Born in rural Western Australia, Buchanan grew up in the suburbs of Perth. He did his BA and PhD in the English and Comparative Literature program at Murdoch University, graduating in 1995. His PhD dissertation, entitled, "Heterology: Towards a Transcendental Empiricist Approach to Cultural Studies" attempted to fuse the work of de Certeau and Deleuze for the purposes of doing cultural analysis.
In 1996, Buchanan was appointed on a one-year contract at the Department of English at the University of Western Australia to teach critical theory. That year he convened the first major conference on Gilles Deleuze to be held in Australia, and one of the first anywhere in the world. It attracted over 160 delegates and featured Fredric Jameson as keynote speaker. A selection of papers from this conference were edited by Buchanan as special issues of the journals Social Semiotics (vol 7:2, 1997) and South Atlantic Quarterly (vol 93:3, 1997), the latter was subsequently reprinted as the book A Deleuzian Century?
In 1997 he moved to the Department of English at the University of Tasmania. He remained there until 2002. Then, following a brief stint as a research fellow at the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at Monash University, he moved to Charles Darwin University to take up the foundation chair of communication, later designating himself as professor of communication and cultural studies. From 2003—2005 he was the president of the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia. In 2006 he moved to Cardiff University in Wales to take up the chair of critical and cultural theory vacated by Catherine Belsey. In 2011, Buchanan left Cardiff University, where he was based in the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory.
In the summer of 2007 Buchanan organised the first "Deleuze Camp", a week-long summer school focusing exclusively on the work of Gilles Deleuze with instruction provided by Buchanan as well as Claire Colebrook, Gregg Lambert, Paul Patton and Dan Smith. An immediate success, the event was repeated in 2008 to coincide with the first international Deleuze Studies conference held to launch the journal of Deleuze Studies Buchanan founded in 2007. Both the camp and the conference are now a regular event – in 2009 they will be held in Cologne, and 2010 they will be held in Amsterdam.
In addition to establishing the Deleuze Studies journal, Buchanan has helped to establish the field of Deleuze Studies by creating 3 book series dedicated to Deleuze's work. Probably the best known of these is the Deleuze Connections series, colloquially known as the 'Deleuze and …' series because of the way the series is formulated around the idea of the intersection between Deleuze's work and particular disciplines such as music, literature and space. The other series are Plateaus, which he co-edits with Claire Colebrook, and the new one Deleuze Encounters, which plans to create Deleuze-inflected textbooks. The third series stresses Buchanan' recognised experience on the teaching of Deleuze's philosophy and the training of new scholars at the Centre of Critical and Cultural Theory (Cardiff University), and his efforts to encourage Deleuze research around the world.
Buchanan's reading of Deleuze has made three influential arguments. First, he has shown that there is a strong utopian aspect to Deleuze's thought. It is true that Deleuze hasn't given us a concrete ethics or the historical framework for an ethics. He has, however, provided the blueprint for a different world and consistently asked us to take seriously the Nietzschean problem of discovering new possibilities for life. Second, Buchanan argues that Deleuze is a dialectical thinker in the sense that his philosophy has a larger purpose than that of simply creating a system of interlinked concepts. It is not enough, therefore, to simply outline Deleuze's system. One has to show what that system does. Finally, because Buchanan understands 'dialectical', (following Jameson) as the necessary and self-conscious relation between a model and its application, his interpretations of Deleuze's concepts are inseparable from a practical analysis.
• 2008 Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, Continuum.
• 2006 Fredric Jameson: Live Theory, Continuum.
• 2000 Deleuzism: A Metacommentary, Duke University Press and Edinburgh University Press.
• 2000 Michel de Certeau: Cultural Theorist, Sage.
• 2008 (with Patricia MacCormack) Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Cinema, Continuum.
• 2008 (with Nicholas Thoburn) Deleuze and Politics, Edinburgh University Press.
• 2007 Jameson on Jameson: Conversations on Cultural Marxism, Duke University Press.
• 2006 (with Adrian Parr, PhD) Deleuze and the Contemporary World, Edinburgh University Press.
• 2006 (with Caren Irr) On Fredric Jameson, SUNY Press.
• 2005 (with Gregg Lambert) Deleuze and Space, Edinburgh University Press.
• 2004 (with Marcel Swiboda) Deleuze and Music, Edinburgh University Press.
• 2000 (with John Marks) Deleuze and Literature, Edinburgh University Press.
• 2000 (with Claire Colebrook) Deleuze and Feminist Theory, Edinburgh University Press.
• 1999 A Deleuzian Century? (reissue of South Atlantic Quarterly 96:3), Duke University Press.
• 1999 (with Ruth Barcan) Imagining Australian Space, UWA Press.
Guest Edited Journals
• Guest Editor (with Jeffrey R. Di Leo) for Symploke (vol 11: 1–2 2003) a special issue on Literary Theory.
• Guest Editor for South Atlantic Quarterly (vol 100:2 2001), a special issue on Michel de Certeau.
• Guest Editor for Paragraph (vol 22:2 1999), a special issue on Michel de Certeau.
• Guest Editor for Social Semiotics (vol 7:2 1997), a special issue on Gilles Deleuze.
• Guest Editor for South Atlantic Quarterly (vol 96:3 1997), a special issue on Gilles Deleuze.
• Guest Editor for Social Semiotics (vol 6:1 1996), a special issue on Michel de Certeau.