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Soraya Murray

Associate Professor, Film & Digital Media
Visual culture including art, film, video, and electronic games. Intersectional approaches to race, nation gender, and sexuality in visual representation.
Research Interests: 

Professor Soraya Murray is an interdisciplinary scholar of visual culture, with particular interest in contemporary art, film and video games. Murray holds a Ph.D. in art history and visual studies from Cornell University. An Associate Professor in the Film & Digital Media Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Murray studies technological representations (such as the playable simulations of video games), as well as the representations of  advanced technology, science and innovation in film and visual culture. Murray's writings are published in The Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Critical Inquiry, Film Quarterly, Art JournalNka: Journal of Contemporary African ArtCTheoryPublic Art ReviewThird TextROMchipPAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, and the European Journal of American Studies. Her writings are anthologized nationally and internationally. Most recently, she has contributed to: Visual Culture Approaches to the Selfie (Routledge, 2021);  The Cambridge Companion to Nineteen Eighty-Four (Cambridge U. Press, 2020), How to Play Video Games (NYU Press, 2019); and Through the Black Mirror: Deconstructing the Side Effects of the Digital Age (Palgrave, 2019). Her two anthologized essays on the military game genre, gender and race may be found in Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games (Indiana University Press, 2017) and in Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming (The MIT Press, 2016). Her exploration of video games, genre and political affect was recently published in Red Dead Redemption: History, Myth, and Violence in the Video Game West (Oklahoma U. Press, 2023).

Murray's first book, On Video Games: The Visual Politics of Race, Gender and Space (I.B. Tauris, 2018), focuses on post-9/11 era mainstream games and considers how they both mirror and are constitutive of larger societal fears, dreams, hopes and even complex struggles for recognition. In February 2021, On Video Games was republished in paperback. Murray is currently co-editing an anthology on antiracist futures in video games and play, and a single-author book on technological imaginaries in contemporary film and visual culture.

In 2017, my course, Video Games as Visual Culture was selected for the annual Arts Dean's Lecture Series. See more details of the innovative thinkers in games invited HERE.

Phone: 831-459-4947
Fax: 831-459-1341
Office: 109 Communications
please email for prompt reply
Selected Publications: 

"Postcoloniality, Ecocriticism and Lessons from the Playable Landscape" in Joost Raessens et al, Ecogames: Playful Perspectives on the Climate Crisis (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2023). (Fall/Winter 2023)

"Raji's Burden" in CyberOrient: Journal of the Virtual Middle East and Islamic World. Guest Editors: Souvik Mukherjee and Zahra Rizvi. Special Issue: Postcolonialism, Orientalism, and Video Games. (Fall/Winter 2023)

“Decisions, Decisions: Narrative Video Games, Perspectivization and Implicit Politics” in Value and Judgment in Narrative, eds. Dr. Anja Burghardt , Dr. Nora Scholz (Transcript Verlag Press (Germany),  2022)

"No Country For Old Tropes: Representation and Political Affect in Red Dead Redemption 2" in John Wills and Esther Wright, eds. Red Dead Redemption: History, Myth, and Violence in the Video Game West University of Oklahoma Press, 2023.

“Video Games: Art, Inclusion, and the Techno-cultural Imaginary” in Gwangju Biennale 2020 Anthology: Stronger Than Bone. 2021

“Domestic Snapshots: Female Self-Imaging Practices Then and Now” in Visual Culture Approaches to the Selfie (ed. Derek Conrad Murray, Routledge Nov 2021)

“America is Dead. Long Live America!: Political Affect in Days Gone” in European Journal of American Studies [Special Issue: “Video Games and/in American Studies: Politics, Popular Culture, and Populism”] eds. Mahshid Mayar and Stefan Schubert. (September 2021).

“‘In this game that we’re playing’: Nineteen Eighty-Four and Videogames” in The Cambridge Companion to George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, ed. Nathan Waddell (Cambridge Companions to Literature) (Cambridge U. Press, 2020).

Journal of Cinema and Media Studies Vol. 60 (Fall 2020): Spotlight Interview by TreaAndrea Russworm.

“Horizons Already Here” in Art Journal Vol. 79, No. 2 [Special Forum on Games and Landscape] Summer 2020: pp. 42-113. Includes work by Soraya Murray, ed., Harun Farocki, Dorothy R. Santos, Alenda Chang, Tracy Fullerton, COLL.EO, Eugénie Shinkle and Hava Aldouby.

“Playing Whiteness in Crisis in The Last of Us and Tomb Raider” in ToDIGRA Special Issue: The Game is the Message, Selected Articles from the 2018 International DIGRA Conference Vol 4, No 3 (2019): 117-146.

“Augmented Reality Bites: Black Mirror’s “Playtest” and the Unstable Now” in eds. Terence McSweeney and Stuart Joy, Through The Black Mirror: Deconstructing the Side Effects of the Digital Age (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)

“The Triumphal Procession” in ROMchip: A Journal of Game Histories Vol.1, No. 1 (July 2019).

Contribution to Special Issue: Feminist Media Histories: Special Issue: Genealogies of Feminist Media Scholarship: “Video Games and Playable Media” Vol. 4 No. 2 (Spring 2018), 214-219.

“Landscapes of Empire in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain,” Critical Inquiry 45, no. 1 (Autumn 2018): 168-198.

"The Work of Postcolonial Game Studies in the Play of Culture" in Open Library of Humanities . 4 ( 1 ) (March 2018)  DOI:

“The Poetics of Form and the Politics of Identity in Assassin's Creed III: Liberation” in Kinephanos: Journal of Media Studies and Popular Culture, "History of Gender in Games" Special Issue, ed.: Gabrielle Trépanier-Jobin (Winter 2016/17)

"Race, Gender, and Genre in Spec Ops: The Line," Film Quarterly, Vol. 70, Iss. 2, (Dec 2016)

“Upending Militarized Masculinity in Spec Ops: The Line” in Pat Harrigan and Matthew Kirschenbaum, eds., Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016).

Conversation with Artist in Kori Newkirk: Sometimes Always Perhaps Never [artist monograph] (Los Angeles: LM Projects, 2015)

"Threeview: Thief reviewed by a critic, an analyst, and an academic" in VentureBeat,, March 21, 2014.

“Threeview: Grand Theft Auto V reviewed by a critic, an analyst, and an academic" in VentureBeat, 30, 2013.

"Threeview: The Last of Us reviewed by a critic, an analyst, and an academic" in VentureBeat,, July 1, 2013.

"Theorizing New Media in a Global Context; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love New Media" in FILE Festival Catalog, Electronic Language International Festival, 2013, organized by Paula Perissinotto e Richard Barreto (São Paolo, Brazil: Thaïs Costa, 2013), 10-23. [translated into Portuguese]

"Theorizing New Media in a Global Context; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love New Media" in CTheory, /articles.aspx?id=713, published November 13, 2012.

"Seeing Differently" Book Review of Amelia Jones' Seeing Differently: A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts, in Third Text, Vol. 26, Issue 6 (November, 2012): 781–783.

"Threeview: Call of Duty: Black Ops II reviewed by a critic, an analyst, and an academic" in VentureBeat, ops-ii/#mrJK2hur6sr24lMI.99, December 4, 2012.

"Threeview: Assassin’s Creed III reviewed by a critic, an analyst, and an academic" in VentureBeat, iii/, November 20, 2012.

"Public Ritual:  William Pope.L and Exorcisms of Abject Otherness," in Public Art Review, 2010

"Digital Aesthetics: Two Handbooks" Book Review of Christiane Paul, New Media in the White Cube and Beyond and Victoria Vesna, Database Aesthetics in Art Journal, Vol. 68, No. 3 (Fall 2009): 112-115.

"Cybernated Aesthetics: Lee Bul and the Body Transfigured" in PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 88 Vol. 30, No. 1 (May 2008): 38-50.

"On Art and Contamination: Performing Authenticity in Global Art Practices," Co-authored with Derek Conrad Murray, in Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art 22/23 (Spring/Summer 2008): 88-93.

"Uneasy Bedfellows: Canonical Art Theory and the Politics of Identity," Co-authored with Derek Conrad Murray, in Art Journal, Volume 65, Number 1 (Spring 2006): 22-39.

"Scratching the Surface" Book Review of Rhythm Science by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid, Art Journal, Volume 64, Number 4: 133-135.

"High Art/Low Life: Playing Grand Theft Auto" in PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Volume 80 (May 2005): 91-98.

Education and Training: 
Ph.D., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
M.A., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
M.F.A., University of California, Irvine, CA
B.F.A., Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA
Teaching Interests: 

Cultural Studies and Visual Representation; Digital Media and Culture; Electronic Games, Media History and Theory; Contemporary Art; Issues of Cultural Globalization; Constructions of Identity; Technothrillers and Cinematic Representations of Advanced Technology.