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Dr Simon Reid-Henry

Reader in Geography

email: s.reid-henry[@]
Tel: 020 7882 3153
Location: Geography Building, Room 107


Simon Reid-Henry

Twitter: @sreidhenry

I am an historical and political geographer with interests in political philosophy and the history of ideas, political economy, and the international politics of the Cold War and Post-Cold War era. I have explored these issues through substantive work on science, development, global health, and humanitarianism. I gained my first degree and PhD at the University of Cambridge and came to Queen Mary in 2004. Presently I am on leave (2012-14) as a Philip Leverhulme Prize holder based in Oslo, where I am also a Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute. Some recent examples of my work include:

  • “Humanitarianism as Liberal Diagnostic: the geography of humanitarian reason and the political rationalities of the liberal will-to-care”, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (forthcoming, 2013)
  • “An Incorporating Geopolitics: Frontex and the European Border Regime” (2013) Geopolitics 18(1) pp.198–224
  • The Cuban Cure: Reason and Resistance in Global Science (2010) Chicago: Chicago University Press
  • “Vital Geographies: Life, Luck and the Human Condition” (2009) Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 99(3): pp.554–574. (co-written with Gerry Kearns)


Recent taught courses at the School of Geography include two third year options – The Geography of HIV/AIDS: Science, Politics and Inequality and Geopolitics Post 9/11: War, Security and Economy – both of which stem from my current research interests and both of which seek to convey something of the excitement of independent critical thought. The AIDS course has in the past included a practitioner workshop and the Geopolitics course sees students getting to grips with the Freedom of Information process. I also teach on the Cities and Cultures MA and run seminars in some of the other masters programmes. I run an optional Writing Workshop to help students sharpen their arguments and to encourage them to see writing and research as mutually supportive skills.

GEG6110 Geography of HIV/AIDS: Science, Politics and Inequality

GEG6116 Geopolitics Post 9/11: War, Security and Economy


Research interests:

My research was initially concerned with the nature of scientific innovation and regional cultural economy in non-western economies (the BRICS wasn’t a term much in use then). Looking at post-Soviet Cuba as an example, this work focused in particular on the relationship between science and politics on the one hand, and socialist and post-socialist forms of development on the other.

More recently I was prompted to consider the historical geography of Guantanamo Bay: work that also led me to investigate other aspects of contemporary geopolitics and international relations, from the creation of border regimes to the reinvention of humanitarianism and ultimately to questions about the changing nature of state sovereignty. Some of these interests have since come together under the umbrella of the Centre for the Study of Global Security and Development.

At present I am engaged on four loosely intersecting research projects encompassing global health, humanitarianism, theories of economic development and the post-Cold War history of capitalist democracy.

Vital Geographies This is a long-term, interdisciplinary project examining how human lives are valued (and devalued) in different settings: be it due to lack of access to basic medicines like anti-retroviral drugs, or because of more basic geographical inequalities in the right to life itself. This work has been undertaken with Professor Gerry Kearns (University of Cambridge/National University of Ireland Maynooth) beginning with an ESRC-funded seminar series Vital Politics/Valuing Life that brought together global health scholars with medical and political geographers to examine some of the ways in which human rights and capacities are indexed geographically. A further stage in this project will be an international seminar entitled Counter Vitalities, to be held at Yale in Spring 2014, which will interrogate how “global health” has become both a powerful discursive domain and an ideological battlefield, replete with its own particular logics and power relations through which different visions of human health are enacted and secured to the cost of others.


Humanitarianism in the 21st Century. This work is being carried out in collaboration with the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies and the Peace Research Institute, Oslo and encompasses the Norwegian Research Council funded project (Norwegian Research Council, 2012-15) Armed Violence in Urban Settings: New Challenges, New Humanitarianisms as well as contributions to the joint PRIO/NUPI/CMI project Protection of Civilians: from principle to practice. The work has to date involved partnering with the Norwegian Red Cross, the ICRC and World Vision International. The aims of the project are to understand how and why humanitarian organizations are ‘going urban’ and the ways in which this is challenging their existing values and function. A series of articles and reports are planned.



Poverty and Power in an Age of Inequality. As part of my Philip Leverhulme funded research leave I am currently examining the history of international development since the Second World War. Through a reflection upon, on the one hand, development writing across this period, and on the other hand, the historical experience of non ‘third world’ late-industrialising economies this work intends to offer – at a point when the Millennium Development Goals conclude in 2015 – a different way of thinking about contemporary “global poverty” debates. Parallel to recent currents in political philosophy, the work questions in particular why it is a concern with global poverty and not global inequality that still dominates political debate in advanced industrial and newly emerging economies. It seeks to provide an historical and political reckoning with this and to explore alternative ways of addressing it. This project underpins a book manuscript nearing completion and provisionally entitled The Poverty of Elsewhere.


Capitalism, Liberalism and Democracy in the contemporary era. This project seeks to provide an historical and geographical reckoning with what has become of the political form that is western capitalist democracy since the 1970s. Rather than trying to explain what has happened to “the west” during this period by virtue of its performance relative to “the rest” (an analytical perspective which is all too often reductive in its recall and which tends to leave one society either rising or falling relative to everyone else) or as a function of neoliberalism (which tends to accord to a particular set of ideas and policy-regimes a trans-historical agency that obscures as much as it reveals) this project focuses on the interplay of political and economic ideas, institutions, and social and historical forces during a period of profound geographical dislocation. How has democracy been shaped by developments in central banking and finance during this period? By the turn to regionalisation and the judicialisation of politics? Or by the shifting fortunes of left and right and the imperative of political and economic crises? Such an approach may be better positioned to make sense of the more pertinent changes in underlying values (such as freedom and equality) and the structures through which they are articulated (such as welfare states and markets). It certainly helps us to see the past 40 years as a more or less coherent epoch: one from which we are only now just beginning to take our leave.


A full list of publications is available here


Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Just Global Health?” (Forthcoming), Development and Change special issue, “Profiting from Inequality? The Political Economy of Global Public Health, Summer 2016.
  • “Genealogies of Liberal Violence: Human Rights, State Violence and the Police,” (2015) Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, August, 2015, Vol 33 (4): 626-641.
  • “The ‘Humanitarianization’ of Urban Violence,” (forthcoming) in Environment & Urbanization, (co-authored with Ole Jacob Sending) Vol 26 (2) October, 2014 pp.1–16. DOI: 10.1177/0956247814544616
  • “Humanitarianism as Liberal Diagnostic: the geography of humanitarian reason and the political rationalities of the liberal will-to-care,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (2013), Vol 39 (3), pp.418-431
  • “Immunity to TRIPS? The Cuban biotech sector and vaccine industry in a context of globalization,” in The New Political Economy of Pharmaceuticals in the Global South, (2013) by Owain Williams and Hans Lofgren, eds. (2013) (co-authored with Jens Plahte)
  • “An Incorporating Geopolitics: Frontex and the European Border Regime” (2013) Geopolitics 18(1) pp.198-224
  • “Vital Geography”, “Editorial Introduction” to e-issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, June, 2011
  • “Spaces of Security and Development: Towards a new mapping of the security-development nexus,” Security Dialogue (2011), 42(1), pp.97-104
  • “On Zizek on Wikileaks: Two Figures and a Point of Critique” (2011) Antipode 44(1) pp.1-4
  • “The Territorial Trap: Fifteen Years On” (2011) Geopolitics, Introduction to special issue, 15(4): pp.752-756
  • “Vital Geographies: Life, Luck and the Human Condition” (2009), Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 99(3): pp.554-574. (co-written with Gerry Kearns)
  • “Guantanamo Bay and the Re-colonial present,” (2007) Antipode, Volume 39(4) pp.627-648

Reviews, Review Essays and Responses

  • “On the politics of our humanitarian present” (2013) Review Essay (forthcoming, 2013) Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 31(4) 753 – 760
  • “Geography and Metaphors: a response to writing on the land” (2012) Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37(3) pp.365-369
  • “Cuban Landscapes: heritage, memory and place,” by Jo Scarpacci and Armando Portela (2010), Bulletin of Latin American Research 30(3), pp.393-4, June, 2010
  • “No Dig, No Fly, no Go”, by Mark Monmonier, Times Literary Supplement, September, 2010
  • “Spaces of Security and (In)security: Spaces of the War on Terror,” by Alan Ingram and Klaus Dodds, Times Higher Education, September, 2009
  • “The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, power, and subjectivity in the 21st Century”, by Nikolas Rose, Cultural Geographies, Vol. 15, pp.525-6, 2008
  • “ Machine to Make a Future”, by Paul Rabinow and Talia Dan-Cohen, Social Anthropology, 15(1) pp.123-5, 2007
  • “Foucault in Latin America,” by Benigno Trigo, Bulletin of Latin American Studies, 24(1) pp.151-3, 2004

Op Eds and Commentary

  • Europe’s Empire of Democracy, Eutopia Magazine, August, 2014
  • When Years Are Celebrities, Intelligent Life Magazine, March/April, 2014
  • A History of Development: 5-part series in The Guardian, Global Development section, October-November 2012
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis through the Prism of Self-Serving Myth, The Guardian Comment is Free, October 2012
  • Pharmaceutical Companies Putting Health of World’s Poor at Risk, The Guardian, Global Development section, August 2012
  • Beyond Madness, The London Review of Books Blog, August 2012
  • Novartis vs. India: the showdown approaches, New Internationalist, February 2012
  • Arven Etter Thatcher/The Thatcher Legacy Dagbladet, January 2011 [in Norwegian]
  • This is England, Klassekampen, August 2011 [in Norwegian]
  • Still Small Voice of Calm, New Statesman, August 2011
  • Bistandsarbeid i Skudlinjen/Development in the Firing Line, Bistandsaktuelt, June 2011 [in Norwegian]
  • How Big is it Really? New Statesman, September 2010
  • The Assault on the Humanities, New Statesman, April 2010
  • Bold Brasilia at 50, The Guardian Comment is Free, April 2010
  • Obama stops thinking positive, New Statesman, January 2010
  • The Last Revolutionary, New Statesman (Cover Story) October 2009
  • Living On: 5 years after Derrida, New Statesman, October 2009
  • To Brush Aside Torture is to Condone it, Independent on Sunday, May 2009
  • The Age of Expeditions is Over, The Guardian Comment Is Free, May 15, 2009

Interviews and Podcasts

  •  An interview outlining some of my current work is available at Exploring Geopolitics: “Simon Reid-Henry: Global Science, Development Ethics, Humanitarianism, Guantanamo” (December 2012)
  •  An interview on BBC4 about my earlier work on Cuban science is available here: “Cuban Cure – Moral Panics”
  • An interview on Fidel and Che is available here: “An Interview with the Author”, People’s World (November 2009)

PhD Supervision

I welcome PhD students interested in working in any of the above research areas.

Current Students

  • Danai Avgeri, Illiberal Governmentally and the Securitisation of Migration in the Context of the Greek Crisis
  • Shereen Fernandez, Radical Education: Embodying British Values in Muslim Populated Schools

Public engagement

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