Sharon Macdonald
Anniversary Professor of Cultural Anthropology



I joined the University of York in September 2012, having previously held Professorships at the Universities of Manchester and Sheffield. As well as Anthropology, my interests include Museology, Cultural Heritage and Memory Studies, and Cultural Sociology. My enjoyment of working across disciplines was fostered by my undergraduate degree in Human Sciences – a mix of Social and Natural Sciences – at Oxford; and this is also the basis of my longstanding interest in cultural dimensions of science. I have carried out anthropological fieldwork in Scotland, England and Germany, and exploratory comparative research in China. My work has been translated into Bulgarian, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish.



  • DPhil Social Anthropology, University of Oxford, 1987; for 'Social and Linguistic Identity in the Scottish Gaidhealtachd'; SSRC; Sir John Rhys Scholar in Celtic Studies; Light Senior Scholar
  • BA Hons Human Sciences (First Class), St Catherine's College, Oxford, 1982; Watts Coleman Scholar

Previous academic posts

  • Professor of Social Anthropology, Manchester University, 2006-12
  • Professor of Cultural Anthropology, University of Sheffield, 2005-6
  • Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader in Sociology and Social Anthropology, University of Sheffield, 1996-2005
  • Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Anthropology, University of Keele, 1990-96
  • Research Fellow, Centre for Research into Innovation, Culture and Technology, Brunel University, 1988-90

Visiting posts

  • Visiting Professor, Southwestern University of Nationalities, Chengdu, December 2013
  • Visiting Professor, Institute of European Ethnology, Humboldt University, Berlin, 2012-
  • Visiting Professor, Institute of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Peking University, and Faculty of Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Semester 1 2011-12
  • Visiting Professor and Whitesell Lecturer, University of Michigan, March-April 2009
  • Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Institute of European Ethnology, Humboldt University, Berlin, 2006-7
  • Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Institute of Sociology, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, 1999-2000 and 2002

Departmental roles

Director of the European Centre for Cultural Exploration (ECCE)

Leader of the Culture research cluster

Chair of Board of Studies (until October 2014)

Member of Departmental Senior Management Team (until October 2014)

Member of Research Committee (including REF 2014 sub-Committee)

Designer of new MA Culture, Society and Globalization (beginning 2014)

University roles

Steering Committee of the Centre for Digital Heritage (CDH)

Steering Committee of the Centre for Pilgrimage Studies

Steering Committee of the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP)



My research examines ongoing social and cultural changes. Mostly, I do this by coupling a specific focus - based on ethnographic fieldwork - with analysis of more widespread developments. By doing so, I seek to find out what is going on in the detail of practice, including the reflections of those I am researching. And I draw on this to challenge or refine the assumptions of existing theorising.

These concerns and approaches have been reflected in a range of different research projects over the years. Though as an anthropologist, I often return to earlier themes and research areas.

Summary of research areas:

  • Cultural heritage, memory, identity, difficult history
  • Museums, museology, material culture, design
  • Identities - especially European
  • Tourism, cities, architecture
  • Science as culture
  • Anthropological and cultural theory


Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage

I am part of an AHRC funded research programme that is concerned with looking at 'heritage' beyond its usual confines to consider how the archive for what will in future be available to be heritage is shaped. It focuses upon the making of heritage in the face of key social and environmental challenges. I will lead the strand of the research concerned with cultures of profusion or excess. How, in the face of an enormous quantity of 'stuff' and informations, do individuals, households and museums encourage some things to persist into the future and allow others to be discarded? A beacon research programme of the AHRC's 'Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past', my colleagues and I are concerned with the fundamental question of how future pasts are assembled. Our investigators are based at University College London, Exeter University and Linnaeus University. We will also work with colleagues elsewhere, including at the University of Gothenburg, the Minzu University, Beijing, and China's National Academy of Arts; as well as with many international and national partners, including UNESCO, the Arts Council, the National Trust and the Association of Independent Museums; and local organisations, including York Museums Trust and the New School House Gallery.


My most recent book, Memorylands. Heritage and Identity in Europe Today, brings together many of my earlier interests by looking widely at what I call the 'memory phenomenon' – the growth of museums and heritage across Europe. It does so by drawing on various of my own fieldworks – including some on which I have not published previously – as well as lots of research by others. This work is primarily by ethnographers working in Europe, as part of the book's aim is to make this work more widely known, and more central to memory debates. It is also the best work for helping me to examine both the extent of variety in ways of doing 'past presencing' as well as the commonalities of 'the European memory complex', to use terms that I develop in the book.

Museums, heritage and identities

Over the years I  have carried out various projects concerned with the changing nature of collective identities - especially national and European; and history, tradition and heritage - how these are variously imagined and put to cultural work, especially but not only in relation to the making and remaking of identities. Museums have proved an especially exciting place to investigate these themes, and I have done in the following major as well as more short-term research projects in the Hebrides, elsewhere in the UK and in Germany.

Difficult heritage

In a major project beginning in 2000, I took the city of Nuremberg, and especially the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds, as a detailed focus for exploration of how the Nazi past – and especially Nazi architecture – had been variously addressed, ignored and struggled over since 1945. As in my previous work, I sought to look both at 'cultural workers' – those variously involved in public policy and culture – and at those using the site, especially as visitors and tourists. A key question for me in this project was what was involved in the turn to actively 'museumizing' Nazi past – and what I call 'difficult heritage' more widely. This is the subject of Difficult Heritage. Negotiating the Nazi Past in Nuremberg and Beyond. In 2013 I carried out updating work in Nuremberg, extending my focus to other locations in the city.

Making science in the museum

A very different project at the cusp of the 1980s and 1990s in the Science Museum, London, took me into the world of museums, and more specifically into highly politicised cultural changes in public institutions. Ethnographically following museum staff as they wwent about their work of creating science for the public made clear to me just how much the resulting science was shaped by the wider cultural and political changes in which visitors were increasingly understood as consumers. This research led not only to my ethnography, Behind the Scenes at the Science Museum, but also to Theorizing Museums – a co-edited volume (with Gordon Fyfe) that sought to both bring social and cultural theory to the museum and to recognise museums as themselves engaged in 'theorizing'; and The Politics of Display.

Cultural revival

In my doctoral fieldwork in the Scottish Hebrides in the mid-1980s I was interested in the revitalization of Gaelic culture, which was, in turn, part of wider developments that were usually referred to as ethnonationalism and the invention of tradition. Yet, it was not only those and my analysis led me to question not only what was actually going on in the revivial in local communities but also how 'culture' was being variously constituted in revivial policies, nationalist movements and local lives. I later drew on this in my book Reimagining Culture as well as exploring related wider developments – and the place of disciplines such as anthropology within them  – in an edited volume, Inside European Identities.


Current projects

  1. Ethnography and minority cultural heritage in China. This Leverhulme funded research was concerned with the massive rise of museums in China, especially those concerned with minority heritage. It looked at how China's official minorities are represented in the public realm, especially in museums. The research will be continued in future through collaborations with scholars in China and will also look at eco-museums, ethnic minority theme parks and other tourist sites.
  2. 'Islam' in museums in Europe. With colleagues in universities and museums in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, we are interested in exploring how 'Islam' is variously constituted in various kinds of museums (art, ethnography, history, natural history), collections and exhibitions; and how this articulates with the diverse histories of collecting and population demographics of those countries.
  3. Making cultural diversity. This research interest is concerned with how 'cultural diversity' is variously imagined in different European countries, especially in their ethnographic museums. It also has a comparative dimension, especially with China.
  4. Difficult heritage in Europe. I plan to further develop this theme both through updating my earlier work on Nuremberg, co-ordinating other examples and also through research on new areas of difficult heritage, including Islamic heritage in Europe.
  5. The museum. I plan to write a book that draws on anthropological theorising in new ways in order to more fully understand the nature and potentialities of the museum. This will include developing the notion of the museum as a creator of theory in practice – for example, about cultural diversity - and how this relates to transformations in museum and heritage practice and performance. 
  6. Museum shopping: objects, values, meanings. An AHRC-collaborative doctoral award (2012-15) in collaboration with the British Museum and British Museum Company will allow doctoral student, Hannah Errington, to carry out original research on this topic. This also helps to re-theorise the museum beyond the collections and galleries that are the usual focus on museum research.
  7. Art and Social Value - with Dr Laurie Hanquinet. Funded by the Department of Sociology, this project employed Peggy Lockwood-Lord and Alice Venir to explore the social value of the '21st Centruy Eden' project of artist John Newling at the New School House Gallery in York.


PhD supervision areas:

  • museums, exhibitions, heritage, tourism
  • memory, commemoration, history work
  • collecting, shopping, material culture
  • Europe, Britain, Germany, identities, community
  • cultural policy and practice
  • science in public culture

I welcome suggestions for projects in these areas. 


PhD students

I have supervised students - as full-time, part-time and visiting students - from Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Thailand, Turkey and the UK. They have worked on topics related to all of the above. Many of my former students now hold academic posts (including a couple of professors), work in research organisations and in museums. 


Selected publications

IN PRESS: With Helen Rees Leahy I am general editor of the International Handbooks of Museum StudiesThe following four substantial state-of-the-art volumes will be published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2015.

Museum Theory (eds Andrea Witcomb and Kylie Message)

Museum Practice (ed. Conal McCarthy)

Museum Media (ed. Michelle Henning)

Museum Transformations (eds Annie Coombes and Ruth Phillips)


Full publications list

Please note: links to articles and chapters are provided under terms of fair academic use and not for redistribution.

Authored books

Edited books and journal special issues

  • Macdonald, Sharon & Basu, Paul. ed. Exhibition Experiments. New Interventions in Art History. Malden, USA; Oxford, UK; Victoria, Canada: Blackwell, 2007.
  • Hautaniemi, Perti, Jerman, Helena & Macdonald, Sharon. ed. Anthropological Perspectives on Social Memory. Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures. Berlin etc: LIT, 2006.
  • Macdonald, Sharon. Companion to Museum Studies. Companions in Cultural Studies. Malden, USA; Oxford, UK; Victoria, Canada: Blackwell, 2006. Choice Outstanding Academic Title. Greek translation published 2013.
  • Macdonald, Sharon. ed. Materializing Sheffield: Place, Culture, Identity, Sheffield. Sheffield: Humanities Research Institute, 2006
  • Edwards, Jeanette, Macdonald, Sharon & Savage, Mike. Edwards, Jeanette, Macdonald, Sharon & Savage, Mike. eds. Community, continuity and change in the study of Britain. 53(4), Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.
  • Hirsch, Eric & Macdonald, Sharon. eds. Creativity or Temporality?. Cambridge Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge Department of Social Anthropology, 2005.
  • Greverus, Ina-Maria, Regina Römhild, Sharon Macdonald, Gisela Welz and Helena Wulff, 2002, (eds), Shifting Grounds: Experiments in Doing Ethnography, special issue of Anthropological Journal on European Cultures, 2002 
  • Macdonald, Sharon with Fausser, Katia. Approaches to European Historical Consciousness. Hamburg: Körber Foundation, 2000.
  • Macdonald, Sharon. The Politics of Display. London: Routledge, 1998.
  • Macdonald, Sharon & Fyfe, Gordon. eds. Theorizing Museums. Sociological Review Monographs. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.
  • Macdonald, Sharon ed.Science on Display, guest editor special issue of Science as Culture, 1995.
  • Macdonald, Sharon. Inside European Identities. Oxford: Berg, 1993.
  • Macdonald, Sharon, Ardener, Shirley & Holden, Pat. eds. Images of Women in Peace and War. Cross-cultural Studies of Women. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1987.


Journal articles

  • Sharon Macdonald 2015 (in press) 'How things matter: stories from Nuremberg', Zeitschrift für Volkskunde, Sharon Macdonald 2014 (in translation into Bulgarian) 'Making differences and making citizens in ethnographic museums', Bulgarian Ethnology
  •  Sharon Macdonald, 2014, ‘Europa jako kraina pamieçi/ Europe as a Memoryland’, Herito: Dziedzietwo, kultura, wspólezesnosé / Heritage, culture and the present, No.13: 30-39
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2014 ‘Exit through the gift shop’, in in Lëtzebuerger Land (MuséeSupplement).
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2012 Vom Leben im Kleinem: Du schon wieder (PDF  , 183kb)Kulturaustausch, 11/12: 24-5
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2011, 'The Shop. Multiple Economies of Things in Museums (PDF  , 618kb), in Friedrich von Bose, Kerstin Poehls, Franka Schneider and Annett Schulze (eds), MuseumX. Zur Neuvermessung eines mehrdimensionalen Raumes, Berliner Blätter/Panama, pp. 37-48.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2010, ‘Ιστορία ως κοινωνικό ζήτημα’ (‘History as a social issue’), Tetradia Mouseiologias, 2010, special issue on Museums and Social Issues, edited by Alexandra Bounia, pp. 14–22.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2010, ‘Globalisierung, die kosmopolitische Kultur und ein “schmutziges Erbe”’, Museumskunde, 75, no. 2, pp. 13–18.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2009, Reassembling Nuremberg, reassembling heritage (PDF  , 502kb)Journal of Cultural Economy, 2, nos. 1-2, pp. 117–34.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2008, ‘Museum Europe. Negotiating heritage (PDF  , 120kb)’, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 17, pp. 47–65.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2007, Interconnecting: museum visiting and exhibition design (PDF  , 154kb), CoDesign, 3, no. 1, pp. 149–62; reprinted as ‘Museumsbesuch und Ausstellungsdesign’ in D. Harrasser et al., (eds), Wissen Spielen, Bielefeld: Transcript, 2011, pp. 237–59.
  • Sophie Chevalier, Jeanette Edwards, Sharon Macdonald and Sylvie Muller, 2007, ‘L’anthropologie de la Grande-Bretagne: une discipline en plein essor’, Ethnologie Française, special issue on L’anthropologie de la Grande-Bretagne, XXXVII, no. 2, pp. 197–213.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2007, ‘Schwierige Geschichte – umstrittene Austellungen’, Museumskunde, 74, no. 1, pp. 75–84.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2007, ‘Stormy waters: Interpreting slavery comment and analysis’, Museums Journal, May 2007, pp. 18–19.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2006, ‘Mediating heritage: tour guides at the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds, Nuremberg’, Tourist Studies, 6, no. 2, pp. 119–38.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2006, Words in stone? Agency and identity in a Nazi landscape (PDF  , 330kb), Journal of Material Culture, 11, nos. 1–2, pp. 105–26.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2006, ‘Undesirable heritage: historical consciousness and Fascist material culture in Nuremberg’, International Journal of Heritage Research, 12, no. 1, pp. 9–28. Top 10 download in 2011. Shorter Portuguese version published as ‘Heranças difíceis. Identidade e relíquias nazis na Alemanha’ in E. Peralta and M. Anico, (eds), Partimónios e Identidades. Ficções Contemporâneas, Oeiras: Celta, 2006, pp. 103–10.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2006, ‘Reviewing museum studies in the age of the reader’, Museum & society, 4, no. 3, pp. 166–72.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2005, ‘Accessing audiences: visiting visitor books’, Museum and Society, 3, no. 3, pp. 119–36.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2004, ‘Reflecting on three decades of Hebridean ethnography’, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, 24, no. 2, pp. 165–7.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2003, ‘Museums, national, postnational and transcultural identities’, Museum and Society, 1, no. 1, pp. 1–16 (online: museumstudies/m&s/m&sframeset.html). Refereed and revised version of article published in German in R. Beier, (ed.), Geschichtskultur in der Zweiten Moderne, Frankfurt/New York: Campus, 2000, pp. 123–48 [cited as (40) above]. Reprinted in L. Smith, (ed.), Cultural Heritage: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, Volume II Critical Concepts in Heritage, Abingdon: Routledge, 2007, pp. 114–35. Translated into Chinese in Research on Marxist Aesthetics, 13, no. 2 (2011), pp. 72–90; reprinted also in Bettina Messias Carbonnell, (ed.), Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts, Oxford: Blackwell, 2012, pp. 273-86.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2003, ‘“Neu-alte” Formen der Präsentation in Wissen­schaftsmuseen’, Museumskunde, 68, no. 1, pp. 91–5.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2002, ‘Trafficking in history: multitemporal practices’, Anthropological Journal on European Cultures, 11, pp. 93–116.
  • Sharon Macdonald and Rosemary Deem, 2002, ‘Past, present, future: half a century of The Sociological Review new series’, Sociological Review, 50, no. 1 (February 2002), pp. v–x.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2001, ‘Controversial figures’, Museums Journal, 101, no. 12, pp. 22–5.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2001, ‘A village reviewed: reflections on belonging and local knowledge’, ShoP, July 2001, pp. 10–18 (online: academic/R-Z/socst.ShoP.4html).
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2000, ‘“A bheil am feur gorm fhathast?”: some problems concerning language and cultural shift’, Scottish Studies, 33, pp. 187–98.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1999, ‘Behind the scenes at the Science Museum: knowing, making and using’, Focaal: Tidschrift voor Antropologie, 134, pp. 119–39. Slightly revised version reprinted in M. Bouquet, (ed.), Back to the Future: Academic Anthropology and the Museum, Oxford: Berghahn, 2001, pp. 117–40.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1999, ‘The Gaelic renaissance and Scottish identities’, Scottish Affairs, February 1999, pp. 100–18.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1998, ‘Visions of Anthropology: “What’s the goddamn point?”’ (review article of L. A. Kuznar, Reclaiming a Scientific Anthropology, AltaMira, 1997; J. MacClancy, (ed.), Popularizing Anthropology, London:Routledge, 1996; and J. D. Moore, Visions of Culture, AltaMira, 1997), Sociology, 32, no. 4, pp. 875–80.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1995, ‘Consuming science: public knowledge and the dispersed politics of reception among museum visitors’, Media, Culture and Society, 17, no. 1, pp. 13–29. Reprinted in A. Corsin Jimenez, (ed.), The Anthropology of Organisations, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1995, ‘Supermarket Science?’, Science as Culture, 5, no. 1, pp. 106–23.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1993, ‘Un nouveau “corps des visiteurs”: musées et changements culturels’, Publics et Musées, 3, June 1993, pp. 13–27.
  • Sharon Macdonald 1992, ‘Science on display: the representation of scientific controversy in museum exhibitions’, Public Understanding of Science, 1, no. 1, pp. 69–87.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1992, ‘Cultural imagining among museum visitors: a case study’, International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, 11, no. 4, pp. 401–9. Shortened version published as ‘Understanding visitors’ preconceptions’ in Gail Durbin, (ed.), Developing Museum Exhibitions for Lifelong Learning, London: Stationery Office, 1996. Reprinted in E. Hooper-Greenhill, (ed.), Education in Museums, London/New York: Routledge, 1999, pp. 269–77.
  • Sharon Macdonald 1990, ‘Rewriting the Museums’ Fictions: Taxonomies, Stories and Readers’, Cultural Studies, 4, no. 2, pp. 176–91. Reprinted in J. Evans and D. Boswell, (eds), Representing the Nation: A Reader, London/New York: Routledge, 1999, pp. 421–34.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1990, ‘Posing Questions about the Purposes of Museums’, Current Anthropology, 31, no. 2, pp. 225–8.


Book contributions

  • Sharon Macdonald 2014 (in press) 'Memory crevices', in T.Adler and K.Harrasser (eds) Doing Memory
  • Sharon Macdonald 2014 ‘Migrating heritage, networks and networking: Europe and Islamic heritage’, in P.Innocenti (ed.) Migrating Heritage: Experiences of Cultural Networks and Dialogues in Europe, Farnham: Ashgate, pp.53-64.
  • Paul Basu and Sharon Macdonald 2014 ‘Experimente in Ausstellung, Ethnographie, Kunst und Wissenschaft’, in S.Kamel and C.Gerbich  (eds) Experimentierfeld Museologie, pp. 71-95.
  • Sharon Macdonald 2013 'Difficult heritage/Eredita Difficili', in m.Bassanelli and G.Postiglione (eds) Re-Enacting the Past. Museography for Conflict Heritage/ Riattivare il Passato. La Museografia per L'Eredita' del Conflitti, Siracusa: Lettera Ventidue, pp. 56-73
  • Sharon Macdonald 2012 ‘Nuevos pasos hacia el patrimonio transcultural’, in Iñaki Díaz Balerdi (ed.) Otras maneras de musealizar el patrimonio, Bilbao: Universidad del Pais Vasco, pp. 79-98.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2012, ‘Presencing Europe’s pasts’, in Ulrich Kockel, Mairead NicCraith and Jonas Frykman, (eds), Blackwell Companion to the Anthropology of Europe, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 233-52
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2011, ‘The Shop. Multiple Economies of Things in Museums (PDF  , 618kb)’, in Friedrich von Bose, Kerstin Poehls, Franka Schneider and Annett Schulze (eds), MuseumX. Zur Neuvermessung eines mehrdimensionalen Raumes, Berliner Blätter/Panama, pp. 37-48.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2011, Ex-siting and Insighting: ethnographic engagements with place and community (PDF  , 123kb), in Gisela Welz, Tonia Davidovic-Walther and Anke S.Weber (eds), Epistemische Orte. Gemeinde und Region als Forschungsformate, Frankfurt: Institut für Kulturantropolgie und Europaeische Ethnologie, pp. 29-43.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2010, ‘Exhibition experiments: publics, politics and scientific controversy’, in Roger Gaillard, (ed.), Exposer des Idées, Questionner des Savoirs, Editions Alphil–Presses universitaires suisses, pp. 195-203; version also published in Anastasia Filippoupoliti, 2010, (ed.), Science Exhibitions: Curation and Design, Edinburgh: MuseumsEtc, pp. 124–37.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2010, ‘Museen erforschen. Für eine Museumswissenschaft in der Erweiterung’, in Joachim Baur, (ed.) Museumsanalyse, Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, pp. 49–69.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2009, Unsettling memories. Intervention and controversy over difficult public heritage (PDF  , 155kb), in Marta Anico and Elsa Peralta, (eds), Heritage and Identity. Engagement and Demission in the Contemporary World, London: Routledge, pp. 93–104. Translated into Chinese in Research on Marxist Aesthetics, 2008, pp. 195–206.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2009, Making ethics (PDF  , 205kb), in M. Melhuus, J. Mitchell and H. Wulff, (eds), Ethnographic Practice in the Present, Oxford: Berghahn (EASA series), pp. 80–94.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2009, ‘Heritage Complex: Anthropological Perspectives’, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 18, no. 2, pp. 140-46.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2008, Memory, materiality and tourism (PDF  , 504kb), in Birgit Braasch, (ed.), Major Concepts in Tourism Research – Memory, CTCC Research Papers, pp. 3–11, online: ISBN 978-0-9560099-0-6.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2008, ‘Difficult Heritage: Unsettling History’, in Marie-Paule Jungblut and Rosmarie Beier de-Haan, (eds), Museums and Universal Heritage. History in the Area of Conflict Between Interpretation and Manipulation, Luxembourg: ICMAH, pp. 8–15.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2007, Changing cultures, changing rooms: fashioning identities (PDF  , 110kb), in D. Bryceson, J. Okely and J. Webber, (eds),Fashioning Identities and Weaving Networks: Gender and Ethnicity in a Cross-Cultural Context, Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 21–37.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2007, ‘Titi Ikoli in the academy’, in D. Bryceson, J. Okely and J. Webber, (eds),Fashioning Identities and Weaving Networks: Gender and Ethnicity in a Cross-Cultural Context, Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 265–6.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2006, ‘Collecting Practices’, in S. Macdonald, (ed.), Companion to Museum Studies, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 81–97.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2005, ‘Locality and community: a West Highland parish’, in J. Beech, O. Hand, M. A. Mulhern and J. Weston, (eds), The Individual and Community Life, volume 9 of Scottish Life and Society. A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, Edinburgh: John Donald, in association with the European Ethnological Research Institute and the National Museums of Scotland, pp. 403–19.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2005, ‘Commemorating the Holocaust. Reconfiguring national identity in the twenty-first (PDF  , 1,369kb), in J. Littler and R. Naidoo, (eds), The Politics of Heritage: The Legacies of Race, London: Routledge, pp. 49–68.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2005, ‘Enchantment and its dilemmas: the museum as a ritual site’, in M. Bouquet and N. Porto, (eds), Science, Magic and Religion: The Ritual Processes of Museum Magic, Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 209–27.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2002, ‘Museums and identities: materializing German culture’, in A. Phipps, (ed.), Contemporary German Cultural Studies, London: Arnold, pp. 117–31.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2002, ‘Alternative identities, alternative histories? Scottish nationalism and European supra-nationalism’, in A. Pók, J. Rüsen and J. Scherrer, (eds), European History: Challenge for a Common Future, Hamburg: Körber, pp. 223–43.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2002, ‘On “old things”: the fetishization of past everyday life’, in N. Rapport, (ed.), British Subjects: An Anthropology of Britain, Oxford and New York: Berg, pp. 89–106. Reprinted in L. Smith, (ed.), Cultural Heritage: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, Volume II Critical Concepts in Heritage, Abingdon: Routledge,2007, pp. 269–86.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2002, ‘Exhibitions and the paradox of public understanding of science’, in J. Brüning, (ed.), Ausstellungen als Instrument der Wissen­vermittlung/Exhibitions as a Tool for Transmitting Knowledge, pp. 1–24 (online: Reproduced on the Pantaneto Forum, Issue 13, January 2004 (online:
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2001, ‘British Social Anthropology’, in P. Atkinson, A. Coffey, S. Delamont, J. Lofland and L. Lofland, (eds), The Handbook of Ethnography, London/Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 60–79.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2000, ‘Nationale, postnationale, transkulturelle Identitäten und das Museum’, in R. Beier, (ed.), Geschichtskultur in der Zweiten Moderne, Frankfurt/New York: Campus, pp. 123–48.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2000, ‘Historical consciousness “from below”: anthropological reflections’, in S. Macdonald, (ed.), European Historical Consciousness, Hamburg: Koerber Stiftung, pp. 86–102.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1999, ‘Ethnography in the Science Museum’, in D. N. Gellner and E. Hirsch, (eds), The Ethnography of Organizations: A Reader (National Network for Teaching and Learning Anthropology), Uxbridge: Brunel University, pp. 69–86. Slightly revised version published in D. Gellner and E. Hirsch, (eds), Inside Organizations: Anthropologists at Work, Oxford and New York: Berg, 2001, pp. 77–96.Ethnography in the Science Museum (PDF  , 4,775kb)
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1998, ‘Supermarket science? Consumers and the “public understanding of science”’, in S. Macdonald, (ed.), The Politics of Display, pp. 118–38.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1998, ‘Afterword: from war to debate?’, in S. Macdonald, (ed.), The Politics of Display, pp. 229–36.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1997, ‘The museum as mirror: ethnographic reflections’, in A. Dawson, J. Hockey and A. James, (eds), After Writing Culture: Epistemology and Praxis in Contemporary Anthropology (Association of Social Anthropologists monograph), London/New York: Routledge, pp. 161–76.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1997, ‘A people’s story? Heritage, identity and authenticity’, in C. Rojek and J. Urry, (eds), Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory, London/New York: Routledge, pp. 155–75. Reprinted in G. Corsane, (ed.), Heritage, Galleries, Museums: A Reader, London: Routledge, 2004, pp. 272–90.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1996, ‘Authorising science: public understanding of science in museums’, in A. Irwin and B. Wynne, (eds), Misunderstanding Science? The Public Reconstruction of Science and Technology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 152–71.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1994, ‘Whisky, women and the Scottish drink problem: A view from the Highlands’, in M. McDonald, (ed.), Gender, Drink and Drugs, Oxford and Providence: Berg, pp. 125–42.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1993, ‘The socialisation of the natural and the naturalisation of the social’, in S. Ardener, (ed.), Defining Females, Oxford and Providence: Berg, pp. 187–208.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1993, ‘Democracy and enterprise: embodiments in an exhibition space’, Anthropology in Action (special issue on space and place), 15, pp. 9–12.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1993, ‘The enigma of the visitor sphinx’, in S. Bicknell and G. Farmelo, (eds), Museum Visitor Studies in the 90s, London: Science Museum, pp. 77–81.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1987, ‘Boadicea: warrior, mother and myth’, in S. Macdonald, P. Holden and S. Ardener, (eds), Images of Women in Peace and War, pp. 40–61.


  • Sharon Macdonald and Paul Basu, 2007, Introduction: experiments in exhibition, ethnography, art and science (PDF  , 491kb), in S. Macdonald and P. Basu, (eds), Exhibition Experiments, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 1–24.
  • Eric Hirsch and Sharon Macdonald, 2007, ‘Introduction’ to ‘Part III: Creativity and the passage of time: history, tradition and the life-course’, in E. Hallam and T. Ingold, (eds), Creativity and Cultural Improvisation, ASA volume, Oxford: Berg, pp. 185–92.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2006, ‘Expanding museum studies: an introduction’, in S. Macdonald, (ed.), Companion to Museum Studies, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 1–12. Also contains introductions to the six sections.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2006, editorial introduction and commentary, in S. Macdonald, (ed.), Materializing Sheffield: Place, Culture, Identity, Sheffield: Humanities Research Institute, online:
  • Eric Hirsch and Sharon Macdonald, 2005, ‘Creativity or temporality? An introduction’, in E. Hirsch and S. Macdonald, (eds), Creativity or Temporality?, special issue of Cambridge Anthropology, 25, no. 2, pp. 1–4.
  • Sharon Macdonald, Jeanette Edwards and Mike Savage, 2005, Community, continuity and change in the study of Britain (PDF  , 81kb), in J. Edwards, S. Macdonald and M. Savage, (eds), Community, continuity and change in the study of Britain: A Festschrift for Ronnie Frankenberg, special issue of The Sociological Review, 53, no. 4, pp. 587–602.
  • Sharon Macdonald, Ina Maria Greverus, Regina Römhild, Gisela Welz and Helena Wulff, 2002, ‘Editors’ Introduction: Shifting Grounds: Experiments in doing Ethnography’, in I. M. Greverus, R. Römhild, S. Macdonald, G. Welz and H. Wulff, (eds), Shifting Grounds: Experiments in Doing Ethnography, special issue of Anthropological Journal on European Cultures, 2002, pp. 1–9.
  • Sharon Macdonald and Katja Fausser, 2000, ‘Towards European Historical Consciousness: an introduction’, in S. Macdonald, (ed.), European Historical Consciousness, Hamburg: Koerber Stiftung, pp. 9–30.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1998, ‘Exhibitions of power and powers of exhibition: an introduction to the politics of display’, in S. Macdonald, (ed.), The Politics of Display, pp. 1–24. Reprinted in S. Watson, (ed.), Museums and their Communities, Routledge, 2007, pp. 176–96.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1996, ‘Introduction: theorizing museums’, in S. Macdonald and G. Fyfe, (eds), Theorizing Museums: Identity and Diversity in a Changing World, Oxford and New York: Blackwell, pp. 1–18.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1995, ‘Science on display’, in S. Macdonald, (ed.), Science on Display, guest editor special issue of Science as Culture, 1995, pp. 7–11.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1993, ‘Identity complexes in Western Europe: social anthropological perspectives’, in S. Macdonald, (ed.), Inside European Identities: Ethnography in Western Europe, Oxford and Providence: Berg, pp. 1–26.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1987, ‘Drawing the lines – gender, peace and war: an introduction’, in S. Macdonald, P. Holden and S. Ardener, (eds), Images of Women in Peace and War, pp. 1–26.


Papers published in conference and other proceedings

  • Sharon Macdonald, 2009, ‘Exhibition experiments: publics, politics and scientific controversy’, in R. Gaillard, (ed.), Exposer des Idées, questioner des savoirs, Neuchatel.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2007, ‘Migratory practices – discussant comments on Emma Martin and Hamid van Koten papers’, in A. Ravetz and J. Webb, (ed.), Migratory Practices.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 2005, ‘Tourist performance on a Nazi staging ground’, in D. Picard and M. Robinson, (eds), Scripts, Stages and Stories. Proceedings of Tourism and Cultural Change Conference, Sheffield: Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1993, ‘Gaelic and cultural identity: ethnographic perspectives’, in K. MacKinnon, (ed.), Fasgnag II (conference proceedings), Hatfield:University of Hertfordshire Press, 11 pp.
  • Sharon Macdonald, 1993, ‘“A bheil am feur gorm fhathast?”: some problems concerning language and cultural shift’, in K. MacKinnon, (ed.), Fasgnag II (conference proceedings), Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press, 14 pp.


Contact details

Prof. Sharon Macdonald
Department of Sociology
University of York
North Yorkshire
YO10 5DD

External activities


Professional Associations

  • Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and member of the Publications Committee
  • Member of the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA)
  • Member of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)
  • Member of the Museums Association (MA)
  • Member of SIEF – International Society for Ethnology and Folklore
  • Member of the Association for Critical Heritage Studies
  • Member of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES)

Advisory panels for research projects (selected)

  • Understanding Everyday Participation: Articulating Cultural Values, AHRC research project, 2012-16
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Non-European Collections in Military Culture, Royal Society of Edinburgh, Co-I (PIs- National Museum of Scotland, Co-Is include National Army Museum), 2012-13
  • Waste of the World, ESRC research project, 2006-11
  • Exhibiting Europe, Norwegian Research Council research project, 2007-11
  • Environments of Memory, ESRC, 2004-6

Museum and heritage advisory and steering committees (selected)

  • Critical Heritage Studies, Gothenburg University, 2013-15
  • Medical Museion, Copenhagen, steering committee member (since 2007)
  • Natural History Museum, Berlin, Leibniz Foundation international evaluation committee, 2012
  • Living Planet, Manchester Museum, advisor and contributor, 2011


Editorial duties


  • Science Museum Journal (since 2013), editorial board member
  • THEMA: La Revue de la Musee de la Civilisation (since 2013), editorial board member
  • Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, editorial committee member (since 2006; joint editor 2001-6)
  • Anthropology in Action, consulting editor (since 2005)
  • International Journal of Heritage Studies, editorial board member (since 2009)
  • Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, editorial board member (since 2002)
  • Memory Studies, editorial board member (since 2008)
  • Museum and Society, editorial board member (since 2003)
  • The Sociological Review, editorial board member (since 1992; joint managing editor 1996-2002)


Book series

  • International Handbooks of Museum Studies (Wiley-Blackwell 2015) - Managing editor with Helen Rees Leahy, Wiley-Blackwell
  • Museums and Collections, editorial board member, Berghahn (since 2007)

Invited talks and conferences

Since 2007

‘Anthropological perspectives on museums and heritage’, Bridging the Gap between Museums and Archaeological Sites: Insights for Turkey, Ertegün Scholarship Programme in the Humanities, University of Oxford, May 2014.

‘”Nothing real”: aura, affect and the dilemmas of displaying Nazi objects’, Department of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, May 2014.

‘Past-presencing and the heritage-identity complex’, Doctoral programme in Anthropology, University of Lisbon, March 2013.

'On Heritage, nostalgia and authenticity: commonalities and diversities in past-presencing in Europe', keynote lecture to Historical Sociolinguistics Network conference, Shefield, February 2014

'There are always alternatives', Yorktalks Shining a Light on Research, University of York, January 2014

'Culture, Society and Globalization' Southwestern University of Nationalities, Chengdu, December 2013

'How to do things with J.L.Austin: performatives in philosophy and anthropology', with Michael Beaney, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Beijing University, December 2013

'Anthropological approaches to cultural heritage', Chinese National Academy of Arts, Beijing, December 2013

Memorylands: Heritage and Identity in Europe Today', School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, October 2013

‘How things matter: stories from Nuremberg’, opening conference lecture at Materialisierung von Kultur: Diskurse, Dinge, Praktiken’, conference of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde, Nuremberg, September 2013

‘Cultural difference: nationhood and the making of citizens in Europe’s ethnographic museums’, The Future of the Ethnographic Museum, Oxford, July 2013

Commentator at Political Apologies workshop, Department of Politics, University of York, June 2013

‘Exit through the gift shop. Social and cultural perspectives on museum shopping’. Whose business is heritage? Workshop, jointly organised by Department of Archaeology and Department of Management, University of York, April 2013

Opening address to The Contemporary Other, postgraduate conference, Department of Sociology, University of York, April 2013

Invited commentary at Generic Ethics Principles in Social Science Research, Association of Social Sciences, London, April 2013

‘Cultural heritage and tourism of painful pasts’, Department of Tourism, South-Eastern University, Nanjing, March 2013

‘Memorializing trauma’, Department of Art History, Peking University, Beijing, March 2013

‘Post-socialist nostalgia in Europe’, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Peking University, Beijing, March 2013

‘The tourist gaze, body and affect at sites of difficult heritage’, opening keynote lecture, Performance – Memory – Museum, German-Israel Foundation, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, January 2013

‘Transnational heritage and Europe’, Migrating Heritage, MeLa conference, Glasgow, December 2012

‘Transnational heritage and aesthetics’, World Art Research Seminar, University of East Anglia, November 2012

Carried away or not? Towards an anthropology of museum shopping’, York Heritage Research Seminars, University of York, October 2012

‘Making and re-making Nazi heritage’, Cultural Heritage: New Insights, York European Centre for Cultural Exploration, October 2012

‘Cosmopolitan memory’, keynote lecture Ethics and Aesthetics of Memory, Mnemonics: network for memory studies (collaboration of universities of Aarhus, Linköping, Ghent, Stockholm, Goldsmiths, Columbia and Illinois), Aarhus, Denmark, September 2012

‘Cosmopolitan heritage’, keynote lecture, Globalizing Culture and Identities, Global Studies Association annual conference, Manchester Metropolitan University, July 2012

‘Anthropology in museums/anthropology of museums’, Museum Ethnographers Group panel, Anthropology in the World, London, June 2012

‘Will it soon be over?’, keynote lecture, Re-theorizing Heritage, Inaugural Association of Critical Heritage Studies conference, Gothenburg, Sweden, June 2012

‘Cultural diversity and museums: debates and approaches in Europe’, Peking University public lecture, December 2011.

‘Difficult heritage: developments and debates in Europe’, Central University of Nationalities, Beijing, December 2011.

‘Developments in UK anthropology: from functionalism to cultural critique’, ‘Themes in recent UK anthropology: museums, heritage and material culture’, ‘Cultural diversity and museums: developments and approaches in Europe’, Nationalities Research Institute, Yunnan University, Kunming, December 2011.

‘Cultural diversity and museums: debates and approaches in Europe’, Chinese Academy of Arts, Beijing, November 2011.

‘Cultural diversity and museums: debates and approaches in Europe’, Central University of Nationalities, Beijing, November 2011.

‘Anthropology and museums: theory and practice’, ‘Collecting, classifying and exhibiting cultures’, ‘Anthropology, museums and identity’, ‘Forms of display and controversies’, ‘Challenges, experiments, possibilities?’, Faculty of Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, November 2011.

‘Difficult heritage: addressing the past in European identity today’, China University of Political Science and Law, Changping, Beijing, November 2011

‘Difficult heritage’, Institute of Sociology and Social Anthropology, public lecture, Peking University, October 2011.

‘Language, cultural diversity and identity’, Faculty of Letters and Ainu Research Institute, University of Hokkaido, October 2011.

‘Museums and the contact zone’, opening address, Revisiting the Contact Zone: Museums, Theory, Practice, European Science Foundation, Linköping, Sweden, July 2011.

‘Theorizing Musealization’, keynote lecture at The Past on Display: Museums, Musealization, Film, York University, Toronto, April 2011.

‘Authentizität’, Grundbegriffe des Museums, Tübingen University, April 2011.

‘Carrried away or not? Towards an anthropology of museum shopping’, Art Gallery and Museum Studies seminar, Manchester University, November 2010.

‘Past presencing: true stories and partial facts’, Storytelling: Imagination and the Past, Humanities Research Centre, University of York, November 2010.

‘Negotiating tainted space: Nuremberg’s Nazi party rally grounds’, School of Advanced research senior seminar, Lisbon, November 2010.

‘Museums and transnationality’, keynote lecture to University of Applied Arts, Vienna, visit to London, June 2010.

‘Museums and the globalization of culture’, keynote opening lecture to the Deutscher Museumsbund (German Museums Association) Kulturelles Erbe und Transformation – Museen im Zeichen gesellschaftlichen Wandels, European Capital of Culture conference, Dortmund, May 2010.

‘What is the more effective way to study the individual’s emotion and their society: anthropology or psychology?’, anthropology speaker in debate with psychologist; event organised by student Anthropology Society and Psychology Society, University of Manchester, April 2010.

‘Directions in an Anthropology of/in Europe’, keynote opening lecture of Re-Vision – die Kultur(en) der Gesellschaft. Horizonte und Perspektiven der Europäischen Ethnologie, Humboldt University, Berlin, January 2010.

‘Post-national museums?’, keynote lecture, National Museums in a Transnational Age, Monash University Centre, Prato, Italy, November 2009.

‘Crossing borders and disciplines: the resurgence of “community”?’, keynote opening lecture, Raumbezüge der Forschung – Plausibilisierung von Wissen:Gemeinde und Region als epistemische Orte, Frankfurt University, Germany, October 2009.

‘World museums’, Inaugural London Debate, London School of Advanced Study, May 2009.

Difficult heritage: negotiating the Nazi past in Nuremberg and beyond’ (The Whitesell Lecture: university public lecture), Museum Studies, University of Michigan, March 2009.

‘Exhibition Experiments: publics, politics and scientific controversy’, Assises du Reseau Romand Science et Cité, Exposer des Idées, questioner des Savoirs, Neuchatel, January 2009.

Participation in panel Show Business: The Role of Exhibitions and Events in Museums and Galleries, at Material Worlds conference, University of Leicester, December 2008.

‘Cosmopolitan Heritage’, keynote lecture, Globalized Heritage conference,Department of Anthropology and Ethnography,University of Aarhus, December 2008.

Discussant at On a Knife’s Edge: the Ethics of Weapons Display in Museums, Royal Armouries, Leeds, October 2008.

‘Social space, performed experience and exhibition design’, Space and Truth symposium, Zurich, October 2008.

‘Who is responsible for advocacy and how can it be done effectively?’, panel member, Curating the Future, Renaissance North-West, Manchester, September 2008.

‘Reassembling Nuremberg’s Heritage’, Culture and Citizenship, CRESC conference, Oxford, September 2008 (expenses not covered).

‘Doing difference differently? Museums and cultural diversity’, public lecture organised by University of the Arts, Vienna, June 2008.

‘Museum Europe: negotiating heritage’, keynote address SIEF (International Society for Ethnology and Folklore) annual conference ‘Transcending “European heritages”: liberating the ethnological imagination’, University of Ulster, June, 2008.

‘Anthropological approaches to museum objects’, Objects-Bodies-Ritual, Artakt, V&A, May 2008.

‘Users of morally charged spaces: Nuremberg Rally Grounds’, Whose Culture? Exploring the Active Audience, Central and East European Language-based Area Studies, HRI, Sheffield, May 2008.

‘Memory, Materiality and Tourism’, Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change, Leeds Metropolitan University, April 2008.

‘Exhibition experiments: what can science-art do?’, SATSU, University of York, March 2008.

‘Assembling Nuremberg’s Nazi Heritage’, Assembling Culture, CRESC and University of Melbourne, Melbourne, December 2007.

‘Can we escape the museum?’, inaugural lecture, University of Manchester, October 2007.

Invited participant at ‘Biomedicine and aesthetics in a museum context’, Museion, Copenhagen, Denmark, August 2007.

‘Difficult Heritage; Unsettling History’, keynote address to ICMAH (International Committee for Museums of Archaeology and History) annual conference, Vienna, August 2007.

‘Towards an affective syntax of exhibition design: social and cultural perspectives’, Affective Communication in Design, White Rose network conference, Leeds, June 2007.

‘What moves? Museums and transculturalism’, keynote lecture, University of Basel and Basel Ethnographic Museum, June 2007.

Invited participant at ‘Articulating theory and ethnography in urban studies’, Center for Metropolitan Studies of the Technical University of Berlin, May 2007.