An exceptionally bold interdisciplinary scholar known as “Professor Rave” has died.
Steve Redhead was born in Shropshire in January 1952 and studied law at what would later become the University of Manchester. He spent most of his career at what is now Manchester Metropolitan University, eventually as the world’s first professor of law and popular culture (1997-2003), and played a major role in the development of entertainment law. He was also the founder of the Manchester Institute for Popular Culture, where his research on acid house and rave culture earned him the nickname “Professor Rave”.
After leaving Manchester Metropolitan, Professor Redhead was a visiting professor at Murdoch University, Australia (2002-03), and then chair of the Creative Industries Taskforce for the government of Western Australia (2003-04). He returned to the UK as professor of sport and media at the University of Brighton (2005-11) and, after shorter stints at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the University of Bolton, became professor of sports media and later professor of jurisprudence at Charles Sturt University in Australia (2013-15). He ended his career as professor of cultural studies at Flinders University, also in Australia, where vice-chancellor Colin Stirling described him as “a global citizen who was never afraid to push boundaries”, who had “influenced and inspired tens of thousands of students” and left “a legacy of cultural inspiration”.
Utterly committed to interdisciplinarity and the potential of new digital media, Professor Redhead published 17 books and hundreds of articles in areas ranging from football, popular music and leisure to socio-legal studies. He was also known as a leading interpreter of the work of Paul Virilio and Jean Baudrillard. His latest book, Theoretical Times (2017), drew on his podcasts and vodcasts and used such thinkers to develop alternatives to a political scene dominated by populism, neoliberalism and the rise of the far right. He had also finished a book titled Trump Studies: An Intellectual Guide to Why Citizens Vote Against their Interests but left uncompleted Moving on Up: Physical Cultural Studies in Third-Tier Cities, which his widow, Tara Brabazon, professor of cultural studies at Flinders, will prepare for publication.
Martin James, professor of music industries at Southampton Solent University, recalled how Professor Redhead had been crucial in helping him to move on from journalism and gain the “confidence to embrace academia…He gave so much to the academic community through his game-changing work. But he also gave a huge amount through those moments of quiet support, the positive comments on social media, the confidence-boosting advice and the inclusive conversation.”
Professor Redhead died of pancreatic cancer on 8 March and is survived by Professor Brabazon.