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School of Geography

Dr Stephen Taylor, MA MPhil PhD (Cambridge)


Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Director of Taught Programmes Recruitment and Admissions

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 2748
Room Number: Bancroft Building, Room 2.09a


My research and teaching interests centre on the geographies of biomedicine and global health. This work turns on the thought that medical advances take place today in a world of remarkable economic, political and health inequalities. Health, poverty and exclusion are not merely biological, economic and social concepts; they are also political categories that are produced and contested. My work considers the political, legal, economic, and historical structures that secure the health of some while exposing the lives of others to the slow violences of illness and abandonment.

I have examined the geographies of life through three main avenues of research:

  1. The globalisation of clinical trials to South Africa: this work explores the spatial and profit-maximising tactics of the pharmaceutical industry and exposes the on-going marginalisation, dispossession and exploitation of human subjects in clinical trials. I am particularly interested in tracing the production of promise and abandonment in biomedical research.
  2. The political geographies of global health and development: this work traces the emergence of ‘global health’ as an epistemological object, and focuses empirically upon global mental health (at field sites in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo) and also the contested spatialities unfolding around the eradication of polio (at sites in north-western Pakistan and northern Nigeria).
  3. Critical geographies of philanthropic practice: this work examines the historical and contemporary practice of philanthropy through a particular focus on disease eradication and planetary health. In so doing, I explore this increasingly pertinent, but by no means politically neutral, form of ‘helping’.

My research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Rockefeller Foundation, the British Academy, the Rotary Foundation, the Commonwealth Trust, and the Smuts Memorial Fund. I am also a member of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), the Association of American Geographers and the British International Studies Association.


For 2023-24, I am contributing interactive lectures, practical classes, and seminars to the following undergraduate and postgraduate modules:

  • GEG4012: Academic Study Skills (convenor)
  • GEG5135: Health, Space and Justice
  • GEG6145: Historical Geographies of Medicine - From Imperial Hygiene to Global Health (convenor)
  • GEG7143: Critical Geographies of Global Health

I also contribute to undergraduate and postgraduate dissertation modules by advising students in the design and implementation of independent geographical research projects.

As my interests trace the promissory yet violent geographies of our present, I am committed to delivering high-quality research-led teaching that provokes and rouses students to purposeful action. In the classroom, I promote student participation, group learning and critical reflection in the hope of provoking and rousing seemingly ‘ordinary’ people to meet the legion political challenges of our emergent present.

I have been nominated by QMUL for Guardian and Times Higher Education (THE) University Awards (for research-led teaching on the housing crisis) and nominated as an ‘Assessment and Feedback Champion’ in the QMSU Awards (for innovative use of peer and online feedback).

Outside of specific modules, I am developing scholarship agendas within the discipline. I have published pedagogical research on interdisciplinary learning and communication. I have also been invited to discuss this influential work – originally developed during as part of a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) at QMUL – with practitioners at the University of Exeter, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, and the University of New South Wales. I have been successful in receiving funding from QMUL Outreach funds to support transition to university resources aimed at enhancing student experience and opportunity (Springboards, Succeed, Pathways to Success).


Research Interests:

My interests in the geographies of biomedicine, global health and uneven development, complement the School’s existing strategic research foci around health, political and cultural geography. My interests in examining biomedicine from a critical geographical perspective complement and expand the School’s Health, Environment and Technology (HEaT) research theme, as well as QMUL interdisciplinary global health and life sciences initiatives.

My current research portfolio is positioned around three main themes:

Spaces of Experiment: South Africa, Drug Development and the Globalisation of Clinical Trials

My ESRC-funded doctoral research at the University of Cambridge concentrated on the changing geographies and government of pharmaceutical research. The global search for human subject populations is an expanding enterprise, drawing together numerous agents in a network of clinical research. These connections between medical experts, commercial researchers and trial populations are underexplored in the academic literature yet are essential to the formulation and success of international medical campaigns, ethical frameworks, and individual health. I am developing publications and a book manuscript out of my research on the development and operation of clinical trial sites in South Africa, with a focus upon early-phase experimental drug trials. In particular, I am interested in the increasing role that private interests play in the coordination of clinical research in such settings, and the manner in which particular spatial logics are used to identify, enrol and coordinate volunteers for clinical research.

The Political Geographies of Global Health

This research explores the emergence of thinking about health in a ‘global’ manner. While this is now considered to be an orthodox way of managing and meeting health needs, I seek to problematize the political geographies that make health ‘global’ and, in so doing, expose the contingent and contested terrains that constitute the core and periphery of the global health project. I am exploring this empirically through research conducted into stakeholder interests and barriers to uptake of global mental health services and also polio vaccination campaigns in the Global South. In particular, I draw upon research conducted with the World Health Organization, multinational donors and in-country campaigns on post-traumatic stress disorder (in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo), antiretroviral stock-outs (in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo) and polio (in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan and Borno, Nigeria). In each of these contexts, global health campaigns coincide with security projects associated with on-going socio-economic and geopolitical change. Through a comparison of the contested spatialities, logics and optics of these security projects, I track the articulations and performances of global health that emerge at the intersections of disease, technology, security, government and resistance.

Critical Geographies of Philanthropic Practice

In this research, I am exploring a series of contemporary and historical grand challenges that seek to address disease eradication and planetary health. I examine the political and biopolitical motives of modern philanthropy, and trace a series of unfolding interventions intended to catalyse market development, innovation and affective investment in market-centred enterprise. My interest in this area emerged through collaborative post-doctoral research on food security policy at the Rockefeller and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, made possible by grants awarded to principle investigator David Nally (University of Cambridge). My subsequent individual research in this area is funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust award and a Rockefeller Archive Center grant. I am also developing these interests in conversation with colleagues from other research groups at the School of Geography.


Journal Articles

  • Taylor, S., Mavinga, L. and Bashiga, M. (2023) "Unbracketing the multiplicity of trauma in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo," Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 44, 339-355 (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2020) “The tyranny of empty shelves: scarcity and the political manufacture of antiretroviral stock-outs in South Kivu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 45, 619-634 (available online) (selected for the April 2020 Contextualising Coronavirus Geographically special virtual issue)
  • Taylor, S. (2019) “The long shadows cast by the field: violence, trauma, and the ethnographic researcher,” Fennia 197, 183-199 (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2018) “After polio: imagining, planning, and delivering a world beyond eradication” Health and Place 54, 29-36 (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2018) “To understand and be understood: facilitating interdisciplinary learning through the promotion of communicative competence” Journal of Geography in Higher Education 42, 126-142 (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2017) “Making space for restoration: epistemological pluralism within mental health interventions in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo,” Area 49, 342-348 (available online) (selected for the July 2022 Geographies Beyond Recovery special virtual issue)
  • Taylor, S. (2016) “In pursuit of zero: polio, global health security and the politics of eradication in Peshawar, Pakistan,” Geoforum 69, 106-116 (available online)
  • Nally, D. and Taylor, S. (2015) “The politics of self-help: the Rockefeller Foundation, philanthropy and the ‘long’ Green Revolution,” Political Geography 49, 51-63 (available online)

Book Chapters

  • Brown, T., Calkin, S., Holden, K., Reid-Henry, S. and Taylor, S. (2021) "How to have theory in a pandemic: a critical reflection on the discourses of Covid-19" in G. Andrews, V. Crooks, J Pearce and J. Messina (eds.) Covid-19 and Similar Futures: Pandemic Geographies (Springer; Berlin), pp. 93-99 (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2019) “Poliomyelitis and child paralysis” in S. Romaniuk and M. Thapa (eds.) Palgrave Encyclopaedia of Global Security Studies (Palgrave Macmillan; London) (available online)
  • Brown, T. and Taylor, S. (2018) “Global health geographies” in V. Crooks, G. J. Andrews and J. Pearce (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Health Geography (Routledge; London), pp. 14-19 (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2016) “‘Why must we stay in this cage? Governing sexuality in biomedical research” in G. Brown and K Browne (eds.) The Routledge Research Companion to Geographies of Sex and Sexualities (Routledge; London), pp. 275-282 (available online)

Research Reports

  •  Taylor, S. (2019) “Claude Barlow and the International Health Division’s campaign to eradicate bilharzia (schistosomiasis) in Egypt, 1929-1940,” Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports (available online)


  • Taylor, S. (2019) “Book Review: Bioinformation by Bronwyn Parry and Beth Greenhough,” cultural geographies 26(1), 152-153 (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2013) "Book Review: Love in the Time of AIDS: Inequality, Gender, and Rights in South Africa by Mark Hunter," Gender, Place and Culture 20(1), 129-131 (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2010) "Book Review: War, Violence and Population: Making the Body Count by James Tyner," European Planning Studies 18(1), 145-146 (available online)
  • Taylor, S. (2009) "Conference Report: Comparative Colonialisms," Journal of Historical Geography 35(3), 592-593 (available online)


My research interests are centred on: (1) the critical geographies of biomedicine and clinical trials, (2) the political geographies of global health and development, (3) geographical approaches to global mental health, and (4) governmentality and health in contemporary and historical perspective. Please do get in contact if you are considering applying for a PhD at QMUL and consider there to be a fit between our research interests. I particularly welcome applications from students interested in developing proposals for the ESRC 1+3 and +3 funding routes available through the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership (LISS-DTP).

Current graduate research students

  • Rita Sharma PANDEYA (with Tim Brown, QMUL Geography) PhD – QMUL: ‘Water-borne disease outbreaks and natural disaster response in Nepal’ (2021-). ESRC +3 Studentship.

Former graduate research students

  • Glyn HAWKSWORTH (with Jane Wills, QMUL Geography). MRes Geography – QMUL: ‘Recovery and the responsibilisation of drug users in UK policy’ (2014-2015). ESRC 1+3 Studentship.
  • Paulina SZYMCZYNSKA (with Stefan Priebe, QMUL Wolfson Institute of Population Health). PhD – QMUL: ‘Retention of participants with mental health problems in non-pharmacological clinical trials’ (2014-2017). QMUL Life Sciences Institute PhD Studentship.

Public Engagement

As part of my on-going interest in the geographies of biomedicine, global health and philanthropy, I have engaged in an academic and consultancy capacity with a series of key organisations in these fields, including: the World Health Organization, Gavi, UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rotary Foundation, multinational pharmaceutical companies, and national departments of health (South Africa, Pakistan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo). Alongside these engagements with the ‘elites’ of global health, I have provided pro bono consultancy for health-related NGOs in Cape Town and I am currently a trustee of the Bethel HIV Treatment and Prevention Centre in the city’s Khayelitsha district.

I have also mentored postgraduate researchers in developing impact activities targeting external stakeholders including East London NHS Foundation Trust, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, and the Nepal Centre for Disaster Management. I have facilitated undergraduate student-led engagement work with London Citizens, Roman Road Trust and Tower Hamlets Council that has influenced local priorities and practice. In my role as a Widening Participation lead for the School, I contributed to the delivery of outreach programmes in over 60 schools in London and developed partnerships with intermediaries such as the Royal Geographical Society and Geographical Association. I also enjoy speaking to secondary school students about connections between my research and the curriculum.

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