I am a British/Canadian writer and academic who is increasingly troubled by what contemporary academia does to scholarship. I started this blog mostly to sound off, though it thankfully wanders off the straight and narrow from time to time. Currently I am Professor of Cultural History at the University of Lancaster and Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta, where I held a Canada Research Chair in Social Theory and Cultural Studies from 2000-2005.
I miss big prairie skies and Edmonton winters (really), but spent 2013-14 assuaging my nostalgia for strip malls by a sabbatical year at the University of Texas, rummaging in the wonderful photographic archives of the Harry Ransom Center and discovering why they call Austin the live music capital of the world. I look forward to retiring sooner rather than later [update: on March 31, 2016, hopefully to Vancouver] from an increasingly philistine and abject British university sector before it kills me from stress, disgust, or boredom. This will give me lots more time to think and write. I favor slow scholarship.
I have written books on social theory (Marx’s Method, 1978; The Violence of Abstraction, 1986; Capitalism and Modernity, 1990), state formation (The Great Arch: English State Formation as Cultural Revolution, with Philip Corrigan, 1985) and Czech history, of a kind (The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History, 1998). My most recent excursion in the latter vein is a Walter Benjamin-inspired study of twentieth-century modernity as seen through the literature, music, art, and architecture of Prague (Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History, Princeton University Press, 2013). I was as surprised as I was delighted that Prague won several awards, including the American Historical Association’s George L. Mosse prize for the best work on post-1500 European cultural history for 2014. I have also ventured into “creative writing” with Going Down for Air: A Memoir in Search of a Subject (2004).
I am thoroughly committed to undisciplined scholarship: I have published in history (Past and Present), sociology (American Journal of Sociology), humanities (Common Knowledge), architecture (Grey Room), art (Artl@s Bulletin), and area studies journals (Bohemia) without being too fussed about where I belong. I have a page at academia.edu with many of my papers as well as the full (downloadable) texts of The Great Arch and the original draft of Going Down for Air.
I co-founded the multidisciplinary Journal of Historical Sociology (Wiley-Blackwell) in 1988. The older I get the more important I realize it is to write accessibly. In a late burst of old man’s frenzy I decided to face down the British academic establishment in my polemic Rank Hypocrisies: The Insult of the REF (Sage, 2014) and associated articles in Times Higher Education and LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog. (Non, je ne regrette rien.)
I do have a life besides. It includes a lot of travel, especially long road trips in rented SUVs; wine and food (growing, cooking and eating it); art and photography; a lifelong love affair with music, from dead sopranos to cacophonous jazz to the weirder shores of Americana; Coach Taylor, Daenerys Targaryen, Lucas Hood, Rust Cohle, and Olivia Pope; family and friends on both sides of the Atlantic (as well as a good deal further south and east); my beloved partner Yoke-Sum; and my loopy brioche-and-Basque-cheese-eating standard poodle Luci.
Luci was named for Lucinda Williams but on reflection she should probably have been called Dolly. She came to Texas too: many more pictures on the Flickr feed at the foot of the page.