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Dr Jessica Lehman

Associate Professor

Associate Professor in the Department of Geography+44 (0) 191 33 41858


I am a human-environment geographer, focusing primarily on international environmental politics. I am especially interested in how contemporary environmental politics are animated by tensions between notions of the global, the planetary, and the universal on one hand, and difference, the particular, and the local on the other. Climate change politics, resource politics, and contestations over 'common' spaces such as the ocean are areas where I see these tensions playing out most explicitly.

My current project examines the politics and economies of marine cultural heritage, asking how notions of heritage are mobilised to make claims to ocean space, resources, and narratives. This work takes me both inside and outside of the heritage industry, from museums to dive sites to deep-sea mining to small-scale fishing legislation. I have also undertaken significant work on the politics and practices of global ocean knowledge, asking how the ocean has come to be known as a world ocean: as one dynamic entity with a special relationship to life on Earth. This has entailed a sustained engagement with historical and contemporary global ocean sensing and measurement. In all of this work, I am especially interested in North-South relations of power and knowledge and my main research sites are found in the US, UK, and South Africa. 

I also study the cultural economies of unconventional resource extraction, primarily in North America. I have studied the impacts of the Bakken oil boom on life and labour in North Dakota, working mostly with Bruce Braun (University of Minnesota) and am currently initiating a project on the lived intersections of gas development and climate change in Pennsylvania with Abby Kinchy (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). 

Conceptually, my work is shaped broadly by engagement with science and technology studies, feminist theory, (new) materialisms, postcolonial theory and literature, political ecology, and social science and humanistic theories of nature and environmental change. 

Before joining the Durham Department of Geography, I was an AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I received a PhD in Geography from the University of Minnesota, and have previous degrees in Geography from the University of British Columbia (MA) and Pennsylvania State University (BSc). 

Research interests

  • Geographies of the ocean
  • Intersections between environmental geography and science and technology studies
  • The cultural economy of unconventional resource extraction
  • Social science and humanistic theories of environmental change


Supervision students