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Jonathon Turnbull

PhD candidate, Department of Geography and King’s College

Jonathon is a cultural and environmental geographer whose research examines how understandings of nature are produced and contested across geographical contexts and why this matters for more-than-human social, political, and economic life. His PhD research takes place in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine and examines competing narratives concerning nature’s recovery in the Zone. Conceptually, he is interested in more-than-human and animal(s’) geographies, new and historical materialisms, post-humanisms, digital ecologies, and the ‘weird’.

Джонатон — культурний та екологічний географ, до зацікавлень якого входять стосунки між людьми та тваринами, зокрема собаками, в Чорнобильській зоні відчуження. Концептуально Він цікавиться географією, що виходить за межі дослідження лише людей та тварин, новітнім та історичним матеріалізмом, постгуманізмомами, цифровою екологією та «дивним».

Qualifications

  • PhD in Geography (ESRC funded), University of Cambridge, 2018 – present
  • MSc (Dist.) in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance, University of Oxford, 2017
  • BA (First) in Geography, University of Oxford, 2015

Funding and awards

  • (Forthcoming) Procter Fellowship, Princeton University
  • (2022) Ukraine Lab writing residency, the Ukrainian Institute London, PEN Ukraine, and the British Council
  • (2022) Support for ‘Terraforming Terra’ workshop from The Greenhouse at the University of Stavanger and the Research Council of Norway
  • (2022) AJ Pressland Prize for best language report (Ukrainian), University of Cambridge Language Centre
  • (2021) Conference Support Grant, Department of Geography and King’s College, University of Cambridge, awarded for the Digital Ecologies inaugural conference
  • (2021) AHRC funding for ‘Incorporeal Matter’ seminar series
  • (2020-2021) Harding Fund, Hertford College, University of Oxford for ‘Anthropause Environmentalisms’
  • (2020) AJ Pressland Award, University of Cambridge Language Centre
  • (2018 – present) ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership Award, University of Cambridge
  • (2017) Christ Church College, Oxford research grant
  • (2017) SoGE, Oxford research grant
  • (2015) JNL Baker Prize in Geography, Jesus College, Oxford
  • (2013) Graham Ward Award, Jesus College, Oxford
  • (2012) Eliahou Dangoor Scholarship, Oxford

Research

Making Sense of Nature in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone

My PhD research examines radioactive resurgence in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine. I am interested in how and why Chornobyl comes to be understood simultaneously as a post-apocalyptic wasteland and a thriving nuclear nature reserve, as well as the responsibilities that nuclear natures inaugurate for different groups of people. I unpack the scientific controversy that exists among radioecologists working on Chornobyl, focusing primarily on the lives and material ecologies of two especially charismatic members of the Canidae family: wolves and dogs.

The project is empirically grounded in two years of more-than-human ethnographic work in the Zone alongside a range of groups that research, care for, and represent wildlife at Chornobyl. This included a photovoicing project with the checkpoint guards who live with and care for Chornobyl’s free-roaming dog population. I also work with conservation biologists, radio-ecologists, tourists, local workers, and an NGO – the Clean Futures Fund – amongst others, to unpack the spectacle associated with Nature’s ‘return’ to Chornobyl and to offer situated, everyday, and grounded understandings of nuclear natures.

My thesis draws on a wide range of literature from across geography and the environmental humanities to conceptualise weird ecologies, spectacular natures, and contaminated care at Chornobyl. With a Ukrainian film crew, I am producing a film on the dogs in the Zone called Собаки Що Вижили (The Dogs That Survived).

Digital Ecologies

In 2021, I co-founded Digital Ecologies, an interdisciplinary and international research group seeking to foster critical conversations at the interface of more-than-human and digital geographies, political ecology, and new media studies. Together, we conduct empirical and conceptual research into the digitisation of more-than-human worlds, examining the varying ways in which nonhumans are digitised and for what purposes.

Our inaugural conference was held online in 2021, and the proceeds of this will be published as an edited collection under contract with Manchester University Press in 2023. Our second conference – Digital Ecologies in Practice – was held at Bonn University in July 2022, and the proceeds with be published as a special issue of cultural geographies in practice.

Anthropause Environmentalisms

Anthropause Environmentalisms‘ is a collaborative research project that examines how human-nature relations were reconfigured during the COVID-19 Anthropause. We have explored resurgent natures, quarantine urban ecologies, and digitised human-nature relations (including virtual trips to Chornobyl to feed the dogs that roam the Zone), focusing particularly on the role digital technologies played in fostering eco-positive online communities and convivial relations with local natures. The Self-Isolating Bird Club, an online nature group that emerged in the early days of the pandemic, is used as an illustrative case study. This ongoing project is conducted with Dr Adam Searle, Professor Jamie Lorimer, Professor Bill Adams, Professor Christian Rutz, and Naomi Parker.

The Digital Peregrine

The Digital Peregrine is a collaborative research project with Dr Adam Searle and Professor Bill Adams. We explore the parallel history of peregrine falcon resurgence and the development of webcam technologies to offer a ‘technonatural history‘ of peregrines in the United Kingdom. We also explore how ‘nestcams’ are transforming understandings of peregrine ecology, leading to novel scientific discoveries.

Bovine Geographies

My MSc research (supervised by Dr Maan Barua) examined the bovine geographies of India’s sacred cows. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research, we show how certain cattle in India came to be understood as ‘surplus’, and track what life looks life for these animals, living on waste, in Delhi. This project brings biopolitics and bioeconomy into critical conversation to provincialise lively capital.

With Dr Catherine Oliver, Dr Adam Searle, and Dr François Thoreau, I am working on a project concerning metabolism and cattle. We are theorising metabo-politics as an emerging form of biopower that operates across scales, from the microbiome to the planetary.

—-

I have a long-standing collaboration with ceramicist, Thomas Hedley. We work together to understand how geographical ideas might be represented in ceramic forms to engage a variety of publics. I have also worked as a research assistant on a project entitled ‘Meat and Masculinities’ at Newcastle University with Dr Michael Richardson.

My other interests include science and technology studies, vegan geographies, lively capital, chemical geographies, cli/sci-fi, the weird, non-representational theories, minor ecologies, spiritual ecology, landscape, queer ecologies, more-than-human collaborations, and psychedelic geographies.

I have been a visiting researcher at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy based in Kyiv, Ukraine, from 2019-2022, and speak Ukrainian. From March – July 2022 I was a visiting research at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, under the guidance of Dr Clemens Driessen.

Between July and August 2022, I am undertaking a writing residency with Ukraine Lab, funded by the Ukrainian Institute, the British Council, and PEN Ukraine. My piece on the Kyiv thickets is published in The Ecologist (in English) and Українська Правда (in Ukrainian), alongside fellow environment resident Katia Iakovlenko’s work.

I am an editorial board member of Routes: The Journal for Student Geographers.

Publications

Journal articles

2022

2021

  • von Essen, E., Turnbull, J., Searle, A., Jørgensen, F.A., Hofmeester, T.R., and van der Wal, R. 2021. Wildlife in the Digital Anthropocene: Examining Human-Animal Relations through Surveillance Technologies. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/25148486211061704.
  • Oliver, C., Ragavan, S., Turnbull, J., Chowdhury, A., Borden, D., Fry, T., Gutgutia, S. and Srivastava, S. 2021. Introduction to the urban ecologies open collection: A call for contributions on methods, ethics, and design in geographical research with urban animals. Geo, 8(2): 1-7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/geo2.101.
  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2021. Filmmaking practice and animals’ geographies: attunement, perspective, narration. cultural geographies. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14744740211035471.
  • Turnbull, J. 2021. Weird. Environmental Humanities, 13(1): 275-280. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/22011919-8867329.
  • Searle, A., Turnbull, J., and Lorimer, J. 2021. After the anthropause: Lockdown lessons for more‐than‐human geographies. The Geographical Journal, 187(1): 69-77. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/geoj.12373.

2020

  • Turnbull, J. 2020. Checkpoint dogs: Photovoicing canine companionship in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Anthropology Today, 36(6): 21-24. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8322.12620.
  • Turnbull, J., Searle, A., and Adams, W.M. 2020. Quarantine encounters with digital animals: More-than-human geographies of lockdown life. Journal of Environmental Media, 1 (Supplement): 6.1-10. DOI: doi.org/10.1386/jem_00027_1.
  • Searle, A. and Turnbull, J. 2020. Resurgent natures? More-than-human perspectives on Covid-19. Dialogues in Human Geography, 10(2): 291-295. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2043820620933859.
  • Turnbull, J., Searle, A. and Adams, W.M. 2020. Quarantine urban ecologies. Cultural Anthropology, Fieldsights: 19 May.

Books

  • Turnbull, J., Searle, A., Anderson-Elliott, H. and Giraud, E. (Eds.) In Press. Digital Ecologies: Mediating More-Than-Human Worlds. Manchester University Press.

Book chapters

2022

  • Eriksen, C. and Turnbull, J. 2022. Insure the volume? Sensing air, atmospheres, and radiation in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. In K. Booth, C. Lucas and S. French (eds.) Climate, Society and Elemental Insurance: Capacities and Limitations. DOI: 10.4324/9781003157571-17.

2021

  • Alexis-Martin, B., Turnbull, J., et al. 2021. Nuclear Geographies and Nuclear Issues. In D. Richardson, N. Castree, M.F. Goodchild, A. Kobayashi, W. Liu and R.A. Marston (eds.) International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment and Technology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118786352.wbieg2109.

Public scholarship

2022

2021

2020

2019

2018

Edited volumes

  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2020. (eds.) The Other Animals. The Philosopher, 108(1).
    • Including contributions from Bill Adams, Maan Barua and Anindya Sinha, Eva Giraud, Lori Gruen, Christine Korsgaard, Diane Morgan, and Cary Wolfe.

Reports

Dissertations

  • Turnbull, J. 2017. Got Milk? Material Biopolitics and More-than-Human Health at the Gaushala. MSc Thesis, University of Oxford. [available on request].

Exhibitions

  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2022. Nature Buffering. Digital Ecologies in Practice, University of Bonn.
  • Turnbull, J. 2020. ‘Contaminated Canids in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone’, in Visualizing Toxic Places Exhibition, Center for Ethnography, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography.

Media appearances

Conference presentations

  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2022. ‘The Digital Peregrine: Technonatural history as method’, Digitised and Datafied Animals: Emerging Technologies and Human-Animal Entanglements, online.
  • Richardson, M. and Turnbull, J. 2022. Post-industrial Pollination: bees and their hidden animal geographies. RGS-IBG Conference, Newcastle University, UK.
  • Turnbull, J., Platt, B. and Searle, A. 2022. ‘Towards weird geographies and ecologies: VanderMeer, Miéville, and Chornobyl’, POLLEN, online.
  • Turnbull, J. and Brown, K. 2022. ‘Compounding Catastrophes in Polissya: Chornobyl’s Legacy Along the E40 Waterway’, Nuclear-Water Nexus workshop, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm (online).
  • Parker, N., Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2022. ‘Feminist digital ecologies: Challenging birding’s masculinity online’ [poster presentation], Debugging (In)equality in Data Science, London School of Economics.
  • Parker, N., Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2022. ‘Feminist digital ecologies: Challenging birding’s masculinity online’, Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, online.
  • Turnbull, J., Oliver, C., and Searle, A. 2021. ‘Anthropocene Atmospheric Animals: Ruminations with Climate Cattle’, Bovine Scholarship Network Conference, online.
  • Turnbull, J., Searle, A. and Jasper, S. 2021. ‘Ecologies of Emptiness’, Emptiness: Ways of Seeing Conference, online.
  • Turnbull, J. 2021. ‘Tracking wolves in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone: from keystone to mutant’, RGS-IBG Conference, online.
  • Searle, A. and Turnbull, J. 2021. ‘Rethinking Wild Cities Through Digital Ecologies’, RGS-IBG Conference, online.
  • Turnbull, J., and Searle, A. 2021. ‘Towards a Research Agenda for Digital Ecologies’, RGS-IBG Digital Geographies Annual Symposium: Where Next for Digital Geographies? Pathways and Prospects, online. Available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSUMiJ7tGKs&list=PLuTP1ZUD6o7ZwUnLbzWfjSpIQckyFrBYb&index=11.
  • Turnbull, J., Oliver, C. and Searle, A. 2021. ‘Anthropocene Atmospheric Animals: Ruminations with Climate Cattle’, Heroes and Villains of the Anthropocene seminar series, Global Lives of the Orangutan, Brunel University, online. Available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmzrf-dYRJg.
  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2020. ‘Nature buffering: Liveness, liveliness, and the digital animal encounter’, Worldly Togetherness? Showcasing sociological contributions to understanding multispecies entanglements Conference, online. Available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTHUXBH5cAI.
  • Turnbull, J. 2019. ‘Tracking Mutant Wolves in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: digital/bodily presence/absence’, British Animal Studies Network Meeting: Movements, Leeds, UK. Available here: https://www.britishanimalstudiesnetwork.org.uk/Portals/108/Jonathon%20Turnbull.MP3.
  • Turnbull, J. 2019. ‘Tracking Mutant Wolves in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: digital/bodily presence/absence’, RGS-IBG Conference, London, UK.
  • Turnbull, J. 2019. ‘Living (on) Waste: putting India’s sacred cattle to work’, Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Washington DC, USA.
  • Turnbull, J. 2019. ‘Transgressing and Dissecting the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone’, WildCRU Conservation Geopolitics Forum, University of Oxford, UK.
  • Turnbull, J. and Hedley, T. 2019. ‘A Radioactive Refuge: Caring for Contaminated Canids in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone’, Multispecies Storytelling in Intermedial Practices, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden.
  • Richardson, M. and Turnbull, J. 2019. ‘#MeatToo: left behind by vegan geographies’, Nordic Geographers Meeting, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway [presented by Dr Richardson].
  • Turnbull, J. 2018. ‘The Southern Reach Trilogy and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone’, Association of Sociation Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth Conference, University of Oxford, UK.
  • Turnbull, J. 2018. ‘Got milk? Material Biopolitics and More-than-Human Health at the Gaushala‘, (Un)Common Worlds: Human-Animal Studies Conference, Turku University, Finland.
  • Turnbull, J. 2018. ‘Radioactive Natures: Conserving Chernobyl’, Student Conference on Conservation Science, University of Cambridge, UK.
  • Turnbull, J. 2017. ‘Religion and spirituality in the midst of climate change: learning from indigenous perspectives’, 24th AISNA Biennial Conference, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy.

Invited talks

  • Turnbull, J. 2022. ‘Chornobyl: A New Weird Wilderness’. Lecture for Atelier Landscape Architecture and Spatial Planning (MSc), Wageningen University & Research, online.
  • Turnbull, J., Searle, A., Lorimer, J. and Rutz, C. 2022. ‘Anthropause and Anthropulse Environmentalisms’. Coronavirus Multispecies Reading Group. Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, online. Available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3Gy2WaI6qI.
  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2021. ‘Reflections on the Anthropause’. Constellations for Futures: Stories on Ecologies, Kinship, and Sciences. Goethe Institute, Brussels. Available here: https://www.laloge. be/en/broadcasts/day-2-narrative-about-earth.
  • Turnbull, J. 2021. ‘Making sense of nature in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone’. Chornobyl Forum.
  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2021. ‘What is Nature?’ The Linacre Institute, Big Ideas workshop.
  • Turnbull, J., Searle, A. and Adams, W.M. 2021. ‘Digital winged geographies: Peregrine nestcams in the wild city’, Winged Geographies Seminar Series, online. Available here: https://www.wingedgeographies.co.uk/seminar-series/.
  • Guest Lecturer, Mohyla Academy Postgraduate Seminar Series: ‘Making Sense of Nature in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone’, April 2021: Available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKe0a77wZRs.
  • Roundtable participant: (Un)precedented Ecologies: ‘Nature’ in the Age of the Anthropause. Cambridge University Geography Society, February 2021.
  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2020. ‘Nature buffering: Liveness, liveliness, and the digital animal encounter’, Undergraduate Seminar, Keele University, online.
  • Turnbull, J. and Searle, A. 2020. ‘Nature buffering: Liveness, liveliness, and the digital animal encounter’, More-than-Human Research Group, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, online.

Conference panels convened

  • 2019. Co-convenor with Adam Searle, ‘More-than-human haunted landscapes: Trace-ing binaries of hope/desolation’, RGS-IBG Conference, London, UK [co-sponsored by Social and Cultural Geography Research Group and the Postgraduate Forum]
    • More-than-human haunted landscapes (1): Absence
    • More-than-human haunted landscapes (2): Disturbance
    • More-than-human haunted landscapes (3): Hope
  • 2019. Co-convenor with Earl Harper, ‘Losing or Gaining Hope in the Apocalypse: Pre-/Peri-/Post-Apocalyptic Imaginaries in the Anthropocene’, RGS-IBG Conference, London, UK
  • 2019. Co-convenor with Peter Sands, ‘Outside Paradise and The Animals at the End(s) of the World(s)’, ASLE Conference, University of California, Davis, USA
  • 2017. Co-convenor with Dr Daniel Cooper, ‘Sacred Landscapes: The Role of Religion, Spirituality and Faith in Landscape Morphology’, AISNA Biennial Conference, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy

Workshops

  • November 2022. Co-organiser with Charlotte Wrigley and Adam Searle, ‘Terraforming Terra’, University of Stavanger.
  • September 2022. Co-convenor with Clemens Driessen, ‘Digital Ecologies @ Wageningen’, Wageningen University & Research.
  • July 2022. Co-organiser with Adam Searle, Pauline Chasseray-Peraldi, Oscar Hartman Davies, Jennifer Dodsworth, Henry Anderson-Elliott, and Julia Poerting, ‘Digital Ecologies in Practice‘, University of Bonn.
  • March 2021. Co-convenor with Adam Searle and Henry Anderson-Elliott, ‘Digital Ecologies‘, University of Cambridge, virtual session (sponsored by the Vital Geographies research group, the Department of Geography, and King’s College)
  • February 2021. Co-convenor with Lauren Van Patter and Jennifer Dodsworth, ‘More-than-human Collaborations’ (sponsored by the Vital Geographies research group)
  • 2021. Co-organiser with Luke Ilott and Ben Platt, ‘Incorporeal Matter’, AHRC-funded seminar series.
  • 2019. Discussant, ‘Desert Island Peace Ecologies’, Advancing Peace Geographies Conference, Coventry University, UK
  • 2019. Session Chair, ‘Animal Welfare from Public Perception to Policy: Attitudes, Approaches, Language’, British Academy Animal Welfare and the Posthumanities Workshop, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
  • 2018. Participant and social media co-ordinator, ‘Urban Ecologies: Governing Nonhuman Life in Global Cities project launch event’, University of Cambridge, UK

Teaching

  • Dissertation Supervisor, BA Geography, University of Oxford
  • Part IA Society, Environment and Sustainable Development
  • Part IA Understanding Cultural Geography
    • Geographies of landscape
    • Geographies of gender
  • Part IA Unequal Geographies: Housing and Inequality
  • Part IA Contemporary Urban Geographies
  • Part II Environmental Knowledges and the Politics of Expertise
    • Understanding Animals
    • Animal Spaces
    • Animal Controversies

Mentoring

  • King’s College Mentoring Scheme
  • ESRC Mentoring Scheme
  • Cambridge Geography Department PhD Mentoring Scheme
  • Nature, Society and Environmental Governance MSc Alumni mentor, University of Oxford
  • Dissertation café supervisor for University of Cambridge geography undergraduates
  • The Linacre Institute, Big Ideas Workshop

External activities