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Prof Esther Leslie

  • Overview



    Esther Leslie has research interests in political theories of aesthetics and culture and the poetics of science and technology, as well as animation, in an expanded sense. She has a particular focus on thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School, including Walter Benjamin, T.W. Adorno, Kracauer, Bloch. Recent work includes a thorough and experimental history of Weimar radio and BBC exile history through the figure of Ernst Schoen. She is also frequently engaged to work with and in museums  and galleries - recently, for two examples, on a history of the impact of ICI in Teesside and in relation to extensive artistic research investigations of milk and dairy. She has written on animation in its narrow and broadest senses. and co-runs a research platform: Animate Assembly She is academic lead for a museum in Somers Town that focuses on histories of locality and questions of social justice. 

    Her books include Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism (Pluto 2000), and Hollywood Flatlands, Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant Garde (Verso 2002), Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry (Reaktion, 2005) and Walter Benjamin (Reaktion 2007), Derelicts: Thought Worms from the Wreckage(Unkant, 2014), Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Fluid Form (Reaktion, 2016) and, with Melanie Jackson, Deeper in the Pyramid (Banner Repeater, 2018) and The Inextinguishable (EVA International, Limerick, 2020).

    She studied German and spent 2 years at the Free University in Berlin, which undergirds her translation practice. Her translations include Georg Lukacs, A Defence of 'History and Class Consciousness' (Verso 2002) and Walter Benjamin: The Archives (Verso, 2007), On Photography (Reaktion, 2015) and, with Sam Dolbear and Sebastian Truskolaski, Walter Benjamin The Storyteller: Tales out of Loneliness, (Verso, 2016).

    She is a Fellow of the British Academy.



    • Deeper in the Pyramid: Share of Throat with Melanie Jackson, in exhibition, Wellcome Gallery: 30 March – 10 September 2023

      The exhibition will include contemporary objects and artworks by Julia Bornefeld, Sarah Pucill, Hetain Patel, and Lucy + Jorge Orta, amongst others, as well as new commissions by Danielle Dean, Jess Dobkin, and Ilana Harris-Babou. It also features a 2023 iteration of ‘Deeper in the Pyramid’, Melanie Jackson and Esther Leslie’s major project exploring milk’s seepage into every aspect of our daily lives. 

      Wellcome: Milk exhibtion

    • Academic lead and founder of the People's Museum Somers Town: 

      Lost/Found: Somers Town

    • To celebrate Verso’s new edition of The Storyteller by Walter Benjamin, Esther Leslie (writer and translator of many books including The Storyteller, and Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, London) and Stuart Jeffries (journalist and author of many books including Grand Hotel Abyss) discuss the life and legacy of Walter Benjamin. From his relationship with his peers, the other members of the Frankfurt School, and his cultural heritage, to his use of, and feelings about, technological advancements, to his approach to storytelling, writing and language more broadly, join Esther and Stuart for this fascinating and wide-ranging discussion of one of Western Marxism's most important philosophers.

      On Walter Benjamin's Culture and Barbarism, video commissioned by Culture Matters site

      Walter Benjamin: Culture and Barbarism

      Transcript here

      Guest on Walter Benjamin: In Our Time, BBC Radio 4

      Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable philosopher and critic whose ideas, developed in the 1930s, became highly influential after his death while escaping the Holocaust.

      Walter Benjamin: In Our Time

    • New book coming soon:

      Dissonant Waves
      Ernst Schoen and Experimental Sound in the 20th century
      By Sam Dolbear and Esther Leslie

      Goldsmiths Press, 11 July 2023

      Dials, knobs, microphones, clocks; heads, hands, breath, voices. Ernst Schoen joined Frankfurt Radio in the 1920s as programmer and accelerated the potentials of this collision of bodies and technologies. As with others of his generation, Schoen experienced crisis after crisis, from the violence of war, the suicide of friends, economic collapse, and a brief episode of permitted experimentalism under the Weimar Republic for those who would foster aesthetic, technical, and political revolution. The counterreaction was Nazism—and Schoen and his milieux fell victim to it, found ways out of it, or hit against it with all their might.

      Dissonant Waves tracks the life of Ernst Schoen—poet, composer, radio programmer, theorist, and best friend of Walter Benjamin from childhood—as he moves between Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris, and London. It casts radio history and practice into concrete spaces, into networks of friends and institutions, into political exigencies and domestic plights, and into broader aesthetic discussions of the politicization of art and the aestheticization of politics. Through friendship and comradeship, a position in state-backed radio, imprisonment, exile, networking in a new country, re-emigration, ill-treatment, neglect, Schoen suffers the century and articulates its broken promises.

      An exploration of the ripples of radio waves, the circuits of experimentation and friendship, and the proposals that half-found a route into the world—and might yet spark political-technical experimentation.

      press notice here


      Device and Designs on Us

      A lecture at Bard Graduate Centre, 2019

      Link to video of lecture

      These Tears, This Gas, These Turbulent Times

      a lecture for the Summer School as School in Pristina, August 2022

      Esther Leslie: Tears, Gas, Turbulent Times Gas at Summer School as School 2022, Pristina, Kosovo

      Exhibition talk: Professor Esther Leslie on Bassam Al Sabah

      Glitter and gleam, reflection, particles, skins for sale, polygons: what makes up the lure of the digital world? What new beings are made and unmade in the pixel process? This talk explores the reflecting worlds and distorting mirrors of Bassam Al Sabah’s I AM ERROR – and asks whether, as Adorno mournfully and combatively suggested, ‘there is no right life in the false’?

      Talk at De La Warr Pavilion, May 2022, here

    • Filmed version of a performance lecture, for Deeper in the Pyramid, with Melanie Jackson, a project about milk

      Video on Vimeo

    • Are We the Cows of the Future?
      The pastures of digital dictatorship — crowded conditions, mass surveillance, virtual reality — are already here.

      Read an opinion piece written for the New York Times in Jan 2021

      NY TImes piece

      Listen to an interview about this work and my work in general: On 'Sustainability Now, from May 2021

      radio show link

    • Long Reads: Esther Leslie on Walter Benjamin's Messianic Marxism
      Jacobin Radio

      Listen to a podcast here:

      On Messianic Marxism

      More links # Esther Leslie Top podcast episodesto podcasts here:

    Office hours

    By email appointment:


    • DPhil, University of Sussex, 1995
    • MA Critical Theory, University of Sussex, 1988

    Web profiles

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Co-director of the Birkbeck Institute of the Humanities
    • Programme Convenor of MA Cultural and Critical Studies

    Professional activities

    I am an editor of the journal Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxism

    Journal website

    I edit a book series with Pluto Press, Marxism in Culture:

    Series webpage

    I sit on grant awarding panels for the British Academy

    I am on the advisory board of the journal New Benjamin Studies.

    Details here

    I am on the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Prize Committee which awards each year an accolade to one book which exemplifies the best and most innovative new writing in or about the Marxist tradition:

    Details here

    I frequently examine PhDs in a variety of subject areas, including artistic research and practice based PhDs. I have examined in the UK, as well as Canada, South Africa, Australia, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland. 

    Professional memberships

    • Editorial board member of Historical Materialism: Researches in Critical Marxism

      Editorial board

    • Fellow of the British Academy

      British Academy Fellow webpage

    • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, 2019

    • Staff Educational Development Association teaching acceditation, 1999

    • Editorial board member of Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal 

      Journal webpage

    • Committee member, Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Prize Committee 

      About the Deutscher Prize

    Honours and awards

    • Fellow of the British Academy, British Academy, November 2019
    • Hollywood Flatlands: Choice Outstanding Academic title, Choice, October 2003
    • Ronald Tress Prize (jointly awarded), Birkbeck, October 2000


  • Research


    Research interests

    • marxism
    • Frankfurt School
    • Poetics of Science
    • Walter Benjamin
    • Modernism
    • colour
    • anarchism
    • Somers Town
    • radical aesthetics
    • Fascism and Nazism
    • critical theory
    • animation
    • robotics

    Research overview

    Esther Leslie’s chair, ‘Professor of Political Aesthetics’, at Birkbeck, yokes together subjects perhaps thought of as discrete in disciplinary terms, and neither of which she professes to teach within – Politics and Aesthetics. For her, the relay between these aspects has featured in much of her work – whether it is the exploration of how aesthetic innovations, art and culture, respond or react to liberatory revolutionary situations, or whether it is the ways in which an authoritarian regime turns aesthetics and art into a weapon of control, as something to be censored and policed, lest it threaten the social order. Much of her work on Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Siegfried Kracauer, on Nazi film and photography, on Stalinist Socialist Realism, on madness and expression, has tracked these connections. Through this work, she came to the theme of animation, which she has interpreted as a philosophically attuned form, inserting itself into political contexts in a variety of intriguing ways. Her more recent work, developing out of a fascination with colour in representation, has taken her political, aesthetic and interdisciplinary approaches into the study of technology and science, under the mantle of what she calls a poetics of science. Two aspects not always thought in tandem are again combined. One result of this was the study of synthetic dye production in Germany, where colour, artifice, politics, philosophy, company and art histories combine. A new book looks at the legacy of chemcial production in the Teesside region of the UK. Her earlier work on animation stuck with cel and model animation, but the shift of the industry into computer generation, and the suffusing of this CGI everywhere, led to investigations of liquid crystals, touchscreens and a highly expanded idea of what it means to be animated now. Newer work explores the poetics and politics of milk and butter production, the metaphorical impulses of Fog and Cloud Computing and what type of atmospheres they produce and are produced in.

    I am an editor of the journal Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxism:

    I edit a book series with Pluto Press, Marxism in Culture:

    I am on the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Prize Committee which awards each year an accolade to one book which exemplifies the best and most innovative new writing in or about the Marxist tradition:


    Research Centres and Institutes

    Research projects

    Animate Assembly: Animation and New Life.

    Deeper in the Pyramid (2)

    Turbid Media

    Dissonant Waves: Ernst Schoen and Experimental Sound in the 20th Century

    Fluid Physicalities

    Chemical City

    The Inextinguishable

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I have supervised many brilliant PhDs - topics include German sexology and English literature; Skyscrapers and Americanism; Iain Sinclair and psychogeographic hubs; the culture of Bloomsbury Squares; radical pedagogy; Stan Brakhage and dialectical aesthetics; Walter Benjamin and Friendship; the Aesthetics of Resistance; grey literature; Adorno and forgetting; radical poetics.

    I am interested in projects that pursue various intersections between politics and aesthetics, in particular those with an anarchist or Marxist inflection. I am happy to consider art practice-based PhDs and experimental form. and have considerable experience in supervising and examining such work both at Birkbeck and at other institutions such as the RCA, Slade, Copenhagen Royal Art Academy and elsewhere.

    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni since 2013-14



    I teach on the MA Cultural and Critical Studies, BA Liberal Arts and BA English.

    Past and present modules include: 


    • Key Concepts in Cultural and Critical Theory
    • Time for Revolution
    • Theory of Clouds
    • Aesthetics and Cultural Theory
    • Critique of Everyday Life
    • Modernism and Vulgarity


    • Writing London
    • Production of the Human
    • Romanticism
    • Literature and the Politics of Feeling
    • Connecting the Arts
    • The Photographic
    • Back to the Future
    • Avant Garde Revolt and Reaction
    • Modernism and the City
    • Leaving the Twentieth Century
    • Literature and the Image

    I also teach on the London Critical Theory Summer School at Birkbeck - since its start in 2009. I am now its co-organiser. Each year, in the last week of June and first week of July, we host a number of world-leading scholars, who, together with Birkbeck academics, engage in an intensive two-week exploration of Critical Theory. Further details are here:

    London Critical Theory Summer School



    Teaching modules

    • Theorising the Contemporary, Contemporary Theorising (AREN095S7)
    • Connecting the Arts (AREN126S5)
    • Dissertation (Literature and Culture 1800-present) (AREN145D7)
    • Production of the Human: Decolonising the Canon (AREN257S4)
    • Origins and Futures in Critical Theory (AREN296S7)
    • Critical Entanglements and Methods in the Medical Humanities (SSHC483S7)
  • Publications






    Book Section

    • Leslie, Esther (2024) Pastures new: atmospheres, mud, and moods. In: Tamari, T. (ed.) Human Perception and Digital Information Technologies: Animation, the Body and Affect. Bristol, UK: Bristol University Press. pp. 29-41. ISBN 9781529226188.
    • Jackson, M. and Leslie, Esther (2023) Deeper in the pyramid: journeys of lactic abstraction. In: Serrano, D.P. and Diaz, A.A. (eds.) The Microbiopolitics of Milk. Berlin, Germany: Sternberg Press. ISSN 978-3-95679-660-9. ISBN 9783956796609.
    • Leslie, Esther (2022) Intergalactic matter. In: Strange Attractor. Lisbon, Portugal: Galerias Municipais/EGEAC. ISBN 9789898763716.
    • Leslie, Esther (2022) Art up for grabs. In: Teige, K. (ed.) The Marketplace of Art / Commentary. Dijon, France: Les pressses du reel. ISBN 9789526938981.
    • Leslie, Esther (2022) Kitsch, Schlock and Camp. In: Shapiro, S. and Storey, M. (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to American Horror. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 91-104. ISBN 9781009071550.
    • Leslie, Esther (2022) Liquid metal, liquid crystal meets swimming Nanorobots: on the political aesthetics of self-organising behaviours in life systems. In: Finke, M. and Nakas, K. (eds.) Fluidity: Materials in Motion. Berlin, Germany: Reimer. pp. 105-120. ISBN 9783496016724.
    • Leslie, Esther (2022) In turbid environments. In: Denecke, M. and Kuhn, H. and Stürmer, M. (eds.) Liquidity, Flows, Circulation: The Cultural Logic of Environmentalization. Diaphanes. pp. 165-180. ISBN 9783035804812.
    • Leslie, Esther (2021) Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, T.W. Adorno, and companions writing the city. In: Tambling, J. (ed.) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Urban Literary Studies. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9783319625928.
    • Leslie, Esther (2021) Movement. In: Waugh, P. and Botha, M. (eds.) Future Theory: A Handbook to Critical Concepts. London, UK: Bloomsbury. pp. 115-128. ISBN 9781472567352.
    • Leslie, Esther (2021) Fog, Froth and Foam: insubstantial Matters in Substantive Atmospheres. In: Electric Brine. Berlin, Germany: Archive Press. ISBN 9783948212490.
    • Leslie, Esther (2021) Marx and popular Modernism. In: Understanding Marx, Understanding Modernism. Understanding Philosophy, Understanding Modernism. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9781501351129.
    • Leslie, Esther (2021) Work, like a beast. In: Janeckova, H. and Kotatkova, E. and Kurik, B. (eds.) Animal Touch: Art, Labour and Emotion. Prague: ArtMap. pp. 32-47. ISBN 9788090787377.
    • Leslie, Esther (2020) The street and the fragment aesthetics of experience; aesthetics of the particular in David Frisby. In: Giannakopoulou, G. and Gilloch, G. (eds.) The Detective of Modernity: Essays on the Work of David Frisby. Classical and Contemporary Social Theory. Routledge. ISBN 9780367192563.
    • Leslie, Esther (2020) Taking a beating. In: Hasham, L. (ed.) Heather Phillipson. London, UK: Prestel. ISBN 9783791359526.
    • Leslie, Esther (2020) Clouds over Somers Town. In: Hatherley, O. (ed.) The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs. London, UK: Open City. ISBN 9781916016910.
    • Leslie, Esther (2020) Touchscreen. In: Pryor, S. and Trotter, D. (eds.) Writing, Machine, Code: Modern Technographies. Open Humanities Press. ISBN 9781785420061. (In Press)
    • Leslie, Esther (2019) Ars Technica in Ethereality. In: Bang Larsen, L. (ed.) Mud Muses – A Rant About Technology. Stockhlom, Sweden: Museum of Modern Art/Moderna Museet. pp. 97-107. ISBN 9789198417753. (In Press)
    • Leslie, Esther (2019) Waves and globes in Walter Benjamin’s Microcosmic Cities. In: Dirscherl, M. and Köhler, A. (eds.) Urban Microcosms 1789-1940. ilmr books. London, UK: Institute of Modern Language Research. ISBN 9780854572663.
    • Leslie, Esther (2019) Jagode in Smetana: O Esfir Sub in revolucionarmen objecktu. In: Krajnc, M. and Baskar, N. and Kos, J. and Lovrenov, M. (eds.) Oktobrska revolucija in zgodnje-sovjetski film. Zbirka Jesenska filmska šola. Slovenia: Jesenskafilmskasola, Slovenska Kinoteka. ISBN 9789617013085.
    • Leslie, Esther (2018) Liquid crystal as chemical form and model of thinking in Alfred Döblin’s modernist science. In: Bud, R. and Greenhalgh, P. and James, F. and Shiach, M. (eds.) Being Modern: The Cultural Impact of Science in the Early Twentieth Century. London, UK: UCL Press. pp. 357-372. ISBN 9781787353930.
    • Leslie, Esther (2018) ‘The Clouds, the Cephs and the Ferments’/’Die Wolken, die Sepien und das Gären’. In: Oberender, T. and Rosenberg, A. (eds.) Philippe Parreno: Gropius Bau Sommer 2018. Berlin, Germany: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig. ISBN 9783960983903.
    • Leslie, Esther (2018) Kitsch. In: Scholz, S. and Vedder, U. (eds.) Handbuch Literatur & Materielle Kultur. Handbücher zur kulturwissenschaftlichen Philologie. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. pp. 412-414. ISBN 9783110416497.
    • Jackson, M. and Leslie, Esther (2017) Unreliable matriarchs. In: Cohen, M. and Otomo, Y. (eds.) Making Milk: The Past, Present and Future of Our Primary Food. London, UK: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781350029965.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) Benjamin gegen den Staat. In: Blättler, C. and Full, C. (eds.) Walter Benjamin Politisches Denken. Staatsverständnisse. Baden Baden, Germany: Nomos Verlag. pp. 111-134. ISBN 9783848734252.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) Acts of handwriting. In: Hiller, S. and Treister, S. (eds.) Monica Ross: Ethical Actions - A Critical Fine Art Practice. Berlin, Germany: Sternberg Press. ISBN 9783956792021.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) All that is solid melts into the conjuntural. In: Corby, J. (ed.) Adventures in Modernism: Thinking with Marshall Berman. New York, U.S.: UR. pp. 152-161. ISBN 9780996004169.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) Ice creams, atom bomb, i-screens, data bomb. In: Baur, A. and Leslie, Esther and Weber, M. (eds.) Better Than De Kooning. Germany: RAM Publications. ISBN 9783864421372.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) Liquid, crystal, vaporous: the natural states of capitalism. In: Ferguson, K. and Petro, P. (eds.) After Capitalism: Horizons of Finance, Culture, and Citizenship. New Directions in International Studies. Rutgers University Press. pp. 151-165. ISBN 9780813584263.
    • Leslie, Esther (2016) Touch screen. In: Pryor, S. and Trotter, D. (eds.) Writing, Medium, Machine: Modern Technographies. Technographies. London, UK: Open Humanities Press. pp. 191-207. ISBN 9781785420184.
    • Leslie, Esther (2015) Haphazard: a gambler’s word hoard. In: Carfield Corr, H. and Epps, L. (eds.) The Very Last Time. London, UK: Ambergris Editions. ISBN 9780993393402.
    • Leslie, Esther (2015) Art after war: experience, poverty and the crystal utopia. In: Anievas, A. (ed.) Cataclysm 1914: The First World War and the Making of Modern World Politics. Historical Materialism Book Series. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. pp. 216-235. ISBN 9789004262676.
    • Leslie, Esther (2015) Brute forces. In: Bad Feelings. London, UK: Book Works. ISBN 9781906012588.
    • Leslie, Esther (2015) Kraftwerk’s signs of the 1970s. In: Influenser, referenser och plagiat : om Kraftwerks estetik = Influences, references and imitations : on the aesthetics of Kraftwerk. Goteberg, Sweden: Röhsska museet. ISBN 9789187039096.
    • Leslie, Esther (2015) The peculiar ecstasy of the animated object. In: Pantenburg, V. (ed.) Cinematographic Objects: Things and Operations. Cologne, Germany: August Verlag. pp. 95-109. ISBN 9783941360341.
    • Leslie, Esther (2014) Dreams for sale. In: Fischer, L. and Fraser, I. and Gregg, R. and Uhlirova, M. (eds.) Birds of Paradise. Costume as Cinematic Spectacle. London, UK: Walther König. ISBN 9783863352181.
    • Leslie, Esther (2014) Animation and history. In: Beckman, K. (ed.) Animating Film Theory. Durham, North Carolina, United States: Duke University Press. pp. 25-36. ISBN 9780822356523.
    • Leslie, Esther (2013) Animation’s petrified unrest. In: Buchan, S. (ed.) Pervasive Animation. AFI Film Readers. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9780415807241.
    • Leslie, Esther (2013) Brecht and cinema. In: Bauer, P. and Kidner, D. (eds.) Working Together: Notes on British Film Collectives in the 1970s. Southend, UK: Focal Point Gallery. ISBN 9781907185052.
    • Leslie, Esther (2013) Complex Messiah. In: Jordan Wolfson, None (ed.) Ecce Homo/Le Poseur. Berlin, Germany: Walther König. ISBN 9783863354145.
    • Leslie, Esther (2013) Esther Leslie. In: Lauschmann, T. (ed.) Startle. London, UK: London Film and Video Umbrella. ISBN 9780955876950.
    • Leslie, Esther (2012) Disturbios culturales. In: Ossandón, J. and Vodanovic, L. (eds.) Disturbios culturales (Cultural Unrest). Santiago, Chile: Universidad Diego Portales.
    • Leslie, Esther (2011) Smashing time. In: Loftus, B. (ed.) Sigismund's Watch. London, UK: Phillip Wilson Publishing. pp. 85-98. ISBN 9780856677090.
    • Leslie, Esther (2011) Critical criticism’s critique: 13 theses, or, it is all rubbish. In: Schad, J. and Tearle, O. (eds.) Crrritic! Sighs, Cries, Lies, Insults, Outbursts, Hoaxes, Disasters, Letters of Resignation, and Various Other Noises Off in These the First and Last Days of Literary Criticism ... Not to Mention the University. Eastbourne, UK: Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 9781845193423.
    • Leslie, Esther (2011) Shadowy, shape-shifting, shaky: animation as subversion. In: Wagner, B. and Grausgruber, W. (eds.) Tricky Women: Animations Film Kunst von Frauen. Vienna, Asutria: Schueren. ISBN 9783894727239.
    • Leslie, Esther (2011) Slumberland, architecture and the technological unconscious. In: Libero, A. (ed.) Spielraum: W. Benjamin et l’Architecture. Paris, France: Editions La Villette. ISBN 9782915456608.
    • Leslie, Esther (2010) Recycling. In: Beaumont, M. and Dart, G. (eds.) Restless Cities. London, UK: Verso. ISBN 9781844674053.
    • Leslie, Esther (2010) Liquidation and shattering: Walter Benjamin’s aesthetics. In: Pusca, A.M. (ed.) Walter Benjamin and the Aesthetics of Change. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9780230580862.
    • Leslie, Esther (2010) Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin: memory from Weimar to Hitler. In: Radstone, S. and Schwarz, B. (eds.) Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. New York, USA: Fordham University Press. ISBN 9780823232604.
    • Leslie, Esther (2010) Walter Benjamin and the technological unconscious. In: Andreotti, L. (ed.) Spielraum: W. Benjamin and Architecture. Thinking Space. Paris: Editions de la Villette. ISBN 9782915456608.
    • Leslie, Esther (2009) Icy scenes from three centuries. In: Pajaczkowska, C. and White, L. (eds.) The Sublime Now. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 36-49. ISBN 9781443813020.
    • Leslie, Esther (2009) Ben Wilson. In: Davies, C. and Parrinder, M. (eds.) Limited Language: Rewriting Design Responding to a Feedback Culture. Basel, Germany: Birkhauser. ISBN 9783034604604.
    • Leslie, Esther (2009) It's Mickey Mouse. In: Furniss, M. (ed.) Animation - Art & Industry: A Reader. New Barnet, UK: John Libbey. ISBN 9780861966806.
    • Leslie, Esther and Wayne, M. (2009) Preface. In: Bould, M. and Miéville, China (eds.) Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction. Lebanon, U.S.: Univeristy Press of New England. ISBN 9780819569134.
    • Leslie, Esther (2007) American splendor. In: Merck, M. (ed.) America First: Naming the Nation in US Film. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9780415374965.
    • Leslie, Esther (2007) Snow shaker. In: Candlin, Fiona and Guins, R. (eds.) The Object Reader. In Sight: Visual Culture. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9780415452304.
    • Leslie, Esther (2006) Ruin and rubble in the arcades. In: Hansen, B. (ed.) Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project. Walter Benjamin Studies. London, UK: Continuum. ISBN 9780826463876.
    • Leslie, Esther (2005) Globalica: communism, culture and the commodity. In: Economising Culture On the (Digital) Culture Industry. New York, USA: Autonomedia. ISBN 9781570271687.
    • Leslie, Esther (2005) Stars, phosphor and chemical colours: extraterrestriality in 'The Arcades'. In: Burrow, M. and Farnell, G. and Jardine, M. (eds.) Readings Benjamin's Arcades. New Formations. London, UK: Lawrence and Wishart. ISSN 1905007132. ISBN 1905007132.
    • Leslie, Esther (2005) Benjamin/Adorno/Brecht and film. In: Wayne, M. (ed.) Understanding Film Marxist Perspectives. London, UK: Pluto Press. ISBN 9780745319926.
    • Leslie, Esther (2005) Two worlds of fortune: fulture and dying in the global zone. In: Cox, G. and Krysa, J. and Lewin, A. (eds.) Economising Culture. Autonomedia. ISBN 9781570271687.
    • Leslie, Esther (2005) Wear and tear. In: Evans, C. and Breward, C. (eds.) Fashion and Modernity. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781845200282.
    • Leslie, Esther (2004) Jameson, Brecht, Lenin and spectral possibilities. In: Kellner, D. and Homer, S. (eds.) Fredric Jameson: A Critical Reader. London, UK: Palgrave. pp. 195-209. ISBN 9780230523524.
    • Leslie, Esther (2004) Karl Marx and fashion. In: Steele, V. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Fashion and Clothing. New York, USA: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 9780684313955.
    • Leslie, Esther (2003) Absent minded professors: etch-a-sketching academic forgetting. In: Hodgkin, K. and Radstone, S. (eds.) Regimes of Memory. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. 172-185. ISBN 9780415511049.
    • Leslie, Esther (2002) Flaneurs in Paris and Berlin. In: Koshlar, R. (ed.) Histories of Leisure. London, UK: Berg Publishers. pp. 61-77. ISBN 9781859735251.
    • Leslie, Esther (2002) Murmurs of the future. In: Rosenberg, A. (ed.) Berliner Kindheit. New York, USA: Distributed Art Publishers. ISBN 9783882438123.
    • Leslie, Esther (2002) Philistines and vandals get upset. In: Beech, D. and Roberts, J. (eds.) The Philistine Controversy. London, UK: Verso Press. ISBN 9781859843741.
    • Leslie, Esther (2000) Elemental: the arcades project. In: Osborne, P. and Benjamin, A. (eds.) Walter Benjamin's Philosophy: Destruction and Experience. Manchester, UK: Clinamen Press. pp. 304-308. ISBN 9781903083086.
    • Leslie, Esther (2000) Mad pride and prejudice. In: Curtis, T. and Dellar, R. and Leslie, Esther and Watson, B. (eds.) Mad Pride: A Celebration of Mad Culture. London, UK: Spare Change Books. pp. 67-82. ISBN 9780952574422.
    • Leslie, Esther (2000) One step forwards, two steps back. In: Flett, K. and Renton, D. (eds.) The Twentieth Century, A Century of Wars and Revolutions?. London, UK: Rivers Oram Press. pp. 33-53. ISBN 9781854891266.
    • Leslie, Esther (2000) Some optical Illusion: colour and craft. In: Stair, J. (ed.) The Body Politic: The Role of the Body and Contemporary Craft. London, UK: Crafts Council. pp. 51-57. ISBN 9781870145992.
    • Leslie, Esther (2000) Spectacles and signs. In: Living in a material world. Coventry, UK: Coventry University. pp. 240-251.
    • Leslie, Esther (1999) Souvenirs and forgetting: Walter Benjamin's memory-work. In: Breward, C. and Aynsley, J. and Kwint, M. (eds.) Material Memories: Design and Evocation. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers. pp. 107-122. ISBN 9781847881601.
    • Leslie, Esther (1999) Telescoping the microscopic object: Walter Benjamin, the collector. In: De-, Dis-, Ex-: The Optic of Walter Benjamin. London, UK: Black Dog Publishing. pp. 58-91. ISBN 9781901033410.
    • Leslie, Esther (1998) Drawing the line: painting history and history painting. In: Gange, J. (ed.) Art, Technology, Technique: Art, Criticism, Theory. London, UK: Pluto Press. pp. 17-33. ISBN 9780745313122.
    • Leslie, Esther (1998) Walter Benjamin: traces of craft. In: Harrod, T. (ed.) Obscure Objects of Desire: Reviewing the Crafts in the Twentieth Century. London, UK: Crafts Council. pp. 21-31. ISBN 9781870145671.

    Conference Item




  • Business and community

    Business and community


    I am happy to receive enquiries from the media on the following topics:

    • Frankfurt School
    • Marxism
    • Aesthetics
    • poetics of science
    • German history
    • Walter Benjamin
    • Adorno
    • Kracauer
    • technology and culture
    • chemical industry in history
    • community history
    • Somers Town
    • animation


      I co-founded The Peoples Museum Somers Town, which is located at 52 Phoenix Road, London NW1 1ES.  I act as its academic lead. In October 2022, we were nominated as one of three projects for a Radical Changemakers Award by the Museums Association. 

      Somers Town has a rich and extraordinary history. It has been home to reformers, rebels, world historical figures who cultivated here world-impacting ideas, such as Anarchism, Feminism, Chartism, Communism and Pan-Africanism. It is a place of significant housing schemes, such as the Polygon, the St Pancras House Improvement Society housing, and the two estates, Ossulston and Oakshott Court, both of which adopt a European idiom. Somers Town has been a spirited place – once bustling with markets and pubs. It has also, throughout its whole history, from the 1780s, been a place of migration, drawing in people from across the country, the European continent and the world.

      I curated our first exhibition - Lost and Found in Somers Town. Its website is here:

      We have a busy programmes of walks, talks, work experience - in which I am centrally involved. Our broader website is here:

      Slovenian TV programme made about my life and work, 2017

      Episode here

      I have worked with museums as an artist-researcher, as a writer and as an academic consultant. One exhibition in which I was lead consultant was Chemical City at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Its focus was on the impact of ICI and the chemical industry on the local area.  The webpage, which has links to my research papers that formed the basis of the exhibitions approach is here:

      Chemical City

      Co-director, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, since 2016

      Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

      ‘Companions in Somers Town’,  18 piece Poster Wall in Somers Town, February to May 2022

      Pamphlet here

      Animate Assembly: A Glossary (with Edgar Schmitz, Verina Gfader, Anke Hennig and Caroline Sebilleau), presented at Bibliotech exhibition, April-May May 2022, Liverpool and Limassol

      Animate Assembly

      Deeper in the Pyramid, a filmed performance lecture, with Melanie Jackson



      Translation work:

      Major translations

      Georg Lukács, A Defence of History and Class Consciousness; Tailism and the Dialectic, Verso, London, 2000

      Walter Benjamin’s Archives, edited by Ursula Marx, Gudrun Schwarz, Michael Schwarz and Erdmut Wizisla, Verso, London, 2007

      ‘Letter from Walter Benjamin’, in Paul Nizan, The Conspiracy, Verso, London, 2011

      Walter Benjamin: On Photography, Reaktion, London 2015 (edited, translated and introduced)

      Walter Benjamin The Storyteller: Tales out of Loneliness, Verso, London 2016 (edited, translated and introduced, with Sam Dolbear and Sebastian Truskolaski)

      Various smaller translations from German into English –including Willy Brandt’s 1937 memoirs relating to his experience in the Spanish Civil War [available from Socialist Platform Archive, and on the Internet]; an academic text on Chinese ethnography; a paper on South African archaeology; Waldemar Bolze’s diary of his activities on the Huescan front in the Spanish Civil War, published in The Spanish Civil War: A View from the Left [ed. Al Richardson, Socialist Platform, London 1992]; translation of Oskar Lafontaine’s speech to SPD conference in December 1997, published in New Left Review 227, translation of Karl Radek on war and socialism and Karl Kautsky on ‘the oriental question’ and Rosa Luxemburg on 1905 for Revolutionary History. Rosa Luxemburg on Mehring’s Schiller for Revolutionary History.

      Media work

      • Interviewed on the Open University t.v. programme ‘Displaying Modern Art’, for the new Art History course, designed by Dr. Steve Edwards. 
      • Interviewed on Chicago Public Radio, Odyssey programme, theme − The Politics of Popular Culture, 18 December 2003
      • The Verb, speaking on Walter Benjamin’s Archive, Radio 3, 16 January 2008
      • Interviewed and appeared in Flannery’s Mounted Head, a DVD film by Cathal Coughlan/Johnny Grogan, Eire/UK 2008
      • ‘Thought Cloud’, Head in the Clouds series, Radio 3, 26 February 2009
      • Interviewed on Walter Benjamin for Against the Grain, Pacifica radio, 24 March 2009
      • In Our Time, On The Frankfurt School, Radio 4, 14 January 2010
      • Walter Benjamin podcast, LRB/Verso, May 2016
      • ‘On Walter Benjamin’, Free Thinking, Radio 3, 23 June 2016
      • Walter Benjamin’s Arcades: Resonance radio, 27 July 2016
      • ‘The work of the translator and the legacy of Anja Bostock’, Studio (212), with Tom Overton, Resonance Radio, March 2018
      • Participant in Miranda Javid, Smoke Mixtape, screened at various venues, USA, 2018-19
      • Interviewed on FSK Radio Hamburg, for Frauenstreik discussion, 8 March 2019
      • Interviewed on RBB-Kultur, German radio on the resignation of Theresa May, May 2019.
      • ‘Are We the Cows of the Future?’, New York Times, opinion piece, 5 Jan 2021
      • In Our Time, Walter Benjamin, February 2022
      • Numerous radio broadcasts for the London Musician Collective’s radio station Resonance 104.4 FM. These broadcasts, which take the form of musically illustrated lectures, are titled Twinkle, Day-glo, Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend, Dreams, Rockets, Recycling, Junk, Spam and Leftovers, and Valentine. I have also participated in other shows on themes including madness, punk, cold and ice and pollution. Some work on May Day Radio: including piece on Falling Asleep

      Teaching workshops and Summer Schools

      • London Critical Theory Summer School, since 2009
      • Annual lecture at Royal Academy Schools, London, since 2010
      • PhD supervisor for RCA practice-based students since 2018
      • Copenhagen Art Academy, PhD and Postdoctoral researchers, 6 and 7 November 2018
      • Royal College of Art, MA Sculpture, 22 November 2018
      • Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford, all art students, 29 November 2018
      • Taijuan University, China, Philosophy Department, October 2019
      • Academy of Social Science, Beijing, lecture to researchers on Walter Benjamin, October 2019
      • Tutorials, Nottingham Trent University, 29 January 2020
      • The New Centre for Social Research and Practice, 2021 (4 sessions on Turbid Media) online)
      • Summer School as School, Pristina, Kosovo, 4 sessions on Turbid Media, August 2021
      • Chosen as Mentor for Viola Ruehse, University of Continuing Education, Krems, Austria, under the programme: Career Mentoring III“, 2022-2025
      • Summer School as School, Pristina, Kosovo, 6 sessions on Animating Elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Ether, August 2022


      • Other
        06-JAN-20 to 03-JUL-22

        academic researcher for the exhibition Chemical City, at MIMA, Middlesbrough

      • Other

        Academic lead for the People's Museum Somers Town