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Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Professor of Economic Geography
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Polis, Phil, Econ, Dev, Geog
  • Geography
  • john.allen

Professional biography

John Allen’s teaching and research experience includes work on issues of power and spatiality, more recently in relation to financialization, privatization, biopower and topology.

He has taught at The Open University for over thirty years and has a long-standing commitment to both introductory and interdisciplinary courses in the Social Sciences. He is a member of the Academy of Social Sciences and has held Visiting Professorships in both Australia and Switzerland. 

Research interests

My research interests fall into two related areas, both of which have tended to blend into one another over time. I have a long-standing interest in the relationship between geography and power, more specifically the difference that spatiality makes to the way that power works in its various modalities, from domination and authority through to seduction and manipulation.

In 2003, I published a book-length treatment on the subject, Lost Geographies of Power (Oxford, Blackwell) and have followed this up in 2016 with Topologies of Power: Beyond Territory and Networks (Oxford and New York, Routledge), which explores a range of topological insights into power’s spatial twists and turns in these more complex, globalised times. I have also recently become interested in the nature of biopower and what a nonhuman dimension to power might look like when the ‘power’ to make life live is the central focus of enquiry. This interest was recently explored through an ESRC funded research project on the farm and food processing industries in the UK, in collaboration with colleagues at Exeter University, and the results will be published in 2016 by Wiley Blackwell under the title, Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics (with Steve Hinchliffe, Nick Bingham & Simon Carter).

In parallel to this broad topic of spatiality and power, I have for some time been interested in the work of George Simmel and Siegfried Kracauer. The two theorists have informed much of my thinking on public spaces and seduction in an urban context, as well as giving me an insight into phenomenological accounts of the urban. This work has appeared in journals such as New Formations and Urban Studies.

John Allen is a member of the OpenSpace Research Centre.

Topologies of Power: Beyond Territory and Networks, (2016) Oxford & New York, Routledge.

The Urban Unbound: London's Politics and the 2012 Olympic Games, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, (2014) Vol.38 (5), pp1609-1624 (with Allan Cochrane).

Financialising Household Water: Thames Water, MEIF, and ‘ring-fenced’ politics, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, (2013) Vol. 6 (3), pp 419-439 (with Michael Pryke).

Biosecurity and the Topologies of Infected Life: from Borderlines to Borderlands, Transactions Institute of British Geographers, (2013) Vol 38, pp 531-543 (with Steve Hinchliffe, Stephanie Lavau, Nick Bingham and Simon Carter).

Topological Twists: Power's Shifting Geographies, Dialogues in Human Geography, (2011) Vol.1 (3), pp 283-298.

Powerful City Networks: More than Connection, Less than Domination and Control, Urban Studies, (2010) Vol.47 (13), pp 2895-2911.

Assemblages of State Power: Topological Shifts in the Organization of Government and Politics, Antipode, (2010) Vol.42 (5), pp 1071-1089 (with Allan Cochrane).

Changing Landscapes of Power: The City and Finance in Reading the Economy: The UK in the 21st Century (eds) Coe, N. and Jones, A., (2010) Sage Publications, pp 49-60.

Three Spaces of Power: Territory, Networks, plus a Topological twist in the Tale of Domination and Authority, Journal of Power, (2009), Vol.2 (2), pp 197-212.

Pragmatism and Power, Or the Power to Make a difference in a Radically Contingent World, Geoforum, (2008), No 39, pp 1613-1624.

Powerful Geographies: Spatial Shifts in the Architecture of Globalization in The Handbook of Power (eds) Clegg, S. and Haugaard, C., (2008) Sage, Los Angeles, London, Dehli, Singapore, pp 157-173.

Claiming Connections: A Distant World of Sweatshops? In Geographies of Globalization (eds) Robinson, J., Rose, G. and Barnett, C., (2008), Sage, Los Angeles, London, Dehli, Singapore, pp 7-54.

Beyond the Territorial Fix: Regional Assemblages, Politics and Power, Regional Studies, (2007), Vol. 41, pp 1161-1175 (with Allan Cochrane).

The Cultural Spaces of Siegfried Kracauer: The Many Surfaces of Berlin, New Formations, (2007), No 61, pp 20-33.

Ambient Power: Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and the Seductive Logic of Public Space, Urban Studies (2006, Vol. 43, pp 441-455 (translated in Italian, in Copeta, C (ed) 2006, Geografie e Ambienti Caccucci Editore, Bari).

A repository of research publications and other research outputs can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.

Teaching interests

I am currently a member of the  Environment & Society Module Team, writing on the difference that markets and the economy make to how envirionments are grasped. Prior to that, I wrote on power and supermarkets for DD102, a foundation course, which was published as part of Understanding Social Lives in 2014, as well as on sweatshops and political responsibility for Living in a Globalised World (DD205 ), which was published as part of a collection by Sage in 2008, as Geographies of Globalisation.

I believe strongly in the dynamic between teaching and research, and have practiced that in over thirteen Open University courses, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
OpenSpace Research CentreCentreFaculty of Social Sciences


The urban unbound: London's politics and the 2012 Olympic Games (2014-09)
Allen, John and Cochrane, Allan
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(5) (pp. 1609-1624)
'Just-in-time' disease: biosecurity, poultry, and power (2014)
Allen, John and Lavau, Stephanie
Journal of Cultural Economy, 8, Article (3) (pp. 342-360)
Financializing household water: Thames water, MEIF, and 'ring-fenced' politics (2013-11)
Allen, John and Pryke, Michael
Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 6(3) (pp. 419-439)
Biosecurity and the topologies of infected life: from borderlines to borderlands (2013-10)
Hinchliffe, Steve; Allen, John; Lavau, Stephanie; Bingham, Nick and Carter, Simon
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 38(4) (pp. 531-543)
Author's response: The difference that space makes (2013)
Allen, John
Progress in Human Geography, 37(3) (pp. 458-460)
A more than relational geography? (2012-07)
Allen, John
Dialogues in Human Geography, 2(2) (pp. 190-193)
Topological twists: Power's shifting geographies (2011-11)
Allen, John
Dialogues in Human Geography, 1(3) (pp. 283-298)
Powerful assemblages? (2011-06)
Allen, John
Area, 43(2) (pp. 154-157)
Making space for topology (2011)
Allen, John
Dialogues in Human Geography, 1(3) (pp. 316-318)
Powerful City Networks: More than Connections, Less than Domination and Control (2010-11)
Allen, John
Urban Studies, 47(13) (pp. 2895-2911)
Assemblages of State Power: Topological Shifts in the Organization of Government and Politics (2010-11)
Allen, John and Cochrane, Allan
Antipode, 42(5) (pp. 1071-1089)
Three spaces of power: Territory, networks, plus a topological twist in the tale of domination and authority (2009-08)
Allen, John
Journal of Power, 2(2) (pp. 197-212)
Pragmatism and power, or the power to make a difference in a radically contingent world (2008-07)
Allen, John
Geoforum, 39(4) (pp. 1613-1624)
Beyond the territorial fix: Regional assemblages, politics and power (2007-12)
Allen, John and Cochrane, Allan
Regional Studies, 41(9) (pp. 1161-1175)
The cultural spaces of Siegfried Kracauer: The many surfaces of Berlin (2007-07)
Allen, John
New Formations(61) (pp. 20-33)
Ambient power: Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and the seductive logic of public spaces (2006-02)
Allen, John
Urban Studies, 43(2) (pp. 441-455)
The whereabouts of power: politics, government and space (2004-03)
Allen, John
Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 86(1) (pp. 19-32)
Living on thin abstractions: more power/economic knowledge (2002-03)
Allen, John
Environment and Planning A, 34(3) (pp. 451-466)
Topologies of Power: Beyond territory and networks (2016)
Allen, John
ISBN : 978-0-415-52134-5 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Oxford & New York
Lost geographies of power (2003)
Allen, John
RGS-IBG Book Series
ISBN : 0 631 20729 5 | Publisher : Blackwell | Published : Oxford, UK
Rethinking the region (1998-01-22)
Allen, John; Massey, Doreen; Cochrane, Allan; Charlesworth, Julie; Court, Gill; Henry, Nick and Sarre, Philip
ISBN : 041516821X | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London
The City and finance: changing landscapes of power (2010)
Allen, John
In: Coe, Neil and Jones, Andrew eds. The Economic Geography of the UK (pp. 49-60)
ISBN : 9781849200899 | Publisher : Sage Publications | Published : London, UK
Powerful geographies: Spatial shifts in the architecture of globalization (2008)
Allen, John
In: Clegg, Stewart R. and Haugaard, Mark eds. The SAGE Handbook of Power (pp. 157-174)
ISBN : 9781412934008 | Publisher : Sage | Published : UK
Responsabilité au travail et mondialisation: au-delà du système de sweatshop (2008)
Allen, John
In: Benelli, Natalie and Rosende, Magdalena eds. Laboratories du Travail (pp. 93-104)
ISBN : 9782889010097 | Publisher : Antipodes | Published : Lausanne