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Jonathon Turnbull

Jonathon Turnbull

PhD Candidate, Department of Geography and King's College

Jonathon is a cultural and environmental geographer interested in the human-animal relations emerging in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Conceptually, he is interested in more-than-human and animal(s') geographies, new and historical materialisms, post-humanism(s), and the 'weird'.



  • PhD in Geography, 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

  • (2018 – present) ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership Award
  • (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


My research explores the more-than-human geographies of care and contamination in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and investigates the human-animal relations that have emerged in the Zone since the 1986 nuclear disaster. I primarily focus on the lives and material ecologies of two especially charismatic members of the Canidae family – dogs and wolves – to reflect on 'the nature of Nature' in the Anthropocene.

I use Chernobyl as an intense and localised example at one extreme of a continuum of contaminated environments in which wildlife is increasingly forced to live. I do this to reflect more broadly on the politics and ethics of care, environmental flourishing, and the interconnected materialities of life and matter in the novel and weird ecologies that emerge as a result of anthropogenic change and (capitalist) industrial pollution.

The project is empirically grounded through (multispecies) ethnographic work alongside a range of human groups that research, care for, and are interested in the wildlife at Chernobyl. I work with conservation biologists, radio-ecologists, tourists, and an NGO – the Clean Futures Fund – amongst others, to reflect on and bring into conversation conceptual ideas surrounding Nature and Society, animals, contamination and the Anthropocene.

I have previously conducted fieldwork on, and maintain interest in, India's bovine geographies and urban ecologies, and have worked as a research assistant on a project titled 'meat and masculinities' at Newcastle University. My other interests include science and technology studies, compassionate conservation, vegan geographies, lively capital, chemical geographies, cli/sci-fi, the weird, non-representational theories, minor ecologies, spiritual ecology, and psychedelic geographies. 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 reach new and wider audiences.

From September 2019 I will be a visiting researcher at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy based in Kyiv, Ukraine. I am learning Russian and Ukrainian.


Together with Adam Searle, I write a quarterly piece called Anthropo(s)cene for the long-standing British philosophy magazine The Philosopher, where we discuss the importance of various philosophical fields for our understandings of the Anthropocene. Thematic writings include 'Posthumanisms', 'Animals', 'Materiality', and 'Affect'.


Conference presentations

  • Turnbull, J. (2019 - forthcoming) '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

Conference panels convened

  • (2019 - forthcoming) 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]
  • (2019 - forthcoming) 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


  • (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 / supervisions:

  • Part IA Society, Environment and Sustainable Development
  • Part II Environmental Knowledges and the Politics of Expertise
    • Understanding Animals
    • Animal Spaces
    • Animal Controversies
  • King's College Mentoring Scheme

External activities