Welcome to my homepage!

I am a political geographer at Newcastle Univerity, in the school of Geography, Politics and Sociology. I have been working here since December 2005. Prior to this, I have taught and/or researched at universities in Cambridge, Osh, and Ferghana, and studied in Durham, Roskilde, Cambridge and Osh.

I study the political geographies and geopolitics of post-Cold War innternational relations. Although I sometimes dabble in the Danish/German borderlands and the Middle East, most of my work is on two broad topics:

The first is the building of nation-states in modern Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, with particular attention paid to border regions, boundary disputes and geopolitics. I am currently completing a book with McGill-Queen's University Press entitled Whatever Happened to Our Borderless World? This considers the problem of violent borders in our world today and what can be done about it.

The second is the place of religion and the church in war and peace. I explore the political significance of how certain events and people - the Crusades, the World War 1 Christmas Truces , Rev Martin Luther King's life and work, and the September 2001 attacks in the USA - are remembered, and the implications of this remembering or forgetting for either perpetuating conflict or effecting reconciliation.

I also work on understanding various other aspects of what Marilynne Robinson called "the strange exhilarations of our strange life on earth,"including: how geopolitical ideas 'travel' between these sites (Central Asia and UK/USA), how the theories of Sir Halford Mackinder are used to discuss Central Asia's international relations, the geographical imagination of Central Asia as a peculiarly dangerous place, critical geopolitical theory, asylum and migration, nonviolence and peace, the intersections of military ethics and political theology, and anarchism, pedagogy and politics. What I'd really like to see is the discipline of geography orientated to peace - to conceptualising what we mean by peace, and committed to building it.

As well as researching from my base in a university, I also study what it means to work in institutions like universities, schools and churches. I am interested in how management-by-metrics changes the nature of work, and how the modern workplace either affirms the humanity of those who work in it, or dehumanises them . To do this, I draw on work both in management studies/human resource management and on theological anthropology, particularly as represented within African-American political theology. I am also interested in academic freedom, and how it is under threat from a variety of sources including foreign authoritarian states, domestic ideological pressures, university managers, the UK government, and neoliberal funding regimes.

My research and teaching try to balance two passionate reactions to places: wonder and horror, or curiosity and ethics. On curiosity, Denis Cosgrove said that 'the real magic of geography' is 'the sense of wonderment at the human world, the joy of seeing and reflecting upon the richly variegated mosaic of human life and of understanding the elegance of its expressions in the human landscape'. On ethics, Yi-Fu Tuan, said that whereas the primary question in philosophy is 'What is the good life?', geography's counterpart is, 'What is a good place?'. Political geographical analysis is both celebration and critique: it seeks to understand how good and bad places are produced, and how the former can be fostered and the latter transformed.

The big question at the heart of my work is: how and why do humans divide themselves up into different groups that become exclusionary, antagonistic, aggressive, and sometimes violent - amd what can we do about it? From Christian theology I derive an understanding that this situation is not intrinsic to the human condition, a hope that it will not always remain the case, and a mandate for remedial action; from political geography, a powerful set of tools, theories, and methodologies to help unpick some of the details, understand and challenge the processes, and suggest political alternatives. As you read my work reprinted or linked on this website, I invite you to judge for yourself how well I do that - and your comments are welcome!

In recent years, I've also devoted more energy to trying to make workplaces in general and Universities in general particular better places to be. I have worked with colleagues in the local branch of the University and College Union to defeat 'Raising the Bar', a coercive neoliberal targets-based performance-management system introduced in 2015 and withdrawn in 2016 as a result of academic activism and opposition.As a result there is a lot of energy on campus to make Newcastle an even better place to be. I am part of The Analogue University, a Newcastle collective researching, writing and reflecting on this work.

With Andii Bowsher of Northumbria University, I co-chaired The Northumbria and Newcastle Universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee from 2012 until 2019. Inspired by King's visit to our city in 1967 this group, established between the chaplaincies of Newcastle and Northumbria universities, worked 'to build cultures of peace and coexistence.' Visit our website to see what we got up to, and find resources for schools and churches to use Martin Luther King's legacy to celebrate and reflect on peace, at seasons such as Christmas and Black History Month.

I've been fascinated by all things Central Asian since childhood, and am on the editorial board of Central Asian Survey. I served as book review editor of the journal until summer 2014.

As an academic, I attempt to engage in debates outside purely scholarly confines. Thus, this website lists or contains links to pieces written for political activists, magazines, websites, churches, policy-focussed fora, public meetings, the UK parliament, trade unions, and newspapers, as well as academic journals.

Other important things about me: I am from Scunthorpe and am a supporter of Scunthorpe United Football Club , and Newcastle Stop the War; and I am involved in the communities of Wallsend Baptist Church and Heaton Baptist Church, both here in Tyneside.