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Durham University

School of Modern Languages and Cultures: German Studies

Staff in the Department of German

Go to the MLAC staff pages.

Professor Janet Stewart, MA, PhD (Glasgow)

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43426
Room number: A37, Elvet Riverside I
Member of Steering Group in the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture

Contact Professor Janet Stewart (email at

I was appointed Professor of Visual Culture in January 2014, where I have taken on the role of Director of the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures.

Previously, I was Senior Lecturer in German and Film & Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen, where I founded and directed a Masters programme in Visual Culture, was instrumental in the development of a new undergraduate comparative literature programme, Literature in a World Context, and was Lead Supervisor on a College-funded research project on ‘Translating Cultures’. 

I received my PhD in German and Sociology from the University of Glasgow in 1998. In 1995, I was a Junior Fellow at the International Research Centre for Cultural Sciences in Vienna and in 1997-1998, I held a Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Studentship at the Karl-Eberhardts-Universität Tübingen.

My research profile is characterised by a commitment to interdisciplinary work grounded in disciplinary knowledge. My main research interests lie in visual culture: I have published widely on Austrian and German literature and visual culture, cultural sociology and urban history, producing two monographs, Fashioning Vienna: Adolf Loos’s Cultural Criticism(2000) and Public Speaking in the City (2009).

My current research project develops my interests in modernity and visual culture in a new context, connecting them to the emerging field of the energy humanities, with a specific focus on theoretical and cultural approaches to oil. I am working on a research monograph, ‘Curating Europe’s Oil’, which explores the role that oil plays in twenty-first century cultural memory. This involves constructing an adequate theoretical framework for the project that acknowledges and builds upon critical approaches drawn from a variety of interrelated fields, including critical theory, energetics, sociology, film studies, visual culture studies and museum studies, and drawing together case study materials from these fields, with a focus on works deriving from Europe.

I have already published a number of articles relating to this project and write a related blog on Energy and Culture. In 2012, I curated an international exhibition on ‘OilScapes’ at Peacock Visual Arts in Aberdeen, on whose curatorial board I served from 2006-2012. I also serve on the Advisory Board of ‘Capturing the Energy’, a multi-partner initiative to document Scotland’s energy history, and am an associate member of the ‘Petrocultures’ Research Group at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. In May 2013, I was part of a team organizing a two-day conference on the ‘Politics of Oil’ at the University of Aberdeen, that brought academics together with politicians (including Charles Hendry, the former Energy Minister), lawyers, environmental activists and union representatives, amongst others.

I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review College and serve on the editorial board of Austrian Studies and the Journal of Austrian Studies.

I have supervised PhD students working on a range of topics, including museum studies, contemporary art practice, photographic theory, urban history and culture, cultural sociology, and cultures of energy. I would welcome enquiries from students who wish to pursue PhDs in twentieth century film and visual culture, in science and visual culture, in Austrian studies and in the energy humanities.

Research Groups

Durham Energy Institute

  • Energy Policy Group

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2014: Member of AHRC Peer Review College (2012 - present):
  • 2014: Member of the Advisory Board for the Austrian Studies Yearbook, published by W. S. Maney under the aegis of the MHRA (since 2001):
  • 2014: Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Austrian Studies (US) (2012-2015):
  • 2005: Secretary and Treasurer of the Scottish Conference of University Teachers of German (SCUTG) [Feb 2002 - May 2005):

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

Conference Paper

  • 2010 'Flows of Capital Between Energy Cities - paper presented at the World Energy Cities Partnership Conference held in Perth, Australia'.

Edited book

Journal Article

Show all publications

International Collaboration

  • External Member of the Petrocultures Resource Cluster at the University of Alberta, Edmonton

Selected Grants

  • 2013: Carnegie Trust Grant to undertake archival work in Vienna (£910)
  • 2011: British Academy Small Research Grant to undertake archival work in Berlin ('The Energetic Imperative: Wilhelm Ostwald's Contribution to the Sociology of Energy') (£1400)
  • 2010: AHRC Beyond Text Student Initiative. Funding for conference on 'The Forgotten Voices of the Avant-Garde [Supervisor]
  • 2009: University of Aberdeen College of Arts & Social Sciences Research Project Award for 'Translating Cultures' (Eight 3-year PhD studentships over two years) (£60,000)
  • 2008: AHRC Beyond Text Student Initiative. Funding for conference on 'Resistance and Complicity' and for associated online journal [Supervisor]
  • 2004: British Academy Small Research Grant to undertake archival work in Vienna and Berlin and secure illustrations (£1900)
  • 2003: Austrian Cultural Institute funding for Continuities and Discontinuities in Austrian Culture Conference (£12000)
  • 2003: Carnegie Research Grant to undertake archival work in Berlin (£1700)