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Department of Geography Political Geography

Rory Rowan

Rory Rowan, Dr.

  • Affiliated researcher

Critical Geopolitics, Political Ecology, Environmental Humanities, Anthropocene, Outer Space, Environmental Governance, Extraction, Territory, Carl Schmitt, Political Theology, Geophilosophy

PhD, Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
MA, Draper Interdisciplinary Program in Humanities and Social Thought, New York University, US.

My research spans across critical geopolitics, political ecology and the environmental humanities, focusing on the intersection of geographic imaginaries, social-nature relations and contested practices of knowledge production, environmental governance and geopolitical ordering.

I currently have several ongoing projects:

The Emerging Geographies of Outer Space:
My most recent project explores recent developments in the human presence in outer space, both with regard to changing sets of practices on- and off-Earth and the geographic imaginaries through which they are conceived. More specifically I examine the growing commercial sector in outer space - so-called ‘NewSpace’ industries – and particularly the development of extra-planetary extractive industries, or space mining. The project seeks to understand the transformations in the governance of outer space, the marketization of speculative ‘space resources’, the imaginaries at work in producing a resource frontier into extra-planetary space and ask wider philosophical questions about the possibility of environmental ethics and politics beyond the Earth.

Earth System Governance and Anthropocene Geopolitics:
This project seeks to explore how the concept of the Anthropocene has been taken up within policy-oriented environmental governance discourses, notably by the Earth System Governance Project (ESG), to reframe the objectives of environmental governance. The project seeks to unpack the political consequences of a governmental imaginary in which the Earth system is considered an object of governance. I was awarded a Forschungskredit research grant from the University of Zurich to pursue this research under the title ‘Governing the Earth: Earth System Governance and Political Geography in the Anthropocene’.

Knowledge Politics in the Anthropocene:
For a number of years I have been involved in discussions around the status, reception and implications of the Anthropocene concept in the social sciences, humanities and arts. The contested knowledge politics that have emerged around the concept, and particularly the controversies that have arisen in the passage of the concept from the earth to the social sciences, has been a key area of focus. In addition this research has engaged with a number of questions: the different narratives of the Anthropocene’s origins and development; the implications of concept’s supposed collapse of the social-nature binary for social theory and geopolitical thought; post- and decolonial critiques of the Anthropocene; the pre-history of the Anthropocene within geographic thought; imagining geo-social futures in the Anthropocene.

Carl Schmitt and Geo-Political Theologies:
My PhD thesis, completed under the supervision of Prof. Claudio Minca at Royal Holloway, University of London, focused on the spatial thought of the influential but controversial German legal and political thinker Carl Schmitt. The thesis was expanded into a book, co-authored with Prof. Minca, On Schmitt and Space (Routledge, 2015). I continue to work on the nature, relevance and influence of Schmitt’s spatial thought, particularly on the relationship between geopolitics, political theology and geophilosophy. I am also interested in how the broad and persistent influence of Schmitt’s thought - most recently in Bruno Latour’s Gaia project, for example - raises questions about how to engage controversial and/or conservative thinkers within critical scholarship.

I am also deeply committed to interdisciplinary work, which situates critical human geography in dialogue with work in other fields. I am particularly interested in working between Human and Physical Geography and the earth and social sciences more broadly. I am also very much interested in the potential of engagements between the arts and sciences. I frequently collaborate with artists, architects and curators, give lectures and seminars in arts institutions, and am an active member of the interdisciplinary Environmental Humanities Switzerland (EH-CH) network. I am currently a guest Lecturer in the Masters of Fine Arts Program in the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK).