School of Geography

Dr Rory Rowan


Lecturer in Human Geography

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 2779
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 106


I am a cultural and political geographer whose work focuses on the intersections between geographic imaginaries, social-nature relations and contested practices of geopolitical ordering, environmental governance and knowledge production.


GEG6130 Geopolitics Post 9/11: War, Security, Economy 


Research Interests:

I currently have several ongoing projects:

The Emerging Geographies of Outer Space
My most recent project explores developments in the commercial space sector, particularly the emergence of extra-planetary extractive industries, or space mining. The project seeks to understand recent transformations in the governance of outer space, the marketization of speculative ‘space resources’ and the powerful geographic imaginaries at work in producing a new resource frontier in extra-planetary space, with a particular focus on the space sector in Luxembourg and Portugal. The project explores the possibilities for, and implications of, extending environmental governance beyond earth whilst asking wider philosophical questions about the nature of environmental ethics off-earth. As part of this project I am developing a book that identifies the Anthropocene as an extra-planetary phenomena and explores the colonial imaginaries underpinning the development of space mining.

Earth System Governance and Anthropocene Geopolitics
This project seeks to explore how the concept of the Anthropocene has been taken up within policy-oriented environmental governance discourses - notably by the Earth System Governance Project - to reframe the objectives of environmental governance. It unpacks the epistemological and political consequences of a geo-governmental imaginary in which the Earth system is considered an object of governance. I was awarded a Forschungskredit research grant from the University of Zurich to pursue this research under the title ‘Governing the Earth: Earth System Governance and Political Geography in the Anthropocene’.

Knowledge Politics in the Anthropocene
For a number of years I have been involved in discussions around the status, reception and implications of the Anthropocene concept in the social sciences, humanities and arts. The contested knowledge politics that have emerged around the concept, and particularly the controversies that have arisen in the passage of the concept from the earth to the social sciences, has been one of my key areas of research. In addition this research has engaged with a number of questions: the different narratives of the Anthropocene’s origins and development; the implications of the supposed collapse of the social-nature binary for geopolitical thought; post- and decolonial critiques of the Anthropocene; the pre-history of the Anthropocene within geographic thought; contesting the geo-social futures circulating in Anthropocene debates.

Carl Schmitt and Geo-Political Theologies
My PhD thesis, completed at Royal Holloway, University of London, focused on the spatial thought of the influential but controversial German legal and political thinker Carl Schmitt. The thesis was expanded into a book, co-authored with Claudio Minca, On Schmitt and Space (Routledge, 2015). I continue to work on the nature, relevance and influence of Schmitt’s spatial thought, particularly on the relationship between geopolitics, political theology and geophilosophy. I am also interested in how the broad and persistent influence of Schmitt’s thought - most recently in Bruno Latour’s Gaia project, for example - raises questions about how to engage controversial and/or conservative thinkers within critical scholarship.

I am also deeply committed to interdisciplinary work, which situates critical human geography in dialogue with work in other fields. I am particularly interested in working between Human and Physical Geography and the earth and social sciences more broadly and my work on the Anthropocene has provided various avenues for inter- and intra-disciplinary exchange to this end. I am also very much interested in the potential of engagements between the arts and sciences and frequently collaborate with artists, architects and curators and give lectures and seminars in arts institutions.

Before joining Queen Mary I was a Lecturer and Postdoctoral Researcher in Political Geography at the University of Zurich and a Guest Lecturer in the Masters of Fine Arts programme at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK).