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Dr Stephen Taylor


Lecturer in Human Geography

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 2748
Room Number: Bancroft Building, Room 2.09a


Academic Lead for Widening Participation and Schools Liaison

My research and teaching interests centre on the geographies of biomedicine and global health. This work turns on the thought that medical advances take place today in a world of remarkable economic, political and health inequalities. Health, poverty and exclusion are not merely biological, economic and social concepts; they are also political categories that are produced and contested. Thus, my work considers the political, legal, economic and historical structures that secure the health of some while exposing the lives of others to the slow violences of illness and abandonment.

I have examined the geographies of life through three main avenues of research:

  1. The globalisation of clinical trials to South Africa: this work explores the spatial and profit-maximising tactics of the pharmaceutical industry and exposes the on-going marginalisation, dispossession and exploitation of human subjects in clinical trials. I am particularly interested in tracing the production of promise and abandonment in biomedical research.
  2. The political geographies of global health and development: this work traces the emergence of ‘global health’ as an epistemological object, and focuses empirically upon the contested spatialities of global health practice and securitisation unfolding around the eradication of polio in Pakistan and Nigeria.
  3. Critical geographies of philanthropic practice: this work examines the historical and contemporary practice of philanthropy through a particular focus on disease eradication and food security. In so doing, I explore this increasingly pertinent, but by no means politically neutral, form of ‘helping’.

My research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Rockefeller Foundation, the British Academy, the Rotary Foundation, the Commonwealth Trust, and the Smuts Memorial Fund. I am also a member of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), the Association of American Geographers and the British International Studies Association.

You can find the latest updates on my research on my personal website or by following me on twitter.


As my interests trace the promissory yet violent geographies of our present, I am committed to delivering high-quality research-led teaching that provokes and rouses students to purposeful action. In the classroom, I promote student participation, group learning and critical reflection in the hope of provoking and rousing seemingly ‘ordinary’ people to meet the legion political challenges of our emergent present. I am particularly excited to be teaching, and of course learning from students, in an interdisciplinary context as part of the School of Geography’s contribution to the QMUL BSc (Hons) in Global Health.

For 2016-17, I am contributing interactive lectures, practicals, seminars and field-based classes to the following undergraduate and postgraduate modules:

  • GEG4402: Geographies of Health and Disease (co-convenor)
  • GEG5103: Geographical Research in Practice (co-convenor)
  • GEG5113: Health, Biomedicine and Society (co-convenor)
  • GEG7120: Geographical Thought and Practice


Research Interests:

My interests in the geographies of biomedicine, global health and uneven development, complement the School’s existing strategic research foci around health, political and cultural geography. My interests in examining biomedicine from a critical geographical perspective complement and expand the School’s Health, Bioscience and Security research theme, as well as QMUL interdisciplinary global health and life sciences initiatives.

My current research portfolio is positioned around three main themes:

Spaces of Experiment: South Africa, Drug Development and the Globalisation of Clinical Trials

My ESRC-funded doctoral research at the University of Cambridge concentrated on the changing geographies and government of pharmaceutical research. The global search for human subject populations is an expanding enterprise, drawing together numerous agents in a network of clinical research. These connections between medical experts, commercial researchers and trial populations are underexplored in the academic literature, yet are essential to the formulation and success of international medical campaigns, ethical frameworks, and individual health. I am currently developing publications and a book manuscript out of my doctoral thesis on the development and operation of clinical trial sites in South Africa, with a focus upon early-phase experimental drug trials. In particular, I am interested in the increasing role that private interests play in the coordination of clinical research in such settings, and the manner in which particular spatial logics are used to identify, enrol and coordinate volunteers for clinical research.

The Political Geographies of Global Health

This research explores the emergence of thinking about health in a ‘global’ manner. While this is now considered to be an orthodox way of managing and meeting health needs, I seek to problematize the political geographies that make health ‘global’ and, in so doing, expose the contingent and contested terrains that constitute the core and periphery of the global health project. I am exploring this empirically through research conducted into stakeholder interests and barriers to uptake in polio vaccination campaigns in the Global South. In particular, I draw upon research conducted with the World Health Organization, multinational donors and in-country polio campaigns in Pakistan and Nigeria. In both of these contexts, global health vaccination campaigns coincide with security projects associated with the on-going War on Terror. Through a comparison of the contested spatialities, logics and optics of these security projects, I track the articulations and performances of global health that emerge at the intersections of disease, technology, security, government and resistance.

Critical Geographies of Philanthropic Practice

In this research, I am exploring a series of contemporary and historical grand challenges that seek to address disease eradication and hunger. I examine the political and biopolitical motives of modern philanthropy, and trace a series of unfolding interventions intended to catalyse market development, innovation and affective investment in market-centred enterprise. My interest in this area emerged through collaborative post-doctoral research on food security policy at the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, made possible by grants awarded to principle investigator David Nally (University of Cambridge). A series of co-authored papers are in progress from this research that explore the critical geographies of agricultural development, population control and philanthropy in contemporary and historical perspective. I am also developing these interests in conversation with colleagues from other research groups at the School of Geography.


  • Taylor, S. (2016) “In pursuit of zero: polio, global health security and the politics of eradication in Peshawar, Pakistan” Geoforum 69, 106-116 (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2016) “‘Why must we stay in this cage? Governing sexuality in biomedical research”. In G. Brown and K Browne (eds.) The Routledge Research Companion to Geographies of Sex and Sexualities (Ashgate; Surrey), pp. 275-282 (available online)
  • Nally, D. and Taylor, S. (2015) “The politics of self-help: the Rockefeller Foundation, philanthropy and the ‘long’ Green Revolution” Political Geography (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2013) "Book Review: Love in the Time of AIDS: Inequality, Gender, and Rights in South Africa by Mark Hunter," Gender, Place and Culture 20(1), 129-131 (available online).
  • Taylor, S. (2010) "Book Review: War, Violence and Population: Making the Body Count by James Tyner," European Planning Studies 18(1), 145-146 (available online).
  • Taylor, S. (2009) "Conference Report: Comparative Colonialisms," Journal of Historical Geography 35(3), 592-593 (available online).

PhD Supervision

My research interests are centred on: (1) the critical geographies of biomedicine and clinical trials, (2) the political geographies of global health and development, and (3) the geographies of philanthropic practice in contemporary and historical perspective. Please do get in contact if you are considering applying for a PhD at QMUL and consider there to be a fit between our research interests.

Current graduate students

Public Engagement

As part of my on-going interest in the geographies of biomedicine, global health and philanthropy, I have engaged in an academic and consultancy capacity with a series of key organisations in these fields, including: the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rotary Foundation, multinational pharmaceutical companies, and national departments of health (South Africa, Pakistan, Nigeria). Alongside these engagements with the ‘elites’ of global health, I have provided pro bono consultancy for health-related NGOs in Cape Town and I am currently a trustee of the Bethel HIV Treatment and Prevention Centre in the city’s Khayelitsha district.

As part of these activities, I have made several recent presentations about my research to academic and non-academic audiences:

Recent Invited Public Presentations

  • ‘Eradicating polio: opportunities and challenges in Peshawar, Kano and Geneva’, invited presentation to Meeting Contemporary Health Challenges Conference, Geneva (Switzerland), March 2014.
  • ‘Drops not drones: meeting the health challenges of the rural poor in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan’, invited presentation to Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination, Islamabad (Pakistan), January 2014.  
  • ‘Dreaming at Bethel: launching a HIV treatment and prevention centre in Khayelitsha, South Africa’, invited presentation to International Festival of Global Health, New York (USA), January 2013.
  • ‘Healthcare and abandonment in South Africa’, invited presentation to Critical Perspectives on South Africa Conference, Cape Town (South Africa), December 2012.
  • ‘Where do our drugs come from? Making space for the voices of South African human guinea pigs’, invited presentation to Cambridge Global Health Perspectives Festival, Cambridge (UK), November 2012.

Recent Invited Academic Seminars

  • ‘Experiments with life: clinical trials and abandonment in Khayelitsha, Cape Town’, Sapienza – Università di Roma, August 2014.
  • ‘On the production of human subjects’, Université de Genève, May 2014.
  • ‘The Rockefeller Foundation, food security, and the governance of the foreseeable future’ (with David Nally, University of Cambridge), University of Washington, October 2013.
  • ‘Moving lines and making populations: data thresholds, clinical trials and the search for human subjects in South Africa’, University of Birmingham, February 2013.
  • ‘When guinea-pigs strike,’ University of Oxford, November 2012.
  • ‘One trial, one body: altruism and the experimental in the church of life’, University of North Carolina, February 2012.
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