Maureen Ryan received her PhD from the University of Chicago and began teaching at UBC in 1987. With a background in visual culture, art, and architecture particularly in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, she taught classes and carried out research that emphasized new media and technologies, trans-cultural exchanges and appropriations, contestations around social space, and shifting notions of public and private. Recipient of a Killam Teaching Prize in 2001, Professor Ryan’s lectures and seminars at the undergraduate and graduate levels took up the charged cultural politics associated with constructs of difference—gender, sexualities, religion, ethnicity and class—within the frame of global networks, mobile populations, and the fraught and too often aestheticized histories of migration and the violence of displacement. Seminar topics included: The Politics of Theory; Circulation, Exchange and the Impact of Globalization: The Challenge to Art History; The Terror of New Worlds: Bodies, Technologies and New Media in an Era of Revolutions, 1750–1860; Ruins, Fragments and Commodities: The Street, the City and the World; New Media in an Era of Global Expansion and Conflict; Mobility, Migration, and the Visual in an Era of New Technologies, 1750–1900.
Her publications took up related issues: the conservatizing role of art in forging images of a French peasantry in the nineteenth century as a “race” apart within the national polity; the representation of indigenous figures in nineteenth-century Canada in light of a colonial history of land seizures and settler concepts of a “disappearing race”; and the role of print in marshaling ethnographic curiosity and colonial agendas in French travel guides to Africa at the time of the slave trade. A study on the French artist Géricault and the attempt to rewrite France’s colonial and economic engagement with a slave labour force seized and transported from Senegal intersected with a major international exhibition, Théodore Géricault: The Alien Body, Tradition in Chaos, co-curated with Scott Watson and Serge Guilbaut in 1997. Professor Ryan also served as chair of the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-century Studies group (sponsored through Green College) from 2003 to 2008 and 2010 to 2011. The group that spanned several faculties—Arts, Law, Applied Science, and Health Sciences—hosted annual lecture series with international speakers and promoted student engagement with new methodological approaches and research through undergraduate research symposia and nine graduate research conferences.
Along with MA and PhD supervisions, the transdisciplinary nature of Professor Ryan’s work resulted in a number of postdoctoral supervisions. Over an eleven-year period she mentored five postdoctoral award winners with eighteenth- or nineteenth-century specialties: two Killam postdoctoral fellows (Columbia University and UCLA); two SSHRC postdoctoral fellows (City University of New York and Columbia University); and one University Teaching Fellowship postdoctoral award holder (University of London).