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School of Geography

Professor David Smith


Emeritus Professor of Geography



Research Interests:

Research areas: human geography; ethics

Current research explores the interface between the disciplines of geography and ethics (or moral philosophy). The purpose is to develop a more rigorous understanding of normative issues in geography, and in particular those associated with inequality and social injustice.

The first phase involved a thorough exploration of literature in moral philosophy, in general and as it bears on (human) geographical inquiry. This has provided the foundation for papers discussing moral issues in development, the spatial scope of beneficence, and moral aspects of community, as well as reviews of work at the interface of geography and ethics which attempts to identify common ground.

The work also explores other issues, such as the notion of 'moral geographies', the moral significance of boundaries and movement, entitlement to land and natural resources, and aspects of social justice.

As well as being concerned with moral theory, the research involves case studies. These provide contextual understanding, or the 'thickening' of such 'thin' general concepts as rights and social justice. The cases explore moral issues in South Africa after apartheid, the changing 'moral landscape' of the east European city, and conflict over land and settlement in Israel/Palestine. The research was supported by a Leverhulme Fellowship from July 1997 to December 1998, and culminated in a book Moral Geographies: Ethics in a World of Difference.


  • Smith, D. M. (1994) Geography and Social Justice (Oxford, Blackwell).
  • Smith, D. M. (1994) On professional responsibility to distant others. Area, 26, 359–67.
  • Smith, D. M. (1995) Redistribution and social justice after apartheid. A Lemon (editor), The Geography of Change in South Africa (London, Belhaven), 45–64.
  • Smith, D. M. (1996) The socialist city. G Andrusz, M Harloe and I Szelenyi (editors), Cities after Socialism: Urban and Regional Change and Conflict in Post-Socialist Societies (Oxford, Blackwell), 70–99.
  • Smith, D. M. (1997) Geography and ethics: A moral turn. Progress in Human Geography, 21, 596–603.
  • Smith, D. M. (1998) How far should we care? On the spatial scope of beneficence. Progress in Human Geography, 22, 15–38.
  • Smith, D. M. (1998) Geography and moral philosophy: some common ground. Ethics, Place and Environment, 1, 7–34.
  • Smith, D. M. (1999) Geography, Morality and Community. Environment and Planning A , 31, 19–35.
  • Smith, D. M. (1999) Geography and ethics: how far should we go? Progress in Human Geography, 23, 119–25.
  • Smith, D. M. (1999) Social justice and the ethics of development in post-apartheid South Africa, Ethics, Place and Environment, 2, 157–77
  • Smith, D. M. (1999) Geography and Ethics: Journeys in a Moral Terrain (editor, with James Proctor). Routledge, London.
  • Smith, D. M. (2000) Moral progress in human geography: transcending the place of good fortune, Progress in Human Geography, 24, 1–18.
  • Smith, D. M. (2000) Moral Geographies: Ethics in a World of Difference. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.
  • Smith, D. M. (2000) Social justice revisited, Environment and Planning A, 32, 1149–62.
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