From 1991 to 1995, Zembylas studied philosophy, history of art and sociology at the University of Vienna, where he took his M.A. degree. He then held a research grant at the Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften in Vienna. After obtaining his Ph.D. degree in 1997, he conducted independent research and was commissioned to carry out various studies in the field of education and vocational training. He also lectured on aesthetics and sociology of art at the University of Vienna and at the University of Applied Art in Vienna. In 1999, he was appointed assistant professor at the Institute of Culture Management and Culture Studies of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. Having completed his advanced habilitation thesis in 2003, he was appointed university professor for Cultural Institutions Studies at the same institute. In 2009, Zembylas was visiting professor at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, and 2010 he moved to the Institute for Music Sociology at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. Zembylas is member of the Board of the Research Network Sociology of Arts in the European Sociological Association and of the Board of Fachverband Kulturmanagement (Association of Cultural Management in German speaking countries).
A basic philosophical issue investigated by Zembylas is the formation process of the concept of art. His approach is to study not only linguistic expressions and theories trying to capture contemporary art, but, equally important, to describe and analyse the social negotiation processes and practices taking place in the art world.
The close connection between art and social practices, as well as between structures observed in cultural life and society at large, has led Zembylas to focus on cultural, social, political and economic reflection about the cultural sector. His theoretical efforts resulted in the elaboration of an inter-disciplinary approach towards the major topics of cultural institutions studies. In addition to his theoretical work, Zembylas has conducted several empirical studies, notably about public arts funding in Austria, which dealt with the legal standards prevailing in administrative subsidisation procedures.
From 2006-2008 Zembylas investigated together with Claudia Dürr the literary writing process from an epistemological perspective. The study focused on the formation and effects of artistic-practical know-how, as well as on the role of experiences made, and concluded with a general epistemology of artistic practice.
On Sociology of art:
- Kunst oder Nichtkunst. Über die Bedingungen und Instanzen ästhetischer Beurteilung, (Art and Non-Art. Conditions and Authorities of Aesthetic Valuation), Vienna: Facultas, 1997
- (Editor) Kurt Blaukopf on Music Sociology – an Anthology, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Verlag, 2012
- Das Subjekt in der Malerei. Anatomie eines sterbenden Mythos, (The Subject in Painting. Anatomy of a Myth), Innsbruck: StudienVerlag, 2000
On Cultural policy:
- (Editor), Kunst und Politik – Aspekte einer Problematik, (Arts and Politics – Some Problematic Issues), Innsbruck: StudienVerlag, 2000
- (First Editor) Der Staat als kulturfördernde Instanz, (The State as a Culture Funding Authority), Innsbruck: StudienVerlag, 2005
- (Co-Editor) Kulturmanagement and Kulturpolitik. Jahrbuch für Kulturmanagement 2011, (Cultural Management and Cultural Policy), Bielefeld: Transcript, 2011
- Kulturbetriebslehre – Grundlagen einer Inter-Disziplin, (Cultural Institutions Studies – Foundations of an Interdisciplinary Approach), Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004
- (First Editor) Kulturbetriebsforschung – Methoden und Perspektiven, (Research on Cultural Sector – Methods and Perspectives) Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2006
- (together with Claudia Dürr), Wissen, Können und literarisches Schreiben. Eine Epistemologie der künstlerischen Praxis, (Knowledge, Knowing and Literary Writing. An Epistemology of Artistic Practice), Vienna: Passagen Verlag, 2009.
- Die Mönchsrepublik Athos. Eine geistige Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, (The Monks Republic Athos. A Spiritual Corporation), Vienna: Passagen Verlag, 2010