The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Jonathan Pugh

Senior Academic Fellow


Research Interests

- Small Islands and Archipelagos 
- Caribbean 
- Participatory approaches to development
- Critical theory and radical politics


After completing an ESRC-funded PhD in 2002 at Royal Holloway, University of London, Jonathan received two RC Fellowships (totalling 8 years) (working with Chantal Mouffe at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Westminster University; then moving to Newcastle University in 2005). In 2007 Jonathan was made Senior Academic Fellow in Territorial Governance at Newcastle University, UK, and in 2008 was made the first Honorary Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster.

1] The relational turn in island studies. In recent years Jonathan has published a range of papers and given keynote addresses at international conferences that contribute to what has come to be known as the ‘relational turn’ in island studies. This turn to think beyond the isolated island, into the more dynamic and shifting interconnections of islands, oceans, watercraft and other relations is a recent theme in island and oceanic studies that is gaining increasing momentum in key debates and critical literature. It involves working closely with those from a range of academic fields interested in how we can reconceptualise and work with such concerns as archipelagos (raising questions of how islands are interconnected), oceans (volume, movement, fluidity), and watercraft (ships, boats etc) that enable us to not only think about ‘the island’ as an isolated form, but also as bound up in often dynamically changing human and non-human configurations (from the Caribbean archipelago, to the artificial islands presently being built in the South China Sea, or how island cultures are changing in the anthropocene; for examples). Together with a range of academics and practitioners in related fields of island, oceanic, watercraft and other critical studies, Jonathan is developing new relational ways of both practically and conceptually addressing such concerns.

2] Contemporary Caribbean Societies. Continuing this theme of islands, Jonathan is also interested in institutional ethnographies of the everyday working lives of those who develop the institutions of the Caribbean in the post-independence era. Since 1998, he has analyzed a wide variety of contemporary Caribbean institutions, from organisations including town planning, participatory planning, sustainable and physical development, to folklore traditions and political activism. Reflective of significant impact and engagement, he has been involved in a range of practical and transformative participatory programmes. For example, co-initiating a seven-country programme employing 128 Caribbean fisherpeople funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to stimulate the development of fishing community networks across the eastern Caribbean.

3] Participatory Development. Jonathan has published a number of articles that critically engage and theorise questions of participatory development (Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers/Royal Geographical Society; Annals of the Association of American Geographers; Progress in Human Geography, for examples). Moving through critical engagements with Habermasian communicative planning in the 1990s and early 2000s inspired by the work of Chantal Mouffe, today Jonathan has turned his attention to what could be called the ‘experimental turn’ in participation. Most recently critical work has (I) developed the idea of ‘participation as assemblage’ by drawing upon Guattari’s (1992) Chaosmosis and experimental ethico-aesthetic paradigms of participation. Jonathan is also (ii) influenced by the work of Lauren Berlant, Stanley Cavell and Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi – particularly related themes of Dystopian Irony, Cruel Optimism, Scepticism and Impasse.

4] Radical politics. In 2004 Jonathan launched the Spaces of Democracy network with Chantal Mouffe and Doreen Massey. Illustrative of strong impact and engagement, the network ran until 2014 and involved 17 institutions worldwide and examined the nature and character of radical politics today after the spatial turn in the social sciences and humanities. In 2009 Jonathan produced the edited book ‘What is Radical Politics Today?’ This was launched at Canada House, Trafalgar Square, by the British Council with a significant debate covered by the media.

On the book What is Radical Politics Today?:-

"Jonathan Pugh gathers some of the most innovative and insightful voices from Britain and beyond to stage a series of debates on the central issues facing radical politics today. This collection is a model for the kinds of discussion we need to move forward." (Michael Hardt, co-author of Empire).

"Radical politics is about rethinking the common sense, the taken for granted assumptions, of the age. This timely and well-planned collection of essays by distinguished and concerned scholars throws much new light on where we should be looking for new ideas. It represents a major contribution to the ongoing debate on the problems of our times." (Lord Bhikhu Parekh)

"This is a bold, brave and timely book. As we emerge, blinking into the light after three decades of neo-liberal darkness, Jonathan Pugh has put together a collection of essays that will provoke and provide clues to the question of what comes next; what indeed is radical politics today?" (Neal Lawson, Director, Compass/ Speechwriter to Gordon Brown)

5] Jonathan’s involvement in the Great Debate public debating organisation strongly reflects his long-standing interest in innovative approaches to public engagement and debate that crosses the divide between University/ local and surrounding communities. The Great Debate is a group of people based in the North East of England who believe that social debate and the development of people's voices are vital elements to the institutions of society, having organised over 100 events since 1998 on topics ranging from theories of human nature and internet freedom to development, sustainability and environment ( In 2007, The Great Debate co-authored a successful United Nations Regional Centre of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development, which was recognised by the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies. It has also been awarded an ‘outstanding flagship project’ award from the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies for the Great Northern Youth Voices project.

Summary of publications

Jonathan has published three books and more than forty media commentaries, interviews and academic articles. Work has been reviewed in a range of outlets, including New Statesman, Red Pepper, Soundings, the Big Issue, Compass, the British Council, Catholic Herald, Left Foot Forward, Fabian Review, Total Politics, Town and Country Planning and the Times Higher Educational Supplement.

Jonathan has further undertaken international guest lectures at the Universities of California, West Indies, Westminster, Cornell, Taipei and Harvard.

Recent and Forthcoming Keynote Addresses

- International Geographical Union Commission on Islands, Penghu Islands (Pescadores), Taiwan Strait, October 2013.
- ISISA Islands of the World Conference XIII Penghu 2014, Penghu Islands (Pescadores), Taiwan Strait, September 2014.
- Island Cities and Urban Archipelagos, 21-25 October, 2014, Copenhagen, Denmark
- Invited by PhD and Masters Students of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Newcastle University, to give the Keynote Address at their 2014 Annual Conference.

For potential PhD students

Jonathan is interested in supervising PhD's on the following topics:-

- Small Islands and Archipelagos 
- Caribbean 
- Participatory approaches to development
- Critical theory and radical politics

Present Supervision

Anya Libert

Roles and Responsibilities

 - Newcastle University Public Lectures Committee.


PhD (Geography, London).

Previous Positions

Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Westminster.


Fellow of Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers; Member Royal Institute of Philosophy; Newcastle Philosophical Society.

Honours and Awards

- ESRC PhD studentship (1998-2001)
- Three year ESRC Fellowship (2002-2005) (graded 'Outstanding').
- RCUK Fellow in Territorial Governance (2005-2010).
- Member of Newcastle University 'Faculty Futures' programme.
- In 2008, made the first Honorary Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster.

Peer Review

ESRC, Leverhulme, European Union, British Academy, Australian Research Council.

Editorial Boards

- Island Studies Journal

- Urban Island Studies

- Shima: the international journal of research into island cultures

- International Intervention and Statebuilding

- Journal of Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses

Previous PhD student Completions

Dana James (Fulbright Scholar)

Carolyn Fahey (full scholarship funded by Jonathan Pugh, through the Spaces of Democracy network).

Amanda Machin, Centre for the Study of Democracy (co-supervised with Chantal Mouffe). Amanda was funded through the Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster, PhD scholarship, established by Jonathan Pugh.



Santander Mobility Fund Mapping urban degradation in Barrancabermeja: the effect of intense energy production in urban areas (with Fátima Elena and Gareth Powells (£1391)

Caribbean Planning:-

Santander Mobility Fund plus Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Newcastle University: Participatory mapping for disaster management in the Caribbean (£3000)

Jonathan is presently leading research into social component of Bellairs Alternative Energy Programme: a pilot for Barbados, Bellairs Research Institute/ McGill University, Barbados. $BDS764,100.00 (exchange rate approx.: $BDS3: £1)

Santander Mobility Fund 'What do government workers in the Caribbean think of ‘resilience’?: a pilot study' £1475.75 (2014).

Newcastle University, HASS Faculty Research Fund (2011, £4,000).

Newcastle University, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology Smalls Bids Fund (2011, £1000).

Newcastle University, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology Travel Top-up Fund (2011, £500).

United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office regional programme “Developing Institutional Capital in the Fisherfolk Communities of the Caribbean” (2003, DfID, approximately £60K including funding from Caribbean businesses, charities, consultancies and academics).

Research Council United Kingdom Fellowship 2005–2010 (EP/C509005/1; £125,000).

Three year Economic and Social Research Council Research Fellow. “Developing Institutional Capital in the Neo-Liberal Era: Caribbean Environmental Planning”. (2002-2004, ESRC: R00271204, total £100,121).

“Deconstructing Participatory Environmental Planning: Dispositions of Power in Barbados and St Lucia.” Royal Holloway, University of London PhD (1998-2001, ESRC studentship: R00429834850).


Spaces of Democracy network:-

SARCHA (School of Architecture for All), Athens (Euros 80,000).

Pugh, J. Mouffe, C, Thein, D. Marres, N. Howarth, D. and Griffin, L. The Spatial Turn and Political Subjectivity in the Social Sciences and Humanities, Economic and Social Research Council Seminar Series, May 2009 – December 2011, RES-451-26-0566 (£9213.20).

Pugh, J. Massey, D. Mouffe, C. and Verges, F. The Spaces of Democracy and the Democracy of Space, Economic and Social Research Council Seminar Series, 01/01/2007-31/12/2009,RES-451-25-4226 (£20511.68).

Newcastle University Public Lecture Series (£1000).

British Academy Small Research Grant (£3564.30).

California State University (£3000).

Essex University, Department of Government (£2000).

Goldsmiths College, University of London (£3000).

The Global Urban Research Unit and the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University (£600).

University of Newcastle Faculty Futures programme (£1000).

The Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust (£600).

One North East, Newcastle University Faculty Futures Programme and Newcastle City Council (£200).

Harvard and Cornell University (£2000).

Personal Assistant for Jonathan Pugh, funded through University of Newcastle Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (£15,000).

Spaces of Democracy PhD studentship. The Institute of Research on Environment and Sustainability, and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Newcastle University (£48,000).


The Great Debate:-

Big Lottery and The Dulverton Trust funded 'great northern youth voices' / [2012-14], £35K - documentary-making training for young people Not in Employment, Education or Training.


Royal Academy of Engineering funded 'ETUDE: Engineering Transmission Using Deliverative Events' [2013]; and 'Sustained Engagement' [2011-12], each for £30K


Pugh, J. Hewett, C. Williams, A. Tate S. and Large, A. Developing Discursive Skills for the workplace: piloting an interactive seminar series. Innovation Fund, Newcastle University, Quality in Learning and Teaching (QuILT) (£4995) [2012].


Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Science (£2K per year for 7 years) funded: Decline and Fool: Changing Ideas in the Twenty Teens [2013]; Whatever Happened to Equality? [2012]; The Great Debate: Facing the Future [2011]; Getting Real About Climate Change [2010]; Don’t Shout at the Telly, Change What's on it! [2009]; Developing World Challenges [2008]; and DSE3: Film Training with a Global Edge [2007]


Other sponsors and funding include: The Policy Press sponsored the filming of Economic Growth: Bane or Boon? [2010] and Limits to Growth in the 21st Century [2010]. RCE North East sponsored Living in a Changing World [2010] and The Great Debate Green Phoenix Festival programme [2010].  Northumbria University sponsored Economic Growth: Bane or Boon? [2010], The Great Sustainable Energy Debate 2008 and The Great Debate Human Nature Series 2008 (consisting of Progress of the Human Mind, Selfish Genes, Sex, and Sanity, Unnoticed Connections and Agents of Change? Darwinian Thought and Theories of Human Nature). Newcastle Science Festival sponsored: Getting Real About Climate Change [2010], Development, Sustainability and Environment 3 [2007], Science and the Human Potential [2006], The Great Energy Debate [2006], The Nature of Being Human [2005], The Great Debate: Being Human [2005], Whatever Happened to the Subject? [2004], Playing it Safe: Science and the Risk Society [2004], and Of Blank Slates and Zombies [2004]. Edinburgh University Press sponsored Agents of Change? Darwinian Thought and Theories of Human Nature [2008]. Atlantic Books sponsored: The Great Debate: Reprogramming Life [2006].  Dewjoc Architects sponsored: The Great Housing Debate [2006]. NESTA sponsored a 'Development and Environment', three day conference [2006].  





Undergraduate Teaching

Advanced Study Skills (GEO2111).

Globalisations, Culture and Development (GEO2103)

Module leader: Caribbean Societies: development, voice and the everyday (GEO3125).

Dissertations (GEO3099).


Postgraduate Teaching

Nature of Explanation and Enquiry (HSS8007)

Masters in Human Geography: Concepts in Action (GEO 8017).