Human Geography

Our Human Geography list tackles the big issues, from equality to population growth to sustainability, publishing in cultural and social geography, development geography, political geography, qualitative and quantitative research methods and urban geography.

The list includes internationally renowned names such as Danny Dorling, Loretta Lees and Anne Power. We publish a range of formats including research books that bridge theory and apply it to practice.

Human Geography

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Recent crises have underscored the vulnerabilities of societies and economies across the globe. The changing nature of global trade, supply chains management and production systems demands a more comprehensive approach in economic geography in order to understand and address these shifts. Economic geographers have long been well positioned in exploring this alteration and addressing the vulnerabilities. This chapter examines the key actors and processes that contribute to the global economy and the work by economic geographers in understanding the geographies of production, supply chains disruptions and economic life. It seeks to develop a more resilient approach in economic geography to understand the changing nature of global economy, production systems and societies during crises. Three key areas are identified in developing such an approach that extend beyond the existing literature and understanding of the geographies of production. They involve identifying the very processes and tasks underlying each operation and decision-making process, reconceptualizing ‘value’ and ‘risk’ and proactively managing risks.

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Climate change is disrupting the fundamental conditions of human life, while exacerbating existing inequities by placing further burdens on communities that are already vulnerable. For economic geographers, the challenge is to fundamentally reconsider our economies and the physical, social and environmental infrastructures that underpin them. Climate change also presents an opportunity to transform our social and economic systems and to better integrate social and ecological outcomes. In reducing social values to economic exchange value, a range of social and environmental attributes are stripped out of economic valuation. Climate change requires attention to two critical dynamics: (1) managing the balance of time between socio-economic and environmental systems, and (2) understanding the flows of hydrocarbon cycles and their interrelationship with ecosystems. A sustainable economy would not compress resource values so that their only form of recognition might be the profitability of their exchange, but it should instead give them space for expression, consideration and realization. Rather than address climate change in a silo, as a by-product of fossil-fuel-based energy, climate change should instead be considered within a system of planetary boundaries. Land-based industries, such as forestry, water provision, energy, agriculture, fisheries and even real estate should be integrated through comprehensive systems approaches. In this way, resilience strategies could address not just critical physical infrastructure but also the socio-economic and cultural interdependencies of human and natural systems. This is the only way to truly address a problem with the scope and scale of climate change.

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This chapter discusses the impact of two global crises, the 2008 financial crash and the COVID-19 pandemic, on contemporary economic geographies, with a particular focus on housing precarity and political struggles. It positions practices of dwelling in crisis at the analytical centre of critical and feminist understandings of ‘the economy’ and its contemporary geographies. Across a formal–informal continuum, it argues that dwelling practices are key to examining and addressing not only processes of extraction, control and dispossession, but also forms of resistance, interdependency and reconfiguration. The chapter anchors this argument in concrete examples: informal urban livelihoods and self-organized care through squatting, and extension of platform economies and digital mediation, in two European cities.

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This chapter sets out a research agenda that seeks to refocus attention on industrial landscapes at a time of intense change brought on by decarbonization. It begins with a brief overview of the rich history of geographical work on industrial landscapes. The chapter emphasizes the contributions of feminist economic geographers and those who have written about embodied labour process, who have developed nuanced and holistic approaches to understandings of work, skill, households and everyday life. Drawing on examples from recent research projects led by the authors in the steel and coal sectors, the chapter explores how these literatures shed new light on two overlooked aspects of industrial landscapes: invisible labour and workers beyond the paid workplace. It concludes by calling for a broader emphasis on the lived experiences and social relations that shape workers lives beyond paid work, in future research on industrial transitions. As the world grapples with the need to shift away from fossil-fuel dependency, such work is urgently needed to support those communities on the front line of a new wave of structural change that is already transforming industrial landscapes.

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In this chapter on informal economies, we ask what ongoing analytical moves – beyond critiques of the dominant, deterministic binaries of informality versus formality and coercion versus resistance – open up for everyday understandings of ‘work’ and new modes of urban survival. We find that examining exclusions from formal labour alongside those from housing offers particularly productive insights into informality beyond labour-worlds, as it intersects so intimately with gendered and racialized difference. Finally, we propose that (renewed) attention to embodied labour/care can speak to a feminist, anti-racist ethics of engaging with informal work, that is attuned to plurality and social justice.

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The subdiscipline of economic geography has a long and varied history, and recent work has pushed the field to diversify even further. This collection takes this agenda forward by showcasing inspiring, critical and plural perspectives for contemporary economic geographies. Highlighting the contributions of global scholars, the 30 chapters highlight fresh ways of approaching economic geography in research, teaching and praxis. With sections on thought leaders, contemporary critical debates and future research agendas, this collection calls for greater openness and inclusivity.

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What could economic geographies be? What should economic geographies be? Who might be included in this project, what might they contribute, and how can we ensure that this work is valued? These are not new questions, and yet they remain as pertinent as ever. This collection adopts a fresh perspective to these debates, and to economic geographies more broadly, with a focus on plurality. We show how contemporary economic geographies are already plural, as they are critical and inspiring. However, this remains to be widely recognized and celebrated. Such pluralism is, we argue, essential. It includes building upon economic geographies that acknowledge the deeply ingrained racial, gendered and classed power differentials inherent within the economy across space, scale and time; and that propose ways to address these problems. It involves expanding upon the areas that are considered the ‘heartlands’ of economic geography (such as a focus on the regional and national scale, agglomeration and clustering, financial processes and industrial sectors), and advancing the theoretical devices deployed to understand these worlds. Pluralism likewise extends to empirical and methodological imagination, in terms of how, where and with whom economic geographies engage, include and empower. This involves wider engagements across international fields of study, going beyond Anglocentric sites, writings and perspectives, and broadening methodological expertise to encourage innovation and creativity. Working towards more plural economic geographies also means tackling and addressing long-standing concerns about the overbearing heteronormativity of who ‘does’ and who is ‘recognized’ within the subdiscipline.

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The feminist economic geographer, J.K. Gibson-Graham, has had a critical role in shaping, imagining and reimagining the ‘economic’ beyond its conceptualization via normative centring of capitalist-oriented practices. Through the concept of ‘diverse economies’, Gibson-Graham has helped visualize a plurality of non-capitalist economic practices, all of which are critical and crucial in shaping the lives of individuals and communities around the world. Remittances – often involving financial transfers across geographies – are one such example of a non-capitalist economic practice, connecting communities within the institution of the ‘global household’. But the concept of ‘diverse economies’ has been challenged to expand its theoretical remit, recognizing not just the potential for liberation, but the ways in which diverse economic practices represent a mode of survival for people of colour mediating racial capitalism and colonial injustices. This chapter pays attention to a non-capitalist practice of remittance that, while sharing similarities with diverse economic practices across geographies, is uniquely shaped by a local environment mediated by racial capitalism, colonialism and apartheid – ‘Black Tax’.

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Jessie Poon is a pioneering economic geographer whose early research into international trade and regional agreements in Asia plays a vital role in shaping economic geography research on Asia during a period of rapid economic expansion in the 1990s and early 2000s. Her research on trade, foreign direct investment, transnational corporations and Asia’s innovation and technological shifts has contributed to key debates on state–firm relationships, capital markets development, innovation and regional development for almost three decades. The influence of her work has been felt beyond economic geography in diverse fields such urban studies, international political economy, economics and development. Other than international trade and the organizational geographies of transnational corporations, a major strand of Poon’s research focuses on geographies of finance, particularly on the governance of capital markets, Islamic finance and offshore jurisdictions. Her work unpacks the complex ways in which new forms of financial and legal spaces are carved out and legitimized for Islamic finance and special purpose vehicles in offshore jurisdictions. These have important implications for how we study new forms and spatialities of knowledge production and regulatory power in economic geography as well as for legal geography, geopolitics and postcolonial debates. Drawing from her quantitative training and experience, Poon has also made substantive contributions to key debates on the changing roles and potential of quantitative methods in geography.

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This chapter examines the economic geographies of labour. In its framing, it includes geographic research on labour published within several subdisciplines of human geography including economic geography, labour geography and social/cultural geography. While economic geography positions labour as one part of a wider economic system involving firms, the state, and production and consumption networks, labour geography centres the worker’s active relation to capital. Research on labour issues from social/cultural geography often offers a more expansive definition and consideration of labour, beyond wage labour while also digging into the identities and experiences of workers. Taken together, this chapter reckons with the diversity of economic geography research on labour through the lens of inequality, considering five different ‘divisions of labour’ as well as self-employment and informal labour. It argues that geographers need to be attentive to what is new: work organized through digital platforms, the rise of automation, knowledge work that is increasingly disconnected from physical place, but also all the ways that inequalities within labour under capitalism endures. As technology creates change in the lives of workers, exploitation may take new forms, but the pressure to extract value from workers remains.

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