Dr Deniz Sözen

Dr Deniz Sözen

Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies
Lecturer in History of Art

Contact details

The Barber Institute of Fine Art
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Deniz Sözen specializes in contemporary art practices and decolonising theories in the context of globalisation and diasporic art. She is particularly interested in Black and non-hegemonic art histories, with particular focus on artistic strategies that destabilise fixed notions of belonging and identity in relation to cultural theories concerned with hybridity, creolisation, opacity, decolonisation, nomadic consciousness, and anthropology beyond the human. She is actively invested in the development of decolonising methodologies, which also informs her teaching practice.


  • PhD University of Westminster, Centre for Research and Education in Art and Media
  • MFA, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Maga art. (Diploma in Fine Art), University of Applied Arts, Vienna


Deniz Sözen is of mixed Turkish-Austrian heritage and grew up between Turkey and Austria. She studied Fine Art at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 2019 she completed a practice-based PhD at the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM), the University of Westminster. 

Deniz initially joined the University of Birmingham as a visiting lecturer convening the module ‘Political Art’ in 2021. She was subsequently offered a lectureship in the same year. She has taught in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, and held workshops at art colleges internationally, including the University of Westminster, the University of Reading, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Sigmund Freud University Vienna, the University of Art and Design Linz, Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and UCA Farnham. Prior to her appointment at the University of Birmingham, she taught Critical Discourses on the BA Fine Art Programme at Central St. Martins, the University of the Arts London.  She has been an associate fellow of the Higher Education Academy since 2015.

Her artistic research has been presented in various contexts internationally. Forthcoming exhibitions include Soundscapes of Intersectional Encounters: Exploring Identity Through Sound, Exhibit Galerie, Vienna (15.3.–26.5.2024) and she will present her research at the Culture Forward's 'Islam and Art' Event at the IKON gallery in April 2024. 

She has shown her work at the Midlands Art Centre (MAC) Birmingham, Kunsthalle Exnergasse Vienna, VbKÖ Vienna, Ars Electronica Center Linz, MAK Center for Art and Architecture Los Angeles, Landesgalerie Eisenstadt, x:hibit Vienna, Lust Gallery Vienna and at the Austrian Cultural Forum in London.

Deniz has received numerous awards and residencies, including, ‘West Balkan Calling’, Public ROOM Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina (2016), the MAK Schindler scholarship Los Angeles (2013/14), Cité des arts in Paris (2014), the CREAM research scholarship (2014-2017) and the Marianne.von.Willemer.Prize for digital media (Ars Electronica Center, 2014).

Complementing her work in Higher Education, Deniz has a professional background and ongoing interest in museum and gallery education. Her work experience includes positions held at the Vienna Secession, documenta12 in Kassel and at the Institute for Art Education, Zurich University of Arts and the Museum Rietberg in Zurich.


Deniz is convening the final year modules, ‘Global Art’ and ‘Islamic Aesthetics in Art’, the BA second year module ‘Political Art’, and the first-year module ‘Object and Medium 2’. She also lectures on several of the department’s core undergraduate modules, and as part of the History of Art Masters programme.

Postgraduate supervision

decolonial methodologies in art, diaspora art practices, contemporary art from the 'Global South', decolonial archival practice, cultural identity, multilingualism, creolisation, belonging beyond the human

Find out more - our PhD History of Art  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Deniz specializes in contemporary art and decolonial theories in the context of globalisation and diasporic art. Forthcoming publications include ‘Un-doing Belonging: Mobilising African Diaspora Art in the Art History Classroom’ as part of the Routledge Companion to African Diaspora Art History (ed. Eddie Chambers), and contributions to the Third Text Special Journal Issue ‘Polyphony: method, voice, archive’ and De-/Colonising Knowledge (eds. Amalia Barboza and Mariel R. Rodriguez), Heidelberg: arthistoricum.net.

As an artist-researcher, educator, and writer Deniz strives to decolonise and reappraise the art historical canon, by engaging with authors, art practices and the histories of art beyond Europe and North America, focusing on the potential of diasporic art to express multiple belongings and challenge a discourse of fixed origins.

A recent strand of Deniz’ research focuses on decolonising archives and decolonial archival practices. In 2022 she was awarded an Arts Council England grant to curate the multilingual digital archival exhibition Maker Unknown (www.makerunknown.org) which explores gaps and blind spots in the history, categorisation and provenance of non-European artefacts in the Camberwell ILEA collection.

Deniz was a recipient of the CREAM (Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media) research scholarship, which enabled her to complete a PhD in visual arts at the University of Westminster. Her practice-based doctoral research The Art of Un-belonging (2019) set out to investigate and develop artistic strategies that challenge fixed notions of belonging and identity in the context of globalisation and diasporic art. The practice-element of the thesis was showcased as solo exhibition at London Gallery West in 2018 and her video installation Surya Namaz was nominated for the 2019 British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies Best Practice Awards. In 2020 Deniz was invited by Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) to present her research as part of the Stuart Hall Library Research Network’s 2020 `Global Re-Visions’ public programme, coinciding with their 25th anniversary year.

Deniz presented her research in different contexts internationally, in the format of conference papers, workshops, screenings, exhibitions, performances, lectures and public art interventions – for instance, as part of InDialogue UK at Nottingham Contemporary, at the ‘Space and Belonging – Narratives of Migration, Materials and Gentrification’ symposium at the UCA Farnham and at the Association for Art History’s 2021 Annual Conference. Her research has been published in various articles, book chapters, online art magazines, and audio-visual supplements to publications in Germany and Switzerland. Following her presentation at the ‘Empire, off-center Workshop’, she was invited to contribute to a special issue peer reviewed journal by the Empires of Memory Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity, Göttingen. The publication is available in print and online (Carabelli, G et al. 2020. Sharpening the Haze: Visual Essays on Imperial History and Memory. London: Ubiquity Press). 

Sözen is currently lead supervisor of two PhDs, a project on ‘Afro-Brazilian identities and alterities in Benin’ and the M4C funded study ‘Patterns of trauma: Lebanese Women Artists and the Aesthetics of Abstraction in times of War’.

Organised Conferences

Imperial Encounters: Art, museums and education at the crossroads of empire and post-Brexit Britain. University of Birmingham; (co-organised with Dr. Kate Nichols)

Speakers: Sara Wajid (Key note), co-CEO of Birmingham Museums Trust, Victoria Osborne, Curator, Birmingham Museums, Prof. Roshini Kempadoo, Karen McLean, Prof. Dorothy Price, Tara Munroe, Neelam Hussain, Raksha Patel, and others.

Recent invited speaker conferences, workshops and screenings

2023 ‘Mother(-Countries) – Mother(-Tongues)’, workshop as part of Mothering Communities, curated by Barbara Mahlknecht, Center Research Fokus, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria

2022 ‘Artist Panel Discussion: Race, Representation and Women’, chaired by Nicola Shipley, with Deborah Kermode, Farrah Chaudhry and Maryam Wahid, MAC Birmingham

2021 ‘South Asian Queerness & Gender Politics’. Moderator of artist panel with Jaivant Patel and Seema Mattu, SHOUT Festival, MAC Birmingham

2021 ‘Surya Namaz’, screening and round table discussion at the Association for Art History Conference; Panel ‘Global Art History and the Imbalance of Power’ convened by Prof. K. v. Zinnenburg Carroll, S. Kennedy and A. Sarjoughian (University of Birmingham/ online)

Forthcoming publications: 

'Un-doing Belonging: Mobilising African Diaspora Art in the Art History Classroom' (chapter) in The Routledge Companion to African Diaspora Art History edited by Eddie Chambers (currently under review)

‘Maker Unknown - decolonial methodologies for digital archival practice’, co -authored with Vayu Naidu in De-/Kolonisierung des Wissens (De-/Colonising Knowledge), edited by Amalia Barboza and Mariel R. Rodriguez, Heidelberg: arthistoricum.net (currently under review)

‘Writing with Surya Namaz: the body as a living archive of diaspora’ in the Third Text Special Journal Issue ‘Polyphony: method, voice, archive’, edited by Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll, Azadeh Sarjoughian and Stacey Kennedy (currently under review)





Recent publications


Soezen, D 2024, 'Writing with Surya Namaz: The Body as a ‘Living Archive’ of Diaspora', Third Text, vol. 38, no. 1-2, pp. 28-41. https://doi.org/10.1080/09528822.2024.2327793


Sözen, D 2020, Trans Plantations. in Sharpening the Haze: Visual Essays on Imperial History and Memory. Ubiquity Press, London. https://doi.org/10.5334/bcd.i

Doctoral Thesis

Soezen, D 2019, 'The Art of Un-belonging'.

Other contribution

Soezen, D 2022, Maker Unknown.. <https://makerunknown.org/about>

View all publications in research portal


contemporary art practices and decolonising theories in the context of globalisation and diasporic art

Languages and other information

Fluent in German, Turkish and English.

Excellent command of French.

Basic command of Spanish.