Academic Profile

Maan is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Geography and the Environment, and is also an Early Career Fellow of Somerville College. Maan completed his DPhil in human geography at the School of Geography and the Environment in 2013 (Clarendon and Senior Hulme Scholar, Brasenose College). He has an undergraduate degree in the biological sciences from India (First class; 1st; honours) and an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management (Distinction), also from Oxford.

Maan's research is situated within environmental and cultural geography, the central axis of which focuses on the spatialities, politics and governance of the living and material world. It conceptually develops two of geography's vibrant sub-fields - more-than-human geography and political ecology - with which he has engaged through his doctoral and postdoctoral research. Maan teaches environmental and human geography at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Current Research

Maan's work engages political ecology and posthumanist thought to develop new understandings of the geographies of nature. Of particular interest are nonhuman ecologies and processes pertaining to production, landscape and knowledge. Maan's ongoing and past work interrogates these ecologies through a number of empirical foci, including urban ecologies, nonhuman labour and commodity production, and historical and contemporary more-than-human geographies. A theme cutting through these empirics is the traffic between nature and capital, and more broadly, between ecology and economy.

Urban Ecologies in the Global South

Funded by a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship (2015), Maan's latest work builds on political ecological and more-than-human modes of enquiry to examine urban ecologies in South Asian cities. At its core lies the development of relational concepts - biopolitics, metabolism, materiality - to better understand urban ecologies and the challenges they pose. Themes explored include questions about urban space and access to commons; urban metabolism, particularly the role of waste, in generating asymmetries in postcolonial cities; and practices and politics of urban governance, particularly in situations where different epistemologies are brought into conflict. Empirically, these questions are interrogated through a focus on cultivated (cattle), feral (primates) and wild (avian scavengers) ecologies in New Delhi, India. Maan is particularly keen to expand the empirical scope of this work to other cities, both in the global south and north, to develop comparative understandings of urban natures.

Birds

Geographies of the Production of Nature

This second, ongoing, and related strand of research is a critical re-examination of the 'production of nature' thesis: how natures are forged through capitalist activity. Engaging with historical-material traditions in political economy/ecology and subjecting some of its concepts to a more-than-human analysis, Maan's work shows how living processes and material natures have bearings upon regimes of capitalist accumulation. It develops concepts of lively capital, nonhuman labour and encounter value as alternatives to overtly economistic and cultural categories deployed by mainstream arguments on the production of nature. This work was funded by the University of Oxford John Fell Fund and a Junior Research Fellowship at Somerville College (2013-2014).

Market

Political Ecologies of Biodiversity Conservation

Maan's DPhil research (2008-2013; supported by a University of Oxford Clarendon Fund) focused on how more-than-human agencies reorient theorizations of society, politics and space. Through empirics looking at elephants' geographies and the politics of biodiversity conservation in India, it showed how entanglements between people, animals and materials forge the fabric of social life and have political economic outcomes. This also has strong interdisciplinary and conservation policy bearings, and enables understanding how livelihoods and wellbeing of the rural poor are affected by their entanglements with wider ecologies and cartographies of resource use. Maan retains a strong interest in animal geographies and animal studies more generally, and how its analytics might help interrogate political ecologies of conservation.

Elephant

Teaching

Maan lectures on the 'Environmental Geography' foundation course for undergraduates, besides conducting tutorials on various human geography topics for different colleges. At postgraduate level, he co-teaches a module on 'Conservation and Society' on the MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management, and convenes an option 'Urban Political Ecology' for masters students across the School of Geography and the Environment.

Selected Publications

  • View Dr Maan Barua's ORCID profile
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