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Faculty of Social Sciences

Staff Profile

Prof John Allen

Prof John Allen
Faculty of Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
United Kingdom

Professor of Economic Geography



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 is currently engaged on an Australian Research Council funded research project with colleagues at The University of Western Sydney which addresses the financialization of infrastructure, with an eye to its topological traits.

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. He is currently Deputy Chair of the University’s Research Committee.

Course development and teaching

I am currently a member of the Faculty’s Introducing the Social Sciences (DD102) module team, presented for the first time in 2014/15, having written on power and supermarkets for the Understanding Social Lives text. Prior to that, I wrote 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 interests

My research interests fall into two related areas, both of which have tended to blend into one another at various times. 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 this has been taken further in Topologies of Power: Beyond Territory and Networks to be published by Routledge in early 2016. The latest book 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 biosecurity borderlands. The results of this research will be published by Wiley in 2016 under the title Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics, a book co-authored with Steve Hinchliffe, Nick Bingham and 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.

Recent publications

A selection of my research publications can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.

Just-in-time Disease: Biosecurity, Poultry and Power, Journal of Cultural Economy, (2015) Vol.8(3), pp 342-360, (with Stephanie Lavau).

The Urban Unbound: London's Politics and the 2012 Olympic Games. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, (2014) Vol.39(5), pp 1609-1624, (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 Connections, 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).

The City and Finance: Changing Landscapes of Power in The Economic Geography of the UK (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.

Last updated: 4 November 2015