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Professor John Allen

John Allen

Profile summary

Professional biography

John Allen is an Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, having engaged in teaching and research at The Open University for the best part of four decades. In that time, I worked collectively on a range of introductory and interdisciplinary modules in the Social Sciences, some fourteen in total, and published a number of research monographs, teaching texts and edited/authored collections, the latest of which is Power and Space: Essays on a Shifting Relationship (Routledge, forthcoming 2024).

As a retired Professor, I am currently in receipt of a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship. This has enabled me to pursue my research interests in geography and power, in this instance by exploring how financial techniques developed by banks and investment funds in the global North are employed to extract value from long-term infrastructure deals in the global South.    

Research interests

My research interests fall into two related areas, both of which have blended into one another over time. I have a long-standing interest in the relationship between geography and power, more specifically the difference that spatiality makes to the way that power works in its various modalities, from domination and authority through to seduction and manipulation.

In 2003, I published a book-length treatment on the subject, Lost Geographies of Power (Oxford, Blackwell) and followed this up in 2016 with Topologies of Power: Beyond Territory and Networks (Oxford and New York, Routledge), which explored a range of topological insights into power’s spatial twists and turns, including those that shape contemporay global finance and the management of political borders. At around the same time, I also become interested in what a nonhuman dimension to power might look like when the ‘power’ to make life live is the central focus of enquiry. That interest was explored through an ESRC funded research project on the farm and food processing industries in the UK, in collaboration with colleagues at Exeter University, and the results were published in 2017 by Wiley Blackwell under the title, Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics (with Steve Hinchliffe, Nick Bingham & Simon Carter).

In parallel to the broad topic of spatiality and power, I have for some time been interested in the work of George Simmel and Siegfried Kracauer. The two theorists have informed much of my thinking on public spaces and seduction in an urban context, as well as giving me an insight into phenomenological accounts of the urban. This work has appeared in journals such as New Formations and Urban Studies.

John Allen is a member of the OpenSpace Research Centre.

The Everyday Construction of Value: A Canadian Investment Fund, Chilean Water Infrastructure, and Financial Subordination, Finance and Society (2022) Vol 8(2), pp189-208 (with Michael Pryke)

A  Poststructuralist Who Still Believes in Structures: Interview with John Allen, Journal of Cultural Economy (2021) Early online (with T. Bennett) 

Power's Quiet Reach and Why It Should Exercise Us, Space and Polity (2020) Vol 24(3), pp 408-413

Border Topologies: The Time-Spaces of Labour Migrant Regulation, Political Geography (2019) Vol 72, pp116-123 (with Linn Axelsson).

Financialising Urban Water Infrastructure: Extracting Local Value, Distributing Value Globally, Urban Studies, (2019) Vol 56 (7), pp1326-1346 (with Michael Pryke).

The Circulation of Financial Elites, in the Handbook on the Geographies of Power (2018) Eds. Coleman, M. & Agnew, J., Cheltenham, UK & Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, pp178-193

Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics (2017) Chichester & Malden MA, John Wiley (with Steve Hinchliffe, Nick Bingham and Simon Carter).

Topologies of Power: Beyond Territory and Networks (2016) Oxford & New York, Routledge.

'Just-In-Time' Disease: Biosecurity, Poultry and Power, Journal of Cultural Economy, (2015) pp 342-360 (with Stephanie Lavau)

The Urban Unbound: London's Politics and the 2012 Olympic Games, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, (2014) Vol.38 (5), pp1609-1624 (with Allan Cochrane).

Financialising Household Water: Thames Water, MEIF, and ‘Ring-Fenced’ Politics, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, (2013) Vol. 6 (3), pp 419-439 (with Michael Pryke).

Biosecurity and the Topologies of Infected Life: from Borderlines to Borderlands, Transactions Institute of British Geographers, (2013) Vol 38, pp 531-543 (with Steve Hinchliffe, Stephanie Lavau, Nick Bingham and Simon Carter).

Topological Twists: Power's Shifting Geographies, Dialogues in Human Geography, (2011) Vol.1 (3), pp 283-298.

Powerful City Networks: More than Connection, Less than Domination and Control, Urban Studies, (2010) Vol.47 (13), pp 2895-2911.

Assemblages of State Power: Topological Shifts in the Organization of Government and Politics, Antipode, (2010) Vol.42 (5), pp 1071-1089 (with Allan Cochrane).

Changing Landscapes of Power: The City and Finance in Reading the Economy: The UK in the 21st Century (eds) Coe, N. and Jones, A., (2010) Sage Publications, pp 49-60.

Three Spaces of Power: Territory, Networks, plus a Topological twist in the Tale of Domination and Authority, Journal of Power, (2009), Vol.2 (2), pp 197-212.

Pragmatism and Power, Or the Power to Make a difference in a Radically Contingent World, Geoforum, (2008), No 39, pp 1613-1624.

Powerful Geographies: Spatial Shifts in the Architecture of Globalization in The Handbook of Power (eds) Clegg, S. and Haugaard, C., (2008) Sage, Los Angeles, London, Dehli, Singapore, pp 157-173.

Claiming Connections: A Distant World of Sweatshops? In Geographies of Globalization (eds) Robinson, J., Rose, G. and Barnett, C., (2008), Sage, Los Angeles, London, Dehli, Singapore, pp 7-54.

Beyond the Territorial Fix: Regional Assemblages, Politics and Power, Regional Studies, (2007), Vol. 41, pp 1161-1175 (with Allan Cochrane).

The Cultural Spaces of Siegfried Kracauer: The Many Surfaces of Berlin, New Formations, (2007), No 61, pp 20-33.

Ambient Power: Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and the Seductive Logic of Public Space, Urban Studies (2006, Vol. 43, pp 441-455 (translated in Italian, in Copeta, C (ed) 2006, Geografie e Ambienti Caccucci Editore, Bari).

A repository of research publications and other research outputs can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.

Teaching interests

The last Open University module that I worked on, DD213 Environment & Society, had its first presentation in 2018, and I contributed chapters on animal commodification and the difference that markets make to the shape of our envirionments. Prior to that, I wrote on power and supermarkets for DD102, a Level 1 Foundation Module, which was updated as part of Understanding Social Lives in 2021. Both modules are still in active presentation.


The everyday construction of value: A Canadian investment fund, Chilean water infrastructure, and financial subordination (2022)
Pryke, Michael and Allen, John
Finance and Society, 8(2) (pp. 189-208)

A poststructuralist who still believes in structures: interview with John Allen (2021)
Allen, J. and Bennett, T.
Journal of Cultural Economy ((Early access))

Power's Quiet Reach and Why it Should Exercise Us (2020)
Allen, John
Space and Polity, 24(3) (pp. 408-413)

Border topologies: The time-spaces of labour migrant regulation (2019-06)
Allen, John and Axelsson, Linn
Political Geography, 72 (pp. 116-123)

Financialising Urban Water Infrastructure: Extracting Local Value, Distributing Value Globally (2019-05-01)
Pryke, Michael and Allen, John
Urban Studies, 56(7) (pp. 1326-1346)

'Just-in-time' disease: biosecurity, poultry, and power (2015)
Allen, John and Lavau, Stephanie
Journal of Cultural Economy, 8(3) (pp. 342-360)

The urban unbound: London's politics and the 2012 Olympic Games (2014-09)
Allen, John and Cochrane, Allan
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(5) (pp. 1609-1624)

Financializing household water: Thames water, MEIF, and 'ring-fenced' politics (2013-11)
Allen, John and Pryke, Michael
Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 6(3) (pp. 419-439)

Biosecurity and the topologies of infected life: from borderlines to borderlands (2013-10)
Hinchliffe, Steve; Allen, John; Lavau, Stephanie; Bingham, Nick and Carter, Simon
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 38(4) (pp. 531-543)

Author's response: The difference that space makes (2013)
Allen, John
Progress in Human Geography, 37(3) (pp. 458-460)

A more than relational geography? (2012-07)
Allen, John
Dialogues in Human Geography, 2(2) (pp. 190-193)

Topological twists: Power's shifting geographies (2011-11)
Allen, John
Dialogues in Human Geography, 1(3) (pp. 283-298)

Powerful assemblages? (2011-06)
Allen, John
Area, 43(2) (pp. 154-157)

Making space for topology (2011)
Allen, John
Dialogues in Human Geography, 1(3) (pp. 316-318)

Powerful City Networks: More than Connections, Less than Domination and Control (2010-11)
Allen, John
Urban Studies, 47(13) (pp. 2895-2911)

Assemblages of State Power: Topological Shifts in the Organization of Government and Politics (2010-11)
Allen, John and Cochrane, Allan
Antipode, 42(5) (pp. 1071-1089)

Three spaces of power: Territory, networks, plus a topological twist in the tale of domination and authority (2009-08)
Allen, John
Journal of Power, 2(2) (pp. 197-212)

Pragmatism and power, or the power to make a difference in a radically contingent world (2008-07)
Allen, John
Geoforum, 39(4) (pp. 1613-1624)

Beyond the territorial fix: Regional assemblages, politics and power (2007-12)
Allen, John and Cochrane, Allan
Regional Studies, 41(9) (pp. 1161-1175)

The cultural spaces of Siegfried Kracauer: The many surfaces of Berlin (2007-07)
Allen, John
New Formations(61) (pp. 20-33)

Ambient power: Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and the seductive logic of public spaces (2006-02)
Allen, John
Urban Studies, 43(2) (pp. 441-455)

The whereabouts of power: politics, government and space (2004-03)
Allen, John
Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 86(1) (pp. 19-32)

Living on thin abstractions: more power/economic knowledge (2002-03)
Allen, John
Environment and Planning A, 34(3) (pp. 451-466)

Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics (2016-12-10)
Hinchliffe, Steve; Bingham, Nick; Allen, John and Carter, Simon
RGS-IBG Book Series
ISBN : 978-1-118-99759-8 | Publisher : John Wiley and Sons | Published : Chichester

Topologies of Power: Beyond territory and networks (2016)
Allen, John
ISBN : 978-0-415-52134-5 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Oxford & New York

Lost geographies of power (2003)
Allen, John
RGS-IBG Book Series
ISBN : 0 631 20729 5 | Publisher : Blackwell | Published : Oxford, UK

Rethinking the region (1998-01-22)
Allen, John; Massey, Doreen; Cochrane, Allan; Charlesworth, Julie; Court, Gill; Henry, Nick and Sarre, Philip
ISBN : 041516821X | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

The Circulation of Financial Elites (2018-07)
Allen, John
In: Coleman, Mat and Agnew, John eds. Handbook of the Geographies of Power. Research Handbooks in Geography (pp. 178-202)
ISBN : 9781785365638 | Publisher : Edward Elgar | Published : Cheltenham

Offshoring the Nation's water (2016-05)
Allen, John and Pryke, Michael
In: Raco, Mike ed. Britain For Sale? Perspectives on the Costs and Benefits of Foreign Ownership (pp. 34-41)
Publisher : The Smith Institute | Published : London

The City and finance: changing landscapes of power (2010)
Allen, John
In: Coe, Neil and Jones, Andrew eds. The Economic Geography of the UK (pp. 49-60)
ISBN : 9781849200899 | Publisher : Sage Publications | Published : London, UK

Powerful geographies: Spatial shifts in the architecture of globalization (2008)
Allen, John
In: Clegg, Stewart R. and Haugaard, Mark eds. The SAGE Handbook of Power (pp. 157-174)
ISBN : 9781412934008 | Publisher : Sage | Published : UK

Responsabilité au travail et mondialisation: au-delà du système de sweatshop (2008)
Allen, John
In: Benelli, Natalie and Rosende, Magdalena eds. Laboratories du Travail (pp. 93-104)
ISBN : 9782889010097 | Publisher : Antipodes | Published : Lausanne