Professor Richard Phillips
Department of Geography
Professor in Human Geography
+44 114 222 7943
Full contact details
Department of Geography
Geography and Planning Building
Richard Phillips’s research spans a series of contrasting yet connected themes:
- The World after Empire: themes include Muslim geographies and postcolonial cities
- Sexuality, Space and Power: constructions and contestations of sexual identities
- Curiosity and Adventure: from children’s books to health and wellbeing policies
Richard is also very interested in geographical education, particularly fieldwork and other forms of curiosity-driven learning, so his research and teaching are closely connected.
Richard developed these interests through a Masters in Geography at the University of California Santa Barbara (1988) and a PhD at the University of British Columbia (1994).
He taught at the Universities of Aberystwyth, Salford and Liverpool before taking up a Chair in Human Geography at the University of Sheffield in 2012.
- Research interests
The World after Empire: themes include Muslim geographies and postcolonial cities
Two generations after it was broken up, the British Empire lives on in a number of ways, including through communities that trace their heritage and origins to former colonies, and in cities, born of empire, that are forced to redefine themselves for new times.
I have investigated these issues through research involving British Muslims and members of the Liverpool-born black community (see Muslim Spaces of Hope, published in 2009, and Liverpool ’81: Remembering the Riots, 2011).
I have also researched the ways in which empire is invoked in contemporary political action, through a project on anti-imperialism in the UK anti-war movements (which protested intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq).
I have also investigated the historical geographies of the British Empire through studies of colonial travel and adventure literature (Mapping Men and Empire: A Geography of Adventure, 1997) and through an historical geography of sexuality politics in the British Empire (Sex, Politics and Empire: A Postcolonial Geography, 2006).
Sexuality, Space and Power: constructions and contestations of sexual identities
Sexuality is an important vehicle for constructing and contesting power relations between national, cultural and religious groups.
I have traced imperial sexuality politics through key sites within the British Empire, investigating the legacies of these colonial histories and geographies in ex-colonies including Jamaica and Sierra Leone.
I have also begun to examine these dynamics within Europe, investigating cultural practices through which Muslims are constructed as 'non-liberal' minorities, through representations of forced marriage and homophobia.
My books about sexuality investigate the contested regulation of sexuality in the British Empire (Sex, Politics and Empire: A Postcolonial Geography, 2006), examine sexuality politics and identities outside the cities that dominate research on sexualities (De-Centring Sexualities, 2001), and investigate the place of sexuality within sometimes tense relationships between majority societies and cultural minorities (controversies surrounding Muslim attitudes towards marriage and homosexuality are examined in a paper published in Gender, Place and Culture, 2012).
Curiosity and Adventure: from children’s books to health and wellbeing policies
My first book, entitled Mapping Men and Empire: A Geography of Adventure (1997), investigated boys' adventure stories, tracing their significance for constructions of imperialism and masculinity.
I have subsequently researched and written about adventures through a range of juvenile and adult literature, notably travel writing.
My more recent work focusses upon a term closely related to adventure – curiosity – through research on ‘space for curiosity’ (the title of a paper in Progress in Human Geography, 2014) and interventions on the sometimes celebrated, sometimes embattled place of curiosity in universities (paper in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 2010).
My interests in curiosity extend to a practical and philosophical approach to pedagogy, and a desire to better understand and encourage curiosity-driven learning among students was the motivation behind my book for students on the subject of geographical fieldwork: Fieldwork for Human Geography (2012).
- View this article in WRRO Georges Perec's Geographies: Material, Performative and Textual Spaces. London: UCL Press.
- Fieldwork for Human Geography. SAGE.
- Liverpool '81 Remembering the Riots. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.
- Sex, Politics and Empire A Postcolonial Geography. Manchester University Press.
- De-centring Sexualities Politics and Representations Beyond the Metropolis. Psychology Press.
- Mapping men and empire. A geography of adventure.
- Mapping Men and Empire. Routledge.
- Mobilizing Pakistani heritage, approaching marriage. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 43(16), 1-19. View this article in WRRO
- Critical collaborative storying : making an animated film about halal dating. Cultural Geographies. View this article in WRRO
- Halal dating : changing relationship attitudes and experiences among young British Muslims. Sexualities. View this article in WRRO
- ‘Sexual misery’ or ‘happy British Muslims’?: Contemporary depictions of Muslim sexuality. Ethnicities, 19(1), 66-94. View this article in WRRO
- Friendship, curiosity and the city: Dementia friends and memory walks in Liverpool. Urban Studies, 55(3), 639-654. View this article in WRRO
- Interventions in the political geographies of ‘area’. Political Geography, 57, 94-104.
- Georges Perec’s experimental fieldwork; Perecquian fieldwork. Social & Cultural Geography, 19(2), 171-191. View this article in WRRO
- Curious about Others: Relational and Empathetic Curiosity for Diverse Societies. New Formations, 88, 123-142. View this article in WRRO
- Curiosity, place and wellbeing: encouraging place-specific curiosity as a ‘way to wellbeing’. Environment and Planning A, 47(11), 2339-2354. View this article in WRRO
- Playful and multi-sensory fieldwork: seeing, hearing and touching New York. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 39(4), 617-629. View this article in WRRO
- Curiosity: Care, Virtue and Pleasure in Uncovering the New. Theory, Culture & Society, 32(3), 149-161. View this article in WRRO
- Space for curiosity. Progress in Human Geography, 38(4), 493-512. View this article in WRRO
- Curiosity and the politics of impact. ACME, 13(1), 39-42.
- Interventions against forced marriage: contesting hegemonic narratives and minority practices in Europe. GENDER PLACE AND CULTURE, 19(1), 21-41.
- Researching the riots. Geographical Journal. View this article in WRRO
- Curiosity and fieldwork. Geography, 97(2), 78-85.
- The 2011 summer riots: Learning from history -remembering '81. Sociological Research Online, 17(3).
- Remebering Islamic Empires:speaking of Imperialism and Islamophobia. New Formations.
- Vernacular Anti-Imperialism. ANNALS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN GEOGRAPHERS, 101(5), 1109-1125.
- The impact agenda and geographies of curiosity. TRANSACTIONS OF THE INSTITUTE OF BRITISH GEOGRAPHERS, 35(4), 447-452.
- Writing, Travel and Empire: In the Margins of Anthropology. CULTURAL GEOGRAPHIES, 17(3), 415-415.
- The Empire in One City: Liverpool's Inconvenient Imperial Past.. JOURNAL OF HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY, 36(1), 118-119.
- Bridging East and West: Muslim-identified activists and organisations in the UK anti-war movements. TRANSACTIONS OF THE INSTITUTE OF BRITISH GEOGRAPHERS, 34(4), 506-520.
- Geographies of Muslim identities: diaspora, gender and belonging. PROGRESS IN HUMAN GEOGRAPHY, 33(3), 424-425.
- Common ground? Anti-imperialism in UK anti-war movements, 239-256.
- Settler colonialism and the nuclear family. CANADIAN GEOGRAPHER-GEOGRAPHE CANADIEN, 53(2), 239-253.
- Standing together: the Muslim Association of Britain and the anti-war movement. RACE & CLASS, 50(2), 101-113.
- Imperial and Anti-Imperial Constructions of Civilisation: Engagements with Pre-Modern Pasts. GEOPOLITICS, 13(4), 730-735.
- Introduction: spatialities of transnational networks. Global Networks, 7(4), 383-391.
- Histories of sexuality and imperialism: What's the use?. HISTORY WORKSHOP JOURNAL(63), 137-153.
- Spaces of masculinities.. PROGRESS IN HUMAN GEOGRAPHY, 30(4), 550-552.
- Scandal in the colonies: Sydney and Cape Town, 1820-1850. JOURNAL OF HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY, 31(3), 600-602.
- Heterogeneous imperialism and the regulation of sexuality in British West Africa. JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF SEXUALITY, 14(3), 291-315.
- Unsettling geographical horizons: Exploring premodern and non-european imperialism. ANNALS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN GEOGRAPHERS, 95(1), 141-161.
- Prostitution, race and politics: Policing venereal disease in the British Empire. JOURNAL OF HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY, 30(4), 821-823.
- Dystopian space in colonial representations and interventions: Sierra leone as 'the white man's grave'. Geografiska Annaler, Series B: Human Geography, 84(3-4), 189-200.
- Imperialism and the regulation of sexuality: colonial legislation on contagious diseases and ages of consent. Journal of Historical Geography, 28(3), 339-362.
- Politics of reading: decolonizing children’s geographies. Ecumene, 8(2), 125-150.
- Decolonizing geographies of travel: Reading James/Jan Morris. Social & Cultural Geography, 2(1), 5-24.
- Politics of Reading: Cultural Politics of Homelessness. Antipode, 32(4), 429-462.
- Sexual Politics of Authorship: Rereading the travels and translations of Richard and Isabel Burton. Gender, Place & Culture, 6(3), 241-257.
- Spaces of Adventure and Cultural Politics of Masculinity: R M Ballantyne andThe Young Fur Traders. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 13(5), 591-608.
- The language of images in geography. Progress in Human Geography, 17(2), 180-194.
- Informal Education, Its Drivers and Geographies: Necessity and Curiosity in Africa and the West, Laboring and Learning (pp. 65-89). Springer Singapore
- Informal Education, Its Drivers and Geographies: Necessity and Curiosity in Africa and the West, Labouring and Learning (pp. 1-25). Springer Singapore
- Postcolonial Travel Writing Palgrave Macmillan UK
- Travel and Travel-Writing, International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (pp. 476-483). Elsevier
- Imagined geographies and sexuality politics: The city, the country and the age of consent, De-Centering Sexualities: Politics and representations beyond the metropolis (pp. 101-122).
- Sexuality, A Companion to Cultural Geography (pp. 265-278). Blackwell Publishing Ltd
- Islam in sexuality. Dialogues in Human Geography, 6(2), 237-239.
- Research group
Richard Phillips is an active member of the Culture Space and Difference Research Group. Doctoral students, also part of the group, are currently or have recently researched the following topics:
- Spaces of Cinema and Decolonisation of the Maghreb
- Intersectional Identities: Black British Muslim Women
- Living with Difference: Religious Minorities and Sexual Politics in Poland
- Cultures of Alcohol and Violence in Contemporary South Africa
- Dogs and People: Relationships, Encounters and Spaces
- Spaces for Curiosity and Innovation: Reshaping Museums
- Reshaping Multiculturalism: leader of network of three doctoral students in Sheffield, York, Leeds
- Homeless Migrants in Rome: Multisensory Geographies
- Teaching interests
My undergraduate teaching interests include:
- Fieldwork: destinations include Vancouver, Paris, Liverpool, New York
- Social and Cultural Geography: Sexuality, Religion, Race, Difference, Multiculturalism
- Postcolonial Geographies: Historical and Contemporary Geographies
- Philosophical Issues In Human Geography
- Play: Online teaching about creative and curiosity-driven learning
Recent undergraduate dissertation topics I have supervised include:
- Geographies of Love
- Attitudes towards Muslims in Contemporary Britain
- Space for anti-Racism in Football
- Masculinity, Intimacy and Alcohol
- Current research
1. Storying Relationships: British Muslims of Pakistani Heritage
Relationships between majority and minority groups are often framed around perceptions about the sexual relationship attitudes and practices of minorities: the ways in which these groups approach issues such as dating, marriage and homosexuality.
These perceptions are often unfounded, yet they have implications for community relations. This project asks how young British Muslims, particularly those with Pakistani heritage, talk and think about their personal and sexual relationships.It involves reading discussion groups, and storytelling workshops. Funded by AHRC.
Richard Phillips is Principal Investigator on this project, funded by the AHRC, 2016-19. This project also involves Dr Nafhesi Ali, Postdoctoral Rearcher, and the Co-Investigators are Professor Peter Hopkins and Dr Raksha Pande (both at Newcastle University), Dr Claire Chambers (York University).
2. Understanding, Encouraging and Protecting Curiosity.
This research has a number of interlinked strands, which will come together in a forthcoming book entitled Curious People:
- Curiosity and Wellbeing: the 'take notice' agenda in Liverpool's Decade of Health and Wellbeing, collaborative research. Richard Phillips worked with Bethan Evans (Liverpool University) on this project, which was funded by the Wellcome Trust, 2012-13.
- Curiosity-driven learning and inquiry: investigating the contested place of curiosity in universities, both in teaching and learning involving students, and also in scientific research and enquiry. This research is linked to Richard’s explorations of fieldwork, which include teaching and writing for students.
- Curiosity and diversity: investigating how being curious with and about others can help cohere and reshape multicultural societies. Richard leads an ESRC-funded network entitled Reshaping Multiculturalism)
- Curiosity and Innovation: this research investigates how curiosity can spark creativity, grounded in problem solving and the desire to know about things. Richard is leading an AHRC-funded project on curiosity and innovation in Sheffield Museums.