The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Robert Lawshaw

Lecturer in Geography

Background

Hello! My name is Rob and I'm an urban and social geographer with an interest in all things night. I have been working at Newcastle since September 2015, having previously been at Durham University where I obtained my PhD in 2012. I'm listed here under my married name as Robert Lawshaw, but I still publish under my previous name as Robert Shaw (we name-blended!).

My first book, which builds on much of my research to date The Nocturnal City, is due to be published by Routledge in 2018. I have carried out research exploring the night-time economy in the UK, changing artificial lighting technologies and the Nuit Debout protest movement in France. In addition, I have published on ecosophical theories in geography, focusing on the work of Felix Guattari in particular, and have a wider conceptual interest in concepts of earth, self and temporality.  My work has been funded by the ESRC, and published in several journals including Environment and Planning A, Geoforum and Theory, Culture and Society

I have share my expertise with media such as the North-West Evening Mail, The Conversation, and even in stand-up comedy form at the Newcastle Bright Club. I maintain a sporadically-updated blog at www.rob-shaw.net, and am on Twitter as @WhatIsRobShaw.

 

Research

Summary

Potential PhD student? Then have a look at some suggested projects here.

My research has looked at how night-lives are produced not only in the bars, clubs and restaurants that we mainly associate with night, but also in the spaces and activities that manage and produce our cities. In other words while some sensibly chose to visit the sites of drinking and partying at night, I have busied  myself looking at how street-cleaners, taxi drivers, street-lighting engineers and others keep the city centre usable at night! As well as city centres I've developed an interest in how home is produced at night, how nights differ globally, and how these are being transformed as culture 'intensifies', requiring evermore activity around the clock. I've also touched on other research areas including leisure and regeneration, infrastructure, and human-environment relationships.

I have enjoyed teaching at the university, leading mainly on research methods modules that have given me a chance to work with students in depth. I've shared my work and knowledge of geography with public groups including the Institute of Lighting Professionals, media such as the North-West Evening Mail, and even in stand-up comedy form at the Newcastle Bright Club. I maintain a sporadically-updated blog at www.robert-shaw.net, and am on Twitter as @WhatIsRobShaw.

 

...And with A Bit More Detail!

My research interests lie in urban and social geography. In particular, I've sought to draw on approaches towards understanding society that have emphasized the co-production of practice and materiality, while hopefully not losing sight of the value of understanding structural producers of inequalities (class, gender, race, and so forth). My empirical work has focused on understanding 'Night' from a social-cultural perspective, as a way of opening up new understandings of the production of the city, while my theoretical work has explored ideas of ecosophy, assemblage, atmosphere and subjectivity as ways of getting at the unequal (co)production of selves and cities.

In my PhD, I looked at the 'night-time-economy' of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In particular, I was interested in the ways in which the governance and maintenance of infrastructure, through policy and practice, produce affects, discourses and power relations that cultivate subjectivities in the urban night. As such, I looked at services and sectors which interact with the alcohol and leisure industry, such as street-cleaning, fast-food selling, and taxi services, and the work of the NE1 Business Improvement District. During my PhD, I developed an increasing awareness of the limitations of the night-time-economy framework for understanding the urban night, developing a theoretical background using the work of Gregory Bateson, Felix Guattari, Non-representational theory and actor-network theory to rethink the relationship between forms of governing the night-time city.

I'm now interested in developing new ways of exploring the relationship between 'night' and society. Through street-lighting and energy use at home, I've pushed into more detailed exploration of how the built environment at night is produced and maintained to shape experience. By looking at the home at night in more depth I want to expand the range of people that I research with, to try and understand what about the night at home makes it a space of rest and relaxation - and what makes it a space of stress, fear and isolation? I'm interested here in looking in more depth at the ways in which homes are experienced unequally at night.

At the same time, I retain an interest in the ways in which  affect is used to control subjectivities in urban contexts. My theoretical work continues to explore these questions by drawing from geographers and social theorists who have been interested in the material, affective and discursive production of (urban) space. Most recently this has involved exploring the work of Gregory Bateson in more depth as a way of developing understandings of Deleuze and Guattari, as well as contributing to the development of vocabularies surrounding atmosphere, assemblage, rhythm and infrastructure as ways of talking about material-practice approaches towards understanding social construction. My conceptual approach seeks ways of researching the world that can on the one hand respond to the fluidity, multiplicity and complexity of experiences of daily life, while on the other recognising the power and control created by deep structural inequalities.

Teaching

Module Convenor

GEO1010: Interconnected Worlds

This module introduces geography students to the ways in which geographical processes interact on multiple scales: it attempts to understand the global via the local and the local via the global. 

GEO2123 : Social experiments, diverse economies: Copenhagen Field Course

This second year course takes students on a residential fieldtrip to Copenhagen, to explore the unique mixture of social and economic experiementation that has taken place in this city. We look at how ethnographic and creative methods can be used to understand the role of both bottom-up and top-down approaches to producing fair and egalitarian urban spaces.

Other Teaching

  • GEO1018  Geographical Analysis
  • GEO2043  Key Methods for Human Geographers 
  • GEO2111  Doing Geographical Research: Theory and Practice
  • GEO3099  Dissertation
  • GEO8016  Philosophies in Human Geography
  • GEO8017  Masters Practice Module 

Publications