Professor Paul Bowman
Professor of Cultural Studies
I am professor of cultural studies with specific interests and expertise in cultural theory. I started out with research into the intersections of 'culture' and 'politics', focusing on political theory and cultural theory. Later I moved into the study of film, popular culture, East-West cultural encounters and post-colonial studies.
I have recently been working to help develop the emergent field of martial arts studies, by publishing widely in the area, by organising regular conferences and seminars, and by establishing the academic journal Martial Arts Studies and the Martial Arts Studies Research Network. I am also editor of a book series of martial arts studies research monographs.
In addition to working in martial arts studies, I am committed to interdisciplinary work in film, media and cultural studies. I have published widely in these areas, edited numerous journals, and am founder and editor of JOMEC Journal. I also edit a cultural studies research monograph series called Disruptions, published by Rowman & Littlefield International.
I am committed to the open access sharing of academic research. To further this movement, in 2012 I proposed the establishment of an open access press, and began working with key members of Cardiff University to institute a new university press. This has become Cardiff University Press, of which I currently act as Editor-in-Chief.
I am on the editorial board or advisory panel of numerous journals of cultural studies, cultural theory, popular culture, martial arts studies, and embodied research, and I currently teach BA modules on film, cultural theory, martial arts and media culture, supervise MA dissertations on cross-cultural studies (with specific interest in East-West cultural communication), and PhDs on a range of areas, including film, gender, ethnicity, postcolonialism, globalisation, cultural identity and cultural politics.
Within JOMEC, I am Director of the Media, Culture and Creativity Research Group.
I studied at Leeds University, gaining a BA in English, an MA in Cultural Studies and a PhD in the Centre for Cultural Studies, which focused on the theory of politics that underpinned the development and orientations of cultural studies. This work was developed and published as my first monograph, Post-Marxism versus Cultural Studies (Edinburgh University Press, 2007).
From 2000 to 2003 I was a lecturer in cultural studies at Bath Spa University. From 2003-2008 I was first a lecturer then a senior lecturer in media and cultural studies at Roehampton University, London. I came to Cardiff University in 2008, specifically to lead a core BA module called Popular Culture and to supervise PhDs. Since that time, my work has increasingly focused on the PhD programme, which I directed from 2010 to 2017. However, I continue to teach on the BA and to supervise MA dissertations.
I am also director of our Media, Culture and Creativity Research Group.
I have written a range of different books. My first academic monograph was Post-Marxism versus Cultural Studies (2007), which was a deconstruction of the 'post-marxist' discourse theory that informed the early development of cultural studies. I then moved into the field of popular culture, with Deconstructing Popular Culture (2008).
My sense had long been that the Western interest in Eastern martial arts (that exploded as a result of the films of Bruce Lee) was something that deserved serious attention. My first book length study of this was Theorizing Bruce Lee: Film-Fantasy-Fighting-Philosophy (2010). I completed this project with my second academic study of this matter, Beyond Bruce Lee: Chasing the Dragon through Film, Philosophy and Popular Culture (2013).
During the same period as my work on Bruce Lee, I also published an introductory book called Culture and the Media (2012), worked with the translator and editor Floriana Bernardi to publish a collection of my writings in Italian, and wrote a non-academic biography of Bruce Lee.
My interest in the problematics of post-colonial studies in general and the work of Rey Chow in particular led me to write Reading Rey Chow: Visuality, Postcoloniality, Ethnicity, Sexuality (2013). This monograph built on several earlier collections that I had compiled and edited, such as special issues of the journals Social Semiotics and Postcolonial Studies that focused on the work of Chow, as well as The Rey Chow Reader (2012).
My most recent monographs include Martial Arts Studies: Disrupting Disciplinary Boundaries (2015) and Mythologies of Martial Arts (2017).
Honours and awards
- Adjunct Professor, Waikato University, 2013
- Research Leave Fellowship Scheme Award, 2014
- Visiting Professor, Ljubljana University, Slovenia, 2014
- AHRC Research Network Funding: Martial Arts Studies Research Network, 2015
- Honorary Black Belt, World Taekkyeon Headquarters, Seoul, South Korea, 2015
- Presented with a Tewhatewha (General's Staff) by Head of the Maori King's Guard, 2016.
- Director of the Martial Arts Studies Research Network
Previous academic positions
- (2012-16) Cardiff University, Reader, Media and Cultural Studies
- (2010) Cardiff University, Senior Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies
- (2008) Cardiff University, Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies
- (2004) Roehampton University, Senior Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies
- (2003) Roehampton University, Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies
- (2001) Bath Spa University, Lecturer, Cultural Studies
- (1997-8) Bretton Hall College, University of Leeds, Visiting Lecturer
- (1996-2000) University of Leeds, Research Assistant, Journal Editor, Visiting Lecturer
- (1996) University of Leeds, School of Continuing Education, Tutor
Keynote Speaker/Plenary Addresses
- (2016) Keynote: Sixth Annual German Society of Sport Science Conference, German Sport University, Cologne, 6-8 October
- (2015) Keynote: Martial Arts and Traditional Sport in Asia, Muju, Korea, 21-22nd November
- (2015) Keynote: Limits and Margins Conference, Roehampton University, 10th September
- (2015) Keynote: Martial Arts & Media Conference, Cologne University, 17th July
- (2015) Keynote: Inaugural UK-China Media and Cultural Studies Association Conference, Cardiff University, 6th February
- (2014) Keynote: The Pedagogies of Unlearning, Trinity College Dublin, 6-7th Sept
- (2012) Keynote: Voice of the Humanities, Cardiff University, 22nd March
- (2012) Keynote: ‘East Winds’ Conference, Coventry University, 2-4th March
- (2011) Closing: ‘Communicating Civilization and Global Order’ Conference, SOAS, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 5-7th September
- (2011) Keynote: ‘Asia Exposure: East Asian Cinema in a Global Context’, Coventry University, February 10-11, 2011
- (2010) Opening Keynote: 1st International BABEL conference, Austin, Texas
- (2010) Invited Keynote: ‘The Moment of the Political’, International Conference, Rotterdam, Universities of Rotterdam and Utrecht, 17-19th June 2010
- (2016) Invited Speaker: Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, 7th March
- (2016) Invited Speaker: SOAS, 1st February
- (2015) Invited Speaker: Seoul National University, South Korea, 23rd November
- (2015) Invited Speaker: Postcolonial Governmentality, Cardiff University, 2nd September
- (2015) Invited Speaker: ‘Cross-Cultural Desire’, Swansea University, 6th May
- (2015) Invited Speaker: ‘The Discourse of China and the China of Discourse’, Bangor University, April 22nd
- (2014) Invited Speaker/Discussant, ‘Postcolonial Governmentality’, Bristol, 25-6 Sept
- (2013) Invited Speaker: University of Art, Braunschweig, Germany, May 16-18
- (2012) Invited Speaker: Università degli Studi di Bari, Italy, October 27th
- (2012) Invited Speaker: Cardiff University, School of Social Sciences Research Seminar, ‘Researching Martial Arts in the Media and in the Gym’, 9th March
- (2012) Invited Speaker: University of Brighton Philosophy Society, January 12th
- (2011) Invited Speaker: Università degli Studi di Bari, Italy, March 29th
- (2010) Invited Speaker: ‘Gesture and Film’, Bristol University, 11th March
- (2010) ‘Translating Bruce Lee at the Border of Culture and Politics’, Translating (at) The Border, School of European Studies, Cardiff University. April
- (2009) Invited Speaker: Kingston University, Department of Media and Cultural Studies. 3rd March
- (2008) Invited Speaker: ‘Theorizing Bruce Lee’, Swansea University, November, Dept of Politics and International Relations
- (2007) Invited Roundtable Panellist. ‘Cultural Studies, Then and There, Here and Now’, Cultural Studies Now, University of East London, July
- (2007) Invited Chair. ‘Deconstruction and Queer Theory After Derrida’, University College Dublin, July 26th
- (2006) Invited Speaker. ‘Deconstruction is a Martial Art’, University of Reading, November
- (2006) Invited Speaker. ‘McDeconstruction; Or (trans)mission impossible’, invited round-table speaker (‘Close Encounter’), International Association of Philosophy and Literature Annual Conference, Freiberg, Germany, June
- (2006) Invited Speaker. ‘“I’m Luke, I’m Five, and My Dad’s Bruce Lee”: Martial Arts, Ideology and the Political Problem of Knowledge’, London Metropolitan University, March
- (2005) Invited Speaker. ‘Cultural Studies Facing Martial Arts’, University of Brighton research seminar, invited speaker, October 22nd
Other Recent Conference Papers
- (2014), ‘The Meaning of Martial Arts Migration’, The Meaning of Migration conference, Cardiff University, 17th March
- (2013) ‘The Deconstruction and Intensification of “China”’, Chinese Cinemas Conference, Manchester University, October 11-13
- (2012) ‘Rancière and the Disciplines’, ACS Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference, Sorbonne, Paris. July 2012
- (2012) ‘“I know kung fu!” Or: When Orientalism is a Good Thing’, ACS Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference, Sorbonne, Paris, July 2012
- (2010) ‘Bruce Lee Differently’, ACS Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference, Lingnan University, Hong Kong. June 2010
- (2009), ‘Fists of Confusion: Bruce Lee and Monolingual Cultural Translation’, Cultural Translation, Cardiff University, 11th December 2009
- (2009) ‘Coercive Mimeticism and Cultural Studies’: ‘Postcolonial Ethnicity, Visuality and Cultural Politics I’, conference. School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. Cardiff University. 27th February 2009
- (2015-) Director: Media, Culture and Creativity Research Group
- (2014-) Editor in Chief: Cardiff University Press
- (2010-17) Director of Postgraduate Research Studies (PhD Programme)
- (2009-15) Director: Race, Representation and Cultural Politics Research Group
- (2011-) Founder/Director: Interdisciplinary Film and Visual Culture Research Network
- (2011-) Board Member: Cardiff University Graduate College Board
- (2011-) Founding Editor: JOMEC Journal
- (2010-) Member: Research Committee
- (2010-) Member: Staffing Committee
- (2010-) Member: School Board
- (2008-) Member: Representing Migration and Mobility Research Network
- (2010-13) Co-Director: (Re)Constructing Multiculturalism Research Network
- (2011-13) Member: Cardiff University Senate
- (2010-13) Member: The President’s Research Scholarships Review Panel
- (2014-) Steering Group: Cardiff University Press
- (2012) Chair: School Approval Panel, MA in Journalism & Digital Media, 9th November
- (2008-10) Chair: BA Admissions Subcommittee, Journalism, Media & Cultural Studies
- (2010-13) Member: Researcher and Graduate School in Humanities Management Group
I have taught a wide range of film, media and cultural studies courses at all university levels (BA, MA, PhD).
On our BA programmes, I currently teach modules in Film and Cultural Theory and Martial Arts and Media Culture. I also supervise BA dissertations.
On our MA programmes, I currently supervise dissertations in the areas of East-West cross-overs, encounters and communications.
For our PhD programme, I lead seminars in cultural theory and supervise PhDs on a wide range of subjects, particularly those mentioned above.
Some of my lectures are available online, here.
I research widely in the areas of martial arts and culture, and have published extensively in this field. I have also published widely in the fields of cultural studies, cultural theory and areas of postcolonial studies.
Videos of some of my lectures and conferences can be found here.
Below is brief information about some of my main publications.
Mythologies of Martial Arts (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2017)
Martial Arts Studies: Disrupting Disciplinary Boundaries (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2015)
Overview: The phrase “martial arts studies” is increasingly circulating as a term to describe a new field of interest. But many academic fields including history, philosophy, anthropology, and Area studies already engage with martial arts in their own particular way. Therefore, is there really such a thing as a unique field of martial arts studies?Martial Arts Studies is the first book to engage directly with these questions. It assesses the multiplicity and heterogeneity of possible approaches to martial arts studies, exploring orientations and limitations of existing approaches. It makes a case for constructing the field of martial arts studies in terms of key coordinates from post-structuralism, cultural studies, media studies, and post-colonialism. By using these anti-disciplinary approaches to disrupt the approaches of other disciplines, Martial Arts Studies proposes a field that both emerges out of and differs from its many disciplinary locations.
Review: "What happens when a first rate scholar and long-time martial arts practitioner turns his attention to an orphan discipline? First, the field can never be considered marginal again; second, the founding fathers of martial arts studies will be challenged to step up their game to the next level; and finally, readers will get a crash course in the language and concepts of post-modern scholarship, allowing them to follow the ongoing debates in martial arts studies, where landing one good accusation of Orientalism, sexism or essentialism is like a flying roundhouse kick to the head. For those who seek a deeper knowledge of the role of martial arts in contemporary culture, and hence a deeper self-knowledge, they will find no better inspiration than Paul Bowman's Martial Arts Studies.” - Douglas Wile, Author of Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty and T'ai Chi's Ancestors.
Review: "Following Nietzsche, Paul Bowman likes philosophising ‘with the hammer’. I think what he wields as a writer is more like a magic wand. Whisking received ideas of discipline, institution, tradition, body, nation, narration, media, theory and reality out of their usual academic slots, Bowman sends them spinning into the air to meet dreams, a visionary politics of culture and deep learning in martial arts. The result is intoxicating, a rush of energy from page to page. In Martial Arts Studies, impossible combinations take sparkling new shape and thinking is free to begin again.” - Meaghan Morris, Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney.
Beyond Bruce Lee (Wallflower/Columbia University Press, 2013)
“As the title suggests, this volume takes us 'beyond' Bruce Lee to debates around postmodern and the postcolonial, martial arts philosophy, and popular culture both translated and performed. But Lee is no mere pretext for this fascinating volume - this study also reminds us how exciting and transformative his cultural emergence was and what a complex legacy he has left. Whether your interest is in Zizek or Jeet Kune Do, you'll find something here that will make you think again about this major figure.” (Leon Hunt, Brunel University)
“Beyond Bruce Lee provides nuanced, often brilliantly provocative readings of Bruce Lee as a cultural icon and event. Drawing on a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches, this ground-breaking study performs Lee's injunction to create something new and true by crossing, mixing, and remixing boundaries. In the process, it also gives the reader a fantastic crash course in cultural studies.” (Jane Park, University of Sydney)
“No one writing today has a keener eye for delineating the logic of contemporary cultural politics than Paul Bowman. In Beyond Bruce Lee he powerfully demonstrates how and why Bruce Lee matters to a whole host of fields (cinema studies, cultural studies, politics, philosophy, sociology) without ever limiting himself to writing from the narrow perspective of any one of those disciplines. Regardless of where you position yourself in or out of any of those fields - whether you think you already know Bruce Lee or think you couldn't care less about Bruce Lee - you still must read this book.” (Samuel Chambers, Johns Hopkins University)
Reading Rey Chow: Visuality, Postcoloniality, Ethnicity, Sexuality (Peter Lang, 2013)
“Paul Bowman's Reading Rey Chow is a lucid exposition and critical framing of the work of one of the key figures in contemporary cultural and postcolonial studies. This book will be required reading for anyone engaging with this body of writing that develops a sustained and critical alternative to the canon of high theory.” (John Frow, University of Sydney)
“[This book] offers a complete introduction to Chow's works, showing the originality of her scholarship for cultural studies, postcolonialism and visual studies. Reading Rey Chow focuses on the continuous relocations and excesses that Chow provokes in critical theory through the force of her incisive analyses.” (Patrizia Calefato, Universita degli studi di Bari Aldo Moro, Italy)
Culture and the Media (Palgrave, 2012)
Culture and the Media looks at the relationship between what we term 'media' and 'culture', asking the question: where does one end and the other begin? Written in a lively and accessible style, this book introduces and contextualises the range of different approaches to the study of both of these fields.
Using a lively range of examples and case studies - including moral panics in the British media around punk rock in the 1970s, critiques of consumerism in the films Fight Club and American Psycho, and the YouTube-captured 'violence' of protests against student fees – Culture and the Mediashows how theoretical and disciplinary debates over the meaning of the media and culture relate to our everyday cultural experiences.
Studi culturali: Teoria, intervento, cultura pop (Progedit, Italy, 2011)
Italian translation, selected writings: “Presentando per la prima volta al pubblico italiano il pensiero di Paul Bowman, questo volume intende rinnovare la riflessione sull'agenda etico-politica propria dei Cultural Studies, che sono nati a Birmingham nel 1964 e si sono rapidamente diffusi nel mondo anglofono e nelle comunità di studiosi.”
Theorizing Bruce Lee: Film—Fantasy—Philosophy—Fighting (Rodopi, 2010)
Theorizing Bruce Lee engages questions of culture, politics, ideology and philosophy by way of a series of engagements with the popular cultural film and martial arts icon, Bruce Lee. The book deals with the cultural and theoretical issues, themes and problematics of Bruce Lee’s emergence and success, the relations between Bruce Lee films and cultural fantasy, the relations between these fantasies and cultural practices such as martial arts, and the wider cultural, political and philosophical issues of Bruce Lee’s intervention.
Leon Hunt writes: “Bruce Lee is a complex and contradictory figure, and it's a formidable task to take on the multiple facets of his legacy – fighter, film star, philosopher, nationalist, multiculturalist, innovator. With an approach as multidisciplinary and iconoclastic as Lee's approach to martial arts, Bowman provides an original and exhilarating account of Lee as ‘cultural event’. No one has done a better job of explaining why the martial arts 'legend' remains such an important and provocative figure”.
Similarly, Gina Marchetti writes: “Taking on Martin Heidegger and Slavoj Žižek as well as drawing on Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Guy Debord, Jacques Ranciere, Rey Chow, and Stuart Hall, among others, Bowman shows how Bruce Lee “speaks” to the philosophical debates that frame our understanding of global popular culture today. Although Bowman may not be able to resolve the philosophical battles surrounding our ability to “know” Bruce Lee, he does a remarkable job of articulating why Bruce Lee remains an essential force within not only world cinema but global culture – both “high” and “low.” Armoured with his philosophical nunchakus, Bowman goes to battle with anyone who may doubt Lee’s ongoing importance, and this book will undoubtedly become essential reading for everyone (from philosopher to kung fu practitioner) interested in popular culture and Asian cinema.”
Deconstructing Popular Culture (Palgrave, 2008)
"Deconstructing Popular Culture is an accessible, funny and stimulating introduction to popular culture and cultural studies. This is a book with both a passionate argument and a rare skill in making the 'fine print' of complex theoretical arguments accessible." (Richard Stamp, Senior Lecturer of Media and Cultural Studies, Bath Spa University, UK)
"Bowman writes very much as though he is speaking directly to a group of undergraduates: it engages them where they live. This book is an extraordinarily significant achievement." (John Mowitt, Professor of Cultural Studies, University of Minnesota, USA)
Post-Marxism versus Cultural Studies: Politics, Theory and Intervention (Edinburgh University Press, 2007)
“[Post-Marxism Versus Cultural Studies is] the first sustained scholarly assessment of the scandal of post-Marxism [which] traces the struggle – both intellectual and political – of academic Marxism to keep its footing on the long march through the institution. As the “versus” that hinges his title suggests, neither post-Marxism nor cultural studies remain unscathed by Bowman’s staging of this face off. Post-Marxism versus Cultural Studies rewards the serious reader concerned to come to terms with the discursive politics of the contemporary university”. John Mowitt (Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota).
“This is an ambitious book which will make a significant impact in […] an exciting field which is beginning to open up a sustained ‘thinking about’ politics from a post-structuralist perspective”. Martin McQuillan (Professor of Cultural Theory and Analysis, University of Leeds)