The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Lisa Garforth

Lecturer in Sociology


I am a cultural and environmental sociologist. I focus on utopianism and speculation about social futures more broadly. I have a long-standing interest in how fiction can help us to understand how it might feel to live in different social conditions, especially those associated with sustainability and ecological philosophy. Substantively I have researched on environmentalism, science, and knowledge production.

I'm currently PI for the Newcastle part of a three-centre, interdisciplinary AHRC study UNSETTLING SCIENTIFIC STORIES, looking at science futures and science fiction in the long 20th century.

Before I came to Newcastle I worked at the University of Leeds on a large European research project on gender and knowledge production. I have lectured in Sociology at the University of York and worked at the Open University.


I'm one of a team of researchers at Newcastle, Aberystwyth and York working on 'Unsettling Science: expertise, narrative and future histories'. This 3-year AHRC project will investigate the relationships between science, fiction and popular culture over the course of the long technological 20th century (1887-2007), focusing on the ways in which innovations in science, technology and medicine have been used by writers, policy-makers and the general public to anticipate and think about the future. 

 I'm working on arguments emerging from various new materialisms in social theory relating to utopianism and environmental future, looking particularly at Bruno Latour and Jane Bennett. I'm also consolidating a long term programme of work on culture, environmentalism and the recent history of green hope for a book, Green Utopias: Environmental Hope Before and After Nature due out from Polity in October 2017.

My research interests cover three main areas:

1) Sociology of the environment and cultural constructions of nature. How do Western societies imagine nature, the environment, and different entanglements of the natural and the social? I've worked particularly on how narrative and visual cultural forms shape ecological imaginaries.

2) Utopia, society and sociology. What is utopia, and what does it do in and to our thinking about contemporary societies?. I've worked extensively on environmental utopianism, particularly in literary and science fictions, but also in relation to other aspects of aesthetics and popular culture.

3) Gender and knowledge production. What is the relationship between practies of knowing and the organisational contexts in which they take place? My recent work has concerned the role of women in scientific cultures and institutions, focusing particularly on how different kinds of knowledge work are valued and gendered. I'm also interested in feminist epistemologies and in models of doing and knowing in contemporary science studies.




I offer the Stage 3 option module Dreamworlds: Society and the Utopian Imagination (please note this module is not running in 2017-18). It explores peoples' hopes and visions of better ways of living, and asks why they matter both socially and sociologically. This academic year I will be co-teaching the Sociology Stage 2 module SOC2058 Understanding Social Change and Transformation with Dr Catherine Degnen, and an MA module on environment and society.

I am the degree programme director for LL32 Politics and Sociology.