Dr Eric Olund

Lecturer in Human Geography

Eric Olund

Room number: E7
Telephone (internal): 27982
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7982
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7982
Email: E.Olund@Sheffield.ac.uk

Eric obtained his BA in Political Science and MA in liberal studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He then moved to Vancouver to pursue a PhD in geography at the University of British Columbia. After completing his doctorate he joined the Department of Geography at Sheffield as a Lecturer in September 2006.

Research Interests

  • the cultural and legal production and regulation of race, gender and sexuality
  • the sensory culture and geography of governmentality
  • urban life in the Progressive-era United States
  • critical theory (with a small 'c')—especially Benjamin, Bergson, Butler, Connolly, Deleuze, Dewey, Foucault, James

Current research

I am interested in the ways social reformers have historically attempted to regulate race in the United States at the intersection of cultural practice and public policy. I have researched both the 'Indian Reform' movement of the 1880s and the regulation of cinema in the 1910s as projects that produced and regulated whiteness, and in particular a whiteness that was fully imbricated with a particular vision of heterosexuality.

In addition to focusing on how geographies of race have been sexualized, I look to the ways these cultural-political geographies informed debates at the time over the appropriate role of the state in the increasing regulation of society characteristic of the time, and the alternative, cultural modes of regulation proposed and tried by social reformers. My work is very much a history of the present, and because debates over state and cultural regulation then resonate with similar debates today, I have also sought to show how such racialised regulatory geographies have reactivated in the present, specifically in the War on Terror.

I am expanding my research into these questions in three directions:

  • The settlement house movement in the Progressive-era US; while recent research has focused on the internal practice and performance of settlements in the assimilation of immigrants to 'Americanism' (ie whiteness), their place in the larger city has yet to be explored in these terms. Specifically I am interested in the ways settlement house workers extended their educational and social-welfare activities through outreach programs and interactions with municipal governments, and the ways their activities along with those of their charges were racialised and sexualised.
  • The regulation of prostitution in tandem with the above; with the increasing public presence of women in US cities at the turn of the last century, a moral panic over so-called white slavery led to a radical policy shift from semi-official tolerance in red-light districts to what we would term today a zero-tolerance policy. I am interested in the ways both social reformers and average citizens appear to have racialised prostitution itself as white, while racialising the spaces in which it occurred as black, and the material, geographical aspects of this shift in terms of regulating race and gender.
  • The connections between social reformers in the US and UK; American reformers came from a voluntarily mobile segment of the middle class, and they often travelled to the UK and personally knew and were often related to British reformers, and so I plan to extend my research in a comparative direction by tracing the trans-Atlantic translations of reformist practices in the context of broadly similar gender politics yet starkly different racial and class politics.


Undergraduate Teaching
I teach in several modules related to cultural geography at the undergraduate level.  I'm especially interested in exploring with students the ways our image-saturated culture influences how we experience the world, ourselves and other people, how this has changed over time, and what the politics are of these changes.  Thinking through art, media, architecture, literature, music and other forms of culture in a geographical way isn't often touched upon at A-level, and it's rewarding to introduce these ideas to students when they come to Sheffield.
A common comment on evaluations is, "I didn't know I could study this in Geography!"

Eric's specialist teaching on undergraduate courses includes:
GEO112 Introducing Social & Cultural Geographies
GEO151 Qualitative Methods in Human Geography
GEO223 Philosophical Issues in Human Geography
GEO265 Researching Human Geographies
GEO364 Urban Field Class
GEO375 Cities and Modernities

All staff also engage in personal supervision and tutoring of individual students at all three levels in the following modules:
GEO163 (Information & Communication Skills for Geographers)
GEO263 or GEO264 (Research Design in Human or Physical Geography)
GEO356 (Geographical Research Project)

Masters Teaching
I convene the Masters in Social and Cultural Geographies course and teach on several of its modules. A significant amount of my teaching on this programme is related to social theory as it relates to questions of cultural identity and its spatial construction, as well as the politics of the production of geographical knowledge.  I enjoy encouraging students to articulate their own grasp of these conceptual questions through the discussion of challenging readings--both well-known works of theory and philosophy, and geographical reworkings of their ideas--in small seminars.  My aim is always quality over quantity so that students are prepared for in-depth engagements with topical literature of their choice for their dissertation research.

Eric's teaching on Masters courses includes:
GEO6003 Theoretical Issues in Human Geography
GEO6006 The Research Proposal
GEO6008 Identity and Difference
GEO6420 MA Dissertation
GEO6421 Extended Dissertation

Postgraduate Supervision

I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students who are interested in pushing the boundaries of research on the various intersections of social difference, visual culture, power and the political. I currently supervise one PhD student who is theorising rationalities of power and affective logics of the 'post-political'.

Key publications

  • Olund, E. (2011, in press). Cinema’s Milieux: Governing the Picture Show in the United States during the Progressive Era. Journal of Historical Geography.
  • Olund, E. (2010). 'Disreputable life': race, sex, and intimacy. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28(1), 142-157.
  • Olund, E. (2009). Traffic in Souls: the 'new woman,' whiteness and mobile self-possession. Cultural Geographies, 16(4), 485-504.
  • Olund, E. (2006). The Governance of Racism. In: Gregory, D. and Pred, A. (eds.) Violent Geographies: Fear, Terror, and Political Violence. Routledge, New York.
  • Olund, E.N. (2002). From Savage Space to Governable Space: The Extension of United States Juridical Sovereignty over Indian Country in the Nineteenth Century. Cultural Geographies 9(2), 129-158.