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Tim is a sociologist by training, and has previously held positions at the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, University of Sydney and the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. Tim's research interests cover a number of heritage related themes: how the concept is shaped epistemologically through certain knowledge practices; and how it figures in issues like nationalism, cultural diplomacy, post-conflict recovery, sustainability, postcolonial identities and urban development. Much of his work focuses on the developing economies of Asia, with projects currently being pursued in Cambodia, Qatar, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
Building on previous work in Cambodia and other post-conflict contexts Tim is currently developing a research project on heritage conservation as cultural diplomacy. The project traces the history of this arena from the European colonial period, via the cold war era through to the 'rise of Asia'. It addresses the role heritage conservation has played in international relations, and how it comes to be institutionally structured via an elaborate dance between an ethos of global cosmopolitanism and the individual interests of nations. Looking at the contemporary moment, he is interested in the crisis now facing the world heritage movement, and the interconnections between the systemic politicisation of the process and the politics of heritage governance at the local level.
Tim's other key research area focuses on built environment sustainability in the context of rapid urban development in Asia and the Arabian Gulf. Casting its focus on air conditioning, this research considers how everyday material cultures and social practices associated with thermal comfort enable, reflect and constitute broader ideological abstractions of modernity, progress and development. His current ARC project, Cool living heritage in Southeast Asia: sustainable alternatives to air-conditioned cities sets out to understand the cultural, economic and physical transformations air-conditioning technologies have brought about, and pursues a more sustainable alternative, that of a 'cool living heritage'. The possibilities and obstacles for maintaining and reviving a wide variety of architectural and cultural practices of a pre-air-conditioning era are examined in order to consider how we might productively rethink the use of everyday technologies in relation to their wider socio-political contexts and the cultural changes necessary for more sustainable lifestyles. This ARC project addresses such issues in the context of Malacca and Singapore, and is a collaborative research initiative with Dr Jiat Hwee Chang and AP Johannes Widodo, at NUS, Singapore.
In 2010-11, he led a cross-disciplinary research project, involving 13 members of the Institute for Culture and Society, UWS, on the Shanghai Expo: Better City, Better Life. The project has generated a book, various journal articles, published photo essays and a video documentary. Shanghai Expo: an international Forum on the Future of Cities is published by Routledge. See: http://shanghaiexpobook.net
Tim has given keynote presentations in Australia, UK, France, US, Laos, Singapore and Cambodia, is editor of Historic Environment, on the editorial board of a number of journals, and has consulted for the Getty Conservation Institute, World Bank and World Monuments Fund. As a series editor for Routledge Studies in Culture and development, he also welcomes manuscript proposals.
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