Q: Tell us about your academic and professional background.
A: I completed my PhD at the University of Bristol in Geography, and my graduate work included a year at the Department of Politics as well. I was very fortunate to be taught by an amazing group of geographers and political theorists such as Les Hepple, Nick Rengger, Nigel Thrift and Sarah Whatmore. After my first appointment at the University of Edinburgh, I joined Royal Holloway, University of London in 1994. I have held visiting fellowships at Oxford and University of Canterbury in New Zealand. I edited the Geographical Journal between 2010-2015 and am a trustee of the Royal Geographical Society with IBG (2019-2022).
Q: Why have you taken on your new role of Editor-in-Chief?
A: Ever since Territory, Politics , Governance was launched, it has been on my academic radar screen. It is a gathering place for a cohort of talented social scientists eager to make sense of issues that speak to me as a political geographer. So when the opportunity arose to become deputy editor in 2018 and editor in chief in 2019 it was one that I was eager to accept. It also comes with it a heavy burden of responsibility. Taking over from Professor John Agnew is daunting.
Another important aspect of the role is that you are part of the Regional Studies Association. As a learned society, the RSA is incredibly proactive in promoting and supporting scholarship around the world. As a member of the RSA’s publications committee, for example, you are left in no doubt how impressive the association is. I am proud to be a member of the RSA and see the academic journals as integral to its mission. The RSA team is incredibly supportive of its editors, and it was an honour to attend the 2019 annual conference in Santiago de Compostela.
Q: What differentiates the journal from others in its field?
A: The journal aims to be an interdisciplinary home for folks who are interested in the intersection between territory, politics and governance. Thanks to a gamut of scholarship including feminist and critical race studies scholarship, it is essential that we recognise that these key terms demand careful interrogation – our understandings and embodied experiences of governance (for example) are hugely different depending on our location, citizenship, and personal characteristics.
The distinctiveness of the journal lies in the fact that it invites scholars from a wide variety of fields to engage with three topics that are integral to any sensible discussion of our global futures. We know that we face unprecedented challenges from climate change in an Anthropogenic era. We are a highly unequal world, which is coming to terms with the fact that the political geographies of the earth sit uneasily with natural systems and trans-national/supra-national flows and formations. All of which is producing forms of politics that turn inwards (populism, nativism) and outwards (cosmopolitanism, more than human).
All of which makes editing the journal exciting and, as I noted earlier, a little bit daunting. But thankfully the journal is supported by an excellent group of co-editors and early career editor. Our referees are also overwhelmingly positive in the spirit in which they offer their critique as well. I think we have a good author-reviewer relationship. And authors will receive a high level of care and attention from our publisher.
Finally, the journal’s impact factor continues to rise. We are held in high regard as a journal and we have a growing number of ‘repeat authors’ which I take as a complement. We have no shortage of special issue proposals. And we have a learned society to support our endeavours.
What are you waiting for, authors! View instructions for authors here.
Q: What would your dream article look like, and which author would write it? Which research topics do you think are of particular interest to the research community at the current time?
A: The dream article is one that generates superb engagement with the referees. I have seen articles where referees have been inspired to engage in almost a mini-conversation with the author via anonymous feedback. I enjoy reading the back and forth as author and referee patently wish the very best for the article. It is perfectly possible that on publication, author and referee might even continue that conversation and possibly create a new intellectual partnership.
A dream article might be the one that launches the career of an early researcher. We all remember our first published article. My one was in the geographical journal, Area in 1993. And I want our authors to think fondly of their experience with TPG.
My aim as editor in chief is to create the conditions so that all authors can write their ‘dream articles’.
And when it comes to research topics and their wider interest, I trust our authors and would-be contributors to bring their collective wisdom to the journal. I love receiving submissions that address subject matter I had not even thought of as germane to the journal. One area that I would love to see further articles on is big data, automation, and artificial intelligence. In part because I know less about these topics but am intrigued to learn more about how they contribute to territory, politics and governance of human and non-human communities. Pertinent questions might include: What is a responsible use of AI? Can algorithms be accountable? Can we speak of governance conducted in a digitally respectful and trustful manner?
But my role as editor in chief is to ensure that the journal is respectful of its mandate and open to all sorts of submissions.
Q: What’s the best article you’ve read recently (in TPG)?
A: I genuinely don’t think of articles in terms of ‘best’. The criterion I tend to adopt is a bit more oblique; what kind of article makes me think differently about a particular topic or issue? It is often one that has a counter-intuitive quality.
There was a very elegant article by Michael Dwyer and Thoumthone Vongvisouk in the first issue of the 2019 edition of TPG on 'The long land grab: market-assisted enclosure on the China-Lao rubber frontier'. I thought they did a fine job of showing that this was not simply a story about hegemonic ‘global China’. Rather they reveal that the ‘rubber frontier’ is a complex story of local, national and international stakeholders seeking to acquire and retain land, resist dispossession, manage local-national relations within Laos and mitigate anxieties about foreign domination. They caution us about assuming governments have coherent and fully-formed national strategies. It is a clever piece.
Q: What advice would you give to submitting authors?
A: Be confident. Please do submit to us and we will make sure that we can make the refereeing process as supportive as possible. But do help us by ensuring that the intended paper speaks to the mandate of the journal, is well presented and is clear on its academic contribution to the fields in question. If possible cite papers that have been published in TPG and perhaps think of your paper as continuing a ‘conversation’ that has its roots in the journal itself.
The vast majority of our referees want to help authors do the very best with their papers. However, we need as would-be authors to be respectful of our readers as well.
Q: Why should readers consider membership to the RSA?
A: By joining the RSA, you embark on a relationship with a highly active and much respected learned society. The RSA is collegial and supportive. It offers grants for research and networking. And it organises fantastic conferences around the world, which show-case the work done by members and non-members alike. If you visit the RSA website, you will also discover a global network of RSA ambassadors who are able to advise our members about relevant national research opportunities.
The RSA is also representing us in important national and international forums. In the UK, the RSA is active in the Academy of Social Sciences. It contributes to campaigns relevant to academics such as the future of open access publishing.
Learned societies are essential for academic communities and the RSA is a uniquely inter-disciplinary one led by a dynamic team.
Q: Do you have any advice for early career researchers in the field?
A: Please do contact us if you have any queries about the journal and the potential suitability of a paper. As editor in chief I am also happy to field other questions you might have as they relate to academic publishing.
I am hesitant to give advice to early carer researchers. The advice we give is often shaped more than we might care to admit about our own personal experiences and informed by personal biases and conceits. Our advice may well be better suited to some than others.
I would rather say I am at your disposal. If you think I can be helpful, then please contact me directly.
Q: What advice would you give yourself just after finishing PHD?
A: Don’t panic. Don’t despair. And don’t think just because you have finished a PhD the learning stops. It is a tough period. I found it really difficult to get into another research project after I had published articles from the PhD thesis. Doing a PhD is intellectually and physically exhausting. My fellow graduate students were amazing companions.
After I finished my PhD, I endured quite a few unsuccessful job interviews. I was blessed to be offered my first post at the University of Edinburgh. It was a humbling experience and I was lucky enough to enjoy the support of staff and students.
Had I not secured the post I might have well sought an alternative career in UK government as a civil servant, ideally the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Q: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
A: Anyone who is curious (even angry) about the state of our world; some of my favourite dinner companions in the past have been novelists, lawyers and public activists.
Q: What are your 5 desert island discs?
A: I have eclectic music tastes. I tend to read and write while listening to music I would have anything by Everlast, Carlos Santana and Dire Straits. If I was able to exercise on my desert island, I would have something from AC/DC. Finally, I would have Edward Elgar’s Nimrod for a contemplative moment or two.
I could be there for some time.