Dr Gavin Brown

Senior Lecturer in Human GeographyDr Gavin Brown

Contact Details

Biography

I am a cultural, historical and political geographer. Much of my research is located within the field of the geographies of sexualities, and I am currently interested in geopolitical aspects of contemporary sexual politics. I also have an interest in activism and protest movements and I am currently writing about the cultural and historical geographies of British anti-apartheid solidarity movements.

I joined the University of Leicester, as a Lecturer, in 2007 after completing my PhD at King’s College London (with Professor Loretta Lees, who subsequently joined the department here at Leicester). I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2014.

From January 2016, I am one of the editors of Social and Cultural Geography.

Research Interests

I am a cultural, historical and political geographer. My work expands beyond the traditional boundaries of social and cultural geography to consider political and economic issues in both historical and contemporary settings. To date, most of my academic research has been concerned with the spatiality of gay men’s lives; but I also research solidarity, social movement activism and protest. Increasingly, I am examining both areas of work through ideas drawn from critical geopolitics as much as from social and cultural geography. I am currently engaged in three overlapping research projects, which are outlined below in greater detail.  These are:

  • Geographies of sexuality: diverse economies and ‘ordinary cities’
  • Geopolitics of sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Geographies of protest camps, solidarity and internationalism;

Geographies of Sexuality: diverse economies and ordinary cities

I am best known for my work on geographies of sexuality. There are two strands to my work on the geographies of sexuality.

I am engaged in on-going work to develop a theoretical model for charting the diverse economies of lesbian and gay life and articulating the sexual politics of austerity. To this end, I have recently conducting historical research on the archives of lesbian and gay social movements from the 1970s and 1980s that offered alternative models of gay life to the metropolitan-focused lifestyles and economies that were being consolidated at that time. I have undertaken studies of the non-commercial, autonomous spaces created by anarchist-inspired radical queer networks. I have also reconsidered sites of cruising and public homosex as a unique form of ‘commons’ that fosters a unique set of socio-sexual interactions between non-heterosexual men beside the mainstream commercial gay leisure economy.

I have used the diverse economies approach to challenge the focus of geographies of sexuality on inner city leisure economies in the metropolitan centres of the Global North – applying a comparative ‘ordinary cities’ approach to the study of urban sexual geographies, and bringing the whole city back into view, demonstrating that all aspects of the urban infrastructure and built environment are structured by normative assumptions about sexuality. This has spurred a new line of research considering English provincial gay life beyond metropolitan centres.

Geopolitics of sexual orientation and gender identity

I am currently developing a new strand of research which thinks geopolitically about sexual orientation and gender identity. I am fascinated by the ways in which geopolitical imaginations about groups of apparently ‘gay-friendly’ or ‘homophobic’ cities and nations are produced through events such as LGBT Pride Events and film festivals. Over the coming years, I plan to develop new work on the ways in which governments, diplomats, think tanks and NGOs produce knowledge about sexual orientation and gender identity within the international spaces of practical geopolitics. I am also interested in exploring how this geopolitical knowledge impacts upon and shapes the everyday lives of sexual and gender minorities at multiple spatial scales and in a variety of geographical locations.

Geographies of protest camps, solidarity and internationalism

I have an interest in solidarity as a spatial practice and a set of spatial relations, as well as the spatialities of protest camps and other forms of social movement activism. In recent years, I have focused on recording the historical geographies of British anti-apartheid solidarity activism in the 1980s (through research funded by the Leverhulme Trust). This project examines important questions about the transformative power of standing in solidarity with distant others. Specifically it examines the history of the Non-Stop Picket of the South African Embassy in London. The (mostly) very young supporters of the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group (City Group) maintained a constant presence outside the embassy in Trafalgar Square, between April 1986 and January 1990, achieving their goal to remain until Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Their political cause was serious, but their practice was infused with youthful exuberance. Solidarity is at the heart of this historical account of how the Non-Stop Picket practiced its politics and the transformative effects being in solidarity had on the consciousness of its youthful protagonists.  Rather than simply tell the story of the Non-Stop Picket, this project examines the long-term impact on the lives of picketers of being non-stop against apartheid. For further details of this project, see nonstopagainstapartheid.wordpress.com

Through my work on the Non-Stop Picket, I have become part of the Protest Camps research collective.  Together we have organised a number of workshops and conference sessions examining trans-disciplinary approaches to the study (and practices) of historical and contemporary protest camps, occupations and other forms of long-term, emplaced protests.

Teaching Interests

Like my research expertise, my teaching straddles several different areas of human geography. I currently teach on the first year module, Core Concepts in Human Geography. I contribute to the second year module, Global Geopolitical Economy. I run a workshop on archival methods on the second year Research Design and Methods module. I teach on two third year modules, drawing directly on different aspects of my research in each of them.

In Geography and the Everyday Politics of Identity I teach aspects of my research on the geographies of sexualities (amongst other issues). In Spaces of Social Change I teach an extended case study relating to my research on international campaigns against apartheid in South Africa and young people’s geopolitical agency.

From 2017 I will be leading a new third year fieldcourse Berlin: tracing geopolitics in urban space. I am hoping that my teaching will increasingly focus on critical geopolitics over the next few years, but that I also make space to develop Leicester students’ skills in archival methods and historical geography research.

PhD Supervision

Research Areas for PhD Supervision

Everyday (Geo)political Lives

Critical geopolitics, Subaltern geopolitics, Cultural and historical geography, Sexualities, Ethnography, Archival research

I am interested in supervising students on the following topics:

  • The production of geopolitical knowledge about sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Cultural and historical geographies of the international anti-apartheid movement (1960 – 1994) and similar international solidarity social movements
  • Cultural and historical geographies of individuals and organisations associated with the far Left (anarchist, communist and socialist political movements)

Planetary Urban and Rural Transformations

Cultural and historical geography, Sexualities, Protest, Social movements, Ethnography, Archival research

I am interested in supervising students on the following topics:

  • Cultural and historical geographies of sexual minority (LGBTQ) lives in urban and/or rural areas around the world.
  • Contemporary (and historical) studies of protests in urban space and social movements that contest processes of urban change.

Enquiries: If you are interested in studying for a PhD in one of these research areas, please make informal enquiries via geogPGresearch@le.ac.uk.

Find out more information about Geography PhDs including more research areas, how to apply, funding and entry requirements.

Current

StudentThesis TitleOther Supervisor(s)
David Ashby Comedy in South Africa: the role of political humour in post-apartheid nation building Dr Jen Dickinson
Clara Rivas Alonso How do Political Protests and Everyday Resistance Practices Challenge Processes of State-led Gentrification in Istanbul? Professor Loretta Lees
Jessica Steele 'Self-renovating neighbourhoods' – an alternative to gentrification? Professor Loretta Lees
Grace Sykes Perceived risks of university to past, present and future students Professor Peter Kraftl (Birmingham)

Completed

StudentThesis TitleOther Supervisor(s)
Ali Abubrig Towards a Holistic Islamic Urbanism: Planning for Tripoli in the New Libya Dr Angus Cameron (School of Management)
Adam Barker (Re­)Ordering the New World: Settler Colonialism, Space, and Identity Professor Jenny Pickerill (Sheffield)
Thomas Grant "I’m excited but I don’t want to be unrealistic" The role of hope in shaping aspirations of working class young people in Leicester towards higher education John Williams (Sociology)

Impact, Enterprise and Outreach

  • Editor of Social and Cultural Geography (2016 onwards); Editorial Board Member (2011 – present)
  • Editorial Board Member, Geography Compass (2012 – present)
  • Member of the ESRC Peer Review College (2013 onwards)
  • Chair of the Space, Sexualities and Queer Research Group of the RGS-IBG (2009 – 2012)

Selected Publications

Take a look at my Google Scholar profile for a full list of publications.

Books

  1. Brown, G. and Yaffe, H. (forthcoming 2017), Youth activism and solidarity: the Non-Stop Picket against apartheid, London: Routledge.
  2. Brown, G., Feigenbaum, A., Frenzel, F. and McCurdy, P. (eds) (forthcoming 2017), Protest camps and social movements: An international perspective, Bristol: Policy Press.
  3. Browne, K. and Brown, G. (eds) (forthcoming 2016), The Routledge Companion to Geographies of Sex and Sexuality, London: Routledge.
  4. Browne, K., Lim, J. and Brown, G. (eds.) (2007), Geographies of Sexualities: Theory, Practices and Politics, Aldershot: Ashgate.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles:

  1. Di Feliciantonio, C. and Brown, G. (2015), ‘Introduction: the sexual politics of austerity’, ACME: an international e-journal for critical geographies, 14(4): 965 – 974.
  2. Brown, G. (2015), ‘Marriage and the spare bedroom: exploring the sexual politics of austerity in Britain’, ACME: an international e-journal for critical geographies, 14(4): 975 – 988.
  3. Brown, G. (2015), ‘Rethinking the origins of homonormativity: the diverse economies of rural gay life in England and Wales in the 1970s and 1980s’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40 (4): 549 – 561.
  4. Jarvis, C., Tate, N., Dickie, J. and Brown, G. (2015), ‘Mobile learning in a human geography field course’, Journal of Geography
    doi: 10.1080/00221341.2015.1026373
  5. Brown, G. and Yaffe, H. (2014), ‘Practices of solidarity: opposing apartheid in the centre of London’, Antipode, 46 (1): 34 – 52. 
    doi: 10.1111/anti.12037

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