The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Caleb Johnston

Senior Lecturer in Human Geographies



2010 Ph.D. University of British Columbia 

2006 MA UBC, Geography

2004 BA (honours) UBC, Geography

Previous Positions

2017-19 Lecturer in Human Geography, Newcastle University

2013-16 Lecturer in Human Geography, Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh 

2011-13 Research Associate, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow 

2010-11 Visiting Scholar, Center for Global Metropolitan Studies, University of California, Berkeley



2021- Associate Editor, Cultural Geographies in Practice, Cultural Geographies

2017- Member, Geographies of Social Change cluster, Newcastle University 

2015-18 Editorial Board, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 

2017-20 Member, Creative Practice Research Forum, Newcastle University 

2015- Managing Editor, Studies in Social Justice, Creative Interventions 

2014-15 Co-Convenor, International Emotional Geographies Conference, Edinburgh 

2013-16 Managing Committee, Global Justice Academy, University of Edinburgh 

2012-17 Steering Committee, Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network 

2012-13 Advisory Committee, School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh


2020 Keynote, National University of Singapore, Asian Research Institute

2020 Interviewed for The Guardian, Al Jazeera, BBC World Service and The Economist

2020 Between Worlds performed for Germany's Nacht Kritik 

2019 Reading of Nanay at the Prairie Theatre Exchange Festival and annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, Winnipeg, with Dr Sarah Zell, Migrante Manitoba, and Winnipeg’s Migrant Solidarity Network  

2018 Invited Speaker, London School of Economics, Urbanisation and Development cluster 

2017 Keynote, Society and Space, Annual Association of American Geographers, Boston 

2014 Keynote, Participatory Geographies Research Group, RGS-IBG, London 

2013 Jasmin Leila Award, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
2011 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Post-Doctoral Prize (shortlisted) 

2009 The Children’s Choice Awards, Saddest and Most Realistic Play, Children’s Choice Awards, PuSh Festival 



2020 Relational Comparison and Communities of Care across the Global South and North. Keynote for Transnational Relations, Ageing and Care: Asian Connections and Beyond. National University of Singapore.

2019 From Archive to repertoire in Bagong Barrio. Department of Geography, University of Toronto.

2019 Authors meet critics on Migration in Performance: Crossing the Colonial Present. (Panelists: Lieba Faier, John Catungal, Sarah de Leeuw, Alison Mountz, Tadiar Neferti). American Association of Geographers, Washington.

2018 Unsettling scripts of disposability. Urbanisation, Planning and Development cluster, London School of Economics. 

2017 Playing games of chance in the Canadian North. Performing Urgency: Space, Performance and Politics. Nordic Geographers Meeting, Stockholm.

2017 Ethnographic performances and games of change in the decolonizing present. Keynote talk for Society and Space at the annual conference of the American Association of Geographers, Boston.

2017 Tlingipino Bingo: Performing solidarity across Indigenous and Filipino immigrant experiences of state violence. Reimagining Creative Economy. University of Alberta, Calgary.

2017 Testimonial theatre and the geopolitics of trauma and empathy. University of Leeds. 

2016 Performing precarity in Bagong Barrio. Annual Meeting of Institute of British Geographers (with IBG), London (presenter and convenor).

2016 Life-times and spaces of disposability in Bagong Barrio, Metro Manila. Social Geographies of Urban Abandonment. American Association of Geographers, San Francisco.

2016 Urban crisis: resistances, opportunities and co-optation. University of Edinburgh (convenor).

2015 Who saved the city? Exploring urban activisms in times of austerity in North America and Europe and Beyond. University of Edinburgh (convenor).

2015 Performance as transnational and scholarly inquiry: migrant labour and urban dispossessionCanadian Association of Geographers, Vancouver.  

2014 Theatre, politics and the impossible ethic. Annual Meeting of Institute of British Geographers (with IBG). Keynote talk for the Participatory Geographies Research Group, London.

2014 Transnational affects in the space of theatre. Centre for the History of Emotions, University of London, Queen Mary, London.

2014 The political work of feelings. Migration and Intimate Life. Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network, University of Glasgow, Glasgow.

2013 Testimony, theatre and ethics. Queen’s University, Department of Drama, Canada.

2013 Emotions on the move. New Frontiers of Geographical Knowledge and Practice? Annual Meeting of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), London.

2013 Circulating discourses of suffering across national contexts. Institutional Spaces of Pain, Suffering and Trauma. Emotional Geographies, Groningen.

2013 Circulating suffering: part two. Institutional Spaces of Pain, Suffering and Trauma [redux]. Association of American Geographers, Los Angeles.


2021 Economic and Social Research Council, IAA 

2020 Arts and Humanities Research Council, GCRF Urgency Grant

2020 Newcastle University, Faculty Research Fund

2019 Global Challenges Strategic Initiatives Fund

2018 Kulturstiftung des Bundes 

2018 Newcastle University, Teaching and Learning Fund 

2017 Economic and Social Research Council, IAA 

2017 Newcastle University, Faculty Research Fund

2016 Yukon Government, Arts Fund                                                            

2016 Yukon Government, Culture Quest                                                                                        

2013 Economic and Social Research Council, KEO  

2012 Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), Small Grant                       

2012 British Columbia Arts Council, Projects

2012 Jasmin Leila Award, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

2011 Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Postdoctoral Fellowship

2011 British Columbia Arts Council, Projects

2011 City of Vancouver, Cultural Grants Program

2010 British Columbia Arts Council, Projects

2010 City of Vancouver, Cultural Grants Program 

2010 British Council, International Projects

2009 Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, India Studies Fellowship

2009 Vancouver Foundation, Arts and Culture

2008 British Columbia Arts Council, Projects

2008 Vancouver Foundation, Health and Social Development                                        

2008 City of Vancouver, Cultural Grants Program

2008 Canada Council for the Arts, Projects                                                                  

2006 Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Doctoral Fellowship

2004 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Masters Fellowship 


Ongoing Interests

Migration, labour, precarity

Political economies of care, dementia, kinship, gerontechnologies 

Performance, intersections of the social sciences and the arts 

Collaborative practices and creative experimentations

I am also committed to crafting creative geographies of public engagement. 

Selected Research-Derived Performance Works

City of Long Stay 2021-

I am currently co-creating a short documentary film examining the conditions and circumstances drawing Europeans and North Americans to migrate to Thailand for dementia care. We consider what this tells us about infrastructure failure and the new forms of care and intimacy developing in Chiang Mai.

Between Worlds 2018-20

This is a documentary theatre project co-created with Costa Compagnie (Germany) and Geraldine Pratt (UBC) which addresses the global outsourcing and migration of dementia care from Europe and North America to Thailand. Funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council, the ESRC and Germany’s Kulturstiftung des Bundes, the piece examines emerging migrations of care, kinship and the family. The piece premiered at Berlin's Ballhaus Ost and Northern Stage in Newcastle.

Tlingipino Bingo 2016-17

This theatre project was developed in collaboration with Tlingit and Filipino theatre artists in the city of Whitehorse. It revolves around a bingo game, in which audience members participate as bingo players and storytellers. The performance provides the occasion for community storytelling and exchange, and serious play around issues of shared dispossession, and communication and miscommunication between Tlingit people and Filipino migrants in the Canadian North. The play premiered at Whitehorse’s 2016 Nuit Blanche Festival. Funded by Yukon Government of Canada. 

Nanay: a testimonial play 2009-19

Nanay is a testimonial theatre project designed to engender public debate about Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program, and directly addresses the experiences of Filipino domestic workers who come to Canada as migrant labourers. Nanay transforms very conventional qualitative interview transcripts into testimonial theatre, which is to say, our project is based entirely on verbatim monologues taken from interviews conducted over a 15 year period with domestic workers, their children and Canadian employers. Our overall objective in Nanay is to forge a more complex identification with both the plight of domestic workers, as well as that of middle-class families struggling to secure affordable care in Canada.The production premiered at Vancouver’s 2009 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, and then toured to Berlin’s HAU1 Theatre as part of their Your Nanny Hates You! Festival. In 2012, we conducted a script reading with professional actors at the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in Edinburgh (2013), Whitehorse (2014), and in 2019, the project was reworked by Migrante Manitoba and Winnipeg’s Migrant Solidarity Network.  We have also carried out two productions of the work in Metro Manila (2013; 2015) involving partnership with Migrante International and the PETA Theatre.  The project has been funded by the ESRC, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada Council for the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, City of Vancouver, Koerner Foundation and Vancouver Foundation.

Counter Mapping 2011

This contemporary interdisciplinary exhibition brought together the work of 17 professional artists around the theme of counter mapping the city of Vancouver. Working across disciplines, artists deployed a range of tactics in their rewriting of the urban, utilizing mapping and surveillance technologies to constructive disruptive and creative cartographies. Counter Mapping premiered at the 2011 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, and selected works toured to the University of Glasgow for an international conference, Excursions. Funded by City of Vancouver and British Columbia Arts Council.

A Storied Sea 2009

This geo-audio-literary work was created for Vancouver’s Western Front as part of Intersections—a new music series that brought together writers and composers together to create site-specific commentaries informing particular geographic spaces in Vancouver. Created in partnership with Vancouver composer James Maxwell, the piece spliced environmental sounds and composed music for trombones with the recorded testimonies of my grandfather, whose family squatted on the Vancouver waterfront in the 1920s.

Arts, Health and Seniors 2008-10

Funded by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, and bringing together a collaboration between UBC's Faculty of Nursing and the City of Vancouver, Arts, Health and Seniors looked to demonstrate how involvement in the arts can improve the health and well being of seniors experiencing physical, social, and sexual orientation barriers. Engaging 80 seniors in four different community centres over a three-year period, the project built new expertise between health workers, artists and funders in the area of chronic disease management. I spent two years working as project manager, researcher and one of eight site artists in AHS. Funded by Vancouver Coastal Health and City of Vancouver. 

Practicing Democracy 2004-06

Created by Vancouver's Headlines Theatre for Living, Practicing Democracy was North America’s first deployment of August Boal’s model of Legislative Forum Theatre. Devised in collaboration with city planners and elected municipal councillors, the objective of this project was to use forum theatre to generate community-based law on issues related to homelessness in the City of Vancouver. We researched the project as a substantial effort to use a particular model of political theatre to generate creative solutions to what is now a familiar aspect of neo-liberal economic policy, namely, cuts to social services and welfare provision. Funded by Canada Council for the Arts, British Columbia Arts, and City of Vancouver.


Current Teaching

GEO2100 City of Crisis, City of Hope: Amsterdam (Module Leader) 

GEO2110 Social Geographies 

GEO3099 Dissertation

GEO3159 Displacement and Migration 

GEO8017 Concepts in Action 

Current PhD Students

Christos Galavis. Hillwalkers and Homecomers: Walking as Belonging among Munro Baggers and Scots-Canadians in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Principal's Career Development scholarship.

Daniel Jones. Geographies of Impulse: A Study of Individuals with Tourettes Syndrome and the Embodied Experience of Public Space. ESRC PhD studentship. 

Maida, Melisa. Negotiating Belonging: The Gendered Experiences of Refugee Women in Tyneside. ESRC PhD studentship. 

Alex Twomey. Making Space: Collaborative Art Practice and Community Building in Abandoned New York City School. Northern Bridge PhD studentship. 

Completed PhD Students

Nico Stefanovics. (2016) The Making of a New Downtown: Urban Place-Making in HafenCity, Hamburg, Germany.