Dr Adam Bobbette
- Lecturer in Political Geology (School of Geographical & Earth Sciences)
I grew up in rural Ontario and have since lived in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, and the UK. I studied the history of philosophy and cultural studies at Trent University and McGill, followed by architecture and landscape at the University of Toronto. I undertook my PhD in Geography at Cambridge, followed by post-doctoral work at UNSW in the New Earth Histories research program.
Prior to geography, I taught the history and theory of architecture and landscape at the University of Toronto and the University of Hong Kong. I have contributed research, installations, or art works to exhibitions across the world, including the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Asia Art Archive, Para Site, Storefront for Art and Architecture, Victoria & Albert Museum, Eyebeam Art + Technology Centre, and Transmediale.
I have written for a variety of platforms in addition to my scholarly work. I am interested in exploring new (and old) narrative forms for geographical thought including magazines, broadsheets, photocopied leaflets, exhibition catalogues, edited collections, literary journals, and film. I have written for the The London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Cabinet, and N+1. In 2010, I co-founded the journal Scapegoat: Architecture, Landscape, Political Economy.
In 2019, I co-created Kebun Lithos (Lithic Garden), a research platform on the slope of Mount Merapi, an active volcano in central Java.
I am particularly interested in the intersections of politics and the earth and environmental sciences. My research spans historical geography, cultural geography, geopolitics, and the history and geography of science.
My current monograph The Pulse of the Earth: Political Geology in Java is a political history of volcano science in Indonesia since the late nineteenth century. The project examines the role of Javanese Islam in shaping the modern understanding of the earth, including the theory of plate tectonics. The book decentres well-known narratives about the significance of the west in the formation of the geological sciences to follow volcano scientists as they engaged with and were transformed by Javanese spiritual traditions, geographies, and cosmologies.
I am working on a new project about the history and geography of fossil fuel prospecting in the twentieth century that seeks to understand how prospectors remade concepts of soul and self. The project grapples with how thoroughly a fossil fuel-based culture transformed what it meant to be a person. The project traces these ideas through profiles of prospectors in the British and Dutch empires in Southeast Asia from the origins of Shell oil in Sumatra, to the role of Theosophists and occultists, the remaking of the Hajj, and Indonesian spiritual movements influence on post-war British theories of personal and planetary energy.
I have collaborated with priests in the Solomon Islands to create environment observatories in churches. This work is based on thinking about churches as infrastructural networks for grass roots monitoring of climate change. The purpose is to operate in areas in need of observatory infrastructures but without access to large scale, state scientific infrastructures from the wealthy north. We are re-thinking of churches as scientific infrastructures and re-imagining the intersections of climate science and theology.
My research has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, The British Academy, Selwyn College, Melanesia Mission UK, University of New South Wales. My PhD was funded by a Cambridge International Trust scholarship and SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship.