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Maan Barua, DPhil

Maan Barua, DPhil

University Lecturer in Human Geography

Maan is a cultural and environmental geographer with an interest in the spaces, politics and governance of the living and material world. Conceptually, this work brings posthumanist thought into conversation with strands of critical political economy to interrogate questions about nature, culture and capital. Maan's research interests include urban ecology, more-than-human geographies, biodiversity conservation and the politics of lively capital.

Prior to joining Cambridge, Maan was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Geography and Environment at the University of Oxford, where he also read for a DPhil and an MSc. He has recently commenced on a major, five-year ERC Horizon 2020 Starting Grant on urban ecologies and the governance of global cities. Prospective MPhil, PhD or Postdoctoral applicants are encouraged to contact Maan by email to discuss possible applications.



  • Jan 2015 – Dec 2017: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford and Early Career Fellow, Somerville College
  • 2013-2014: Research and Teaching Fellow, School of Geography and the Environment, and Junior Research Fellow, Somerville College, University of Oxford


  • 2013: DPhil in Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford (Clarendon & Senior Hulme Scholar; Brasenose College)
  • 2008: MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management, University of Oxford (Felix Scholar; Green Templeton College) [Distinction]
  • 2007: BSc Zoology (Hons), Dibrugarh University, India [1st Class, 1st Position]


Maan's research focuses on the following themes concerned with the material and ecological fabric of social and political economic life:

1) Urban Ecologies

How might we think of cities if we start with the premise that their inhabitants are not solely humans? Building on political ecological and posthumanist modes of enquiry, this research theme focuses on urban ecologies and how they reorient understandings of urbanicity. It critically engages how cultivated (e.g. livestock, urban grazing), feral (e.g. street dogs) and wild (e.g. primates, urban foxes) ecologies of the city are composed and produced. These ecologies are interrogated through three relational concepts – biopolitics, metabolism and materiality – to generate wider understandings of urban inhabitation, plural economies and governance. Comparison and historicity are key to this endeavour. Relations between urban infrastructure and ecological formations, waste and the proliferation of ecological milieus, animal life and its entanglements with livelihoods, health and urban epidemiology, are examined in both spectacular and ordinary cities, those in the Global South and in the North, paying attention to specificities and difference within urban ecological formations.

2) Lively Capital

This theme pertains to the geographies of lively capital. Its central focus is on how natures are forged through, and become pivotal to, the expansion of capital. Engaging historical-material traditions in political economy/ecology and subjecting some of its concepts to a posthumanist analysis, it explores how vital processes and nonhuman agency has bearings upon capitalist accumulation. It develops concepts of ecological, affective and metabolic labour to highlight the role of animal bodies in configuring productivity and social reproduction. A close concern involves rethinking commodity geographies and circuits of capital, especially when nonhuman potentials configuring their ambit are taken into account. This work develops concepts of lively capital, nonhuman labour and encounter value as alternatives to overtly economistic and cultural categories previously deployed in the production of nature thesis.

3) More-than-human Geographies

This theme of inquiry is to attend to spaces of embodiment, relation and motion, and how these are fabricated through relations cutting across porous bodies and human/nonhuman divides. A central focus is to conceptualize animals' geographies, emphasizing how worlds are sensed and territorialized by sentient creatures, and the implications they have for understandings of knowledge, politics and space. Of particular interest is the development of 'etho-geographies', or how collaborations between ethologists and geographers might be put to work, and 'ethno-ethologies' (including postcolonial/non-Western ontologies) that offer up alternatives to more mainstream accounts of the more-than-human.

4) Practices and Politics of Biodiversity Conservation

A final thematic pertains to the epistemologies, practices and politics of biodiversity conservation. Past work includes an intensive, more-than-human ethnography of elephant-human relations in India that critically interrogated a number of concepts deployed in conservation, including corridors, charismatics and cartographies of reserve design. Wider interests and ongoing work on this theme include geographies and ontologies of extinction, invasive species, reconciliation ecology, and knowledge practices in conservation, particularly in situations where different epistemologies come into conflict.


  • 2018 – 2023: Principal Investigator, European Research Council (ERC) Horizon 2020 Framework Programme Starting Grant for research project entitled 'Urban Ecologies: governing nonhuman life in global cities' (uEcologies). €1,441,361.
  • 2017 – 2018: Principal Investigator, Wellcome Trust Seed Award in Humanities and Social Sciences for research project entitled 'Urban animals, human livelihoods and health in the global south: a trans-species approach'. £49,845.
  • 2015 – 2017: Principal Investigator, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship for research project entitled 'Political animals: rethinking Indian modernity'. £ 299,232.
  • 2014 [Declined]: Leverhulme Early Career Postdoctoral Fellowship for research project entitled 'Political animals: rethinking Indian modernity'. £ 299,000.
  • 2014 – 2016: Principal Investigator, University of Oxford John Fell Fund for research project exploring the geographies of Lively Capital. £ 6,700.
  • 2008 – 2011: Principal Investigator, Harold Hygham Wingate Foundation grant for research project on The Political Ecology of Human-elephant Interactions in India. £ 15,000.



  • Lorimer, J., Hodgetts, T. & Barua, M. 2018. Animals' atmospheres. Progress in Human Geography, doi:10.1177/0309132517731254


  • Barua, M. 2017. Nonhuman labour, encounter value, spectacular accumulation: the geographies of a lively commodity. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 42, 274-288.
  • Barua, M. & Sinha, A. 2017. Animating the urban: an ethological and geographical conversation. Social & Cultural Geography, doi:10.1080/14649365.2017.1409908, 1-21.


  • Barua, M. 2016. Lively Commodities and Encounter Value. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 34, 725-744.
  • Zablocki, J., Arora, S. & Barua, M. 2016. Factors affecting media coverage of species rediscoveries. Conservation Biology, 30, 914-917.


  • Barua, M. 2015. Encounter: Living Lexicon for the Environmental Humanities. Environmental Humanities, 7, 265-270.
  • Jadhav, S., Jain, S., Kannuri, N., Bayetti, C. & Barua, M. 2015. Ecologies of Suffering: Mental Health in India. Economic & Political Weekly, 50, 12-15.
  • Jepson, P. & Barua, M. 2015. A theory of flagship species action. Conservation and Society, 13, 95.
  • Lorimer, J., Sandom, C., Jepson, P., Doughty, C., Barua, M. & Kirby, K. J. 2015. Rewilding: Science, practice, and politics. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 40, 39-62.


  • Barua, M. 2014. Bio-geo-graphy: landscape, dwelling and the political ecology of human-elephant relations. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32, 915-934.
  • Barua, M. 2014. Circulating elephants: unpacking the geographies of a cosmopolitan animal. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 39, 559-573.
  • Barua, M. 2014. Volatile ecologies: towards a material politics of human-animal relations. Environment and Planning A, 46, 1462-1478.
  • Ginn, F., Beisel, U. & Barua, M. 2014. Flourishing with Awkward Creatures: Togetherness, Vulnerability, Killing. Environmental Humanities, 4, 113-123.


  • Barua, M. 2013. Between Gods and Demons. Seminar India, 651, 75-79.
  • Barua, M., Bhagwat, S. A. & Jadhav, S. 2013. The hidden dimensions of human-wildlife conflict: Health impacts, opportunity and transaction costs. Biological Conservation, 157, 309-316.


  • Barua, M., Gurdak, D. J., Ahmed, R. A. & Tamuly, J. 2012. Selecting flagships for invertebrate conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation, 21, 1457-1476.
  • Jadhav, S. & Barua, M. 2012. The Elephant Vanishes: Impact of Human-Elephant Conflict on People's Wellbeing. Health & Place, 18, 1356-1365.


  • Barua, M. 2011. Mobilizing metaphors: the popular use of keystone, flagship and umbrella species concepts. Biodiversity and Conservation, 20, 1427-1440.
  • Barua, M., Root-Bernstein, M., Ladle, R. J. & Jepson, P. 2011. Defining Flagship Uses is Critical for Flagship Selection: A Critique of the IUCN Climate Change Flagship Fleet. Ambio, 40, 431-435.
  • Jepson, P., Barua, M. & Buckingham, K. 2011. What is a Conservation Actor? Conservation and Society, 9, 229-235.
  • Ladle, R. J., Jepson, P., Malhado, A. C. M., Jennings, S. & Barua, M. 2011. The causes and biogeographical significance of species' rediscoveries. Frontiers of Biogeography, 3, 111-118.


  • Barua, M. 2010. Whose Issue? Representations of Human-Elephant Conflict in Indian and International Media. Science Communication, 32, 55-75.
  • Barua, M. & Jepson, P. 2010. The Bull of the Bog: Bittern Conservation Practice in a Western Bio-cultural Setting. In: TIDEMANN, S. & GOSLER, A. (eds.) Ethno-ornithology: Birds, Indigenous Peoples, Culture and Society. London: Earthscan.
  • Barua, M., Tamuly, J. & Ahmed, R. A. 2010. Mutiny or Clear Sailing? Examining the Role of the Asian Elephant as a Flagship Species. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 15, 145-160.
  • Jepson, P., Barua, M., Ladle, R. J. & Buckingham, K. 2010. Towards an intradisciplinary bio-geography: a response to Lorimer's 'lively biogeographies' of Asian elephant conservation. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36, 170-174.


  • Geography Tripos Part II: Political Geographies of Postcolonialism
  • Geography Tripos Part II: Environmental Knowledges and the Politics of Expertise
  • Geography Tripos Part II: Political Ecology of the Global South

External activities

  • Adjunct Faculty, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, India (2014-Present)
  • Member, IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group (2017-Present)

Public engagement