James Oliver Ph.D., M.Res., B.A. (Hons)

Associate Professor, School of Design, RMIT University, Melbourne, AU.


James Oliver (Seumas Olaghair) is a Hebridean Gàidheal and native of the Isle of Skye (an t-Eilean Sgitheanach). His Dùthchas, or embodied connectedness and relationality with place and land has informed a life-long, and evolving enquiry of practice-as-research and ways of knowing. Initially, this was at the nexus of his native culture, language, place-based belonging, and configurations of identities; increasingly, this is becoming less about identities, more about ontologies and practices of emplacement, and ethical relations and collaborations with place – and learning with land.

As a transdisciplinary academic, educator, and writer, James has over 20yrs of professional practice across a range of disciplines and sectors (creative arts, design, social sciences, ethnography, arts development, community practice). This has nurtured a ‘practice-as-research’ career beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries, particularly at the intersections of cultural relations, Creativer Practice Research and Indigenous Practice Research. In relation to practice as research he published the book, Associations: creative practice and research (MUP, 2018); and details of his broader research practice and writing are available at academia.edu.

James’ research training began in the social sciences (politics and history; anthropology and sociology), with a focus on lived experiences of cultural situations and practices. His wider creative practice research interests now also focus on decolonial practices, public pedagogies, and the possibilities afforded through creative and cultural ways of knowing (traditional and emerging). This is consistent with his native cultural position and practices of knowing.

Currently at RMIT University, in the School of Design, James has held academic appointments at The University of Glasgow, The University of Edinburgh, The University of Melbourne, and Monash University. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor with Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous Research lab. Beyond the Higher Education sector, James has worked as an arts development officer at the former Scottish Arts Council, and as a researcher, speechwriter, and press officer at the Scottish Parliament.

© James Oliver / Seumas Olaghair

Is mise Seumas Chatriona nigh’n Dhomhnuill Aonghais Bhig mac Dhomhnuill mhic Pheadar mhic Mhurchaidh. I acknowledge respectfully that I am an uninvited guest, living and working on unceded Country. I pay my respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and their Ancestors, in particular the people of the Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung language groups and their Elders, past and present. I acknowledge the sovereignty of all the First Nations and Traditional Owners of the lands and waterways in Australia.

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