NUS geographer conferred prestigious Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) award

Professor James D. Sidaway, political geographer from the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), has been conferred the prestigious Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers [IBG]) 2022 Busk Medal. 

Calling him “an exceptional geographer whose research over several decades has broken new ground in political geography, geopolitics and critical area studies”, the Society’s Council conferred the award on Prof Sidaway for “his fieldwork and remarkable span of theoretical approaches primarily from the global South”. He will be presented with the medal at a ceremony at the Society in London on 6 June. 

The Busk medal is awarded for conservation research or for fieldwork abroad in geography or in a geographical aspect of an allied science. It is one among several top accolades in the medals category; the other category being the awards category. 

“I am greatly honoured to receive the Busk Medal. It was especially gratifying and encouraging that the letter of notification cited my fieldwork and engagement with a remarkable span of theoretical approaches – since relationships between geography, understandings and representations of the world and a wealth of theories that interpret and transform our discipline and world have long been at the heart of my scholarly endeavours,” said Prof Sidaway on receiving the award. 

“Like many of my generation, and those before and since – my efforts to write and teach geography are shaped by prior and ongoing revolutions in geographic thought and shifts to the structure and composition of geography and geographers. For me, theory remains in continual dialogue with fieldwork, extending over more than three decades, from Mozambique and elsewhere in Southern Africa, then to Portugal and its borderlands with Spain, to the Persian Gulf cities of Abu Dhabi and Doha, plus Cambodia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Myanmar.” 

Formed in 1830 for the advancement of geographical science, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) is the United Kingdom’s learned society and professional body for geography. Since 1832, its prestigious medals and awards have recognised excellence in geographical research and fieldwork, teaching and public engagement. They are presented annually in recognition of individuals who have made outstanding contributions. 

Prof Sidaway joins an eminent list that includes British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (who co-developed the theory of natural selection and evolution with Charles Darwin), British naturalist and veteran broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, and American marine biologist Dr Sylvia Earle. 

An eminent geographer with deep interest in relations of states, cities and geopolitics 

Prof Sidaway attained his PhD in Geography from Royal Holloway, University of London in 1992. He has been a professor of political geography at the NUS FASS Department of Geography since 2012. He was previously professor of political and cultural geography at the University of Amsterdam and prior to that, a professor of human geography at Plymouth University, UK. In between, he served in roles including that of associate professor with the NUS geography department from 2001 to 2005. 

Much of Prof Sidaway’s research focuses on the relations of states, cities and geopolitics. He has explored their interactions through fieldwork in Southern Africa, Western Europe, parts of Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. He is also interested in historical geography as well as current economic and political geographies of development and the history of geographic thought. A highly-cited political geographer and prolific academic, he also previously served as an associate editor of the journal Political Geography and is currently co-editor of the Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography

Prof Sidaway’s latest book which he co-authored – Transecting Securityscapes: Dispatches from Cambodia, Iraq, and Mozambique (2021) – focuses on the everyday life of security told via an examination of the three aforementioned places. Emphasising the need for ethnographic, embodied, affective, and place-based approaches to conflict, it draws on a broad range of traditions, including political geography, urban studies, and international relations research on geopolitics. 

Click here to read the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) article on the 2022 medals and awards. 

Click here for a podcast and more information on Transecting Securityscapes: Dispatches from Cambodia, Iraq, and Mozambique