John is a researcher working in cultural history and cultural aesthetics. His research interests include the socio-cultural dimensions of ‘waste’, cultural memory, and the relationship between creativity and place. Over an academic career spanning two decades, he has also taught widely on subjects such as these and more broadly in cultural history and theory.
John's publications include the books 'On Garbage' (Reaktion Books, 2005), 'Memory: Encounters with the Strange and the Familiar' (Reaktion Books, 2013), as well as other books and numerous articles and essays. Since 2017 he has been based at the University's Cumbrian campus, where he is developing place-related research and engagement projects with In Certain Places, and also in collaboration with key local stakeholders in the cultural sector. His recent book 'West Cumbria: On the Edge' (In Certain Places, 2019) is one outcome of this research.
John studied Philosophy and Sociology at University of Glasgow, where he obtained a PhD for a study of the cultural history and aesthetics of disorder in western society. He was later an AHRC Post-doctoral Fellow in the School of History at the University of St Andrews and subsequently held lectureships at the University of Bristol (2007-08) and Manchester Metropolitan University (2008-15), where he taught cultural and historical sociology. In 2012-13 he was Acting Director of the Centre for Transitions in Society and Space at Manchester Metropolitan University, and co-led the REF 2014 submission in Sociology. His work on the cultural history of 'waste' has been internationally recognised, and translated into French, Italian, Croatian and Arabic languages. He has received many invitations to speak at universities and other institutions in the UK and Europe, the United States, and Australia. He has also been the subject of national and international radio programmes, including BBC Radio 3's 'Night Waves', 2005, ABC Radio National Australia's 'The Philosopher's Zone' (2005), and 'Perspective' (2006). In 2012 he acted as an advisor and appeared as an expert in the 2012 BBC TV series 'The Secret Life of Rubbish'. He also recently appeared as an expert on the BBC World Service series, 'A History of Wastefulness' (2018). In 2010, John established the 'Reverb' book series with Reaktion Books, which commissions books on the relationship between music and place from leading academics, for which he is the Series Editor.
- PhD Sociology, University of Glasgow, 2001
- MPhil Social Science Research, University of Glasgow, 1998
- MA (Hons) Philosophy, University of Glasgow, 1994
- Visual Culture
- Place Cultures and Histories
- Histories of Waste
- Series Editor, Reaktion Books