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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Dr Oliver Belcher

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


To date, much of my research on violence has looked at the phenomenon of war and occupation. My current research focuses on how violence and war travel beyond the battlefield into various aspects of everyday life. My work engages with a range of thinkers (Arendt, Agamben, Benjamin, Foucault, Sloterdijk) to interrogate questions of sovereignty, biopolitics, technology, iconoclasm, and the destruction and reconstruction of built environments. 

Current Projects: 

The Politics of Lost Objects: This project attempts to understand contemporary modes of iconoclasm, and its relationship to the past twenty years of global warring and religious fundamentalisms. I am analysing the destruction of cultural artefacts by the Islamic State and other groups in Syria, Iraq and Mali, and the use of digital technologies by conservationists and technicians to monitor, preserve, and restore destroyed artefacts (e.g., 3D printing technologies). The major issues explored in the project include: framing the destruction of ruins and cultural heritage in armed conflicts as a war crime; the illegal trade of looted items as a funding source for terrorism; and the historical and contemporary role of ruins in Syria and Iraq as a placemarker for the shared identity of humanity in general, and Europe in particular. The main concern is with the ensemble of destructive and creative practices that produce novel relationships between art, sovereignty, technology, and cultural artefacts. 

Counter-revolutionary Logistics: This project explores the logistical machinery developed by the U.S. military to interrupt - and ultimately destroy - National Liberation Front party-cadre infrastructure in the Vietnam War (1963-1974). Logistical systems are typically considered in relation to global commodity supply chains and urban infrastructure. This project takes a different approach and asks how postwar logistical machinery designed by the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Defense Department (such as mainframe computers, electronic sensors, geo-referenced digital data, and database systems) were utilized to make territorial and social facts of rebellion legible in new ways following President Diem's failed program of compulsory villagization in South Vietnam (1953-1963). The aim of the project is to correct and expand Michel Foucault's work on 'governmentality' and 'biopolitics' by taking seriously the cybernetic capacities (and limits) of mid-century computational technologies to govern and control South Vietnamese villagers. 

Twitter: @darpadreaming

Editorial Board:

Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space

Contradictions/Kontradikce: A Journal for Critical Thought (Czech)


PhD, University of British Columbia (2014)

MA, University of Kentucky (2007)

BA, University of Kentucky (2005)

Research Interests

  • Geographies of violence
  • Histories of computing in the US military
  • Insurgencies, counterinsurgencies, and political violence in Middle East and Central Asia
  • Cultural heritage and armed conflict
  • Theories of 'worldhood' and 'worldliness' in the works of Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord, Franz Fanon, Martin Heidegger, Henri Lefebvre, and Peter Sloterdijk


Journal Article

Chapter in book

  • 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)