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Languages, Cultures and Visual Studies

Photo of Dr Sabrina Rahman

Dr Sabrina Rahman

Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture (E&R)


01392 724245


Having grown up in New Jersey, I earned a BA with High Honors in Art History and German Studies at Oberlin College before pursuing an MA and PhD in German Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. I have been the recipient of a number of research grants, including a Fulbright Award at the Institute of Art History, University of Vienna, and a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Fellowship at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Before coming to Exeter in 2016, I was Anniversary Research Fellow in Art and Design History at Northumbria University. My interdisciplinary research focuses on the intersection of design, class and ethnicity in Central and Eastern Europe, South Asia and the United Kingdom, and I am also interested in diaspora and migration studies, museum studies, and global cultures of housing.

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My current research examines the common aesthetic, political and economic practices that have shaped the intersection of architecture, fashion, graphic design, and interior design in imperial Austria, Britain, Eastern Europe, and South Asia. My book manuscript Diasporic Designs: Modernism, the Vernacular and Interiors of Migration, 1850s-present explores how visual and haptic modes of communication have contributed to notions of local identity and cosmopolitanism across cultural and geographical boundaries. In doing so, I engage with questions of class, empire and ethnicity in nineteenth- and twentieth-century design, and am informed primarily by histories and theories of design, migration and decoloniality.

I co-edited the volumes Mies van Rohe, Richter, Graeef & Co. Alltag und Design in der Avantgarde-Zeitschrift G (2013) and Imagining Blackness in Austria and Germany (2012), and have published widely on a number of topics related to visual culture in Central and Eastern Europe. I have also written the entries on Austria, Bulgaria and Lithuania for the Bloomsbury Encyclopaedia of Design (2016).

I have special expertise in the collaborative work of the sociologist Otto Neurath and the designer Josef Frank, as well as the history of Viennese housing. I also work extensively on fin-de-siecle Vienna and art of the Habsburg Empire, emigre designers after the Second World War, and global histories of architecture and design.

I have a general interest in the history of art and design in Britain, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Japan, South Asia, and West Africa. Other interests include the intersection of museum studies and design history, migration and diaspora studies, and the curation of everyday life and the modern vernacular.

Research collaborations

In conjunction with my academic publications, I have had extensive curatorial experience in Austria, the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2015 I was co-curator of the exhibition Bilston's Happy Housing: Otto Neurath's Vision for Post-War Modern Living (Bilston Craft Gallery), which followed on my work as a guest curator of architecture and design at the Wien Museum in Vienna (2011-12).

I have supported interdisciplinary and international collaboration by presenting my research to academic, curatorial and public audiences in Austria, Germany, Finland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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I am happy to discuss research proposals on topics related to global design history (all periods); the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century architecture, design and urbanism; post-colonial and decolonial visual culture; migration and diaspora studies; and museum studies.

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Copyright Notice: Any articles made available for download are for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the copyright holder.

| 2022 | 2021 | 2019 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2008 | 2007 |



  • Rahman S. (2021) Invoking Voids in the Archive, Camera Austria, volume 153, pages 7-18.



  • Rahman SK. (2016) "Lithuania", Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, Bloomsbury.
  • Rahman SK. (2016) "Bulgaria", Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, Bloomsbury.
  • Rahman SK. (2016) “Design in Austria, 1850-2012”, Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, Bloomsbury.


  • Rahman S. (2015) Wells Coates, by Elizabeth Darling, Visual Culture in Britain, volume 16, no. 1, pages 129-132, DOI:10.1080/14714787.2015.990728. [PDF]
  • Rahman SK. (2015) “Consultant for Human Happiness: Otto Neurath and Post-War Housing in Britain”, Journal of the Association for Jewish Refugees, volume 15.


  • Rahman SK. (2014) “Happiness and Housing in 1940s Bilston”, Art & Heritage.
  • Rahman SK. (2014) "Modern Design and the Emergence of Mass Culture in Vienna, 1900-1934", Die helle und die dunkle Seite der Moderne, Turia + Kant.


  • Rahman SK, Fest K, Yazdanpanah M. (2013) Mies van der Rohe, Richter, Graeff & Co. Alltag und Design in der Avantgarde-Zeitschrift G, Turia + Kant.
  • Rahman SK. (2013) "Faces of Internationalism. G and the New Typography", Mies van der Rohe, Richter, Graeff & Co. Alltag und Design in der Avantgarde-Zeitschrift G, Turia + Kant.
  • Rahman SK. (2013) "From Domestic Designs to Global Trade: Imperial Innovations at the Austrian Museum of Art and Industry, 1864-1914", Museum History Journal, volume 6, pages 87-104.


  • Rahman SK, Saman M, Szilagyi C. (2012) Imagining Blackness in Germany and Austria, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Rahman SK. (2012) " 'Glückliches Wohnen' und 'Lebendiges Schaffen': Otto Neurath, Josef Frank und die Wiener Werkbundsiedlung als Lebensmodell", Werkbundsiedlung Wien 1932: Ein Manifest des Neuen Wohnens, Müry Salzmann.


  • Rahman SK. (2008) "Die 'Ashanti' von Peter Altenberg und 'der Neger' von Karl Kraus: Die Frage schwarzer Präsenz im spätkaiserlichen Wien", Ashantee: Wien und Afrika um die Jahrhundertwende, Löcker Verlag.


  • Rahman SK. (2007) “Industrializing Folk Art: Aesthetic Transformation in Alois Riegl’s Volkskunst, Hausfleiß und Hausindustrie (1894)", Kakanien Revisited: Emergenzen.

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External impact and engagement

I am deeply committed to working with audiences outside of the traditional university setting, and impact-based case studies and curatorial work are central to my research.

Together with Dr Kate Nichols (University of Birmingham) and Victoria Osborne (Birmingham Museums Trust), I co-convene the British Art Network Research Group Race, Empire and the Pre-Raphaelites: Decolonising Victorian Art and Design through Museum Collections and Practice, funded by the Tate, Paul Mellon Centre and Arts Council England. The network is committed to working with academics, museum professionals and contemporary artists in reframing nineteenth-century art and design through the lenses of anti-racism and decoloniality. Further details of events and activities can be found on our website and Twitter pages:


In 2015 I co-curated the exhibition Bilston's Happy Housing: Otto Neurath's Vision for Post-War Modern Living at the Bilston Craft Gallery. The exhibition engaged with architectural models, graphic design, home furnishings, and photography in order to communicate the culture of everyday life on a social housing estate in the immediate post-war era. I collaborated with local volunteers in conducting and interpreting archival research and design obects, as well as coordinated and moderated a panel discussion ('Where Bilston Meets Vienna') with local historians, city councillor, academic researchers, and curators from Austria and the UK. You can listen to an audio recording of the event here:

I have also been mentioned (August 2016) in the Guardian Cities project for my research on Otto Neurath's work in the Black Country:

Contribution to discipline

As of September 2020 I am Reviews Editor for the journal Design and Culture.

From 2013-2019, I was a Trustee of the Design History Society. In my role as Membership and Outreach Officer, I coordinated programmes for greater engagement between University academics and members of the public with a general interest in design. 

I have held external examining appointments at Imperial College and London Metropolitan University.

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