Research

I have a long-standing research interest in understanding the reconfigurations of public life. This includes work on:

  • Geographies of Public Life and Spaces of Democracyincluding theories of the public sphere, geographies of representation, and geographies of injustice. Current research in these areas includes a British Academy funded project on Popular Responses in the UK to Covid-19, and an ESRC-funded project one on Algorithmic Politics & Administrative Justice in the EU Settlement Scheme.
  • Social Theory: including Critical Theory, democratic theory, media theory, postcolonalism, poststructuralism, pragmatism, theories of action. Work in this area has included critical engagements with the conceptualization of ‘neoliberalism’ and other key concepts in and around human geography, including theories of affect. Current work in this area includes an edited collection on theories of social change, and an edited collection of essays on modes of geographical reasoning.
  • Changing Cities: focussing on the theme of the urbanization of responsibility, this includes recent work on status of case studies in urban studies and the genealogy of the idea of ‘wicked problems’.
  • Learning from South Africa: including popular culture, media and cultural policy, environmental movements and urban politics in Durban, and southern urbanism. Work in this area includes an ongoing project on the genealogies of South African urban studies.

See ORCID for further details: 0000-0002-1291-1421

Long ago, my doctoral thesis, Impure and Worldly Geography, explored understandings of the politics of representation in postcolonial theory and poststructuralism, and looked at nineteenth-century public discourses about African geography as an example of ‘white writing‘. Subsequent work in this area included further research on the textual-institutional geographies of colonial and postcolonial public spheres, including research on the construction of transnational literary publics around the Heinemann African Writers Series and the reception of J.M. Coetzee’s work.

Much of my research has focussed on exploring the geographies of  public life, including conceptualising the challenges of developing critical perspectives on new practices, sites and norms of public action (see the edited collection Rethinking the Public).

My research on public formation is part of a long standing interest in understanding the spaces of democratic politics (including the books Culture and Democracy and Spaces of Democracy). This work has focussed on re-conceptualizing the geographical aspects of the democratic principle of ‘all affected interests’, and has informed the development of the argument presented in my latest book, The Priority of Injustice: Locating Democracy in Critical Theory. Developing the analysis of ‘the priority of injustice’ is a core theme of the ESRC project on Algorithmic Politics & Administrative Justice in the EU Settlement Scheme. 

Intersecting with this work on public formation is an interest in exploring what Michel Foucault referred to as ‘problematizations’. Methodologically, this involves the analysis of ascriptions of responsibility. This has included research exploring the place-based problematization of everyday consumption practices as a strategy for mobilizing local networks of global solidarity (see the book Globalizing Responsibility). This research overlapped with an interest in the development of social theoretical perspectives on ordinary practices of virtue, such as care, generosity, hospitality, justice, and responsibility (see the edited collection Extending Hospitality). More recent work on problematizations has included research exploring the urbanization of responsibility in contemporary policy discourse and public culture. And further work on the ordinary practices through which people engage with public demands for responsible action is the focus of the British Academy project on Popular Responses in the UK to Covid-19.

My current research focuses on developing themes that arise from various projects:

1). work on the geographies of public life focusses on understanding popular responses to discourses of risk and responsibility during the Covid-19 pandemic, supported by a British Academy research award.

2). work applying the priority of injustice approach empirically, via an ESRC project on Algorithmic Politics & Administrative Justice in the EU Settlement Scheme.

3). work on democratic politics, as part of the Reversing the Gaze programme funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

4). work on ‘logical geographies of action’ building on themes in The Priority of Injustice: Locating Democracy in Critical Theory.

5). work on the geographies of urban social science, including work supported by a British Academy/Newton project on South African urban thought since the 1970s.

6).  work on the theme of ‘the urbanization of responsibility’, seeking to make sense of why and how everyone loves cities these days.

7). work in the area of social theory focusses on an edited collection on theories of social change.

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