Associate Professor Diana Young

Associate Professor in Museum Anthr

School of Social Science
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+61 7 336 51210


I am a social and cultural anthropologist specialising in material, visual and digital cultures including the anthropology of art. I have a continuing research interest and publication track record in the materiality of colours.

I have an undergraduate degree in Architecture, a Masters degree in Anthropology of Art from University College London and a PhD in Social Anthropology from University College London where I was part of the Material Culture group in the Department of Anthropology. My doctoral research was on the role of colours and the senses among Anangu Pitjanjatjara Yankunytjatjara in central Australia. I won an ESRC Post Doctoral Fellowship and a Post Doctoral fellowship at ANU before becoming the Anthropology Museum Director at UQ for 8 years. I am currently Director of the Museum Studies Masters Program at UQ.

My research interests include the anthropology of art and consumption practices, landscape and ecology, clothing, film and photography, historical anthropology, design anthropology. In museum studies my interest is broad and includes photographing collections for digital purposes, exhibition design, research through exhibition curation as public anthropology, the process of decolonizing museums, and in re-inventing ethnographic museums for the 21st century. I welcome students for higher degree research supervision in any of these subject areas.

My ARC Discovery (2013-2016) A desire for things concerns the relationship of money, art markets, consumption practices and art making among Indigenous artists working in central Australia.

I have curated 18 exhibitions where I sought to promote the work of women. These exhibitions include Art on a String, Threaded objects from Central Australia and Arnhem Land with Louise Hamby for Object, the Australian Centre of Craft and Design (Visions funded tour of Australia 2001-2006), a Retropsective of Nyukana Baker's work at the JamFactory (2009). My curatorial work for the UQ Anthropology Museum including exhibtions; In the Red-on the Vibrancy of things; Written on the Body curated with Judy Watson; Solomon Islands Re-enchantment and the Colonial Shadow with a curatorium. I commissioned the exhibitions, Gapuwiyak Calling- Phone made media from Arnhem Land developed with Miyarrka Media, Wild Australia-Meston's Wild Australia show 1892-1893 from Michael Aird, Manada Mapara and Paul Memmott, and Musical Landscapes of Lihir from Kirsty Gillespie and the Lihir development corporation, Papua New Guinea.

I am the first woman to direct the UQ Anthropology Museum where I sought to promote the work of women and to feminize the collection structure and content. The museum aquired more than 80 named works by women during my time as director. I created a new research infra structure for the museum that includes a dedicated 240m square gallery and a new global best practice collection store. I led the creation of a new online digital catalogue for the museum with innovative object imaging. More than 60,000 people visited the UQAM’s new teaching, research and engagement facilities, and raised more than AUS$1.1 million for the museum. I initiated a gallery program to show the museum's collection that included collaborative exhibitions derived from research in the museum’s collection. I am expert at successfully profiling academic research for public engagement. These projects aim for inclusivity and an inter-cultural understanding that promote ever widening networks which assist in the continuing process of decolonising the museum.

Research Interests

  • Colour as Material, Digital and Visual Culture.
    I am influential in establishing the contemporary research of colour in anthropology. My work centres on the role of colour as a concept, and colours as substances, in social and cultural life. This research is centred on visual, digital and material culture using fieldwork and draws on linguistics, cognitive science, architecture, archaeology, ecological studies, contemporary art theory and museum collections.
  • Western Desert Art Histories
    My interest is in the development of the art histories of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands since the establishment of the mission at Ernabella (now Pukatja) in South Australia 1937. Overall this work is a contribution to reassessing Australia’s colonial history and the creativity of Aboriginal women artists who gained autonomy and an expansion of themselves through art practices. I have curated public exhibitions (1998 'Warka Iritii munu Kuwari Kutu/ Work from the past and the present 50 years of Ernabella Arts'; 2001 'Art on a string' ; 2009, 'Nyukana Baker. A Retrospective') and catalogues on this topic. This research includes fieldwork and archival study - both textual and photographic.
  • Consumption Practices in Central Australia.
    This project was funded by an ARC Discovery ( 2013-Dec 2016) which researched the neglected history of consumption after colonisation among Australian Indigenous peoples. The research based on long term fieldwork. Findings from this recently completed research are in press.
  • Public Anthropology through Curatorial practice and the future of the ethnographic museum
    This research examines the role of so-called ethnographic museums now. I have collaborated in the curation of 17 public exhibitions in many venues in Australia including at UQ. I have developed collaborative research in museums with the aim of generating innovative exhibitions, using little seen objects combined with contemporary academic theory, to engage wide audiences.

Research Impacts

As an influential curator of anthropology, I am at the forefront of object centred teaching and learning for university and school students. I directed the creation of a new research and teaching infrastructure for the UQ Anthropology Museum and transformed it into a public institution with loans to many state galleries and museums and to local projects. See the online catalogue at and exhibtions at These digital sites have been visited by people in 157 different countries globally (Google analytics June 2017).

Key Exhibitions

2016 Director of curation Solomon Islands; Re enchantment and the colonial shadow, UQ Anthropology Museum.

2015 commissioned Wild Australia. Meston’s Wild Australia show 1892-1893 curated by Michael Aird and Mandana Mapar, research Paul Memmott UQ Anthropology Museum; Toured to Grafton Regional Gallery 2016.

2014 written on the body commissioned and co curated with Judy Watson UQ Anthropology Museum;

2013 Musical Landscapes of Lihir, commissioned, developed, director of curation with Kirsty Gillespie and the Lihir Development Project, New Ireland province Papua New Guinea, UQ Anthropology Museum;

2012 In the red on the vibrancy of things director/curator UQ Anthropology Museum, commissioned work Fiona Foley, Miyarrka media;

2012 What do objects want? director/curator UQ Anthropology Museum; and on line exhibtion;

2009 Nyukana Baker; A retrospective, curator at the Jam Factory Adelaide for SALA (South Australia Living Artists festival). Australia Council funded.

2001-2005 co curated Art on a String. Threaded objects from the Western Desert and Arnhem Land, Object centre of Australian craft and design touring show (venues included Object Gallery Sydney, Museum of Victoria, Bathurst regional gallery, NSW, Araluen cultural centre, Alice Springs, Tandanya cultural centre, Adelaide). Australia Council funded.

1998 consultant curator for Ernabella Arts Inc., ‘Warka irititja munu kwari kutu. Work from the past and the present a celebration of 50 years of Ernabella Arts,’ Tandanya Cultural Centre Adelaide


  • PhD Socio Anthropology, University College London
  • MA Anthropology of Art, University College London


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Book Chapter

  • Young, Diana J.B . (2019). The light is looking at us. James Turrell - night life. (pp. 53-63) edited by Rebecca Mutch. Brisbane, QLD, Australia: QAGOMA.

  • Young, Diana (2018). Color. International encyclopedia of anthropology. (pp. 330-360) edited by Hilary Callan. New Jersey, United States: John Wiley and Sons. doi: 10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea2210

  • Young, Diana (2018). Colour as the edge of the body. Rematerializing colour: from concept to substance. (pp. 145-164) edited by Diana Young. Wantage, United Kingdom: Sean Kingston Publishing.

  • Young, Diana J. B. (2018). Colour palettes and beauty. Anthropology and Beauty: From Aesthetics to Creativity. (pp. 148-166) edited by Stephanie Bunn. Abingdon, Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781315681566

  • Young, Diana (2018). Introduction. Rematerializing colour: from concept to substance. (pp. 1-21) edited by Diana Young. Wantage, United Kingdom: Sean Kingston Publishing.

  • Young, Diana (2017). Coloring Cars: customising motor vehicles in the east of the Australian Western Desert. Design anthropology: object cultures in transition. (pp. 147-159) edited by Alison Clarke. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing.

  • Young, Diana (2017). Introduction. Solomon Islands: re-enchantment and the colonial shadow. (pp. 1-7) Brisbane, Australia: Anthropology Museum, The University of Queensland.

  • Young, Diana (2015). Introduction. Wild Australia. Meston's Wild Australia 1892-93. (pp. 2-3) edited by Michael Aird, Mandana Mapar and Paul Memmott. Brisbane, Australia: Anthropology Museum, The University of Queensland.

  • Young, Diana (2011). Colouring cars: Customising motor vehicles in the East of the Australian Western Desert. Design anthropology: Object culture in the 21st century. (pp. 117-129) edited by Alison J. Clark. Wien, Austria ; New York, U.S.A.: Springer.

  • Young, Diana (2010). Dingo scalping and the frontier economy in the north west of South Australia. Indigenous participation in Australian economies. (pp. 91-107) edited by Ian Keen. Australia: ANU E-Press.

  • Young, Diana (2010). Dressing the body in the Western Desert, Australia. Berg encyclopedia of world dress and fashion. (pp. 37-41) edited by Joanne Eicher. Oxford, United Kingdom: Berg. doi: 10.2752/BEWDF/EDch7007

  • Young, Diana (2006). The colours of things. The handbook of material culture. (pp. 173-185) edited by Christopher Tilley, Webb Keane, Susanne Kuechler, Mike Rowlands and Patricia Spyer. London: Sage Publications.

  • Young, Diana (2001). The life and death of cars. Private cars on the Pitjantjatjara Lands, South Australia. Car cultures. (pp. 35-59) edited by Daniel Miller. London: Berg Publishers.

  • Young, Diana (1998). Punu metaphors and markets- wood carving in the Ernabella area. Warka iritita munu Kuwari kutu. Work from the past and the present: a celebration of Fifty years of Ernabella Arts. (pp. 38-43) Ernabella, SA, Australia: Ernabella Arts .

Journal Article

Other Outputs

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors: