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Prof Andrew Barry
Appointment
  • Professor of Human Geography
  • Dept of Geography
  • Faculty of S&HS
Role
Head of Department
Biography

Andrew Barry studied Natural Sciences and the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University. He subsequently held a joint SERC/ESRC studentship at the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, where he completed his DPhil in Science and Technology Studies in 1988. This was followed by Lectureships in the Department of Human Sciences at Brunel University (1987-91) and the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths’ College (1991-2006). Andrew moved to Oxford University in 2006, where he was Reader in Geography and subsequently Professor of Political Geography in the School of Geography and the Environment, and a Fellow at St Catherine’s College. While at Oxford, he was Academic Director of the Masters’ programme in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy and co-convenor of the Technological Natures Research group. He joined the Department of Geography at UCL as Chair of Human Geography in September 2013.

While a graduate student, Andrew was awarded a scholarship by the European Parliament and was involved in the formation of the Parliamentary office for Science and Technology Options Assessment. Drawing on this experience, and additional funding from the ESRC, Andrew’s subsequent publications and his first book, Political Machines: Governing a Technological Society (2001), were focused on the politics of science and technology in the European Union. Political Machines was awarded the Philip Abrams memorial prize by the British Sociological Association in 2002. His most recent books, Interdisciplinarity: Reconfigurations of the Social and Natural Sciences (ed. with G Born, 2013) and Material Politics: Disputes along the Pipeline (2013), both followed from further periods of ESRC funded fieldwork in the UK, the South Caucasus and Turkey.

He has continued to be involved in a series of innovative initiatives in social and geographical theory, which have led to the publication of edited collections of papers relating to the work of Michel Foucault (Foucault and Political Reason), Michel Callon (The Technological Economy) and Gabriel Tarde. At Goldsmiths College, Andrew was a member of the London History of the Present network and co-founded the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process. He is a long-standing member of the editorial board of Economy and Society and is on the advisory boards of Social Movement Studies, International Political Sociology and Distinktion: Scandanavian Journal of Social Theory. He has held visiting positions at New York University, Istanbul Technical University, Halle University, and University of California, Santa Cruz.

Research Summary

Material Politics

At the heart of my research has been a concern with the importance of materials and technologies in political and economic life. My book, Political Machines: Governing a Technological Society (2001) focused on the vital role of technical devices in the constitution and politics of a transnational political space: the European Union. My recent book, Material Politics: Disputes along the Pipeline (2013), interrogates the way in which the production of information about materials enables the activity of materials to be managed and monitored, while also generating the conditions within which controversies can proliferate over the quality and sources of the information produced.

I have an on-going interest in the importance and political significance of those natural sciences, including construction engineering, chemistry, and the geo- and environmental sciences, which are less concerned with the derivation of general physical principles than with the problem of how to analyse and govern the unruly or lively behaviour of materials in the field. In earlier work I interrogated the political importance of research on, for example, air quality (1998), steel (2002), pipeline coating materials (2010), and landslides (2013). In an ethnographic study of a pharmaceutical laboratory, I highlighted the complex impact of computer chemistry on the conduct of pharmaceutical research and examined the invention of what I have termed ‘informed materials’ (2005).

Political Geographies of Energy

A second concern focuses on the concept and politics of energy. In part, my interest in energy draws on my recent work on the oil industry (Material Politics). But it also emerges from my long-standing interest in materiality. Recently I have been writing on the manner in which energy has been theorised in human geography, developing from Isabelle Stengers’ analysis of cosmopolitics. I am also currently interested in the politics of the idea of the Anthropocene and, more broadly, the geopolitics of the carbon economy.

Geographical and Social Theory

Geographers have long been concerned with the question of how to understand the relations between the physical and the political. I have been particularly interested in the role of technologies and materials in the transformation of political and economic spaces (‘technological zones’) and the invention of what I have termed ‘informed materials’. At the same time, I have sought to develop an account of the relation between government, politics and the political in a way that addresses the critical importance of materials in political life (2002). This has led to the development of the idea of the ‘political situation’, central to my book Material Politics (2012, 2013) and a developing interest in the practice of geopolitics.

Interdisciplines and Ecologies of Practice

Working together with a team of anthropologists including Georgina Born, Marilyn Strathern and Gisa Weszkalnys, I carried out an ESRC funded study of interdisciplinarity (2006-8). This study involved fieldwork on a range of ‘interdisciplines’ including environmental research, ‘art-science’, and ethnographic research in the IT industry. This has led to a broader analysis of diverse ‘logics’ and ‘modes’ of interdisciplinary research that cut across the boundaries of the social and natural sciences (2008). This project has resulted in the publication of a collection of essays, (Barry and Born, Interdisciplinarity: Reconfigurations of the Social and Natural Sciences), that further develops our analysis of interdisciplinary, and includes chapters by leading scholars in Science and Technology Studies, Anthropology and Social Theory.

Teaching Summary

Undergraduate

  • GEOG 1004 Human Ecology
  • GEOG 2019 Political Geography and Geopolitics
  • GEOG 3071 Political Geography and Geopolitics 2

 

Postgraduate

  • GEOG G004 Thinking Space
  • GEOG G013 Environmental Knowledges
Appointments
01-JAN-2006 – 31-AUG-2013 Professor of Political Geography School of Geography and Environment University of Oxford, United Kingdom
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