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Richard C. Powell, BA, MA, PhD

Richard C. Powell, BA, MA, PhD

Reader in Arctic Studies and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College

Cultural, Political and Historical Geographer with expertise in Polar Regions

Biography

Richard's research interests encompass historical and cultural geographies, the geopolitics of territory and resources, geographies of science, and the histories of the social and natural sciences. His fieldwork has focused on the Circumpolar Arctic (specifically Nunavut, Greenland and northern Norway), as well as Denmark, Canada, the US and the UK. He is currently working on a major, ERC-funded project on Arctic Cultures.

Richard supervises a group of postgraduate and postdoctoral scholars, and always welcomes enquiries from prospective students related to any of the areas of research or themes discussed below. Prospective MPhil, PhD or Postdoctoral applicants are encouraged to contact Richard by email to discuss possible applications.

Richard is from Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Career

  • 2020 - present: Reader in Arctic Studies, University of Cambridge
  • 2017 - 2020: University Lecturer in Human Geography of Polar Regions, Department of Geography and Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
  • 2010 - 2017: Associate Professor of Human Geography, School of Geography and the Environment, and Tutorial Fellow, Mansfield College, University of Oxford
  • 2006 - 2010: Lecturer in Human Geography, Department of Geography, University of Liverpool
  • 2005 - 2006: Simon Research Fellow, University of Manchester
  • 2004 - 2005: ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Cambridge

Qualifications

  • 1998: BA Geography, St. John's College, University of Oxford [Double First Class Honours]
  • 2000: MA Geography, University of British Columbia [Distinction]
  • 2004: PhD Geography, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge
  • 2008: PG Cert. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, University of Liverpool

Awards

  • ERC Consolidator Grant (2016)
  • Gill Memorial Award (2013) for "research in historical and Polar Geography"
    Awarded by Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) for the encouragement of geographical researchers (within 10 years of their PhD) who have shown great potential
  • Teaching Excellence Award (2012), University of Oxford
  • Environment and Planning A Ashby Prize (2007)
    Awarded by EPA Editors for "most innovative article" of 154 published during 2007
  • RGS-IBG Area Prize (2002) for "best article by a new researcher"
  • H.O. Beckit Memorial Prize (1998) for best Undergraduate Dissertation, University of Oxford
  • Gibbs Book Prize (1998) for overall performance in Final Honour School, University of Oxford

Research

Richard's research investigates the following themes:

Arctic Peoples and Cultures

In December 2016, Richard was awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant for 'ARCTIC CULT - Arctic Cultures: Sites of Collection in the Formation of the European and American Northlands', 2017-22. This five-year project involves research by Richard, four Post Doctoral Researchers and a Project Assistant at museums, archives, libraries and repositories across Europe and North America, as well as in Greenland and the Canadian Arctic. It brings repositories in colonial metropoles into dialogue with sites of collection in the Arctic by tracing the contexts of discovery and memorialisation. In doing so, it aspires to a new understanding of the consequences of forms of colonial representation for debates about the Circumpolar Arctic today. You can learn more about the project at the ARCTIC CULT website and on twitter @ArcticCult. This project has also attracted a number of further researchers to join the HCEP group at SPRI, and we welcome enquiries about this and all related projects.

Ethnographies of Arctic scientific practices

Richard has investigated the social practices involved in the constitution of the environmental sciences in the Canadian Arctic. This involved participant observation at polar field stations in the High Arctic. As well as demonstrating the geographies of scientific knowledge at the Polar Continental Shelf Program base at Resolute, Nunavut, this research also documented the politics of social interaction between Inuit and scientists, and the labour geographies of logistic personnel involved in field science. This work was supported by the ESRC, NERC, the International Council for Canadian Studies, the Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK, the Dudley Stamp Memorial Trust, the British Association for Canadian Studies, and the University of Ottawa.

Political geographies of resource extraction in the Circumpolar Region

Richard has examined the political geographies of environmental changes and resource extraction in the Circumpolar Arctic and their policy implications for the UK. This research also speaks to broader questions about the role of Britain, and the European Union, in the High North. As part of this project, Richard undertook ethnography in Greenland, investigating the epistemic and political development of new hydrocarbon frontiers. This work was supported by the ESRC and the Research Councils' Energy Programme.

Polar Geopolitics and Governance

Richard convened an ESRC Seminar Series to investigate the geopolitics of the Polar Regions. This involved building an international network of social scientists to investigate changing models of polar governance. Through this process, a new generation of early career scholars were mentored as they began their polar research careers. This research has created a number of impact activities with NGOs and government departments and other institutions. Given this expertise, Richard is regularly consulted by policy-makers and the media in the UK, Europe and North America about the future of the Polar Regions. This work was supported by the ESRC and the RCUK/ESRC Global Uncertainties Programme.

Histories of the geographical sciences

Richard has always been interested in the histories of the geographical sciences, and the relations between disciplines. He wrote the Progress Reports on these themes for Progress in Human Geography and completed two terms as Chair of the History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group (of the RGS-IBG), where he previously served as Secretary and Postgraduate Liaison Officer. Recently, he has been examining the importance, since the late nineteenth century, of Arctic societies and environments in the growth of geographical thought. This has resulted in a number of projects about the history of science and exploration in Greenland and their relationship to themes in the geographical imaginary, as well as wider projects about the definition of canonicity in geography and the delineation of geographical areas. This work has been supported by the British Academy, the AHRC, the Leverhulme Trust, the American Philosophical Society and the John Fell Fund.

The constitution of the geo and the relations between its disciplines

For the past decade or so, Richard has investigated the relations between the geographical sciences and disciplinary understandings of the geo during the twentieth century. During 2016, he took up tenure of an Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) Mid-Career Fellowship, 'Environment in the geopolitical imagination? Knowledge formations in Geopolitics, International Relations and Geography after 1945'. He was also awarded an ISRF Residential Research Group grant to convene an advanced, innovative, interdisciplinary workshop, 'New Earth Thinking? Investigations of the Geo across the Social Sciences' at Girton College, Cambridge in August 2016.

Selection of current and recent research grants (all as PI)

  • ARCTIC CULT - Arctic Cultures: Sites of Collection in the Formation of the European and American Northlands
    Funding: European Research Council, Consolidator Grant (724317), €1,996,250 (2017-22)
  • Instruments of scientific governance? Historical geographies of Halley Bay, 1956-present
    Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council, Collaborative Doctoral Studentship (Partners: Royal Society and Royal Geographical Society), £70,717 (2018-22)
  • New Earth thinking? Investigations of the Geo across the social sciences
    Funding: Independent Social Research Foundation Residential Research Groups, £10,000 (2016)
  • Environment in the geopolitical imagination? Knowledge formations in Geopolitics, International Relations and Geography after 1945
    Funding: Independent Social Research Foundation Mid-Career Fellowship, £59,967 (2016)
  • Holistic Greenland? Science, politics and a geographical imagination
    Funding: Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, £44,824 (2015)
  • International networks and cosmopolitan science: Geographical Societies and Greenland, c.1880 to 1939
    Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council, Collaborative Doctoral Studentship (Partner: Royal Geographical Society), £57,597 (2015-18)
  • Towards an historical geography of Arctic exceptionality: Franz Boas, Knud Rasmussen and geographical practice
    Funding: British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant, £9,900 (2014-15)
  • Greenland and theories of environment and society: a scoping study of the archives
    Funding: John Fell OUP Research Fund Grant, £7,450 (2013-14)
  • Impacts of Polar Geopolitics for UK Policy in the Arctic and Antarctic
    Funding: RCUK/ESRC Global Uncertainties Impact Support Grant, £5,000 (2013)
  • The Geographical Canon?
    Funding: Royal Geographical Society, £500, and HPGRG, £500 (2012)
  • Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes: the New Geopolitics of the Polar Regions
    Funding: ESRC Seminar Series, £17,949 (2010-11)
  • Opening the Collections at the RGS-IBG
    Funding: Royal Geographical Society, £800 (2009)
  • The Socio-political, Environmental and Technological implications of Climatic Changes in the Circumpolar Arctic for UK Energy Security
    Funding: ESRC/RCEP Interdisciplinary Early Career Research Fellowship, £336,155 (2007-10)

Visiting positions

  • Honorary Research Associate, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, 2017-20
  • Visiting Researcher, National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, April 2014.
  • Visiting Researcher, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Copenhagen, February 2009
  • Stage international de recherche (International Visiting Scholar), Institut d'études canadiennes, L'Université d'Ottawa, May 2005
  • Stage international de recherche (International Visiting Scholar), Institut d'études canadiennes, L'Université d'Ottawa, July-August 2003

Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Anna Gielas, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship, University of Cambridge, 2021-23
  • Marc Jacobsen, Carlsberg Foundation Internationalisation Fellowship, University of Cambridge, 2020-22
  • Peter Martin, ERC Arctic Cultures, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Cambridge, 2019-21
  • Nanna Luders Kaalund, ERC Arctic Cultures, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Cambridge, 2018-21
  • John Woitkowitz, ERC Arctic Cultures, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Cambridge, 2018-21
  • Johanne Bruun, ERC Arctic Cultures, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Cambridge, 2018-21
  • Mari Kleist, ERC Arctic Cultures, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Cambridge, 2018-19
  • Kärg Kama, ESRC Future Research Leader: Geo-logics and Geo-politics: The Collective Governance of European Shale Gas Development, University of Oxford, 2016-18
  • Andrew Foxall, ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow: The Geopolitics of Ethnic Relations in Russia, University of Oxford, 2012-13
  • Dan Pedley, ESRC Postdoctoral Research Associate: The Socio-political, Environmental and Technological implications of Climatic Changes in the Circumpolar Arctic for UK Energy Security, 2010

Current PhD/DPhil/MPhil students

  • Naï Zakharia, PhD student, University of Cambridge: Gender and histories of Arctic field science, 1900-1950
  • Stephen Lezak, PhD student, University of Cambridge: Narratives of Climate Change in the North American Arctic
  • Alice Oates, PhD student, University of Cambridge: Instruments of Scientific Governance? Historical Geographies of Halley Bay, 1956-present
  • Megan Eldred, MPhil student, University of Cambridge: Scientific Authority and the Arctic Council
  • Bronte Evans-Rayward, MPhil student, University of Cambridge: Communicating Antarctica - Reading and Writing in the Polar South, 1892-1900
  • Macey McCann, MPhil student, University of Cambridge: Communities and Climate Change on the Alaskan North Slope
  • Kevin Rattue, DPhil student, University of Oxford: Environmental Protection in the Canadian High Arctic - Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound as a Case Study for Re-Conceptualising Governance
  • Michael Dangerfield, DPhil student, University of Oxford: Urban Greenland: a Spatial Analysis of Nuuk's Labour Market

Recent PhD/DPhil/MPhil students

  • Bronwen Fraser, MPhil student, University of Cambridge: Imaginaries and Polar Tourism (2020)
  • Catherine Morris, MPhil student, University of Cambridge: Nature, Culture and Marginalised Citizenship: the 'place' of Canada's Inuit in Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut (2020)
  • Nina Doering, DPhil, University of Oxford: Public Participation, Democratic Decision-Making, and Extractive Resource Management in Greenland (2019)
  • Peter Martin, DPhil, University of Oxford: Arctic Science in Circulation at the Royal Geographical Society (2019)
  • Ragnhild Dale, PhD, University of Cambridge: Making Resource Futures: Petroleum and Performance by the Norwegian Barents Sea (2019)
  • Aoife Blanchard, MPhil, University of Cambridge: Unearthing Greenland's Resource Frontier: Mineral Resource Extraction and Naalakkersuisut's Bid for Greenlandic Independence (2019)
  • Adam Williams, MPhil, University of Cambridge: A Critical GeopolitIcal Analysis of Digital Infrastructure in the European Arctic (2019)
  • Serkan Birgel, DPhil, University of Oxford: The Geopolitics of Natural Resources in Post-Conflict Environments (2018)
  • Brice Perombelon, DPhil, University of Oxford: Geopolitical Arctic(s): Prioritising Indigenous Representations of Geopower: the Case of Tulita, Northwest Territories, Canada (2018)
  • Natalia Magnani, PhD, University of Cambridge: Making Indigenous Futures: Land, Memory, and 'Silent Knowledge' in a Skolt Sámi Community (2018)
  • Jamie Sandall, MPhil, University of Cambridge: Imagining Climate Change through Polar Art (2018)
  • Cameron Mackay, MPhil, University of Cambridge: Colonialism and the Human Dimensions of Climate Change in the Canadian Arctic (2018)
  • Sarah Morton, DPhil, University of Oxford, The Legacies of the Repatriation of Human Remains (2018)
  • Thomas Turnbull, DPhil, University of Oxford: From Paradox to Policy: the problem of Energy Resource Conservation in Britain and America, 1865-1981 (2017)
  • Rachael Tily, DPhil, University of Oxford: Space, Research Objects, and Interdisciplinarity in Geomorphological Inquiry (2017)
  • Su-Chuin Soon, PhD, University of Liverpool: First Generation Chinese Migrants and their Association with the Development of Liverpool's Chinatown (2013)
  • Nina Doering, MPhil Development Studies, University of Oxford: Local Perceptions of Large-Scale Economic Projects in Disko Bay, Greenland (2013)

Publications

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Teaching

  • Geography Tripos Part IB, Paper 1: Producing Geography
  • Geography Tripos Part IB: Copenhagen Fieldclass
  • Geography Tripos Part II, Paper 2: Geographies of the Arctic
  • MPhil in Polar Studies
  • College Lecturer, Fitzwilliam College
  • Director of Studies, Fitzwilliam College

External activities

  • House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee on 'The Changing Arctic', 2018
  • UK Arctic and Antarctic Partnership Steering Committee, 2017-20
  • House of Lords Select Committee on the Arctic, 2014
  • Chair, RGS-IBG History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group Committee, 2007-14
  • Secretary, RGS-IBG History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group Committee, 2004-07
  • ESRC, AHRC and RGS (with IBG) International Benchmarking Review of UK Human Geography, 2012
  • ESRC Peer Review College, 2010-15
  • Editorial Board, Transactions of the Institute of the British Geographers, 2013-16
  • Editorial Board, Historical Geography, 2014-24