ISRF Mid-Career Fellow 2015-16
Richard was awarded his PhD by the Department of Geography and Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge in May 2004, and moved to Oxford to an Associate Professorship and Tutorial Fellowship at Mansfield College in September 2010 following time at the universities of Cambridge, Manchester & Liverpool.
His research interests encompass geographies of science, political economies of resources and the geopolitics of territory. His work involves questions at the intersection of the social and environmental sciences and utilizes ethnographic and historical methods.
Richard’s ISRF project attempts to recast fundamentally understandings about the legacies of environmental determinism in the structuring and disciplinary practices of the social sciences, and aims to contribute to a major rethinking of the relationship between ideas about environment and political governance.
This research proposed here attempts to recast fundamentally understandings about the legacies of environmental determinism in the structuring and disciplinary practices of the social sciences. It does this in two major ways.
First, the research will delineate the relationships in the second half of the twentieth century and twentyfirst century between International Relations (IR), Geopolitics and political thought. These connections have long been disavowed because of the association between geopolitical thought and Germany in the 1930s. This project will uncover more complicated, North Atlantic imbrications. These were embryonic in the late nineteenth century, but these developed after 1945 in particular sites and networks outside of mainstream theoretical discussions in the social sciences. It is the thesis of this research that these connections and their legacies persist into the present, and that this influences the geopolitical imagination in policy circles today.
Second, the proposal argues that, notwithstanding such attempts at disavowal, geographic determinism is periodically discovered in international affairs, as demonstrated most recently in Robert Kaplan’s (2012) The Revenge of Geography. These apparent recoveries are directly attributable to practices of disciplinary boundary-making, which have impeded understandings in the social sciences. Moreover, this pseudo-conventional, ‘public intellectual’, understanding of geographical determinism continues to resonate across the social and environmental sciences, as evidenced in the rapid growth and popularity of the concept of the Anthropocene and debates about possibilities for geographical engineering in addressing climatic futures.
In order to undertake this project, research will be undertaken at relevant archives and individuals will be interviewed in the UK and the US. Through this, new explanatory frameworks will be developed for the history and present purposes of the social sciences. By supporting this research, the ISRF will contribute to a major rethinking of the relationship between ideas about environment and political governance.