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School of Geography

Paul Routledge Prof. Paul Routledge

Contact details

School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK


+44 (0) 113 34 33311

Student hours:

Research overview

The Spatiality of Social Movements in the Global South and Global North

My research has been particularly focused on how spatial processes and relations of social movement practices are manifested across a variety of scales; how the particularities of specific places influence the character and emergence of various forms of conflict; how social movement practices are constitutive of different relationships to space; how social movement behaviours and practices are symbolically and materially mediated through discourses and images created by the social movements themselves and by the mass media; and the operational logics of social movement networks. My research here has taken two distinct paths. First, it has focused upon peasant movements resisting destructive neoliberal development in the Global South. My research has incorporated the political economy of development in South Asia (particularly, India, Nepal and Bangladesh); the role of multinational and transnational organisations in the development process; the economic, political, ecological and cultural effects of development upon societies at the national, regional and local levels; the popular response to this process in the form of social movements; the mediation of social movement agency by the specifics of place; and the identities created by those engaged in resistance practices.

My research has encompassed: (i) deforestation in the Himalayan foothills of Uttar Pradesh, India; (ii) development and displacement of communities in Orissa, India; (iii) tourism development in Goa, India; (iv) development of dams in the Narmada valley, Madhya Pradesh, India; (v) the practices of global justice networks as articulated by social movements in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Borneo; (vi) climate change and food sovereignty in Bangladesh and Nepal; (vii) climate justice practices and discourses (in UK, Europe, Asia, and South Africa).

ESRC funded research in collaboration with Professor Andrew Cumbers, Glasgow, was focused upon People’s Global Action, a transnational network of social movements from Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America, that was concerned with resistance to neoliberal capitalism. My research was focused upon the Asian regional component of the network, working in collaboration with social movements in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Borneo and Indonesia. This resulted in an agenda-setting book (Global Justice Networks: Geographies of Transnational Solidarity. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 'Perspectives on Democratic Practice' Series, 2009) recently reviewed in the Canadian Journal of Sociology as 'essential reading' and as ‘an important milestone’ in Cultural Geographies. A second strand of my research has focused on urban-based rebellions and initiatives such as the anti-roads movement and environmental justice networks in Glasgow, Scotland; and revolutionary movements in Kathmandu, Nepal. To this end, I recently edited a special issue of Urban Studies journal on Cities and Conflict (2010).

Scholar Activism

My research involves politically engaged and committed research that is practice-based and conducted in horizontal collaboration with social movements. This implies both an immersion in the ‘field’ – in the various sites of research or places of encounter – as well as immersion in the practices that one is conducting research on. This necessitates critical engagement with social movements in specific places that constitute embodied ‘terrains of resistance’. Hence, I have participated in, and written about: the anti-roads movement in the U.K.; anti-tourism struggles in Goa India; the anti-dam resistance of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in India; the People’s Global Action network in Asia; land occupation struggles of the Bangladesh Krishok Federation; the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army; and climate justice struggles in Europe and South Asia.

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 Focus on the Global South). Recent ESRC funded research (in 2010-11) used popular education and social theatre to address issues of poverty and environmental justice in Scotland. The research involved participation from economically marginalised urban communities and was designed to enhance their ability to build effective, productive connections and solidarities between themselves concerning their responses to environmental injustice.



Session Organiser: Climate Change, Resource Conflicts and Social Justice RGS/IBG Annual Conference, 28-30/8/13

Discussant on Ecological Citizenship in the Global South, RGS/IBG Annual Conference, 28-30/8/13.

Keynote speaker, ‘Contentious ‘Norms’ ?:  Food Sovereignty and the Politics of Occupations’ URPP Asia and Europe Annual Conference 2013 ‘Traveling Norms and the Politics of Contention’ 25-26 October, University of Zurich

Provocateur, ‘Rethinking food security: the role of food sovereignty’ session 7 of WUN conference ‘Adapting to Climate Change 3: Climate Smart Development’ on Rethinking Food Security: the role of Food Sovereignty’ 12/09/13

Invited Expert Panel speaker at The Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy’s Big Climate Change Debate 'The Burning Question: We can’t burn half the world’s oil, coal and gas. So how do we quit?’ 4/11/13


Invited Speaker ‘Climate Justice: climate change, social justice and geographies of responsibility’ Trans European Executive Programme in Corporate Social Responsibility (TEMPO) University of Glasgow, January

Invited Panellist 'Changing Our World Beyond the Ivory Tower: Purposes, practical challenges and underlying ethics of Participatory Action Research' Changing Our World Beyond the Ivory Tower: Participatory Geographies Training Day, Out of the Blue Arts & Education Trust, Edinburgh

Keynote Speaker, ‘Manifesto for Creative Activism: Activist Ethnography, Sites of Intervention and Lines of F(l)ight’; AHRC seminar ‘Creative practice, activism and place-identities: exploring the spatialities of cultural activism’ Arts and Humanities Research Council & the University of the West of England, Bristol.

Invited Presenter ‘From a Climate of Injustice to Climate Justice’ La Via Campesina Climate Change meeting, Kathmandu, Nepal, July

Invited keynote, 8th Stockholm Anthropology Roundtable on Social Movements, Alternative Publics and Political Dissent, University of Stockholm

Invited briefing, ‘Climate Change and Security in the 21st century’ to NATO Parliamentary Assembly; University of Glasgow


‘Climate justice solidarities’ Visiting Scholar Research Seminar, Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa

‘Climate justice as alterhegemony’ paper given at the panel on Climate Justice and the Scale of Contentious Politics at the European Consortium of Political Research, Reykjavik, Iceland

‘Climate justice: antagonism, commons, solidarity’ Invited keynote address at The Scale of Globalization Conference, University of Ostrava, Czech Republic

‘Climate justice: antagonism, commons, solidarity’ paper given at the ‘How to study transnational social movements’ workshop, University of Gothenburg, Sweden