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Personal profile

Research interests

My research examines the ways humans relate to the environment, and the universe more generally, and the ways in which these relationships are challenged by social movements.

My work on the sociology of outer space covers historical cosmologies, contemporary space technologies and science fiction. I am particularly interested at the moment in the way in which outer space is being conceived as an ‘environment’ and what that means for our future interaction with it. This includes issues around the use of space resources, orbital debris, and the protection of wilderness sites. In 2007 I co-authored the first overview text on the sociology of outer space, Cosmic Society: Towards a Sociology of the Universe, with Peter Dickens. In 2016 we edited the Palgrave International Handbook of Society, Culture and Outer Space. I have recently completed a chapter on outer space for the Cambridge Handbook of Environmental Sociology.

My work on social movements draws on psychoanalytic theory, and argues for the centrality of fantasy to activism, culminating in my 2014 book, Fantasy and Social Movements. I have published illustrative case studies of the pro-space movement, the outer space protection movement and the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

I have also recently edited a book, Changing our Environment, Changing Ourselves: Nature, Labour, Knowledge and Alienation, which examines themes emerging from the environmental sociology of Peter Dickens. I am currently working with my colleague Matthew Adams on human-animal relations, and more specifically urban shepherding programmes.

Supervisory Interests

I am interested in supervising doctoral research in the areas of outer space studies, environmental sociology, human-animal studies, and social movement studies, as well as work more broadly situated within psychosocial studies.

Scholarly biography

I studied sociology at undergraduate and postgraduate level at the University of Essex, studying under a number of well-known British sociologists, including John Scott, Ken Plummer, Ian Craib, Ted Benton, Rob Stones and Eamonn Carrabine. I joined the University of Brighton in 2007, and am currently Principal Lecturer in Sociology.

Approach to teaching

My teaching is informed by the growing recognition that students learn theory best by actively using it themselves, especially when applying it to new case studies. As such, I have written about and championed a 'case study group' approach to teaching, giving students the opportunity wherever possible to develop case studies of their own choosing in a supportive group environment.

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