In 1980 he gained a PhD from Goldsmiths with a thesis entitled The Dialectic of Modernism and Mass Culture: Studies in Post War British Art. He is an authority on the artistic work of Richard Hamilton, Marcel Duchamp and James Joyce. He is also a leading authority on postcolonial studies. He was Professor of Art and Art Theory at Goldsmiths College, London 1980–2005 and has been Professor of Visual Arts and Knowledge Systems at Malmö Art Academy since 2003.
Maharaj has been a visiting professor at a number of institutions, including the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, and Humboldt University, Berlin. He was co-curator of Documenta 11, the 2008 Guangzhou Triennial and the 2010 Sao Paolo Biennial, and head curator of GIBCA 2011. Maharaj is also a member of the advisory board of the journal Third Text