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Adam Bobbette

Adam Bobbette

PhD candidate, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Environmental controversy, technology, epistemology, knowledge controversies, disasters, uncertainty, volatile nature, political geology, Indonesia, South East Asia


I am a cultural geographer with training in philosophy, cultural studies, and architecture.


  • 2011-14: Assistant Professor University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Architecture
  • 2008-2010: Sessional lecturer, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto
  • 2007-2008: Assistant Curator and Researcher: Canadian Centre for Architecture


  • BA (honours) Trent University
  • MA, Department of Art History & Communication Studies, McGill University
  • MLA, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto
  • 2014- present: PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge


My work focuses on the relationships between people and volatile, unpredictable nature. It addresses themes of how nature is known, how the future is made sensible in the present, and how forms of urgency and anticipation become politicised. I am interested in geographies of technology and mediation and how they make politics. Recently, I have done work on the politics of the geological sciences and geophysical fieldwork. I have another project on the urban politics of conservative Islam, trash, and ghosts in Jakarta. In the past, I have worked on the effects of landslides on the political economy and built form of Hong Kong, the role of flooding in the urban politics of Jakarta, and how fire was an agent in the imaginary and built form of New York City.

My dissertation is a cultural history of nature forecasting. It excavates modern Western histories of climate, weather, and geo-hazard forecasting in terms of a common goal of making the future of nature sensible and governable in the present. I show how this modernization of traditional forms of fortune telling and foretelling through technologies, networking, and representation has a structural cultural function of distinguishing between nature and society, politics and nature, the future from the present. At stake in this is the inseparability of forms of knowing nature with forms of governing and ordering society. This lead to a case study of Mt. Merapi, Indonesia, an active, populous volcano, where I undertook an ethnography and comparative cultural history of shamanism and volcano scientists there. I compare their technologies and practices of forecasting, institutions, and networks, and the ways that telling stories of the volcano and its future are ways of defining what it means to be human.

I am currently working on a project about avian extinction in Java, in particular the intersection of bird markets, masculinity, and bird song. I am interested in the ways that bird song competitions use nostalgia, longing, and mimicry as a way to dampen the shocks of violent environmental change.

I am also working with the Anglican Church of Melanesia and the Melanesia Mission, UK, to develop policy and an action plan that re-frames the role of the church in relation to climate change in the Solomon Islands. The project will conceive of the church as a climate change observatory and the diocese' as contemporary, scientific institutions. At the core of this project is finding new interfaces between understanding, observation, and sensing of environmental change and religious institutions while creating new avenues for a more distributed and pluralized production of scientific knowledge.


Selected publications

  • Bobbette, Adam, Amy Donovan, eds. Political Geology: Active Stratigraphies and the Making of Life, Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming, Fall 2018.
  • Bobbette, Adam, "The Masters Sing What They Loose", Cabinet, New York: Immaterial Incorporated. Issue 66.
  • Bobbette, Adam, "Inconvenient Truths, Climate Change and the Beginning of Industrialization". Times Literary Supplement 22,09, 2017.
  • Bobbette, Adam, WdW Review: Arts, Culture, and Journalism in Revolt, Vol. 1, (Selected essays). Rotterdam: Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, 2017, pps. 325-347. ISBN: 9789491435478.
  • Bobbette, Adam, "We all Live in the Wrong Place: Thinking Beyond Resilience in Volatile Environments." Landscript, no. 5, Berlin: Jovis, 2017, pp. 223-236.
  • Bobbette, Adam, Cambridge Quartely, "Infrastructuralism", Oxford Journals, vol. 46, issue 3, 2017, September. DOI: 10.1093/camqtly/bfx008.
  • Bobbette, Adam, "How do you Measure What is in Front of You?" Kings Review, issue 4, September, 2017, pp. 34-40.
  • Bobbette, Adam, "The Aeronauticists." Forty-Five: A Journal of Outside Research, Chicago:Acute Angles, Inc. November, 2016, pp. 1-16.
  • Bobbette, Adam,"Contortions of the Unconsolidated: Hong Kong, Landslides and the Production of Urban Grounds" City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action, vol. 20, issue 4, 2016, pp. 523-538. DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2016.1192417
  • Bobbette, Adam, "On Unconsolidated Grounds." Field Notes: Mapping Asia, Asia Art Archive: Hong Kong, 2014, pp. 162-184. ISBN-13: 9789881342706
  • Bobbette, Adam "Episodes from a History of Scalelessness: William Jerome Harrison and Geological Photography." Architecture and the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Time, Science and Philosophy, Ann Arbor, Open Humanities Press, 2013, pp 47-59
  • Bobbette, Adam "A Forensics of the Future: Fire Insurance Underwriting, Contingency and Materials" Journal of Architectural Education, vol 67, Issue 2, 2013, pp. 285-287. doi:10.1080/10464883.2013.817177
  • Etienne Turpin, Adam Bobbette, Meredith Miller, co-editor and equal co-author of introduction. Jakarta: Architecture + Adaptation. Jakarta, Universitas Indonesia Press, 2013. ISBN: 9794565261.

External activities

  • Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, Tropical Dissonance: Decolonizing Knowledge through Ethnographic Archives. Symposium presentation, June 6, 2017.
  • University of Cambridge, Political Geology Workshop I &II, Department of Geography, co-convenor with Dr. Amy Donovan, and presenter, March 10, 2017 and November 17, 2017.
  • Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer, Into the Inferno. Documentary interviewee, Netflix, 2016.
  • National University of Singapore, ETH Zurich, Future Cities Lab, "Forecasting Merapi." Invited Lecture, April 2016.
  • Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Risk and Perceptions of Natural Hazards: Perspectives of Earth Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanitites, conference paper, May 2016.
  • Bobbette, Adam and Roggeveen Daan (curators), Contingency Plans: or, Living with Unstable Grounds, University of Hong Kong Faculty of Architecture, Shanghai Study Centre (March 29 - June 01, 2014)
  • Bobbette, Adam and Denizen Seth, Death and Debt Cemetery, at Para|Site, Hong Kong, (15 September - 10 November, 2013.)
  • Bobbette, Adam, A Guide to Combustible City, Common Room, New York, (July 16 - August 16, 2012)