History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences


Damian White

Damian White is a sociologist and political theorist with interests in urban and environmental sociology, historical sociology, political sociology, urban political ecology, critical theory, science and technology studies, the sociology of the future and the sociology of design and architecture. He has a BA (First Class) in Political Science and American Studies from the University of Keele, an MSc in Political Sociology and Political Theory from Birkbeck College, University of London and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Essex. He is the winner of the Edna Schaffer Humanist Award (2008) and the John.R.Frazier Award (2012) for excellence in teaching.

White has published three books to date: Bookchin–A Critical Appraisal (Pluto Press, UK/University of Michigan Press USA, 2008), Technonatures: Environments, Technologies, Spaces and Places in the Twenty-First Century (Wilfred Laurier Press, 2009) and Autonomy, Solidarity, Possibility: The Colin Ward Reader (AK Press, 2011). Both of these latter texts were edited with Chris Wilbert. He is presently completing two books: The Environment, Nature and Social Theory: Hybrid Approaches, which is under contract with Palgrave MacMillian, and The Future by Design: A History and Sociology of Design Utopianism and Design Futurism, which is under contract with Berg. He instigated, organized and co-curated the exhibition Green RISD 2010: Nature, Culture, Innovation at the Rhode Island School of Design. With Anne Tate in RISD’s Department of Architecture, he recently taught an Architecture-Environmental Sociology collaboration entitled “Rethinking Green Urbanism.”

Academic research/ areas of interest

Environmental Sociology/Urban Political Ecology

Damian’s primary research draws from literatures in environmental sociology, political sociology, political ecology and political theory to examine what is politically at stake in the current environmental debate. This work has variously explored (1) the relationship between capital, markets, the state and the environment, (2) the discourses of a range of environmental and anti-environmental social movements (from social ecologists and ecological modernizers to contrarians, neo-Malthusians and post-environmentalists) (3) the historical relations or metabolism between society and nature (4) the relationship between cities, urbanization and ‘nature’. Damian has published a range of academic papers in all these areas. His first book ‘Murray Bookchin: A Critical Appraisal’ was published in 2008 by Pluto Press in the UK and distributed by the University of Michigan Press in the US. This book provides a review and sympathetic but critical assessment of the writings of the controversial social and ecological philosopher, Murray Bookchin, one of the seminal early thinkers in the development of modern political ecology. A second book in this area ‘The Environment, Nature and Social Theory’ is under contract with Palgrave/Macmillian.

Technology Studies

A second body of work that he has developed over the last 5 years is in the area of science and technology studies. This interest in part emerged out research on the public understanding of science in the UK with Dr Josephine Stein and in part out of sympathy with Murray Bookchin’s call for a ‘liberatory technology’. In its earliest form, he attempted to develop a reconstructive sociology of sustainable technological innovation through examining the social, cultural and political assumptions underpinning the work of the eco-technologist Amory Lovins and his co-workers on ‘The Green Industrial Revolution’. More recent work on ‘Technonatures’, developed in collaboration with the cultural geographer Chris Wilbert has examined society-technology-environment relations from the vantage point of cultural studies and the worlds of ‘cyborg ecology’. Drawing inspiration from the writings of political ecologists such as Neil Smith, Bruce Braun, Noel Castree, and Erik Swyngedouw and hybridity theorists such as Donna Haraway, Sarah Whatmore and Bruno Latour, ‘technonatures’ has sought to try and think through the social, ethical, political and ecological consequences of living in technologically saturated worlds where distinctions between ‘society’, ‘technology’ and ‘nature’ have become increasingly difficult to clearly demarcate. Central to this project has been to reflect on the question how can we think about a politics of nature when the nature of ‘Nature’ is ever more uncertain? A special issue of Science as Culture on ‘Technonatures’ was published in 2006 and an edited book collection  'Technonatures' with Wilfred Laurier University Press was published in 2009 as part of their 'environmental humanities' series http://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/press/Catalog/white-wilbert.shtml.

The Sociology of Design, Architecture and the Built Environment

Damian’s final area of research combines interests in sustainable urban design and sociological perspectives on the relationship between design, architecture, public space and democracy. In this area he has taught seminar courses in ‘Cities, Urbanization, Nature’, ‘The Sociology of Design’ and ‘The Sociology of Architecture and the Build Environment’. With Chris Wilbert, he has recently edited an anthology of the writings of the British Anarchist theorist of urban design and architecture, Colin Ward. This book will be published by AK Press in 2011.