Joe Blakey

Joe Blakey


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am happy to supervise students within the broad remit of environmental and political geography.

Personal profile


I am an Environmental and Political Geographer. My research focuses on the role of environmental knowledge politics in realising post-carbon and ecologically sounder futures. In doing so, I consider three often interrelated agendas: (i) furthering post-foundational political theories within Human Geography, (ii) contributing to literature on the politics of aesthetics, and (iii) understanding the role of experts in shaping political and social change

I pair an interest in theoretical questions surrounding politics, aesthetics, and expertise with an empirical focus on the politics of climate change knowledge and, more specifically, the role that different practices, cultures, and subjects might play in realising alternative futures. Of particular focus are so-called (net) zero carbon cities and questions surrounding urban carbon accountability. I am interested in repoliticising often overlooked or ‘uncounted’ perspectives on what decarbonisation means and requires, and especially those perspectives which might contribute to the rapid decarbonisation necessary to keep the planet within safer levels of warming. This is part of a broader interest in the role that experts and expertise play in shaping political change, and how they can work for or against more diverse, inclusive and egalitarian forms of knowledge production. 

I have worked with both policymakers, wider policy communities, businesses, activists, charities and governance groups to this end. I draw upon (auto)ethnography, scholar activism, interviews, workshops, and discourse analysis in my work. Whilst I am primarily a qualitative Human Geographer, I often draw upon skills around carbon accounting that I have developed through my auto-ethnographic work.

Alongside a keen interest in both the discipline of Human Geography and theories of aesthetics and political change, I maintain a strong commitment to producing socially-relevant and impactful research. I am currently a member of The Manchester Zero Carbon Advisory Group, working to ensure that Manchester's carbon reduction commitments are in line with the Paris Agreement and that the city has in place a mechanism for monitoring its progress. Alongside colleagues in the aviation sub-group, I have worked to establish reporting for aviation emissions at a city-level and I am currently leading the sub-group on consumption-based / indirect emissions. I recently led a project on the need to decarbonise consumption in the economic recovery from COVID-19 lockdowns. My work has also featured on City Metric (New Statestman), The Conversation, Policy@Manchester and Die Welt amongst other places.

I am currently editing a book with my colleague Dr Amy Barron on Aesthetics and the City (Routledge, forthcoming) which proposes aesthetics as a fruitful concept through which we can critically reflect upon the enduring relevance of 'the city' to urban thought. I have also made interventions surrounding the discipline's relationship with scale and post-foundational political thinking.

Key interests:

  • Post-foundational political theory and its applications within Geography
  • Debates surrounding the post-political, de-politicisation and re-politicisation
  • The political thought of Jacques Rancière
  • Theories of aesthetics and their applications in Geography
  • Cultures of environmental expertise
  • The political role of accounting, metrics and standardisation
  • Urban climate governance
  • (Net) zero-carbon cities
  • Often overlooked alternative carbon accountabilities, such as aviation emissions, consumption-based emissions, investment-based or downstream emissions, and historical emissions debt.
  • Human Geography's relationship with the concept of scale

I contribute to teaching across the undergraduate and postgraduate programme within the Department of Geography, which I joined as a Lecturer in 2018. My teaching often focuses on climate change, the Anthropocene more generally, environmental governance, political geography, and discourse analysis. I also oversee the Department's second year field-course offering and lead the Amsterdam field trip.

I currently represent the Humanities in the Universities Carbon Action Group (CAG) and contribute to the University's Business Air Travel Group.


Supervision information

Current PhD Students:

  • Patricio Cleary - A Million Hectares More: Agro-capitalism's solution to climate change in Chile (supervised with Erik Swyngedouw and Noel Castree)
  • Niamh Nelson-Owens - Agonising about vegan encounters: Exploring the role of vegan activism in the pursuit of (net)zero carbon (supervised with Aurora Fredriksen)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Futures


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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