About Me

I am Professor of Political Geography in Durham University’s Department of Geography, where I began working in September 2013. My move to Durham came after sixteen years in Florida State University’s Department of Geography, punctuated by one-year interludes at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers (2002-2003), the University of California, Santa Cruz’ Center for Cultural Studies (2005-2006), and Royal Holloway, University of London’s Department of Geography (2012-2013). Prior to Florida State, I attended Clark University’s Graduate School of Geography (1990-1996), where I received my MA and PhD degrees, as well as teaching briefly in Bucknell University’s Department of Geography (1997).

My research focuses on the historical, ongoing, and, at times, imaginary projection of social power onto spaces whose geophysical and geographic characteristics make them resistant to state territorialisation.  These spaces include the world-ocean, the internet, and the Arctic.  Within these spaces, I study everything from artistic depictions to governance institutions and from international law to the lifeways of individuals who inhabit (or cross) their expanses.

The bulk of my current research is in the Arctic. Following on past Arctic research funding from the US National Science Foundation and the European Commission’s Marie Curie Incoming International Fellows Program, I am currently directing the Project on Indeterminate and Changing Environments: Law, the Anthropocene, and the World (the ICE LAW Project). The ICE LAW Project is based at IBRU (Durham University’s Centre for Borders Research), sponsored by the UArctic Thematic Network on Arctic Law, and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. I also co-direct the Seabed Resources working group of the European Commission’s OceanGov (Ocean Governance for Sustainability) COST Action. A common theme throughout much of my current research is how the ocean — in its liquid mobility but also in its other states (sea ice, mist, etc.) and in its depths and volumes — challenges accepted political divisions of space, a theme that I take up directly in the ‘Wet Ontologies’ project that I am undertaking with Kimberley Peters, as well as a series of related projects that take this conceptualisation beyond the ocean to other ‘territories’ that test the limits of land.

In addition to my current research on the Arctic and the world-ocean, I also have past (and, in some cases, simmering) research projects in other areas, including:

At Florida State, some of my major affiliations, in addition to the Department of Geography, included the Social Science & Public Affairs Living-Learning Community (director from 2006-2011), the Inter-American Seas Research Consortium (co-director from 2011-2013), and the Center for Environmental Media Production and Research (assistant director from 2010-2013).  At Royal Holloway, I was affiliated with the Geopolitics & Security programme. At Durham, I am Director of the IBRU: Durham University’s Centre for Borders Research.

I am Editor-in-Chief of Political Geography and I serve on the editorial boards of Island Studies Journal, Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, and GEO: Geography & Environment.

There’s more information on me, as well as some of my perspectives on political geography, in this interview on the Exploring Geopolitics website.

To avoid any confusion, I am neither Phil Steinberg the former importer of uva ursi (cat’s claw) who’s now a lounge-music singer in Illinois nor am I Phil Steinberg who has written several titles for the ‘You and Your Pet’ series. I do, however, sing to my cat.

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