John Higgins grew up in Bradford in the north of England, and studied at a comprehensive school there before taking up a scholarship to attend Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris, and then King's College, Cambridge.
From 1980 to 1985, he was a junior lecturer in the English Department at the University of Geneva, where he also became the founder and director of the Cultural Studies Group, which brought together artists and academics in a consideration of 'the present moment'. He joined UCT as a lecturer in 1986.
One of the first humanists to be awarded an A-rating by the National Research Foundation, he was elected a Fellow of UCT in 2003 and a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa in 2009. His monograph, Raymond Williams: Literature, Marxism and Cultural Materialism (Routledge 1999), won both the Altron National Book Award and the UCT Book Prize; and Blackwell published his Raymond Williams Reader in 2001.
He was founding editor of the influential journal, Pretexts: literary and cultural studies (1989-2003), and was granted an Award of Excellence by the Cape Tercentenary Foundation in 2000 for his services to literature and culture in South Africa. His main research interests are in contemporary literary and cultural theory, and debates in and around the politics of higher education, and his work intersects with the Archive & Public Culture project particularly in the areas of cultural memory and public culture, and why people think they think they think what they think without having thought it in the first place.
His study of Karl Marx – of Marx on the wanted list as 'Public Intellectual #1' – was published in the Routledge Critical Thinkers series in 2010, while Academic Freedom in the New South Africa appeared with Wits University Press. Professor Higgins also contributed a chapter on 'Making the Case for the Humanities' to the Academy of Science Consensus Panel Report, The State of the Humanities in South Africa.
He has several times been a Visiting Professor at Columbia University in New York and the International University in Germany, as well as at the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Witwatersrand, and is a regular contributor on higher education matters to the Mail & Guardian and the Times Higher Education supplement, as well as an occasional reviewer of thrillers for the Cape Times. email@example.com
Professor John Higgins was an Andrew W Mellon Research Fellow in the Archive & Public Culture research initiative in 2009 and 2010.