Jonathan Crary received his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1987 having previously graduated with a B.A. from Columbia College, where he was an art history major. Among his professors were Edward Said, Meyer Schapiro, David Rosand, F.W. Dupee, and Arthur Danto. He also earned a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute where he studied film and photography. His film teachers there included James Broughton, Larry Jordan, and Gunvor Nelson. His first teaching position was in the Visual Arts Department at University of California, San Diego. He has taught full-time at Columbia since 1989, and has also been a visiting professor at Princeton and Harvard. Since 1988, he has been an affiliated faculty member of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program.
He has written extensively on contemporary art and culture for publications including Art in America, Artforum, October, Assemblage, Cahiers du cinéma, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Monde diplomatique, Film Comment, Harvard Design Magazine, Grey Room, Domus, Adbusters, Village Voice, and Texte zur Kunst. He has also written critical essays for over 30 exhibition catalogs. A selection of his work is included in the widely used anthology Film Theory and Criticism, eds. Braudy and Cohen (7th edition).
In 1986 he was one of the founders (and continues to be co-editor) of Zone Books, a press now internationally noted for its publications in intellectual history, art theory, politics, anthropology and philosophy, including texts by Michel Foucault, Wendy Brown, Giorgio Agamben, Gilles Deleuze, Georges Bataille, Caroline Bynum, Leo Steinberg, Erwin Panofsky and many others. Professor Crary was co-editor of the 1992 volume Incorporations (Zone Books) which assembled a broad range of reflections on the problem of the body in contemporary technological culture.
He is the author of Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (1990) which has been translated into twelve foreign languages. With this book he began his extended study on the origins of modern visual culture, which he continues to develop in his current research. His book Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture was published in 2000 and was the winner of the 2001 Lionel Trilling Book Award. His recent book 24/7 examines the fate of human perception within the operations of global information and communication networks, and it is currently in print or forthcoming in twenty-two foreign language editions. The Italian translation of 24/7 was a finalist for the 2016 Terzani International Literary Prize.
Professor Crary has been the recipient of Guggenheim, Getty, Mellon, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In 2005, his teaching and mentoring were recognized with a Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award.