The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Lisa Garforth

Senior 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.

My book Green Utopias: Environmental Hope Before and After Nature, is out from Polity. 

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. 


My book Green Utopias: Environmental Hope Before and After Nature, came out with Polity this year. The book explores the new ideas about how humans might live better with nature that have been produced in environmental policy, ecophilosophy and green science fiction since the nineteen sixties. Examining utopian dreams of a more sustainable futures shows the persistence of green hope across the last fifty years, but also reveals enormous changes in how we can express it. The book is particularly concerned with how we can imagine better environmental futures in relation to debates about the end of nature and while navigating the apparent colonisation or effacing of the future under the sign of the Anthropocene. 

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 investigates relationships among 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. 

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 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. I have taught sociological theory on modules across all three stages of our programme here at Newcastle, and run an MA module on environment and society.

I am currently the degree programme director for LL32 Politics and Sociology. I'm on research leave Semester 2 2017-18.