Professor Peter Adey

Personal profile

My work lies at the intersection between space, security and mobility, and the blurring boundaries between Cultural and Political Geography. I arrived in Royal Holloway at the start of 2012, and took up leadership of the new Geopolitics and Security MSc, an exciting new programme with Politics and International Relations. We also have a a new blog related to this programme and the wider work we are doing in the area within the geopolitics and security grouping and a sister blog at e-IR. I am also Chair of the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group, one of the largest research groups of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).

Much of my research has contributed to the putative ‘new mobilities paradigm’, and I published my first book Mobility with Routledge in 2009, a further co-edited Handbook of Mobilities is forthcoming with Routledge, and with Monika Busher (Lancaster) I am co-editor of the new Changing Mobilities book series. My most direct research interests orbit around three main empirical and conceptual sites of enquiry: the airport/border; the vertical territorial and material spaces of air; and the political and technological spaces of emergency and evacuation. In 2011 I was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize which will enable me to consolidate and elaborate this last area of interest (detailed below).



Borders and mobility

Much of my earlier work considered the space of the airport terminal and particularly the cultures of security and surveillance which have sought to govern mobilities, bodies and identities across borders and boundaries, and according to logics such as pre-emption. A new project funded by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche, in collaborations with colleagues in Paris, Grenoble, Keele and further afield, is exploring the passenger mobilities and atmospheres of travel between London and Paris. Much of this work has tried to bridge sub-disciplinary interests and expertise and to spark new conversations towards mobility. Several co-edited special issues on the passenger have been published in Cultural Geographies and the Journal of Transport Geography.   


Air and Vertical Geographies

I have been trying to develop a kind of cultural politics of the aerial or the vertical, or, how we came to know and govern the air above us: how does the air show up as threatening? Through technologies of the aeroplane and infrastructures like airports, this explores geopolitical discourse alongside biopolitical and governmental power, intimate geographies of emotion and affect, to large-scale political and projected volumes and spaces. I finished my book Aerial Life: mobilities, spaces, affects (2010, Wiley-Blackwell), with the help of an AHRC research leave award and the support of a visiting fellowship at UCL. With Alison Williams and Mark Whitehead I have recently published a special section of Theory, Culture and Society on the nature of contemporary targeting and an edited book is forthcoming with Hurst. Alongside these interests in the vertical I have also become increasingly interested in the matter or substance of Air itself and the kinds of (micro)politics of life air performs. My book Air is forthcoming with Reaktion (2013) in their new series earth which tries to tease how we have come to study, feel and ultimately live with air, taking perspectives between science and culture. I am currently drawing these interests back through questions of security, as I work on a number of papers which explore political and security atmospheres or 'volumes'.    


Emergency and Evacuation

Finally, and in collaboration with Ben Anderson and Steve Graham on a project funded by the ESRC and Barry Godfrey and David Cox on regulation during the wartime bombing of the Blitz funded by the Leverhulme Trust, this final area of work has questioned the nature of threat and how risks are governed in complex and contingent societies. Working quite closely with today’s and yesterday’s emergency planning legislation, practices and practitioners, this research has argued that we should be complicating debates over a ‘state of exception’ by adding important empirical insight into the evolving modes and logics of governance which seek to prepare for catastrophe. This work has argued that we should take seriously the ways in which people and populations experience security and its practices that plan and prepare for the future, as well as the very ‘life’ of security; how the objects, materials and things of security, are not so easily enrolled into its systems, exceeding its grasp and comprehension. We are currently developing two further projects in relation to UK Civil Contingencies.

My Philip Leverhulme Prize is enabling me to bring together these interests into a sustained study of Evacuation, particularly focusing on how evacuation mobilities are governed and lived. The project will focus on a variety of case-studies from perspectives which cross the social sciences, arts and humanities, physical and engineering sciences.  


I have supervised a range of PhD projects focusing on resilience, outer-space policy, design and security, and airports and art. I would be interested to hear from prospective students interested in projects that relate to:

-       Verticality and the volumetric; airpower; aerial and subterranean spatialities

-       Circulations and mobilities governance; borders; biopolitics of security; airports and port security

-       Affect and materiality; intimacy, sensation and touch, atmospheres

-       Emergencies and crisis management; civil contingencies; evacuation mobilities; disaster and development

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