current museum controversies; on kitsch or "bad" art emerging from the margins, cracks and corners of the canonical art world; and on the history and practice of studio and vernacular photography.

Christopher Steiner, with a red balloon, sitting on the moon, tintype
Christopher Steiner

His field research in West Africa focused on the construction of value and meaning in art through transnational exchange, resulting in numerous articles and his award-winning book African Art in Transit (Cambridge University Press, 1994). He is also the co-editor of Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds (University of California Press, 1999), Perspectives on Africa: A Reader in Culture, History, and Representation (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), Africa in the Market: Twentieth-Century Art from the Amrad African Art Collection (Royal Ontario Museum, 2016), and A Companion to the Anthropology of Africa (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018).

Steiner has been a curatorial consultant for numerous museum exhibitions and collection-management projects. Over the past two decades, he has curated exhibitions at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, Fairfield University Art Museum, and The William Benton Museum of Art at UConn: The Nut Museum: Visionary Art of Elizabeth Tashjian (2004); Spirits of the Forest, People of the Herd: African Art in Two Worlds (2014); “It’s Only a Paper Moon”: Souvenir Photography in America, 1870-1950 (2017), Liberia, 1931-33: The Collections of Alfred J. Tulk (2018), and Remembering the Nut Museum: Visionary Art of Elizabeth Tashjian (2022).

Steiner’s current research explores the history of vernacular or “folk” photography, with special focus on photo postcards. In 2022, he contributed a chapter on American photo postcards and portrait photography to the exhibition catalog Real Photo Postcards: Pictures from a Changing Nation at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. As part of his research on the history of photography, Steiner has also assembled a personal collection of approximately 15,000 vintage vernacular photographs, including photo postcards, arcade and carnival portraits, and studio tintypes.

View the art history department website and the museum studies certificate program website.

Contact Christopher B.  Steiner

Mailing Address

Christopher B.  Steiner
Connecticut College
Box # ART HISTORY/Cummings Arts Center
270 Mohegan Ave.
New London, CT 06320


211 Cummings Arts Center