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Richard Howells

Dr Richard Howells

Reader in Culture, Media & Creative Industries

Tel +44 (0)20 7848 1357
Culture, Media and Creative Industries
King’s College London
3Ca Chesham Building
Strand Campus



Richard Howells graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard University with an AB in Visual Studies. He took his MPhil and PhD in Social and Political Sciences at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. In 2004 he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Center for the Arts in Society, Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania. He joined CMCI as a Reader in 2006, and was Center Director until completing his term of office in 2010.

Research Interests and PhD supervision
  • Visual and popular culture 
  • Cultural sociology 
  • The sociology of representation 
  • Critical theories of Utopia and the work of Ernst Bloch
  • The Titanic in myth and media

Richard Howells is a cultural sociologist who specializes in visual and popular culture. His work combines theory and practice to explore case studies as seemingly diverse as the myth of the Titanic and the humour of Ali G. He is currently working on both the art of the Bloomsbury set and theories of creation and creativity in Navajo design. He is a member of the Centre for the Arts in Society, based in the USA, with whom he is working on an analysis of controversies in the arts. Finally, he is researching Ernst Bloch and a critical theory of art, literature, popular culture and Utopia. His work is united by asking the big questions about culture-–what is it? Why do we have it? And what does it tell us about ourselves? Consequently, he was commissioned to write a policy essay for the Arts and Humanities Research Council, arguing for the value of arts and humanities research to society. This has now been published in an edited volume of work by “a group of distinguished humanities researchers, all working in Britain, but publishing research of international importance” and who advocate the public value rather than the economic impact of the humanities.

Richard welcomes applications for PhD topics related to any of his research interests.

For more details, please see his full research profile.

Selected Publications
  • Richard Howells, Andreea Ritivoi and Judith Schachter (Center for the Arts in Society, Carnegie Mellon University), eds., "Outrage: Art, Controversy, and Society",  London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. ISBN 978023035397-8.
  • Richard Howells, The Myth of the Titanic, Centenary Edition, London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, March 2012.  ISBN-13: 978-0230313804.
  • Richard Howells, “One Hundred Years of the Titanic on Film”, in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 32, No. 1, March 2012, pp. 73–93. ISSN 0143-9685. 
  • Richard Howells, “The Glamour of the Gods”, exhibition review essay in Celebrity Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, March 2012, pp. 120–122.
  • Richard Howells and Joaquim Negreiros (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia), Visual Culture, second, revised and expanded edition, Cambridge, England and Malden, Massachusetts: Polity Press, 2012. ISBN 0745650708 (hardback) 0745650716 (paperback).
For a complete list of publications, please see Richard's full research profile.

Richard Howells’ teaching is informed by his research and publications in visual culture and cultural sociology. He teaches an optional module Visual Culture, which seeks to show what and how images mean. His focus is on textual analysis supported by hermeneutic methodologies.

He also contributes to the MA CCI core modules with lectures on media theory and the sociology of representation, and to the MA CCI Research Approaches module in the area of visual methods. 

Expertise and Public Engagement

“The Titanic in Modern Memory” keynote lecture at the XXIVth Conference of the International Association for Media and History, Copenhagen, Denmark, 8 July 2011.


“Beyond Bloch: Creation, Creativity and a Utopian Theory of Design” plenary paper given at “No Future”, Institute of Advanced Study, University of Durham, 26 March 2011.

Invited Paper

“Creation and Creativity: Utopia and Navajo Design”, invited paper given at “The Politics of Utopia: Marxism, Myth and Religion”, jointly organised by the Bakhtin Centre and the Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies at the University

of Sheffield, 19 November 2010. Funded by the British Academy.

Selected recent public lectures and speaking invitations

“Heroes, Saints and the Glamour of the Gods”, invited research seminar given to the Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge, 23 November 2011.

Public lecture: “From Actors to Icons” given to the National Portrait Gallery, London, 11 August, 2011. 

Invited panel member for discussion of David Wojnarowicz’s film “Fire in My Belly” and its removal from the (American) National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture”, Center for the Arts in Society, Carnegie Mellon University, USA, 6 April 2011. 

“The Cultural Impact of UK Film: Questions and Evidence”, UK Film Council, invited speaker and panellist, 27 November 2009. 

Contributions and consultancies

In addition to being a speaker at international conferences, Richard Howells is a regular contributor to radio and television programmes on cultural, creative and media issues. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, and the Advisory Group of the British Universities Film and Video Council.

Media and publishing representation

Richard Howells is represented by Anita Land at Capel and Land Ltd, 29 Wardour Street, London W1D 6PS, telephone 020 7734 2414.


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