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School of Geography

Dr Sam Halvorsen, PhD (UCL), MSc (UCL), BSc (Bristol)


Reader in Human Geography, Co-director: Queen Mary Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CRoLAC)

Room Number: Geography Building, Room 210
Twitter: @@samhalvorsen


Twitter @samhalvorsen

I am a human geographer interested in grassroots politics and urban democracy. My research is driven by an underlying question: how and why does territory matter to social and political transformation? In answering this, I pay close attention to the ideas and practices of Latin American Geographies, and part of my work aims to support greater dialogue across epistemic and linguistic barriers. I thus take seriously the ethics and politics of knowledge production. My doctoral research examined the 2011 urban square occupations, through the lens of London, and since 2015 my research has been based in Buenos Aires and, more recently, other South American cities. 

I am currently writing a book under the working title: Territorialising Democracy: Strategies of Popular Participation in Buenos Aires, which brings together years of research.

Since 2020 I have led an international team of researchers examining political participation and inequality in Latin American cities. My research has been funded by the ESRC, Leverhulme Trust and British Academy. 

I am currently PI on two British Academy funded projects, on: Inequality and Political Participation in Buenos Aires and Supporting Early Career Latin American Scholars to Publish in International Geographical Journals

Prior to working at QMUL I was a visiting scholar at the University of Buenos Aires (2017), a research fellow at the University of Cambridge (2016-2017) and a teaching associate at the University of Sheffield (2015-2016). Between 2016 and 2019 I held a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship.

I chair the Latin American Geographies (LAG) Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society and am Co-Director of the Center for Research on Latin American and the Caribbean (CRoLAC). Please contact me for details of either.

I am on the international editorial boards of Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, The Journal of Latin American Geography and Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal.

I sit on the editorial board of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.

See here for my QMUL People Profile


Key Publications:


I am a passionate teacher having taught on multiple modules in human geography at various institutions.

Currently I convene the first year module GEG4112 Global Worlds and the third year module GEG6142 Latin American Debates: the politics of development and democratistation. I have also contributed to the modules GEG4002 Ideas and Practice in Geography and Environmental Science (on Marxism) and GEG4006 Cities and Regions in Transitions (on urban migration).


Research Interests:

My research falls into three inter-related themes.

1. The territory of grassroots urban politics

The first theme seeks to address the broad empirical question of why (and how) territory matters to grassroots politics in the city. To date, I have addressed this question via three case studies: (i) Occupy London – a social movement that appeared in London in 2011 simultaneously with 1000s of similar actions worldwide based on the occupation of urban, public space through the form of the protest camp. I examined how and why activists mobilised different territorial practices - taking space, holding space, encountering space and losing space – and examined some of the strategic implications of these practices for the movement. (ii) Local governance in Buenos Aires - since 2016 I have been investigating the decentralisation of urban governance from central city to local neighbourhood councils, examining the political opportunities of producing new territorial urban divisions for grassroots actors (neighbourhood organisations, social movements, local political parties). (iii) Political parties in Buenos Aires – since 2017 I have participated in and investigated the territorialisation of a new political party in the City of Buenos Aires, exploring both how they managed to build such a strong territorial basis in neighbourhoods over a short period of time and asking why territory matters to them, and other political parties, in the first place?

2. Urban Democracy and Participation 

I am currently writing a monograph on political participation and territory in Buenos Aires, based on seven years of qualitative research, including 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork, over 150 interviews and extensive analysis of relevant documentation and archives: Territorializing Democracy: Strategies of popular participation in Buenos Aires.

Territorialising democracy is at once an observable political transformation and a theoretical intervention. In Buenos Aires, territory, understood as the political control and organisation of space, has become a core dimension to urban democracy, redefining limits and opportunities for participation. Buenos Aires is the clearest example of a tendency that can also be observed in cities worldwide, where political decentralisation and post-industrial transformations in civil society gave greater weight to territory as a site of political participation yet remains understudies. The book argues that participation, rather than oriented towards the deepening of democracy or the reform of urban institutions, is a strategy that attempts to transform the ideas, practices and lived experiences of urban space by articulating popular demands with(in) democratic institutions. By shifting the focus from institutional innovation to territorial transformation, the book develops a sharpened analytical approach to participation that situates it within its relational context. It examines the strategic challenge of participating across civil society and the state and through multiple scales, including: a national left populist movement, a hegemonic right-wing urban government, and diverse neighborhood organisations.

Since 2018 I have also been developing a comparative research project on political participation in Latin American cities. This is currently being developed through a British Academy funded project on 'Uneven Urban Democracy: Inequality and Political Participation in Buenos Aires', with Rocío Annunziata, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnica and Sebastián Mauro, University of Buenos Aires. This includes colleagues in Porto Alegre, Montevideo and Santiago

3. Latin American geographies

I have a longstanding interest in the spatial strategies of Latin American grassroots struggles and even while undertaking empirical research in the UK have looked to and learned from the geographical knowledges produced in the region over the last two decades. Latin American geographies have been, and remain, highly influential in both my research and teaching. This has opened up new avenues for thought and reflection that I am developing through publications, seminars and other encounters between Anglophone and Latin American scholars and activists. I have been particularly interested in how territory, as an idea and practice, has been produced in different geographical and historical settings in Latin America. In 2018 I founded the Latin American Geographies in the UK Research Network.

Since 2018 I have co-led an international network of research on Socioterritorial Movements, together with Bernardo Mançano Fernandes (UNESP) and Fernanda Torres (UNLP), funded by CAPES-Print (Brasil).

Intersecting with this, I have a longstanding interest in the ethics and political of generating geographical knowledge. I have critically reflected on the potentials of militant research as a form that dissolves the boundaries between theory and praxis and have been involved, and sought to facilitate, discussions around participatory geographies (particularly through my involvement in the Participatory Geographies Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society, of which I was previously secretary and chair). I am also interested in the political and ethical opportunities and dilemmas of working between Anglophone geography and Latin American knowledges.

In 2022 I led a British Academy Writing Workshop in Córdoba, Argentina, on 'Supporting Early Career Latin American Scholars to Publish in International Geographical Journals'. This has been extended with further funding to support workshops in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro in 2024.


Journal Articles

  • Halvorsen, S. and Annunziata, R. 2024. ‘Proximity as urban democratic legitimacy: strategies of participation in Buenos Aires’, Urban Studies, online


  • Halvorsen, S., 2023 ‘The Role of Territory in Grassroots Party-building: insights from Argentina’, Territory, Politics, Governance, 11(7): 1303-1323
  • Halvorsen, S. and Zaragocin, S., 2023. ‘Territory and decolonisation in the global souths’, Third World Thematics: a TWQ Journal, 6(4-6): 123-139.
  • Bailey, A. J., Breines, M., Emmerson, P., Esson, J., Halvorsen, S., Hope, J. C. et al., 2023. ‘Care for Transactions’. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 1–7 [Editorial]
  • Halvorsen, S. and Torres, F., 2022 ‘Articulating Populism in Place: a relational comparison of Kirchnerism in Argentina’ Annals of the American Association of Geographers, online
  • Halvorsen, S. Fernandes, B.M. and Torres, D., 2022. ‘Movimientos socioterritoriales: Casos de América Latina y Europa’ (Socioterritorial movements: Cases from Latin America and Europe), Geograficando, 17(2): 1-19

  • Halvorsen, S. Fernandes, B.M. and Torres, D., 2021. ‘Movimentos socioterritoriais em perspectiva comparada’, Revista Nera 24(57): 24-53

  • Halvorsen, S., 2020 ‘Territorialising Movement Parties: the case of Nuevo Encuentro in Buenos Aires’, Antipode, 52(6): 1710-1730

  • Halvorsen, S., 2020. ‘The Geography of Political Parties: territory and organisational strategies in Buenos Aires’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 45(2): 242-255.

  • Mauro, S., Halvorsen, S. and Annunziata, R., 2020. ‘Presentación sección temática. Partidos politicos y democracia en las ciudades latinoamericanas’ (Introduction to special section: Political Parties and Democracy in Latin American Cities) Estudios Políticos (Political Studies), Issue 58: 194-204.

  • Halvorsen, S., 2020. ‘El Territorio en disputa: estrategias políticas y movimientos socioterritoriales’ (‘Contesting territory: political strategies and socioterritorial movements’), Punto Sur. Revista de Geografía de la UBA, 3(September)

  • Halvorsen, S., 2019 ‘The Political Opportunities of Urban Decentralisation: Mobilising local governance in Buenos Aires’, Political Geography, 74, online: 1-10.

  • Halvorsen, S. Fernandes, B.M. and Torres, D., 2019. ‘Mobilising Territory: Socioterritorial movements in comparative perspective’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 109(5) 1454-1470
  • Halvorsen, S., 2019 ‘Decolonising Territory: dialogues with Latin American knowledges and grassroots politics’, Progress in Human Geography, 43(5): 790-814..
  • Halvorsen, S., 2017 ‘Spatial Dialectics and the Geography of Social Movements: the case of Occupy London’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 42(3): 445-457.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2015. ‘Encountering Occupy London: Boundary Making and the Territoriality of Urban Activism’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 33(2): 314-330.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2015. ‘Taking Space: Moments of Rupture and Everyday Life in Occupy London’, Antipode, 47(2): 401-417.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2015 ‘Militant research against-and-beyond itself: critical perspectives from the university and Occupy London, Area 47(4): 466-472.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2012 ‘Beyond the Network? Occupy London and the Global Movement’ Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest, 11(3-4): 427-433.

Special Issue (editor)

  • Halvorsen, S. and Zaragocin, S. (Eds), forthcoming. ‘Territory and decolonisation in the global souths’, Third World Thematics: a TWQ Journal.
  • Arzeno, M., Farias, M. and Halvorsen, S. (Eds) 2020, ‘Geografía, política y resistencias en América latina: perspectivas teórico-epistemológicas, casos y estrategias de abordaje’ (‘Geography, politics and resistences in Latin America: theoretical-epistemological perspectives, cases and conceptual strategies’, Punto Sur. Revista de Geografía de la UBA, 3: 1-152.
  • Mauro, S., Halvorsen, S. and Annunziata, R., (Eds) 2020. ‘Partidos politicos y democracia en las ciudades latinoamericanas’ (‘Political Parties and Democracy in Latin American Citites’) Estudios Políticos (Political Studies), Issue 58

Book Chapters

  • Halvorsen, S. and Rossi, F., 2023. ‘Relational approaches to social movements in (and beyond) Latin America’, in Rossi, F. (Ed), 2023. The Oxford Handbook of Latin American Social Movements. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Halvorsen, S., 2022. ‘Activism’ entry in International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment and Technology

  • Halvorsen, S., 2019. ‘Participatory Action Research.’ in Oxford Bibliographies in Geography. Ed. Barney Warf. New York: Oxford University Press

  • Halvorsen, S., 2017 ‘Losing Space in Occupy London: Fetishising the Protest Camp’ in Brown G Feigenbaum A Frenzel F and McCurdy P (eds) 2017 Protest Camps in International Context: Spaces, Infrastructures and Media of Resistance Bristol: Policy Press, 161-176
  • Halvorsen, S. and Thorpe, S., 2015, ‘Occupying Power: Strategies for Change in Occupy London’, in Konak, N. and Dönmez, R. (eds), 2015. Waves of Social Movement Mobilizations in the Twenty-First Century: Challenges to the Neo-Liberal World Order and Democracy. Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield, 101-114.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2015 ‘Beyond the Network? Occupy London and the Global Movement’, in Pickerill, J., Krinsky, J., Hayes, G., Gillan, K. and Doherty, D., (eds), 2015. Occupy! A Global Movement. London: Routledge.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2012 ‘Occupying Everywhere: A Global Movement?’, in Lang, A.S. and Lang/Levitsky, D., 2012. Dreaming in Public: Building the Occupy Movement. Oxford: New Internationalist Publications.

Online Articles


Book Reviews

  • Halvorsen, S., 2020. Review of Bonaventura de Sousa Santos’ The End of the Cognitive Empire: The coming of age of epistemologies of the south, Journal of Latin American Geographies 19(2): 312-315.

  • Halvorsen, S., 2019. Review of Chris Hesketh's ‘Spaces of Capital/Spaces of Resistance’, Radical Philosophy, 2.05 Autumn, 101-103.

  • Halvorsen, S., 2018. Review of ‘The Poor's Struggle for Political Incorporation’ by Federico M. Rossi, Antipode,

  • Halvorsen, S., 2017. Review of Paul Routledge’s Space Invaders: Radical Geographies of Protest, Antipode.

  • Halvorsen, S., 2016. Review of ‘Metropolitan preoccupations: the spatial politics of squatting in Berlin’, by Alex Vasudevan. Journal of Historical Geography, 54: 114-115.

  • Halvorsen, S., 2013. Review of 'Spaces of Contention: Spatialities and Social Movements' edited by Walter Nicholls, Byron Miller and Justin Beaumont (2013, Farnham: Ashgate). Antipode.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2013. Review of 'Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space' edited by Ron Shiffman, Rick Bell, Lance Jay Brown, and Lynne Elizabeth (2013. Oakland: New Village Press). Area, 45(4): 509-510.
  • Halvorsen, S., 2013. Review of 'The Democracy Project', by David Graeber (2013. London: Allen Lane). Stir 2: Summer 2013: 46-47.


I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students, particular those interested in the following areas:

  • The geography of social movements, political parties and urban activism
  • Democracy and political participation, especially in Latin American cities
  • Territory and territoriality
  • Latin American geographies and politics
  • Political parties and social movements in Argentina and Latin America
  • Participatory, militant and engaged research
  • Southern epistemologies, particularly in relation to Latin American and/or grassroots politics.


Current PhD Students:

Ansar Ullah "The Bengali Anti-Racist Movement: Mobilisation, institutionalisation and legacies of 1978",  funded via an LAHP DTP Collaborative Doctoral Award Studentship

Jacob Stringer "Renters unions against the neo-liberal city: can new renters’ organisations in Barcelona and London build mass movements?", funded by 1+3 ESRC LISS Studentship 

Thiago Jesus, ‘Climate Collaborations in the Arts: how arts organisations are responding to the climate crisis’, funded by AHRC collaborative doctoral scholarship

Sofia Negri, ‘Rooted in and networked out. How delivery platform workers’ organisations in Argentina mobilised across geographies and through physical-digital spaces during Covid-19.’ Funded by Queen Mary Scholarship

Melisa Slep, ‘Feminist activism and abortion access after decriminalization in Argentina’, , funded by Queen Mary Scholarship

Victoria Leon Porath, ‘Institutional outcomes of social movements: a case study of the political consequences of the social uprising in Chile’, co-supervisor, funded by SPIR Queen Mary Scholarship

Public Engagement

Through my research I have directly engaged with a range of political actors, often helping to create networks or forums through which to discuss issues around impact. For example:

(a) Occupy London – co-founded the Occupy Research Collective as a means of establishing links between activists and academics, sharing ideas and data. I also published and presented regularly in public forums such as the World Social Forum or Open Democracy and have been interviewed by news media in Latin America and the UK (e.g. BBC, Bloomberg).

(b) Buenos Aires – created a network for politicians, activists and neighborhood organisations entitled the Forum for the Porteño Comunas in order to shares ideas and discuss common themes with relation to urban decentralisation. In addition, I am currently engaging with local NGOs (e.g. Comunidad BsAs) by sharing and discussing my research on political parties in Buenos Aires. I have also engaged with local and national media in Argentina (e.g. radio interviews;TV appareances on TN, large 24-hours Argentine news channel). Most recently I have started an impact project with a Museum in order to take forward their demands for urbanisation.

(c) I was chair of the Participatory Geographies Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (2017-2018), having previously served as its secretary (2014-2017). A core part of the group’s role is to facilitate through and action on the ways in which different peoples participate in geography and how the acidic discipline of geography engages with the world.

(d) I am founder and chair of the Latin American Geographies in the UK Research Network. LAG-UK is a network of researchers based in the UK and elsewhere who work closely with geographical ideas and practices in Latin America, including close relationships with diverse civil society movements and organisations and academic/non academic institutions.

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