Professor David Looseley

Professor David Looseley

Emeritus Professor of Contemporary French Culture

Summary: The contemporary history of cultural policies, institutions and practices, with particular emphasis on popular culture.



David was born and educated in South-East London. Graduating from the University of Exeter in 1971 in French (with English), he obtained a Masters in 1974 for work on Sartre, Camus and de Beauvoir, and a doctorate in 1982 on the 20th-century dramatist Armand Salacrou. He began his teaching career at the University of Dijon, then took up successive posts at the Universities of Exeter, Huddersfield and Bradford, before coming to Leeds in 1994, where he taught for fifteen years and is now an active emeritus researcher, writer and translator. He is also Associate Fellow of the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, University of Warwick (2010-2013) and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Bristol. He has been visiting professor at the Universities of Strasbourg, Complutense in Madrid and visiting research scholar at the Remarque Institute, New York University. In 2012, he returned to Complutense to take up a visiting professorship funded by the Spanish government.

In 2005 David founded the Popular Cultures Research Network, today an international, interdisciplinary community of researchers, postgraduates and practitioners. In 2010, he was decorated by the French government for services to French culture, becoming Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques.


David's research concerns the contemporary history of cultural practices, products, policies and institutions, in particular popular culture. Interdisciplinary in scope, it combines historical and political perspectives with an interest in the discourses and cultural debates such practices, policies and institutions engender. He has written extensively in these fields, on such topics as contemporary popular music, the Nancy Theatre Festival, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, postcolonial approaches to cultural policy, youth culture, and the social and cultural theorist Antoine Hennion. He has also written on modern languages, the humanities and the impact/engagement agenda.

His latest book, Édith Piaf: A Cultural History (Liverpool University Press, October 2015), analyses the singer’s accreted cultural meanings from the 1930s to the present: the ways in which her global status as singing star has been variously interpreted and used both in France and the Anglophone world.

David has also been commissioned to translate two French-language plays, both of which have been staged in New York: Armand Salacrou’s Nights of Wrath (staged in 2005) and Jalila Baccar’s Araberlin (staged in 2015). He has been invited to speak about his research in a variety of countries including France (the Sorbonne, 2012; Lille, 2013; Dijon, 2014), Spain, Norway, Denmark and the UK, and his work appears on French, cultural studies and cultural policy syllabuses in higher education institutions throughout the world. His research expertise has been called upon by various public bodies, including the Prince's Teaching Institute and the BBC. He has appeared in a number of radio or TV programmes at home and abroad. He is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Cultural Policy and Thélème, Revista Complutense de Estudios Franceses and on the advisory boards of French Cultural Studies and the French popular music journal Volume. He is a regular book reviewer for journals including French Studies, Modern and Contemporary France, French Politics, Culture and Society, Popular Music, The Historian and H-France.   He also regularly assesses book and article proposals for various publishers and journals.



2015 Édith Piaf: A Cultural History, Liverpool University Press.
2013 (ed). Imagining the Popular in Contemporary French Culture, Manchester University Press, with Diana Holmes.
2012 (ed.) Policy and the Popular, Routledge. 
2003 Popular Music in Contemporary France: Authenticity, Politics, Debate, Berg.
1995 The Politics of Fun: Cultural Policy and Debate in Contemporary France, Berg, 1995 (reprinted in paperback 1997).
1985 A Search for Commitment: The theatre of Armand Salacrou, University of Exeter Publications, 1985).

Chapters and articles (since 2010)


2015 ‘Popular Music’, in S. Trezise, Cambridge Companion to French Music, Cambridge University Press, 271-89.
2013 ‘Culture and the State under Sarkozy’, in G. Raymond (ed.), The Sarkozy Presidency, Palgrave Macmillan, 183-207.
2013 'Speaking of Impact...  Languages and the Utility of the Humanities', in E. Belfiore and A. Upchurch (eds), Humanities in the Twenty-first Century: beyond utility and markets,  Palgrave, 91-108.
2012 'Looking Forward, Looking Back: Alternative Models of Arts Policy in France and Britain', in N. Lokka and G. Vestheim (eds), KulturRikets Tilstand 2011, Oslo: Hogskolen i Telemark, 2012, 17-23.
2011 'La Politique culturelle du Royaume-Uni', in P. Poirrier (ed.), La Culture comme politique publique. Essais d'histoire comparée. De 1945 à nos jours, La Documentation Française/Ministère de la Culture, 389-409.
2011 'Popular Culture, the Final Frontier: How Far Should we Boldly Go?' in P. Lane and M. Worton (eds), French Studies in and for the Twenty-First Century, Liverpool University Press, 2011, 184-94.
2010 'Making History: French Popular Music and the Notion of the Popular', in B. Lebrun and J. Lovecy (eds), Une et indivisible? Plural Identities in Modern France, Peter Lang, 127-40.


2013 ‘Outside looking in: European popular musics, language and intercultural dialogue’, Journal of European Popular Culture, vol. 4, no.1, 19-28.
2012 'Democratising the popular: the case of pop music in France and Britain', International Journal of Cultural Policy, special issue 'Culture and Democracy', ed. G. Vestheim, vol. 18, November, pp.579-92.
2011 'Making an "impact": some personal reflections on the Humanities in the UK'. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, vol. 10 (February, pp.9-18.
2011 'Notions of popular culture in cultural policy: a comparative history of France and Britain', International Journal of Cultural Policy, special issue 'Policy and the Popular', ed D.L Looseley, vol. 17 September, pp. 365-79.