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Dr Susan Ashley

AHRC Leadership Fellow - ‘(Multi)Cultural Heritage: New Perspectives on Public Culture, Identity and Citizenship’, and Senior Lecturer, Arts

Department: Arts

Dr. Ashley is a cultural studies scholar interested in ‘democratisation’ of the culture and heritage sectors, especially in relation to expression by minority groups. She is Senior Lecturer in the MA in Creative and Cultural Industries Management.

Susan Ashley is currently AHRC Leadership Fellow with the research project "(Multi)Cultural Heritage: New Perspectives on Public Culture, Identity and Citizenship" # AH/P008984/1. Dr Ashley holds a PhD in Communication and Culture from York University, Toronto. Her research on heritage and its relation to subjectivity, representation and citizenship has been published in books by Routledge and Ashgate, and in peer-reviewed journals such as Organization, International Journal of Cultural Policy, Museum & Society and International Journal of Heritage Studies. She also edited the book 'Diverse Spaces: Identity, Heritage and Community in Canadian Public Culture'. Her monograph ‘A Museum in Public: Revisioning Canada’s Royal Ontario Museum’ will be published by Routledge in 2018.

Dr. Ashley also has 20 years of consultancy and government work coordinating projects for culture and heritage sites across Canada. This work included policy, planning and developments related to heritage commemorations, disabled access, and diverse events, media and programs. She also has a background in journalism editing, writing and production for several community newspapers in Canada.

Dr Ashley is also a member of the Northumbria University Visual and Material Culture research group.



PhD Communication and Culture, York University, Toronto, Canada, 2011

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

Dr. Ashley’s academic interests have been interdisciplinary, with a practical edge that seeks to challenge and improve the structures and practices of heritage and cultural organizations. Her research broadly inspects what, how and why heritage knowledge is created, shaped, managed, communicated and consumed in the public realm, especially in exhibitionary forms. Her academic foundations are interdisciplinary with a social science/cultural studies emphasis.

She has a strong international publication and conference history exploring themes such as: 

  • heritage institutions as representers of, and forums for, knowledge and identity production
  • labour in heritage organizations - their ethics and praxis
  • heritage expressed and conserved in marginal/diasporic communities
  • exhibitions as complex communicative media
  • culture and heritage policies in Canada

Dr. Ashley welcomes prospective PhD students interested in exploring any aspect of Public Culture, materially situated in objects, spaces, narratives and performances that enable the shaping and expression of identities on individual, group, national or transnational scales. In particular she encourages research into the people and communities who to date have been marginalised in the creation and management of Public Culture. 

Current/Recent Projects

'(Multi)Cultural Heritage: New Perspectives on Public Culture, Identity and Citizenship'—PI 2017-2019

'Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation in India' —AHRC Workshop—March 2015, Delhi

‘Memorialisation as Valuation: Examining Public Culture at the Chattri Sikh Memorial, Brighton’—AHRC—2013-2014 —Principle Investigator. To view a short video from the project click here.

‘Museum-making among UK immigrant groups’—International Council for Canadian Studies— Feb. 2012— Visiting Fellow, SAS University of London

‘Museum-making: ‘New’ Canadians re-imagine heritage and citizenship’— SSHRC Canadian Postdoctoral Fellowship—2011-2012

Key Publications

Editor, 'Diverse Spaces: Identity, heritage and community in Canadian public culture', Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013 (ISBN (10): 1-4438-5147-7, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-5147-3)

Editor, Special Issue: Critical Heritage Studies in Canada, Journal of Canadian Studies, Summer, 2018

Editor, with Sybille Frank, Special Issue: Heritage-Outside-In, International Journal of Heritage StudiesVol. 22 #7, 2016

“Acts of heritage, acts of value: Memorializing at the Chattri Indian Memorial, UK,” International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol. 22 #7, 2016

“Re-colonizing spaces of memorializing: the case of the Chattri Indian Memorial, UK,” Organization, Vol 23 #1, 2016

“The Royal Ontario Museum, the Dead Sea Scrolls and critical public engagement” in Viviane Gosselin and Phaedra Livingstone (eds.) Museums as Sites of Historical Consciousness: Perspectives on Museum Theory and Practice in Canada, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015

“Re-telling, Re-cognition, Re-stitution: Sikh Heritagization in Canada,” Cultura:International Journal of Philosophy of Culture and Axiology, Vol. 11 #2, 2014

“A museum of our own” in Laurence Gouriévidis (ed.) Museums and Migration: History, Memory and Politics, London: Routledge, 2014, pg. 153-163.

“‘Engage the World’: Examining conflicts of engagement in public museums,” International Journal of Cultural Policy, Vol. 20 #3, 2014, 261-280.

“Museum volunteers: Between precarious labour and democratic knowledge community” in Jonathan Paquette (ed.)Cultural Policy, Work and Identity, Ashgate Publishing, 2012.

“Negotiating Narratives of Canada: Circuit of communication analysis of the Next Stop Freedom exhibition,” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’etudes Canadiennes, Vol. 45 #2, 2011, 182-204

Postgraduate Supervision

Leonie Wieser -

“Minority Histories and Heritage in Local Contexts: A Negotiation of Difference and Diversity in Past and Present Tyneside” – funded by AHRC Heritage Consortium


Frances Guy -

“Examining the Impact of Commissioned Art in Post-Industrial Heritage Sites” – funded by AHRC Heritage Consortium 


Joan Buchanan -

“Valourising Cornish heritage: UNESCO and Cornwall’s Man Engine pilgrimage” – funded by Nourthumbria RDF Research Fellowship


Kathleen Boodhai -

"Indian ‘Heritage-ness’ in diaspora" – funded by Nourthumbria RDF Research Fellowship


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