Professor Clive Barnett
Professor of Geography and Social Theory


Research interests

I have a long-standing research interest in understanding the reconfigurations of public life. This includes work on:

ORCID: 0000-0002-1291-1421

Long ago, my doctoral thesis explored understandings of the politics of representation in postcolonial theory and poststructuralism, and looked at nineteenth-century public discourses about African geography as an example of ‘white writing‘. 

Since then, my research has included further work on the textual-institutional geographies of colonial and postcolonial public spheres, including research on the construction of transnational literary publics around the Heinemann African Writers Series; research examining relationships between social movements, media and democratization in South Africa since the end of apartheid; and critical engagements with the conceptualization of ‘neoliberalism’ and other key concepts in and around human geography.

More recently, my research has focussed exploring the geographies of  public life, including conceptualising the challenges of developing critical perspectives on new practices, sites and norms of public action (see the edited collection Rethinking the Public). This research on public formation is part of a long standing interest in understanding the spaces of democratic politics (including the books Culture and Democracy and Spaces of Democracy). This includes work that theorises the relations between urbanization and democratic mobilization, which focusses on re-conceptualizing the geographical aspects of the democratic principle of ‘all affected interests’. This strand of work draws on empirical projects, including research on new spaces of democracy in post-apartheid Durban, research on transnational HIV and AIDS advocacy networks, and research on ethical consumption which explored the place-based problematization of everyday consumption practices as a strategy for mobilizing local networks of global solidarity (see the book Globalizing Responsibility). It has also informed the development of the argument presented in my latest book, The Priority of Injustice: Locating Democracy in Critical Theory.

I also have an interest in the development of social theoretical perspectives on ordinary practices of virtue, such as care, generosity, hospitality, justice, and responsibility (see the edited collection Extending Hospitality). This might also be the animating concern of my next book, but I haven’t written that one yet.


Research projects

My current research focuses on understanding emergent forms of public action. This includes:

– work which seeks to re-conceptualize the geographical aspects of the democratic principle of ‘all affected interests’, the focus of The Priority of Injustice: Locating Democracy in Critical Theory.

– work on the geographies of urban social science, including work supported by a British Academy/Newton project on South African urban thought since the 1970s.


Previous funded research projects include:

  • The Urbanization of Responsibility (Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, 2014-2016).
  • ESRC-NCCPE Research Synthesis on Segmentation Methods in Public Engagement (2010-2011).
  • Emergent Publics (ESRC Research Seminar Series, 2008-2010)
  • Governing the spaces and subjects of ethical consumption (ESRC/AHRC Cultures of Consumption Programme, 2003-2006).
  • New Spaces of Democracy in Post-Apartheid Durban (Leverhulme Trust, 2003-2004).
  • Recontextualising Post-Colonial African Literature (British Academy, 2001-2003).
  • Media and Citizenship in South Africa (Leverhulme Trust, 2000-2001).
  • Restructuring Mass Media and the Transformation to Democracy in Post-Apartheid South Africa (Ohio State University, 1997-1998).

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