Dr Paul Simpson
Associate Professor of Human Geography
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)
Associate Professor of Human Geography
Leader of the Centre for Research in Society and Environment
I joined Plymouth in August 2013 as a Lecturer in Human Geography. Previously I have lectured in Geography at Keele University and again at Plymouth. I completed my PhD in Human Geography at the University of Bristol in 2010 and my MSc in Society & Space, again at Bristol, in 2006. This was all funded by an ESRC 1+3 studentship. My undergraduate degree (MA) in Geography is from the University of Glasgow and was completed in 2005. Also, between 2010 and 2011 I completed a 'Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice' at Plymouth University. I was promoted to Associate Professor of Human Geography from August 2017 and became Leader of the Centre for Research in Society and Environment (CeRES) in November 2019.
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Roles on external bodies
2014-2018: Chair of the RGS History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group Committee.
2011-2014: Membership secretary of the RGS History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group Committee.
2010-2011: Member of the RGS History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group Committee.
2013-2014: Publication Officer for the RGS Social and Cultural Geography Research Group Committee.
2011-2013: Member of the RGS Social and Cultural Geography Research Group Committee.
My teaching interests broadly lie in the areas of:
Urban Geography (Urban Design, Everyday Life, and Public Space)
Theory and Philosophy in Geography
Staff serving as external examiners
External PhD Examiner for:
Phil Emerson (2018) ‘Approaching Laughter with Care: Ethical Refrains for Worlds of Multiplicity’ (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham).
Nina Williams (2017) ‘An Aesthetic Gait: Research in the Minor Registers of Creativity and Walking’ (School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol).
My broad research interests relate to the study of the everyday life of urban spaces. I am particularly interested in developing understandings of the experiential aspects of this and how the use of space intersects with its management and design. In doing so I draw on experimental ethnographic and visual methods and develop insights from post-structural and (post)phenomenological philosophy, particularly through an engagement with the works of Jean-Luc Nancy, Henri Lefebvre, Gilles Deleuze,Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Edmund Husserl.
Some recent and ongoing research projects related to these themes include:
2017 - 2020: 'Living in cities with terror: effects of diffuse terrorism on urban atmospheres’. Funded by Initiative d'excellence Paris//Seine (Co-I, with Damien Masson (PI), Jean-Baptiste Frétigny (Co-I), Anne Herzog (Co-I), Cergy-Pointoise; Sara Fergonese (Co-I), Birmingham; and Simon Runkel (Co-I), Heidelberg) (€85,000)
This project aims to understand the 'weight' of the threat of terrorism upon city dwellers' daily experience of urban spaces in European metropolises. A first challenge of the project is to examine how this threat influences urban environments by acting on individuals, their behavior and their representations. The second issue, which is relevant to the first, concerns the understanding of the apparatus of urban security by considering the articulation of the discourses and practices of public and private actors and the feeling of security experienced by city dwellers. The central hypothesis of the project is that the urban environments have a capacity to translate this articulation and that a directed action on the atmospheres offers levers of action to increase the emotional resilience of the inhabitants of the cities in the contemporary context of diffuse terror.
2011 - 2012: 'The Perception of the Cycling Environment: Infrastructures, Atmospheres, and the Experience ofSustainable Cycling'. Funded by the RGS-IBG Small Grant scheme (£2889):
Taking Plymouth as a case study,and drawing on interviews with key stakeholders in cycling planning and advocacy,the analysis of recent cycling policy and provision, and video-interviews with cyclists, this research seeks to develop understandings of cycling behaviour in two key ways. Firstly, much of the study of cycling, and particularly that related to the evaluation of policy provision, has been quantitative in nature.As such, this research takes a qualitative approach in studying cycling and the provisions made for it by examining the interrelation of cyclists and the planned environments they move through at an experiential level. Secondly,drawing on recent work related to non-representational theory and discussions of embodied practices, this research expands upon the small amount of existing research which has begun to examine the more general experience of cycling by focusing on the affective elements of this interrelation. As such, the research draws attention to the significance of the various atmospheres (both meteorological and felt) experienced by cyclists in their moving through the planned urban environment to the uptake of this practice.
2010 – 2014: ‘Sensory Enigmas ofContemporary Urban Mobilities’ Funded by L’Agence nationale de la recherché (French National Research Agency)(€210,000):
This research seeks to examine the ambiences and atmospheres produced in and through practices of travel in the context of key mobile sites.Taking St Pancras and Gare du Nord as case studies,the project will examine the interrelation of security practices and surveillance, social interactions and embodied performances, and the general spatio-temporal patterning of these sites, and how in combination they produce a specific experience of travel. The project is international and interdisciplinary in scope, bringing together academics from geography, urban studies, architecture and sociology based in the UK, France, Brazil andVenezuela. Further, in addition to traditional academic outputs, the material produced through the project fieldwork will be developed into an artistic exhibition.
'Spatialities of the subject'
Emerging from a longstanding interest in questions of subjectivity and how the experience of space is conceived, I am currently working on a monograph which reflects on how we can understand everyday sociality or coexistence in light of a range of debates in human geography and trends in contemporary social theory / philosophy. Coexistence has come to represent a key issue in contemporary society. In light of ongoing social, cultural, political and environmental change, the question of how we might live together with difference - both with each other and the environment we live in - has become increasingly vexed. This book enters into these issues by developing what is calls a ‘co-existential analytic’ of social life that suggests alternative understandings of how it is that we are, or might be, together in and with the world. Drawing on the post-phenomenological writings of Emanuel Levinas, Jean-Luc Nancy, Roberto Esposito and Jean-Luc Marion, the book responds to a range of critical engagements in the social sciences and humanities with ideas around the non-representational, practice, relationality, subjectivity, and embodiment in developing this account of coexistence. In particular, the book articulates an understand of subjects as always already in relation but, at the same time, also dis-posed, spaced, and so perpetually emerging or differing in their encounters with others and the world around them. The question then becomes less about securing coexistence through the founding of communities (be they lost or prophesied) and instead understanding coexistence through an attentiveness to the differentiation that can come to unfold within such relations and the sorts of distributions amongst subjects that this might lead to. This co-existential logic is developed in conversation a range of encounters between subjects and other / the world articulated across the realms of cinema, literature, politics and everyday life.
Grants & contracts
2010 - 2014: Member of ‘Sensory Enigmas of Contemporary Urban Mobilities’ research network. Funded by L'Agence nationale de la recherché (French National Research Agency). Led by colleagues at ‘CRESSON’ (University of Grenoble) and in collaboration with ‘Emerging Securities’ (Keele University) and other international partners (€210,000)
Thomas, R., Adey, P., Balez, S., Berenstein-Jaques, P., Berube, G., Bonnet, A., Brayer, L., Chelkoff, G., Costa, X., Delas, J., Delgado Ruiz, M., Dultra-Britto, F., Fiori, S., Garcia Sanchez, P., Gonzales Tellez, S., Germon, O., Masson, D., Menezes Da Rocha, M., Murphy, P., Rolim Filho, E., Sanchez Garcia, J., Simpson, P., Tixier, N., Thiolliere, P., Wan-Dall Junior O. (2014) Les Enigmes Sensibles Des Mobilities Urbaines Contemporaines. CRESSON/Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) (352pp).
Key publications are highlightedJournals
Ash, J. and Simpson, P. (2019) ‘Post-phenomenology and method: styles for researching the (non)human’ Geohumanities 5(1) pp. 139-156. DOI: 10.1080/2373566X.2018.1543553
Simpson, P. (2019) Elemental Mobilities: atmospheres, matter and cycling amid the weather-world. Social and Cultural Geography. 20(8) pp. 1050-1069 DOI: 10.1080/14649365.2018.1428821.
Simpson, P. (2017) Spacing the subject: thinking subjectivity after non-representational theory. Geography Compass. 11(12). DOI: 10.1111/gec3.12347.
Simpson, P. (2017) A sense of the cycling environment: felt experiences of infrastructure and atmospheres. Environment and Planning A 49(2) pp. 426-447. DOI: 10.1177/0308518X16669510
Simpson, P. (2017) Sonic affects and the production of space: ‘Music by handle’ and the politics of Street Music in Victorian London. Cultural Geographies 24(1) pp. 89-109. DOI: 10.1177/1474474016649400.
Cook, S., Shaw, J. and Simpson, P. (2016) Jography: Exploring Meanings, Experiences and Spatialities of Road-Running. Mobilities 11(5) pp. 744-769. DOI:10.1080/17450101.2015.1034455.
Cook,S., Davidson, A., Stratford, E., Middleton, J., Plyushteva, A., Fitt, H.,Cranston, S., Simpson, P., Delaney,H., Evans, K., Jones, A., Kershaw, J., Williams, N., Bissell, D., Duncan, T.,Sengers, F., Elvy, J. and Wilmott, C. (2016) Co-producing Mobilities: Negotiating geography knowledge in a conference session on the move. Journal of Geography in Higher Education 40(3) pp. 340-374. DOI: 10.1080/03098265.2016.1141397.
Ash, J. and Simpson, P. (2016) Geography and Post-phenomenology. Progress in Human Geography 40(1) pp. 48-66. DOI: 10.1177/0309132514544806.
Simpson, P. (2015) What remains of the intersubjective: On the presencing of self and other. Emotion, Space and Society 14 pp. 65-73. DOI: 10.1016/j.emospa.2014.04.003.
Adey, P. Brayer, L. Masson, D. Murphy, P. Simpson, P. and Tixier, N. (2013) “Pour votre tranquillité”: ambiance, atmosphere,and surveillance. Geoforum 49 pp. 209-309.
Simpson,P. (2013) ‘Ecologies of Experience: Materiality, Sociality, and the Embodied Experience of (Street) Performing’. Environment and Planning A 45(1) pp.180-196. DOI:10.1068/a4566
Simpson,P. (2012) ‘Apprehending everyday rhythms: Rhythmanalysis, time-lapse photography, and the space-times of street performance’. Cultural Geographies. 19(4) pp. 423-445. DOI: 10.1177/1474474012443201.
Simpson,P. (2011) ‘Street Performance and the City: Public Space, Sociality, and Intervening in the Everyday’. Space and Culture, 14(4) pp. 415-430.DOI: 10.1177/1206331211412270.
Simpson, P. (2011) ‘So, as you can see…’: some reflections on the utility video methodologies in the study of embodied practices’. Area, 43(3) pp. 343-352. DOI:10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.00998.x.
Abrahamsson, S. and Simpson, P. (2011) ‘Editorial: The limits of the body: boundaries, capacities, thresholds’. Social and Cultural Geography, 12(4) pp. 331-338. DOI: 10.1080/14649365.2011.579696.
Simpson,P. (2009) ‘Falling on Deaf Ears: a post-phenomenology of sonorous presence’. Environment and Planning A, 41(11) pp.2556-2575. DOI: 10.1068/a41247.
Simpson, P. (2008) ‘Chronic Everyday Life: Rhythmanalysing Street Performance’. Social and Cultural Geography, 9(7) pp. 807-829. DOI: 10.1080/14649360802382578.
Abrahamsson, S. and Simpson, P. (2011) ‘The Limits of the Body’. Guest edited themed issue of Social and Cultural Geography,12(4).
Co-editor ‘Ambiances, Atmospheres and Sensory Experiences of Spaces’ book series, Routledge (with Damien Masson and Rainer Kazig)(2015-present). Texts include:
- Bohme, G. The Aesthetics of Atmosphere(2016).
- Sumartojo, S. and Pink, S. Atmospheres and the Experiential World (2018)
- Torvinen, J. and Riedel, F. Spaces of Atmosphere in Music(forthcoming, 2019)
- Griffero, T. On the Way to a Pathic Aesthetics: Places, Affordances, Atmospheres(contracted June 2018)
- Engelmann, S. (forthcoming)Elemental Lures: A Creative Ethnography of Studio Tomás Saraceno
- Dunn, N. and Edensor, T. (forthcoming) Into the Dark: Reappraising the Meaning and Experience of Gloom
Simpson,P. (2018) ‘Refrains forMoving Bodies: Experience and Experiment in Affective Spaces’ by DerekMcCormack, Social and Cultural Geography, 19(1) pp. 140-142. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2017.1349053
Simpson, P. (2015) ‘Encountering Affect: Capacities,Apparatuses, Conditions’ by Ben Anderson, CulturalGeographies. 22(3). 556 doi:10.1177/1474474014556063.
Simpson, P. (2013) ’The Memory of Place: A Phenomenology of the Uncanny’ by Dylan Trigg, Emotion, Space and Society. DOI.org/10.1016/j.emospa.2012.08.002.
Simpson, P. (2012) ‘Geographies of Rhythm: Nature, Place, Mobilities and Bodies’ edited by Tim Edensor, Cultural Geographies. 19(1),136-137. DOI: 10.1177/1474474011434448.
Masson,D. Simpson, P. Brayer L. ‘Encountering the Securities of Gare du Nord’ soundwalk. Performed as part of the ANR funded project‘Sensory Enigmas of Contemporary Urban Mobilities (30th April 2014).
Masson, D. Simpson, P. and Brayer, L. ‘St Pancras Surveillance Guided Tour’ and other sound walks. Sound-based installation work held at ‘Ambiance and Atmosphere in Translation’ 3-day conference, London. (25th-27th February 2013).
Simpson, P. and Brigstoke, J. (Forthcoming) Affect. In Atkinson, P., Delamont, S., Hardy, M. and Williams, M. (eds) Sage Encyclopaedia of Social Research Methods, Sage, London.
Simpson, P. and Ash, J.(2020) Phenomenology/Phenomenological Geography. In Kobayashi, A. and Castree, N. (eds)International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography, (2nd edition), Elsevier.
Simpson, P. (2017) 'Non-representational Theory'. In The Wiley-AAG International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology.
Cook,S., Shaw, J., and Simpson, P. (2016) ‘Running Order: Urban Public Space, Everyday Citizenship and Sporting Subjectivities’. In Koch, N. (ed.) Critical Geographies of Sport: Space, Power and Sport in Global Perspective. Routledge, London.
Simpson, P. (2015) ‘Nonrepresentational Theory’. In Warf, B. (ed) Oxford Bibliographies in Geography. Oxford University Press, New York (DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199874002-0117).
Simpson, P. (2015) ‘Atmospheres of arrival/departure and multi-angle video recording: reflections from St Pancras and Gare du Nord’. In Bates, C. (ed) Video Methods: Social Science Research in Motion. Routledge, London.
Simpson, P. (2014) A soundtrack to the everyday: Street music and the production of convivial ‘healthy’ public places. In Andrews, G., Kingsbury, P. and Kearns, R. (eds) Soundscapes of wellbeing in popular music. Ashgate, Aldershot.
Simpson,P. (2014) Video. In Adey, P., Bissell, D., Hannam, K., Merriman, P. and Sheller, M. (eds) Handbook of Mobilities. Routledge, London.
Simpson,P. (2014) ‘Spaces of Affect’. In Adams, P., Craine, J. and Dittmer, J (eds) Ashgate Research Companion on Geographies of Media. Ashgate, Aldershot.
Reports & invited lectures
Invited Seminars, Key notes, and Panel contributions
2017 ‘Creating (in)hospitable environments: Felt experiences of infrastructure and ambiance / atmospheres’. Invited Keynote presented at ‘In/Out: Designing Urban Inclusion’, Metro-Lab Brussels (27th January).
2015 Invited discussant for the sessions on ‘Producing Urban Life’ at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference, Exeter (1-4th September).
2015 ‘The History of Street Music: “Music by handle” and the Silencing of Street Musicians in the Metropolis’ Invited Lecture at Gresham College as part of the City of London Festival Lecture series (9th July). Audio presentation with slides available here: http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/the-history-of-street-performance .
2015 ‘Performance, Mobilities, and the M6/M5/A38’. Keynote presented at the RGS-IBG Postgraduate Mid-term Conference, University of Sheffield, (26th March).
2014 'Spacing politics and methods in ambiance and atmospheres research: Listenings from St Pancras and Gare du Nord' Present at the HARC listening workshop, Royal Holloway, University of London (17th January).
2013 'Sound, ‘Ambiance’ and Securing Tranquility in Gare du Nord and St Pancras' Presented at the School of Environment, Education and Development (Geography), University of Manchester (20th November).
2013 ‘Street music and the city: bodies, rhythms, and performing in public spaces’. Presented at the Department of Music and Music Technology, Keele University (6th February).
2013 Invited panellist on the roundtable ‘Spatiality and Affect’ at ‘Creating worlds: The affective spaces of experimental politics’, Royal Holloway, London (14th January).
2011 'Materiality, Sociality and the Embodied Experience of (street) Performing'. Presented at the School of Geography, University of Exeter (1st December).
2011 'Ecologies of Performance'. Presented at the Technological Natures Research Cluster at the School of Geography, University of Oxford (21st November).
2010 ‘Theatre without separation: the presencing of self and other’. Presented at the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance, The Open University (3rd March). Podcast available at: http://www.open.ac.uk/ccig/media/paul-simpson-talk
2016 ‘Post-phenomenological Methodologies: Attunements and experiences’ (with James Ash). Presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2016, London (30th August – 2nd September) in the session ‘Post-phenomenological Geographies: methods and styles of researching and writing the human: Subjects’.
2015 ‘Introducing Ambiant and Atmospheric Geographies’ (with Rainer Kazig and Damien Masson). Presented at the AAG Annual Meeting 2015, Chicago (21st- 25th April) in the session ‘Ambient and Atmospheric Geographies 1: Conceiving’.
2013 ‘Ambiance and Atmospheres’ (with Peter Adey). Presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2013, London (28th-30th August) in the session ‘Ambiance and Atmospheres: Encountering New Material Frontiers’.
2013 ‘Immunizing the self from others: community, intersubjectivity, and the disturbance of the munus’. Presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2013, London (28th-30th August) in the session ‘Immunitary Geographies: Subjectivities and Agencies’.
2012 ‘Geography and Postphenomenology’ (with James Ash) Presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2012, Edinburgh (3rd-5th July), in the session ‘Postphenomenological Geographies’.
2011 ‘'So, as you can see...' Some reflections on the utility of video methodologies in the study of embodied practices'. Presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2011, London (31-2nd September), in the session ‘Sensory video and the embodied spaces of film and video’.
2011 'What remains of the intersubjective?: on the presencing of self and other'. Presented at the IVth Nordic Geographers Meeting, Roskilde (24-27th May), in the track 'Human Remains: the place of the human in a post-human world'.
2010 ‘Legislating street performance: responses to the street music problem in Victorian London’. Presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2010, London (1-3rd September), in the session ‘Urban Subversions: Conceptualising alternative urban pastimes in the modern World City’.
2010 ‘On seeking stability in the street: Street performing and territoriality’. Presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2010, London (1-3rd September), in the session ‘Living on the Move: Finding and Maintaining Stability Through Movement’.
2010 ‘The spatiality of performance: materiality, affect, and the embodied experience of street performing’. Presented at the AAG Annual Conference 2010, Washington DC (14-18th April), in the session ‘Embodied methodologies: using the body as a research instrument’.
2009 ‘The affection of the object: a post-phenomenology of a glance and becoming aware’. Presented at ‘Visuality/Materiality: Reviewing Theory, Method and Practice’, The Royal Institute for British Architects, London, (9-11th July).
2009 ‘Theatre without separation: or, on saying “I love you” to a street performer’. Presented at ‘Living Landscapes: An International Conference on performance, landscape, and environment’, Aberystwyth University, (June 18-21st), in the panel ‘Landscapes of Encounter’.
2009 ‘Theatre without separation: or, on saying ‘I love you’ to a street performer’. Presented at the AAG Annual Conference 2009, Las Vegas (22-27th March), in the session ‘The Limits of the Body’.
2009 (co-written with Sebastian Abrahamsson) ‘Introducing the Limits of the Body’. Presented at the AAG Annual Conference 2009, Las Vegas (22-27th March), in the session ‘The Limits of the Body’
2008 ‘The affection of the object: a post-phenomenology of a glance and becoming aware’. Presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2008, London (26-29th August), in the session ‘Non-representational Geographies: implications’.
2008 ‘“Falling on Deaf Ears”: A post-phenomenology of sonorous presence’. Presented at the AAG Annual Conference 2008, Boston (15-19th April), in the session ‘Non-representational Geographies: Performances’.
2007 ‘Chronic Everyday Life: Rhythmanalysing Street Performance’ Presented at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2007, London (29-31st August), in the session ‘Lively non-human temporalities’.
2007 ‘Towards an Ecology of Street Performance’. Presented at the Wessex Postgraduate Consortium Meeting, Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Park (16-18th April).
2007 ‘Doing Lefebvre’s Rhythmanalysis in Covent Garden, London. Presented at ‘Doing Theory’, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol (16th February).
2006 '"And then you get a microphone in the teeth": Conflict and Creativity in the Performance of Blues Music in Glasgow'. Presented at 'Creativity: the word, the concept, and practice', School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol (3rd February).