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Dr Oliver Belcher

Deputy Director of Combined Honours

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Deputy Director of Combined Honours in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health  
Associate Professor in the School of Government and International AffairsIM117, Al Qasimi Building 


Oliver Belcher's research is at the intersection of political philosophy, geography, and global environmental politics. He has a long-standing interest in the technological dimensions of American imperialism, especially the history of computing and social sciences in the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars.

His current research focuses primarily on biopolitics after Covid-19, and the politics of solitude.

With colleagues at Queen Mary and Lancaster University's Environmental Centre (LEC), he is engaged in a long-term project on the role of military emissions in global environmental change. This research has been featured in Wired Magazine, Newsweek, The Conversation, Scientific American, Time Magazine, The Guardian, and several other media outlets.

Oliver's research has been funded by the British Academy and ESRC.

Current Projects:

  • Hidden Carbon Costs of Global US Military Operations

This ESRC-funded project (2021-2023) examines the US military as a major climate actor, and its oversized institutional role in producing carbon emissions and global environmental change. I am working with Dr Ben Neimark (Queen Mary), Dr Kirsti Ashworth (Lancaster), and the Conflict and Environment Observatory, to combine the insights of political ecology with those of critical geopolitics to examine the carbon costs of hydrocarbon-based fuels, concrete, water, sand that flow through US military supply chains. At COP26 in Glasgow, we launched Check it out!

  • Biopolitics after Covid-19

This book project interrogates the shifting terrain of biopolitics -- theoretically and concretely -- during the Covid-19 pandemic. My primary interest concerns a critical re-evaluation of prominent biopolitical literatures in light of the pandemic as they pertain to the relationship between sovereignty, security, life, and the guarantee (if any) of a healthy population. However, I am equally concerned with contextualising Covid-19 within critical issues that were emerging just prior to the pandemic; namely with regards to the politics of digital technologies and surveillance capitalism, the fragility of democracies and rise of right-wing politics, and the lived experience of 'burnout.' I am particularly interested in the politics of solitude and the vita contemplativa as a mode of resistance in late-capitalism. The works of Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Esposito, Martin Heidegger, Peter Sloterdijk, and Byung-Chul Han greatly influences this project. 

Editorial Board:

Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space


PhD, University of British Columbia (2014)

MA, University of Kentucky (2007)

BA, University of Kentucky (2005)

Awarded Grants
2021: "Concrete Impacts: A Supply Chain and Life Cycle Analysis of the US Military's Environmental Footprint," ESRC (£299,989.30)
2020: "Computational Counterinsurgency: Digital Labour and Logistical Imperialism in the Vietnam War," British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (£113,348.56)
2018: "Counter-revolutionary Logistics: Computation, Techno-politics, Vietnam," British Academy Small Grant (£8,970)

Research interests

  • Biopolitics
  • Politics of Solitude
  • Hannah Arendt
  • Political Theory
  • Climate Politics

Esteem Indicators

  • 2020: Mahoney Prize, The Special Interest Group for Computing, Information, and Society (SIGCIS): Received for “Sensing, Territory, Population: Computation, Embodied Sensors, and Hamlet Control in the Vietnam War,” Security Dialogue 50.5, 416-436 (2019).

    The ;Mahoney Prize ;recognizes an outstanding article in the history of computing and information technology, broadly conceived.

  • 2019: Virginie Mamadouh Outstanding Research Award, Political Geography Specialty Group, American Association of Geographers: Received for ;“Anatomy of a Village Razing: Counterinsurgency, Violence, and Securing the Intimate in Afghanistan” (Political Geography 2018)
  • 2012: The Antipode Graduate Student Scholarship Winner: The Best-Laid Schemes: Postcolonialism, Military Social Science, and the Making of US Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1947–2009


Book review

  • (2020). "The Eye of War, Review by Oliver Belcher". Environment & Planning D

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

  • Weir, D., Neimark, B. & Belcher, O. (2021). “How the World’s Militaries Hide Their Huge Carbon Emissions.”. The Conversation
  • Neimark, B., Belcher, O. & Bigger, P. (2019). “US military is a bigger polluter than as many as 140 countries – shrinking this war machine is a must.”. The Conversation

Supervision students