Dr Matt Watson

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography

Matt Watson

Room number: F9
Telephone (internal): 27911
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7911
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7911
Email: M.Watson@Sheffield.ac.uk

I gained my PhD from Lancaster University and spent a number of years as a postdoctoral researcher at Lancaster University and the University of Durham, before joining the department in 2007. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2013.

Research Interests

Social change, sustainability and everyday life; theories of practice; socio-technical systems; energy; food; waste.

Current research

My work is concerned with understanding social change in relation to sustainability, through a focus on everyday life and the socio-technical systems that shape it. My research engages with geographical and sociological theories of practice, materiality and everyday life, as well as with science and technology studies, and literature on the structures and processes of governing. Research and writing has covered issues relating to biodiversity, waste, food, mobility and energy.

Current funded research takes this programme forward through two projects:

DEMAND: Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand
The DEMAND centre sets out to advance understanding of the processes and dynamics through which energy demand is constituted, and identify the opportunities for tackling it. The centre is a collaboration across of 9 academic institutions, led by Lancaster University, with non-academic partners including the European Centre and Laboratories for Energy Efficiency Research, the International Energy Agency and Transport for London. It has funding from the Research Councils UK Energy Programme for 5 years from summer 2013. I am co-investigator in the centre, and leading the University of Sheffield’s contribution to it.

Solar energy for future societies
Solar energy for future societies is a four-year interdisciplinary project on which I am Co-Investigator. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council the project brings together academics from Physics (including the Principal Investigator, Alastair Buckley), Electrical Engineering, Architecture and Human Geography. Working across disciplinary boundaries and with communities in South Yorkshire and in Bangladesh, the project sets out to develop new insights for the development and effective implementation of novel sustainable technologies. This project runs from late 2011 to 2015.

Recently completed projects include:

Consumer culture in an age of anxiety (CONANX) was a four-year research programme led by Professor Peter Jackson and funded by the European Research Council. As co-investigator on the programme, I led a three-year work package, working with Dr Angela Meah to explore negotiations of anxiety in mundane domestic food provisioning practices. Through exploring the uncertain relations between official messages around food and the routinised coordination of what goes on in the kitchen, this research illuminated key issues in the relations between governing and everyday practice.

Waste Prevention was a research project being undertaken by Dr Ana Paula Bortoleto under a Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowship, for which I was Scientist in Charge. The project explored commonalities and contrasts in domestic waste minimisation practices between Sheffield and Sao Paulo.


In keeping with the research-led teaching strategy of the University and of the Department of Geography, my teaching is closely aligned with my research. In much of my teaching, the topics, concepts and knowledge which I help students learn about are related to my own research on themes of sustainability, governing, technologies and consumption. Through modules like Environment, Society and Policy or Geographies of Consumption, a key aim is to engage students critically with big geographical themes, like climate change, food security, well being and social justice, and with contemporary ways of thinking about them, by reflecting upon their own lives as members of the society which produces and responds to these issues.

In 2014/15 I am convenor and teaching:

Level 2

  • GEO217 Environment, Society and Policy

Level 3

  • GEO360 Geographies of Consumption


  • HAR6056 International Development Field Class to Nepal

Like all academic staff in the department, I also engage in personal supervision and tutoring of individual undergraduate students at all three levels, including through the following modules:

  • GEO163 Information & Communication Skills for Geographers
  • GEO264 Research Design in Human Geography
  • GEO302 Extended Essay
  • GEO356 Geographical Research Project
  • GEO6805 International Development Dissertation with Placement

Key Publications

Research Interests

Social change, sustainability and everyday life; theories of practice; socio-technical systems; energy; food; waste.

Other Interests

I have provided peer review and served in reporting and advisory roles for national and international research councils including the UK Economic and Social Research Council, the UK Research Councils’ Energy Programme, Research Council of Norway, Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences, the Leverhulme Trust and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. I have been an invited peer reviewer for over 20 scholarly journals and reviewed manuscripts and proposals for publishers including Sage, Routledge and Polity, as well as acting as a PhD external examiner in the UK and internationally.