I joined Western Sydney University as Research Professor in Social and Cultural Theory at the Institute for Culture and Society in 2009. My previous positions included a period as Professor of Sociology at the Open University, where I was also a Director of the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-cultural Change, and as Professor of Cultural Studies at Griffith University, where I was also Dean of Humanities and Director of the ARC Key Centre for Cultural and Media Policy. I am also a member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
My interests span a number of areas across the social sciences and humanities, with extensive contributions to the fields of literary theory, cultural studies, cultural sociology, and museum studies. My work in literary studies includes assessments of the relations between formalist and Marxist criticism, and critical appraisals of Marxist aesthetic theory. In cultural studies my work centred on the study of popular culture, allowing me to play a leading role in the development of cultural policy studies. My work in cultural sociology includes major surveys of the social patterns of cultural practice and consumption in both Australia and Britain, and critical engagements with the sociology of literature and audience and reception theory. My work in museum studies has contributed to the development of the ‘new museology’ particularly in the light it has thrown on the role of museums as instruments of social governance.
The common thread running through my interests across these areas concerns the ways in which culture is tangled up in the exercise of power. This continues to inform my current research focused on the ways in which the knowledge practices of aesthetics and anthropology have informed modern processes of cultural governance from the 19th century through to the present. This work includes a significant focus on the part played by the early fieldwork phase in Australian, British, French and American anthropology in the development of new practices of colonial governance. It also includes a concern with the varying social uses of aesthetic discourses, and the role of aesthetics in the history of social theory. I also engage in an inquiry into the role of habit as a key concept in social, political and cultural theory, and with the role it has played in the practices of both liberal and colonial governance. Currently, I am working on the Australian Research Council Discovery Project Museum, Field, Metropolis, Colony: Practices of Social Governance.