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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Dr Oliver Belcher

Personal web page

Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41830
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 41801
Room number: S104

Contact Dr Oliver Belcher (email at oliver.belcher@durham.ac.uk)

Biography

Oliver Belcher is an Assistant Professor in Human Geography at Durham University. His research draws on continental philosophy to investigate ontological, epistemological, and spatial transformations driven by computation in warfare, aesthetics, and environmental politics. He holds an MA and BA in Geography from University of Kentucky, and a PhD in Geography from University of British Columbia. He previously worked at University of Oulu (Finland) prior to joining Durham in January 2016. 

Current Projects:

Data and DifferenceDecolonizing Histories of Computation and GIS

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.

Twitter: @darpadreaming

Editorial Board:

Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space

Qualifications

PhD, University of British Columbia (2014)

MA, University of Kentucky (2007)

BA, University of Kentucky (2005)

Research Interests

  • Continental Philosophy (especially Whitehead, Arendt, Agamben, Benjamin, Latour, Sloterdijk)
  • Critical Infrastructure and Supply Studies
  • Geographies of Violence and War
  • Geopolitical Ecology and Philosophies of the Anthropocene
  • History of Computation in Non-Western Contexts
  • Philosophy of Technology (critical computation, cybernetics)
  • Political Theory

Publications

Journal Article

Chapter in book

  • Belcher, O & Martin, L The Problem of Access: Site Visits, Selective Disclosure, and Freedom of Information in Qualitative Security Research. In: Bosma, E, de Goede, M & Pallister-Wilkins, P Secrecy and Methodology in Critical Security Research. Routledge; 2019.
  • Belcher, O "Peacekeeping". In: Richardson, D, Castree, N, Goodchild, M, Kobayashi, A, Liu, W & Marston, R The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology. Wiley-Blackwell; 2017:1-3.
  • Belcher, O "Data Anxieties: Objectivity and Difference in Early Vietnam War Computing". In: Amoore, L & Piotukh, V Algorithmic Life: Calculative Devices in a Digital Age. Routledge; 2016:127-142.
  • Samers, M, Bigger, P & Belcher, O "To Build Another World: Activism in Light of Marxist Geographical Thought". In: Aitken, S & Valentine, G Approaches to Human Geography. Sage; 2015:344-360.
  • Belcher, O "Tribal Militias, Neo-Orientalism, and the U.S. Military's Art of Coercion". In: Bachmann, J, Bell, C & Holmqvist, C War, Police, and Assemblages of Intervention. Routledge; 2015:109-125.

Selected Grants

  • 2018: "Counter-revolutionary Logistics: Computation, Techno-politics, Vietnam," British Academy Small Grant (£8,970)

Supervises