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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Peter Adey

“This was a wonderful opportunity. The warm welcome and support of the IAS and Trevelyan College was second to none, I couldn't have felt more at home. I loved the coffee breaks, it really encouraged us to bond as a group and develop conversations. ”

Professor Peter Adey, Royal Holloway University of London


IAS Fellow at Trevelyan College, Durham University (January - March 2014)

Professor Peter Adey, is Professor in Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London, works at the intersections of space, security and mobility and within the blurring boundaries between Cultural and Political Geography.

He has been exploring these themes since his doctoral research at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth to develop three closely related research agendas at the airport/border; the vertical territorial and material spaces of air; and the political and technological spaces of emergency and evacuation. Through these agendas Professor Adey has helped to forward and develop a ‘new mobilities’ turn or paradigm within the arts and social sciences which has seen his book Mobility become one of the standard texts in many courses on mobilities and communications, and Aerial Life one of the first monographs to take the aerial world to task through its geopolitical discourses, biopolitical and governmental formations of power, and its intimate geographies of emotion and affect. Recognizing these achievements, in 2011 Professor Adey was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize awarded to outstanding scholars who have made a substantial and recognised contribution to their particular field of study, recognised at an international level, which he will use to support his continuing work on the politics and mobilities of evacuation.

Professor Adey came to Royal Holloway in 2012 to setup and run the Geopolitics and Security MSc. He is Chair of the Social and Cultural Geography research group of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers, has published widely in academic journals and edited collections and is member of the international advisory boards of the journals Mobilities; Resilience; and Geography Compass. He is the author of Mobility (2009); Aerial Life: spaces, mobilities, affects (2010); Air (forthcoming 2013); co-editor of the forthcoming Handbook of Mobilities (2013); From Above: verticality, war and violence (2013) and co-editor of the Routledge Changing Mobilities book series with Monika Buscher.

Professor Adey has been the recipient of fellowships from the ESRC and AHRC, standard grants from the EPSRC-AHRC, ESRC, Agence National de la Recherche, the Leverhulme Trust and a visiting fellowship from UCL.

While at the IAS Professor Adey will develop his interest in the aerial and wider cultural and political registers of security to explore examples of the light-ening levitating body, from ecstatic catholic saints, tightrope walkers and resuscitated bodies, to contemporary performance artists. The fellowship will explore the dyadic relation of light and light, to explore how the ascending subject might be investigated and theorised in relation to contemporary questions of concern within political theology and social and cultural theory. This research will be brought to bear on notions of sovereignty, security, affect and spatiality.


IAS Fellow's Public Lecture – The Levitators: Trespassing the Air
04 February 2014, 17:30 to 18:30, Dowrick Suite, Trevelyan College, Durham University

Things that float, things that rise up from the earth to hang in mid-air, things that become light concern this talk. In this lecture we will consider the levitators: the things, technologies, people, UFOs, and foreign bodies that have arisen, suspended. From ecstatic saints; magnet trains; rocket men; tightrope walkers; leaping artists; levitating lasers; yogic fliers, ominous UFOs; land art boulders; to the latest incarnation of superheroes in film, the levitators suspend our disbelief and trespass upon our sense of what should be there. Levitators challenge conventions of law, belief, psychology, science, reason, art and representation.

Shedding light on these suspended things, however, reveals the relationship between the objects that become light and the movement and passage of light itself. Levitators often glow, perhaps they are haloed, they shine, or are backlit - flaring in whatever camera captures their testimony. In this potted cultural and scientific history Professor Adey will argue that light is what holds the levitator up.

Listen to this lecture in full.


Professor Peter Adey Publications

Adey, P. (2018) 'Going around the twist' in Strang, V., Edensor, T., Puckering, J. (eds.) From the Lighthouse: interdisciplinary reflections on light. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 219-222.

Adey, P. (2018) 'Wish image' in Strang, V., Edensor, T., Puckering, J. (eds.) From the Lighthouse: interdisciplinary reflections on light. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 132-136.

Adey, P. (2017) Levitation: The Science, Myth and Magic of Suspension. London: Reaktion.