New Papers

Dear empty void,

I’ve had a few requests for copies of papers, and have now listed them all in the publication section. There are four new papers recently accepted or in press, with two more soon to be added. If you’d like a copy, I have put them onto ResearchGate, or simply send me an email.

Best wishes,


1) ‘Combining participatory mapping with Q-methodology to map stakeholder perceptions of complex environmental problems’ is a paper that outlines a mixed methods approach developed for the Borderlands project I contributed to during my Post-doc at the UNESCO Centre for water law, policy and science. The paper shows how mapping, GIS, interviews, and public engagement can help chart a path through the ‘messy’ world of flood risk management.

2) ‘Towards New Disaster Governance: Subsidiarity as a Critical Tool’ is a paper that explores the idea of subsidiarity as a tool for risk management. Effectively, it is already a key tenet of risk management – though uncritically and partially. The move to decentralise and ‘downshift’ responsibility for risk management is predominantly economically-driven, though it could be said to be justified using a subsidiarity argument. This is a debatable reason, but even mores there is need to ask when, why, and how responsibility might have to course upwards (i.e., centralise). This paper analyses the risk management literature in Australia as a way of sparking a discussion.

3) ‘Disaster management culture in Bangladesh’ is a book chapter in Cultures and Disasters: Understanding Cultural Framings in Disaster Risk Reduction. Eds. F. Krüger, G. Bankoff, T. Cannon, B. Orlowski and L. F. Schipper, that engages with the ‘cultural critiques’ of risk management. Broadly, the paper tries to present and explore the disaster management culture that conditions disaster managers. Through emphasis on flood managers – as well as their world views and rationalisations – the paper suggests that there is a distinct flood management culture, but moreover that that culture is one that appropriates and utilises the cultural critique to entrench existing power relations.

4) ‘Matters of method: the paradoxes of understanding suicide’ is a beautiful and provocative paper led by Angeliki Balayannis. The paper shows how efforts to impose order on understanding suicide bound the phenomenon in such a way that the resulting knowledge is impaired. Most importantly, by developing and practicing a materialist analysis, the relations that produce prevailing knowledge-practices are made more evident, exposing linkages and actions that have significant implications for responsibility. In proposing the concept of ‘distancing-through-engagement’ we show how relations are made, unmade, and erased in ways that benefit some while disadvantaging others. Our contribution to this issue – one that currently has only minimal geographic contribution – is to show how space, mobility, and scale are critical to understanding how knowledge is bounded, and how that knowledge leads to particular interventions.

Open letter to Meric Gertler, president of the University of Toronto, from the geography and planning community

Open letter to Meric Gertler, president of the University of Toronto, from the geography and planning community

Dear President Gertler,

The strike by teaching assistants and course instructors at the University of Toronto has now entered its fourth week. You are the president of this university—the largest, wealthiest, and arguably most prestigious university in Canada. You are also a geographer and a planner. As fellow geographers and planners, we write you to express our strong support for the strikers.

Teaching assistants and contract instructors at the University of Toronto are striking for something very basic: a livable income. The rising cost of living, gentrification and skyrocketing rents, ballooning tuition rates (especially for international students), stagnant funding, and the insecurity of contractual employment have combined to produce crisis conditions for many of the university’s graduate-student workers. The guaranteed minimum funding package for graduate students has not increased since 2008 and, at $15,000, now stands at 24 percent below the poverty line for a person living alone in Toronto…

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Better learning, less work…?

An odd thing happened to me recently. I realised I like teaching. While not entirely shocking, I also realised that I like innovative techniques (not strictly technologies) and attempting new ways of encouraging/mandating participation, debate, discussion, and dissension. On December first, along with other grant winners, I’ll be presenting a poster/talk about my efforts to deliver ‘Better teaching and learning by closing the learning-feedback loop: with less work’. I’ve enlisted Gavin Leys (Senior Graphic Designer) at Melbourne Learning Environments to help me realise my artistic goals. He’s been amazing in bringing ideas to reality.

Here is the first draft of the upcoming poster. Much to add and refine, but I am excited about its first appearance and thought I would share.

Hope to see people at the event.


Brian Cook_LTI Poster_(Final) (Gaven Leys did the artwork)

Absent without leave…

Am just back from three weeks ‘holiday’ in which we welcomed our second daughter to the Cook pack. Aveline is doing exceptionally well, as is mom and ‘big sister’. Am back to work this week and have lots of news and outputs coming through. Best. Brian The Cook ladies.

Melancholy Monday?

Have just been out for dinner on my first (jet lagged) night back in Phnom Penh. We were out rather late, and the car ride home was a lesson in ‘first world-ism’. With children out working, late into the night, on a busy road, I was left saddened by the lost potential. A world that turns it’s back on children will surely get what it deserves.

I’ve always been inclined to social limits on capitalism, but nothing made the need more clear than what happens in poor places with no rules. It’s a debate that the developed world seems to ignore, even as the triumphs of the post War middle class are eroded.

I hope something good comes of this project.


Off to Cambodia

IMG_1821As part of the Cambodia project, we’re collaborating with National School of Agriculture Prekleap, who are helping with the ethnographic portion of the research. As a whole, we’re integrating semi-structured interviews with leaders in the agricultural field, focus groups with farmers, and ethnographies with farmer household/communities. IMG_1764

I’ll be in Cambodia for the next week running training session on Qualitative methods, so should be fun (and a great revision for myself).

More updates and papers to publicise, but the flight leaves in a couple hours and I want to go and play with Elspeth.



P.S. please be sure to get in touch if you are similarly interested in farmer decision making, farmers and farming, or the integration-competition of knowledge systems.IMG_1848