Catherine Clark is a cultural historian of modern Europe, who has written widely about the histories of modern France and its visual culture. She began at MIT in the Global Studies and Languages section as Assistant Professor of French Studies before moving to History in 2019.Her research is largely concerned with how the visual produces knowledge—both in the past and in contemporary historical practices.
Clark is the author of Paris and the Cliché of History (Oxford University Press, 2018), a history of Paris’s photographic history that not only sheds new light on the history of the French capital but also offers up methodologies useful to all historians for using photographs as primary sources.
Her interest in visual culture and the city has led her to write about the histories of commercial street photography in France after 1945, the Vidéothèque de Paris, the production of Marco Ferreri’s 1974 film Touche pas à la femme blanche!/Don’t Touch the White Woman, shot in the destruction site of the former market pavilions at les Halles, as well as the history of dam-building in the Alps and the recent French TV show Les Revenants/The Returned (2012-2015).
She is currently working on a project tentatively titled “Maoist Chinoiserie” about the French interest in images of and objects from the People’s Republic of China and France’s role as a hub for their distribution and interpretation after 1949.
Clark has held residential fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France. She co-directs MIT’s Global France Seminar.
At MIT she teaches classes both within the History section and French Studies (housed in the Global Studies and Languages section) about the histories of modern Europe and urban culture, the history of photography, the role of Paris as a global capital, as well as contemporary French.