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School of Geography

Meet the researcher - Professor Paul Routledge

Paul joined the School in May 2013 and his research interests include critical geopolitics, climate change, social justice, civil society, the environment, and social movements. Paul has long-standing research interests concerning development, environment and the practices of social movements in the Global South, particularly South Asia and Southeast Asia, and in the Global North

1.   Why did you become interested in research?

Although I can trace my interest in research back to my school years when we conducted research projects, it really flowered when I understood that I could merge my political and intellectual concerns though research practices that had more than just academic ‘value’. Subsequently, I have attempted to conduct politically engaged and committed research that is practice-based and conducted in horizontal collaboration with social movements. This has necessitated critical engagement with social movements in specific places that constitute embodied ‘terrains of resistance’, both in the UK and Asia.

2.    What are you currently working on?

I am currently commencing collaboration with the international farmer’s network, La Via Campesina and the Climate Justice Now! network particularly in South Africa and Thailand (with research organisation Focus on the Global South). In particular, and in collaboration with the Bangladesh Krishok Federation, I am interested in the politics of land occupations and the associated politics of social reproduction, as they play out in what have been termed emerging discourses of ‘resource sovereignty’.

3.   What is the most important finding from your research to date?

That the vitality and passionate intensity of life at the grassroots – embodied in social justice struggles both in the UK and internationally – significantly contribute to, and often actively produce, what we understand as theory.

4.   What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Many of my most memorable highlights have been fieldwork-based: burning cars and living in trees at Pollok Free State, Glasgow (1994); working undercover for environmentalist lawyers in Goa, India (1997); working and living in the anti-dam resistance camps in the Narmada valley, India (1999); organizing/participating in activist convergences in Cochabamba, Bolivia (2001) and Dhaka, Bangladesh (2004); participating in street theatre/mobilisations concerning the G8 in Scotland (2005) and the UN climate talks in Copenhagen (2009); and participating in a climate caravan in Bangladesh (2011). All of these engagements have given life and meaning to my research and hence my career.

5.   What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a research career in your field?

To take seriously Arjun Appadurai’s injunction to make academic work relevant to the poor, displaced, and dispossessed whether at home or abroad.

6.   What is the most common question you are asked by non-researchers?

“They let you do that in Geography?!!” I try to explain both the importance of a spatial understanding of the world around us, and the necessity, in my work, of a scholar-activist engagement.

7.   What is your favourite hobby?

Swimming, yoga, reading science fiction, hill walking, music.

For more on Paul's research and publications visit his homepage

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