I recently took up the Associate Dean (Research) role in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science at UTS, Sydney. I have previously worked at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and maintain my long affiliation with the University of Manchester, England.
My principal research interest is the political economy of environmental change. I have spent most of my career in departments of Geography.
Drawing upon Marxist theory, I've made some (very modest) contributions to ongoing debates about the ecological implications of the capitalist way of life. These contributions relate to the process of commodifying nature and the 'neoliberalisation' of environmental governance. More broadly, I've sought to shape thinking about society-environment relations through my coedited books Remaking Reality (1998) and Social Nature (2001). They tried take seriously the 'materiality' of the biophysical world, while conceding the power of 'social constructionist' perspectives on nature and environment (both biophysically and discursively).
A later book, simply called Nature (2005), was an attempt to show how geography as an academic subject has been profoundly shaped by geographers' diverse attempts to make sense of the non-human world. It further suggested that Geography, far from simply disclosing 'truths' about nature, is part of a much wider social process in which various 'epistemic workers' seek to shape public understandings of the world by utilising their credentials. Building-out from this, I wrote a cross-disciplinary book about how the topic of 'nature' is a very important vehicle used by all manner of thought-shapers - from journalists to artists - to govern the ideas, feelings and actions of ordinary people. It's called Making Sense of Nature (Routledge, 2014).
'Nature' aside, I also have a fascination with the other 'big concepts' that help to define geography as a subject but which also, increasing, preoccupy those in the wider social sciences and humanities. These concepts all have relevance to everyday life, and are not merely 'academic'. I've authored programmatic pieces on 'place'', 'space-time' and 'scale', and this is linked to my enduring interest in what 'added value' one gets from taking a geographical perspective on the world.
Using Marxist theory once more, and again focussing on capitalism, I've also written about wage work and paid employment from a geographical perspective wearing the hat of a 'labour geographer'. This was once my second main research interest, and found expression in the co-authored book Spaces of work (2004) and several published essays. When I say 'second' I don't mean 'separate': Marxism obliges any analyst to seek out relations and connections between ostensibly different things.
Talking of holistic thinking, the writings of Marxist geographer David Harvey have long given me wonderful food for thought. I've engaged with Harvey's work critically in a string of essays going back 20 years, and coedited David Harvey: A Critical Reader back in 2006.
Finally, I've sought to think critically but constructively about the institutional site that permits and proscribes my academic activities: the university. My most complete statement here can be found in a little read essay in The knowledge business, edited by Rob Imrie and Chris Allen (2010). Another appeared in an appreciative essay about Marxist geographer Neil Smith's life and work, published in Antipode (in 2017).
Fellow of the Academy of Social Science (UK)