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Dr Sam Halvorsen

Sam

Lecturer in Human Geography, Leverhulme Research Fellow

Email: s.halvorsen@qmul.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8927
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 206

Profile

Twitter @samhalvorsen

Research Blog: https://contestingterritory.wordpress.com/

I am interested in the geographies of social change: the ways in which different spatialities are mobilised in the pursuit of political strategies. My research focuses on the relationship between territory and grassroots urban politics, particularly in social movements and political parties, spanning Latin America (specifically Buenos Aires) and Europe (London). Theoretically I aim to make sense of how territory and other spatialities have been understood and produced in different geographical and historical settings, with particular attention to Latin American geographies. I am thus interested in thinking through the politics and ethics of geographical knowledge production. I am also concerned with the relationship between research and activism and the opportunities and tensions posed by being a politically active and engaged scholar.  

Prior to working at QMUL I was a visiting scholar at the University of Buenos Aires (2017), a research fellow at the University of Cambridge (2016-2017) and a teaching associate at the University of Sheffield (2015-2016). My previous research has been funded by the ESRC and British Academy. Currently I have a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship until October 2019.

I coordinate the Latin American Geographies in the UK Research Network and co-convene the Queen Mary Latin American Discussion Group. Please contact me for details of either.

See here for my QMUL People Profile

Key Publications:

Teaching

I am a passionate teacher having taught on multiple modules in human geography at various institutions. Currently I convene the first year module GEG4112 Global Worlds and contribute to the modules GEG4002 Ideas and Practice in Geography and Environmental Science (on Marxism) and GEG4006 Cities and Regions in Transitions (on urban migration).

Research

Research Interests:

My research falls into three inter-related themes.

1. The territory of grassroots urban politics

The first theme seeks to address the broad empirical question of why (and how) territory matters to grassroots politics in the city. To date, I have addressed this question via three case studies: (i) Occupy London – a social movement that appeared in London in 2011 simultaneously with 1000s of similar actions worldwide based on the occupation of urban, public space through the form of the protest camp. I examined how and why activists mobilised different territorial practices - taking space, holding space, encountering space and losing space – and examined some of the strategic implications of these practices for the movement. (ii) Local governance in Buenos Aires - since 2016 I have been investigating the decentralisation of urban governance from central city to local neighbourhood councils, examining the political opportunities of producing new territorial urban divisions for grassroots actors (neighbourhood organisations, social movements, local political parties). (iii) Political parties in Buenos Aires – over a 6 month period in 2017 I participated in and investigated the territorialisation of a new political party in the City of Buenos Aires, exploring both how they managed to build such a strong territorial basis in neighbourhoods over a short period of time and asking why territory matters to them, and other political parties, in the first place?

2. Latin American geographies

I have a longstanding interest in the spatial strategies of Latin American grassroots struggles and even while undertaking empirical research in the UK have looked to and learned from the geographical knowledges produced in the region over the last two decades. Latin American geographies have been, and remain, highly influential in both my research and teaching. This has opened up new avenues for thought and reflection that I am developing through publications, seminars and other encounters between Anglophone and Latin American scholars and activists. I have been particularly interested in how territory, as an idea and practice, has been produced in different geographical and historical settings in Latin America. In 2018 I founded the Latin American Geographies in the UK Research Network.

3. The ethics and politics of geographical knowledge production

Intersecting with the previous theme I have a longstanding interest in the ethics and political of generating geographical knowledge. I have critically reflected on the potentials of militant research as a form that dissolves the boundaries between theory and praxis and have been involved, and sought to facilitate, discussions around participatory geographies (particularly through my involvement in the Participatory Geographies Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society, of which I am currently chair). I am also interested in the political and ethical opportunities and dilemmas of working between Anglophone geography and Latin American knowledges.

Publications

Journal Articles

  • Halvorsen, S., 2018. 'Cartographies of epistemic expropriation: critical reflections on learning from the South’, Geoforum, online
  • Halvorsen, S., 2018 ‘Decolonising Territory: dialogues with Latin American knowledges and grassroots politics’, Progress in Human Geography, online.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2017 ‘Spatial Dialectics and the Geography of Social Movements: the case of Occupy London’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 42(3): 445-457.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2015. ‘Encountering Occupy London: Boundary Making and the Territoriality of Urban Activism’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 33(2): 314-330.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2015. ‘Taking Space: Moments of Rupture and Everyday Life in Occupy London’, Antipode, 47(2): 401-417.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2015 ‘Creating Space for Militant Research within-against-and-beyond the University: Reflections from Occupy London’, Area 47(4): 466-472.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2012 ‘Beyond the Network? Occupy London and the Global Movement’ Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest, 11(3-4): 427-433.

Book Chapters

  • Halvorsen, S., 2017 ‘Losing Space in Occupy London: Fetishising the Protest Camp’ in Brown G Feigenbaum A Frenzel F and McCurdy P (eds) 2017 Protest Camps in International Context: Spaces, Infrastructures and Media of Resistance Bristol: Policy Press, 161-176
  • Halvorsen, S. and Thorpe, S., 2015, ‘Occupying Power: Strategies for Change in Occupy London’, in Konak, N. and Dönmez, R. (eds), 2015. Waves of Social Movement Mobilizations in the Twenty-First Century: Challenges to the Neo-Liberal World Order and Democracy. Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield, 101-114.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2015 ‘Beyond the Network? Occupy London and the Global Movement’, in Pickerill, J., Krinsky, J., Hayes, G., Gillan, K. and Doherty, D., (eds), 2015. Occupy! A Global Movement. London: Routledge.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2012 ‘Occupying Everywhere: A Global Movement?’, in Lang, A.S. and Lang/Levitsky, D., 2012. Dreaming in Public: Building the Occupy Movement. Oxford: New Internationalist Publications.

Online Articles (peer reviewed)

Book Reviews

  • Halvorsen, S., 2017. Review of Paul Routledge’s Space Invaders: Radical Geographies of Protest, Antipode.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2016. Review of ‘Metropolitan preoccupations: the spatial politics of squatting in Berlin’, by Alex Vasudevan. Journal of Historical Geography, 54: 114-115.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2013. Review of 'Spaces of Contention: Spatialities and Social Movements' edited by Walter Nicholls, Byron Miller and Justin Beaumont (2013, Farnham: Ashgate). Antipode.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2013. Review of 'Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space' edited by Ron Shiffman, Rick Bell, Lance Jay Brown, and Lynne Elizabeth (2013. Oakland: New Village Press). Area, 45(4): 509-510.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2013. Review of 'The Democracy Project', by David Graeber (2013. London: Allen Lane). Stir 2: Summer 2013: 46-47.

PhD Supervision

I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students, particular those interested in the following areas:

  • The geography of social movements, political parties and urban activism
  • Territory and territoriality in grassroots politics
  • Latin American geographies
  • Political parties and social movements in Argentina
  • Participatory, militant and engaged research
  • Southern epistemologies, particularly in relation to Latin American and/or grassroots politics.

Public Engagement

Through my research I have directly engaged with a range of political actors, often helping to create networks or forums through which to discuss issues around impact. For example:

(a) Occupy London – co-founded the Occupy Research Collective as a means of establishing links between activists and academics, sharing ideas and data. I also published and presented regularly in public forums such as the World Social Forum or Open Democracy and have been interviewed by news media in Latin America and the UK (e.g. BBC, Bloomberg).

(b) Buenos Aires – created a network for politicians, activists and neighborhood organisations entitled the Forum for the Porteño Comunas in order to shares ideas and discuss common themes with relation to urban decentralisation. In addition, I am currently engaging with local NGOs (e.g. Comunidad BsAs) by sharing and discussing my research on political parties in Buenos Aires. I have also engaged with local media in Argentina (e.g. radio interviews).

(c) I am chair of the Participatory Geographies Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society, having previously served as its secretary (2014-2017). A core part of the group’s role is to facilitate through and action on the ways in which different peoples participate in geography and how the acidic discipline of geography engages with the world.

(d) I am founder and coordinator of the Latin American Geographies in the UK Research Network

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