Dr Debbie Hopkins

Associate Professor in Human Geography

Academic Profile

Debbie is an Associate Professor in Human Geography jointly appointed between the School of Geography and the Environment, and the Sustainable Urban Development programme in the Department for Continuing Education. She completed her master's degree (Geography, with distinction) at King's College London, PhD at the University of Otago / Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou (Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (with distinction) at the University of Oxford. Debbie undertook postdoctoral training at the Centre for Sustainability (Otago, New Zealand, 2014-2016), and the Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford (2016-2017). Debbie was previously a Departmental Research Lecturer jointly appointed between the Transport Studies Unit and the School of Geography and the Environment (Oxford, 2017-2019).

Debbie is the Editor-in-Chief of the Association of American Geographers Review of Books and sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Transport Geography, Applied Mobilities, Tourism Geographies, Journal of Sustainable Tourism and Global Networks. Between 2017-2019, she undertook a part-time academic secondment with the New Zealand Ministry of Transport where she led a project on incorporating different forms of information and 'evidence' into policymaking processes. Debbie sits on the advisory board of the Oxford Climate Society, and is an international advisory board member of the DRIVERS project (led by Prof Marianne Ryghaug, Norwegian Research Council, 2019-2024).

Debbie leads a three-year project (2022-2025), 'Trucking Lives: Making Space for People in Truck Driving Work', funded through the ESRC's Transforming Working Lives call. Working with colleagues from the universities of Huddersfield and Newcastle, this multi-method project draws from mobilities, labour geography and critical logistics works to understand and make visible truck driver's everyday lives, identify changes needed to recruit and retain a diverse workforce, and find ways to improve workers' lives for the better. This builds upon previous research funded by the Oxford Fell Fund and the CILT Seed Corn Fund.

Debbie has been part of several large research centres, including the Energy Cultures project (2013-2016, Otago), the Centre for Innovation and Energy Demand (2016-2018, Sussex, Manchester and Oxford), and the Centre for Research on Energy Demand Solutions (2019-2020, multi-institutional). Debbie has co-edited two books: Low Carbon Mobility Transitions (GoodFellow Publishers, 2016) and Transitions in Energy Efficiency and Demand (Routledge (Open Access), 2018).

Current Research

Debbie is a human geographer and environmental social scientist. Her research is broadly concerned with the social dimensions of climate change, socio-technical transitions, and the mobility of people, goods and 'waste', with a focus on cities and processes of urbanisation. In this work, she engages with ideas from labour geography, mobilities studies, critical logistics and critical sustainabilities. Debbie is currently working on a number of projects that span these interests (primary projects listed below), many of which include international and interdisciplinary collaborators, this work is funded by research councils in the UK, Aotearoa NZ, Canada and Norway..: Her research spans three main themes; 1. Mobile Labour, 2. The Mobilities of 'stuff', and 3. Transport and the Climate Crisis.

Mobile Labour

Debbie examines the various ways that labour is (made) mobile, and is concerned with the politics, practices and lived experiences of workers as they are (made) mobile. Her ongoing empirical work engages with academic workers (in their various roles), and freight drivers (including 'truckers' and delivery drivers). Her work seeks to uncover how a mobilised labour geography might extend existing frameworks and ways of knowing about work(places), and workers on the move.

The Mobilities of 'Stuff'

Drawing from critical logistics studies, transport and mobilities scholarship, this work reflects on the in/visibilities of the mobilities of stuff, and how points of breakdown and crisis increase their visibility. Empirically this work engages with case studies in Aotearoa, Japan and Kenya, examining the different geographies of these mobilities attending to the 'liveliness' of the stuff being moved/moving.

Transport and the Climate Crisis

Within this broad theme, Debbie's research focuses on: 1. The characteristics and responses of hard-to-decarbonise modes/sectors (e.g., aviation, freight), 2. Systemic and entrenched lock-in to high-carbon mobility practices, 3. The politics and practices of infrastructural adaptations, 4. The intersections of carbon emissions reductions, equity and justice, with an empirical focus on Aoreatoa, the UK, Kenya, Norway, the USA and Canada. This work is particularly interested in the shared nature of many of these issues in cities and countries around the world, and is increasingly focused on the hypermobile minority.

Debbie is a co-investigator on a number of funded projects including the Built Environment and Active Transport to School (BEATS) project, led by Dr Sandra Mandic (Health Research Council of New Zealand, Heart Foundation, University of Otago Research Grant, 2013- ongoing), the FAIR project led by Dr Mari Martiskainen (UKRI, 2019-2023) and the PATHWAYS project led by Profs Eivind Farstad and Jens Kristian Steen Jacobsen (NRC, 2020-2025).

Teaching and Supervision

At Oxford, Debbie teaches across the undergraduate and graduate programmes. In the School of Geography and the Environment, she leads first year geography fieldwork and prelims sustainability on the Human Geography course. In 2021-22, she will offer an FHS Option on Sustainable Urbanisms. Debbie also teaches on the Energy module of the Environmental Change and Management master's programme and the interdisciplinary Energy Systems masters.

In the Department for Continuing Education, Debbie teaches on the MSc Sustainable Urban Development modules, she leads 'Climate Change', and contributes lectures across the other 7 modules, on themes including critical sustainability, urban imaginaries and governing transition.

Debbie teaches at the Oxford School of Climate Change, hosted by the Oxford Climate Society, University College London, and the University of Otago (NZ), as well as speaking to other groups within and beyond Oxford.

Debbie supervises masters dissertations and DPhil students in Geography and Sustainable Urban Development.

Current Graduate Research Students

Maryam Altaf

Gendered Mobilities and Platform-based Transport Services in Lahore, Pakistan

Andreas Papallas
(Dept of Continuing Education)
Cities of Diversity: Urban Development Perspectives on Displacement and Migration in Cyprus.
Julia Youngs
(Dept of Continuing Education)
Beyond borders: the intersection of immigration, urban climate governance, and the border abolition movement in sanctuary cities.


Debbie actively seeks out opportunities for engagement beyond academia. To this end, she has written articles for regional and national newspapers, and contributed to the development of urban and national government policy (e.g. the advisory/ technical group, Te Ao Turoa - Dunedin's draft Environment Strategy, Dunedin City Council). Debbie was a founding committee member of the New Zealand Royal Society Early Career Researcher Forum, and the Otago Climate Change Network, and is a committee member of the RGS-IBG Transport Geography Research Group. Debbie sits on the advisory board for the Oxford School on Climate Change.

From 2017 to 2019, Debbie undertook a part-time academic secondment with the New Zealand Ministry of Transport's research and strategy team, working on a number of projects that develop greater collaboration between the academic and policy communities in New Zealand, and integrate up-to-date academic research, and alternative forms of 'evidence' with policy development.

Selected Publications

Transitions in Energy Efficiency and Demand
Jenkins, K. and Hopkins, D. (eds.) (2018)
Transitions in Energy Efficiency and Demand
Low Carbon Mobility Transitions
Hopkins, D. and Higham, J.E.S. (eds.) (2016)
GoodFellow Publishers, Oxford, UK
 Low Carbon Mobility Transitions
Hopkins, D., Landa-Mata, I., Kr Steen Jacobsen, J., Farstad, E. and Higham, J. (2024) Social and Cultural Geography [Preprint].
1612532 - Imagining post-fossil tourism mobilities with Norw...
Hopkins, D., Medappa, K., Davidson, A., Gregson, N. and James, A. (2024) Views from the cab: the working lives of heavy goods vehicle drivers in the UK. Trucking Lives.
Hopkins, D. (2024) The AAG Review of Books, 12(1), pp. 16–18.
1606480 - Data Driven: Truckers, Technology, and the New Wor...
Hopkins, D., Gössling, S. and Cohen, S. (2023) Energy Research and Social Science, 106.
1546570 - Aeromasculinities and the fallacy of sustainable a...
Mandic, S., Sandretto, S., Hopkins, D., Wilson, G., Kidd, G. and Bengoechea, E. (2023) Journal of Transport & Health, 33, p. 101704.
1549517 - School choice, distance to school and travel to sc...
Hopkins, D. (2023) in Cugurullo, F., Caprotti, F., Cook, M., Karvonen, A., McGuirk, P., and Marvin, S. (eds.) Artificial Intelligence and the City: Urbanistic Perspectives on AI. Routledge.
1544883 - Autonomous lorries, artificial intelligence and ur...
Hopkins, D. and Schwanen, T. (2023) Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 196.
1532235 - Sociotechnical expectations of vehicle automation ...
Martiskainen, M., Hopkins, D., Torres Contreras, G., Jenkins, K., Mattioli, G., Simcock, N. and Lacey-Barnacle, M. (2023) Global Environmental Change, 82.
1494378 - Eating, heating or taking the bus? Lived experienc...
Hopkins, D. and Schwanen, T. (2023) Research in Transportation Business and Management, 50.
1339945 - The expected speed and impacts of vehicle automati...
Mandic, S., Bengoechea, E., Hopkins, D., Coppell, K., Smith, M., Moore, A., Keall, M., Ergler, C., Sandretto, S., Wilson, G., Kidd, G., Flaherty, C., Mindell, J., Stephenson, J., King, K. and Spence, J. (2023) Journal of Transport and Health, 30.
1338399 - Examining the transport to school patterns of New ...