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AffiliationTelephone
Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography+44 (0) 191 33 41901
Assistant Professor in the Economy and Culture+44 (0) 191 33 41901

Biography

My research examines struggles around indigeneity, territory and the politics of resource extraction in Latin America. This work is grounded in a decade and a half of engaged ethnographic research in Bolivia’s Chaco region.

My work is theoretically heterodox and interdisciplinary, drawing inspiration from anti-colonial, Marxist and Foucaultian traditions to offer an empirically-grounded account of how colonial relations are reproduced and contested at resource frontiers, and in struggles over land and property. I have contributed to debates in political ecology, postcolonial geographies, legal geography, anthropology of development, and critical agrarian studies, among others.

At the heart of my approach is a commitment to centring the voices of Indigenous peoples and other racialised rural populations, not only as sources of empirical knowledge but as producers of geographical theory. This has led me to methodological experimentation, combining long-term ethnography with participatory methods, counter-mapping and, most recently, documentary film-making.

My first book, Limits to Decolonization, examines the dynamics and legacies of Bolivia’s Native Community Lands (TCOs) in the gas-rich Chaco region. The book offers a critical ethnographic reflection on the possibilities and limits of maps and law as instruments of decolonisation, as well as providing a novel perspective on the Bolivian "process of change" that centres Indigenous struggles for territory. I argue that the "limits to decolonization" in a context of deepening extractivism shaped new visions of Indigenous autonomy and "hydrocarbon citizenship". The book was awarded the 2019 APSA Award for Best Book in Race, Ethnicity and Comparative Politics and featured in this 2019 Human Geography book review forum. A Spanish translation of the book (Plural Editores, 2022) is available here. Media coverage of recent book launch events in Bolivia and recordings of presentations can be found on this facebook page.

I further developed my analytic of hydrocarbon citizenship through through an institutional ethnography of a new Autonomous Regional Government in Gran Chaco Province, which reveals how plurinationalism and extractivism are articulated in contemporary processes of state-formation in Bolivia. This formed part of the ERC-funded project "Rule and Rupture" (2016-2019) based at the University of Copenhagen. 

From 2019-2023, I was a co-Investigator on the research project "LEAKS: Extractive enclaves and unintended flows in Latin America" (Independent Research Fund of Denmark), also based at Copenhagen. My research for this project focused on an ongoing conflict over new natural gas development in the Tariquia National Reserve of Flora and Fauna to trace how the territorialising practices of neoextractivism articulate with contested legacies of conservation governance to shape new subjectivities and political spaces.

As part of this project I directed and producted a 29-min open-access documentary Don't Touch Tariquia, which charts the emergence and remarkable success of rural women's resistance to extraction in one area of the national park. In 2023, I gained a Diploma in Creative Documentary Film-making at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television in Cuba, where I made a film about struggles over housing in a nearby "textile village". 

Before joining Durham in 2018, I held research fellowships at the University of Copenhagen and the University of California, Berkeley. I completed my PhD in Geography at the University of Cambridge in 2014.

I welcome expressions of interest from prospective PhD students, particularly those with research interests in (post)colonial geographies and/or land and resource politics.

Publications

During ongoing work on the Durham University website, the most up-to-date list of my publications can be found here.

PhD students (completed)

Tim May

Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)

Other (Print)

Supervision students