Dr Oliver Belcher
Oliver Belcher is a human geographer with interests in late-modern warfare, history of computation and environmental politics. He is currently writing a book titled The War Machine on the role of IBM in the Vietnam War. His work also explores the U.S. military as a global climate actor.
I am currently teaching modules on the Biopolitics of Security; Sovereignty, State, and Empire; and International Relations Theory.
IBM, Computation, and Logistical Systems in the Vietnam War
This British Academy-funded project critically explores digital technologies developed by IBM and the U.S. military to disrupt National Liberation Front (NLF) party-cadre activities in the Vietnam War. I ask how computer systems designed for corporate administration and management—such as IBM business machines, computerized printing, and data processing—were exploited by the CIA and U.S. military to target social factors of rebellion in rural South Vietnam. The Vietnam War was an important turning point because it marked the first-time computer technologies were integrated into nearly every aspect of the U.S. military apparatus. The vast technical infrastructure underlying military logistical systems in Vietnam was a network of digital labour and machines spanning Saigon, Hawaii, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand. This project examines the powers of data-intensive techno-science that turned computers into a violent tool of imperialism against Vietnamese peasants.
Hidden Carbon Costs of Global US Military Operations
This project examines the US military as a major climate actor, and its oversized institutional role in producing carbon emissions and global environmental change. I am working with Patrick Bigger (Lancaster) and Ben Neimark (Lancaster) to combine the insights of political ecology with those of critical geopolitics to examine the material-ecological metabolic flows (e.g., hydrocarbon-based fuels) enacted through US military supply chains. This research draws hitherto unexplored links between critical logistics and supply studies, geopolitics, and political ecology with the purpose of setting forth a new research agenda in geopolitical ecology.
Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space
PhD, University of British Columbia (2014)
MA, University of Kentucky (2007)
BA, University of Kentucky (2005)
- Climate Politics
- Critical Infrastructure and Supply Studies
- Geographies of Violence and War
- History of Computation in Non-Western Contexts
- International Relations and Security Studies
- Philosophy of Technology (critical computation, cybernetics)
- Political Theory
Geographies of Crisis (Convenor)
- Geographies of Development
- Political Geography
- Politics/Space (Geographies of Violence)
- Theory and Concepts in Human Geography: Marxism
Chapter in book
- Belcher, O & Martin, L (2019). The Problem of Access: Site Visits, Selective Disclosure, and Freedom of Information in Qualitative Security Research. In Secrecy and Methods in Security Research: A Guide to Qualitative Fieldwork. de Goede, M, Bosma, E & Pallister-Wilkins, P Abingdon, Oxon.: Routledge. 33-47.
- Belcher, O (2017). "Peacekeeping". In The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology. Richardson, D, Castree, N, Goodchild, M, Kobayashi, A, Liu, W & Marston, R Wiley-Blackwell. 1-3.
- Belcher, O (2016). "Data Anxieties: Objectivity and Difference in Early Vietnam War Computing". In Algorithmic Life: Calculative Devices in a Digital Age. Amoore, L & Piotukh, V Routledge. 127-142.
- Samers, M, Bigger, P & Belcher, O (2015). "To Build Another World: Activism in Light of Marxist Geographical Thought". In Approaches to Human Geography. Aitken, S & Valentine, G Sage. 344-360.
- Belcher, O (2015). "Tribal Militias, Neo-Orientalism, and the U.S. Military's Art of Coercion". In War, Police, and Assemblages of Intervention. Bachmann, J, Bell, C & Holmqvist, C Routledge. 109-125.
- Belcher, Oliver & Schmidt, Jeremy J. (2021). Being Earthbound: Arendt, Process, and Alienation in the Anthropocene. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 39(1): 103-120.
- Belcher, O, Bigger, P, Neimark, B & Kennelly, C (2020). Hidden carbon costs of the “everywhere war” Logistics, geopolitical ecology, and the carbon boot‐print of the US military. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 45(1): 65-80.
- Belcher, O, Neimark, B & Bigger, P (2020). The U.S. military is not sustainable. Science 367(6481): 989-990.
- Belcher, Oliver (2019). Sensing, territory, population: Computation, embodied sensors, and hamlet control in the Vietnam War. Security Dialogue 50(5): 416-436.
- Belcher, Oliver (2018). Anatomy of a village razing: Counterinsurgency, violence, and securing the intimate in Afghanistan. Political Geography 62: 94-105.
- Belcher, O, Martin, L & Tazzioli, M (2015). "Border Struggles: Epistemologies, Ontologies, Politics". Darkmatter Journal: In the Ruins of Empire 12(1): 1-12.
- Belcher, O & Tazzioli, M (2015). "Postcolonial Theory Now: an Interview with Ann Laura Stoler". Darkmatter Journal: In the Ruins of Empire 12(1).
- Belcher, O (2014). "Staging the Orient: Counterinsurgency Training Sites and the U.S. Military Imagination". Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104(5): 1012-1029.
- Belcher, O & Martin, L (2013). "Ethnographies of Closed Doors: Conceptualizing Openness and Closure in US Immigration and Military Institutions". Area 45(4): 403-410.
- Belcher, O (2012). "The Best-Laid Schemes: Postcolonialism, Military Social Science, and the Making of US Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 1947-2009". Antipode 44(1): 258-263.
- Belcher, O (2011). "The Occupied Palestinian Territories and Late-Modern Wars". Human Geography 4(1): 1-11.
- Belcher, O, Martin, L, Secor, A, Simon, S & Wilson, T (2008). "Everywhere and Nowhere: The Exception and the Topological Challenge to Geography". Antipode 40(4): 499-503.
- Belcher, O (2008). "Fatal Distraction: The Violent Materialities of Guantanamo Bay". Human Geography 1(2): 106-117.
- Belcher, O (2008). "The Ability to Look". disClosure: A Journal of Social Theory 17: 42-43.
Indicators of Esteem
- 2019: Virginie Mamadouh Outstanding Research Award, Political Geography Specialty Group, American Association of Geographers:
Received for “Anatomy of a Village Razing: Counterinsurgency, Violence, and Securing the Intimate in Afghanistan” (Political Geography 2018)
- 2020: Computational Counterinsurgency: Digital Labour and Logistical Imperialism in the Vietnam War (£113,348.56)
- 2018: "Counter-revolutionary Logistics: Computation, Techno-politics, Vietnam," British Academy Small Grant (£8,970)