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  • Associate Provost for Internationalization
  • Professor of Geography
  • Gender and Women's Studies
  • Geography
  • Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies
  • Social Theory
115 Bradley Hall, 803 Patterson Office Tower
(859) 257 4611, (859) 257-2399
Other Affiliations:
  • National Councillor
  • Association of American Geographers (AAG)

Sue Roberts

Research Interests:
Economic Geography
Political Geography
development studies

Ph.D. Geography, Maxwell School, Syracuse University, 1992.
M.A. Geography, Maxwell School, Syracuse University, 1986.
B.A. (hons.) Geography, University of Leicester (UK), 1982.


I am an economic and political geographer, but I seek to contribute to interdisciplinary scholarship as well. My research interests may be seen as lying within one or more of the following related set of clusters:

  • development and anti-development, development policy and geopolitics, practices of development institutions
  • global economic and political restructuring, global governance and geopolitics, neoliberalism, trade, inequality and the super-rich, international finance, offshore financial centers
  • geopolitics, U.S. hegemony, militarization, security
  • social theory and geography, gender, inequity, political economy

To put it simply: I am interested in how and why some places and people prosper while other places and people are rendered marginal. How and why is the development of capitalism so uneven across space and so often violent? My research, though it concerns quite diverse themes, is more or less driven by this overarching question.

Development, inasmuch as it is the dominant way of approaching such issues is thus of considerable interest.  How development works as an idea, and how the business of “doing” development works are intriguing to me.I have been looking at how foreign aid – specifically U.S. foreign assistance for development – is being restructured.  An article on the rise of the US development contracting industry appeared in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. A copy can be downloaded here:…

In seeking to better understand various aspects of the global economy, I have focused strategically on aspects that seem to indicate potential areas of weakness (or strength – depending on how you look at it I suppose). In early work on the geography of international finance, I examined the development of offshore financial centers, for example. The role of offshore finance is crucial in understanding how capital (multinational corporations, rich people) can slip and slide around the globe, avoiding tax liability and regulatory scrutiny, and wreaking havoc on the fiscal health of states. The impact of the world’s super-rich is disproportionate to their numbers, and the geographic strategies employed by the super-rich can include investments in signature landscapes, such as that surrounding Lexington, Kentucky, where I live and work. The thoroughbred breeding industry and its landscape have quite a bit to tell us about the geography of the super-rich, and thus about inequalities. I hope to write more about this global industry in the future, as part of my work on a collaborative project called "Caring for Thoroughbreds" with an Australian team led by Phil McManus (Geography, Sydney) and funded by the Australian Research Council.

In addition to global financial flows, I am also interested in trade flows. Issues related to the business of actually transporting the material goods that make up the presently highly asymmetrical geography trade have drawn my attention. Specifically, I have tried to think about this by starting with the artifact of the shipping container.  In order to provide an accessible introduction to the geography of the global economy and to economic geography, colleague Andy Wood and I wrote a textbook on economic geography that was published in 2010 by Routledge.

The relationship between economic restructuring (qua neoliberalism) and crises on the one hand, and the ever-changing and violent geopolitical realities of the contemporary world on the other, is complex. Together with colleagues Anna Secor, Jeremy Crampton, and others, I have written a few papers reflecting on various aspects of this. A recent example would be the paper with Jeremy and Ate Poorthuis on the “The New Political Economy of Geographical Intelligence,” which came out in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers (104, 1: 196-214. DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2013.843436).

My Google Scholar profile is here.

Selected Publications:


2014    Sage Handbook of Human Geography. Co-edited with Roger Lee, Noel Castree, Rob  Kitchin, Vicky Lawson, Anssi Paasi, Chris Philo, Sarah Radcliffe, and Charles           Withers. London: Sage. 

2010     Economic Geography: Places, Networks, and Flows. Co-authored with Andrew Wood . New York: Routledge.

1998          An Unruly World? Geography, Globalization and Governance.  Co-edited with Andrew Herod  and Gearóid ÓTuathail . New York: Routledge.          

1997          Thresholds in Feminist Geography. Co-edited with John Paul Jones III  and Heidi Nast. Lanham, MD.: Rowman and Littlefield.

 Articles & Chapters

2016      Susan M. Roberts, “Neoliberal Geopolitics,” in Kean Birch, Julie MacLeavy, and Simon Springer (Eds.) Handbook of Neoliberalism. New York: Routledge

2015       Susan M. Roberts, “Commentary on David Harvey’s Seventeen Contradictions,” Human Geography, 8, 2: 86-92.

2014        Susan M. Roberts, “Development Capital: USAID and the rise of development contractors,” Annals of the Association of America Geographers 104, 5: 1030–1051.  (DOI:10.1080/00045608.2014.924749)

2014         Susan M. Roberts, “Doctoral Programs in Geography in the United States,” for special issue of Geojournal on “Rethinking the Ph.D. in Geography” (Editors: Mark Boyle, Mary Gilmartin, and Ken Foote).  (DOI: 10.1007/s10708-014-9581-7) 

2014       Susan M. Roberts, “What do we want our words and our concepts to do?” Dialogues in Human Geography 4, 3: 331–334. (DOI: 10.1177/2043820614544605)     

2014         Susan M. Roberts, “Containers,” in Nigel Thrift, Adam Tickell, and Steve Woolgar (Eds.) Globalization in Practice. pp. 84-88. Oxford:  Oxford University Press. 

 2014       Jeremy W. Crampton, Susan M. Roberts, and Ate Poorthuis, “The New Political Economy of Geographical Intelligence,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104, 1: 196-214. (DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2013.843436)

2014       Carrie Mott and Susan M. Roberts, “Not Everyone Has (the) Balls: Urban Exploration and the Persistence of Masculinist Geography,” Antipode 46, 1: 229-245. (DOI: 10.1111/anti.12033)

2014       Susan M. Roberts, “Containers,” in Nigel Thrift, Adam Tickell, Steve Woolgar, and William H. Rupp (Eds.), Globalization in Practice, pp. 84-88. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2013       Susan M. Roberts, “Worlds Apart? Economic Geography and Questions of ‘Development’,” in Trevor Barnes, Jamie Peck, and Eric Sheppard (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography, pp. 552-566. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.

2013       Susan M. Roberts and Richard H. Schein, “The super-rich, horses, and the transformation of a rural landscape in Kentucky,” in Iain Hay (Ed.), Geographies of the Super-Rich, pp.137-154. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

2013       Susan M. Roberts and Andrew Wood, “Why write textbooks?” Book Views,  Regional Studies 47, 9: 1609-1611. (DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2013.843769)

2012       Susan M. Roberts, Anna Secor, and Matthew Zook, “Critical Infrastructure: Mapping the Leaky Plumbing of US Hegemony.” Antipode 44, 1: 5-9. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2011.00931.x)

2011       John Paul Jones III, Susan M. Roberts and Oliver Frohling, “Managerialism in Motion: Lessons from Oaxaca,” Journal of Latin American Studies 43: 633-662. (DOI:

2009       Susan M. Roberts, “Offshore Finance,” in Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Oxford: Elsevier. 

2008       Margath Walker, Susan M. Roberts, John Paul Jones III and Oliver Frohling,  “Neoliberal development through technical assistance:Constructing communities of          entrepreneurial subjects in Oaxaca, Mexico,” Geoforum 39: 524-557.   (DOI:10.1016/j.geoforum.2007.10.009)

2008       Susan M. Roberts, “Succeeding at Tenure and Beyond,” in Michael Solem (Ed.), Aspiring Academics, pp.52-63. New York: Prentice Hall.

2008       M. Duane Nellis and Susan M. Roberts, “Developing Collegial Relations in a Department and a Discipline,” in Michael Solem (Ed.), Aspiring Academics, pp. 32-41. New York: Prentice Hall. 

2007       Susan M. Roberts, Sarah Wright and Phillip O’Neill, “Good Governance in the Pacific? Ambivalence and Possibility,” Geoforum 38: 967-984.(DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2007.04.003)

2007       David Walker, John Paul Jones III, Susan M. Roberts and Oliver Frohling, “When Participation meets Empowerment: The WWF and the Politics of Invitation in the Chimalapas, Mexico,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97, 2: 423-444. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8306.2007.00546.x)

2007       Sarah Moore, Jamie Winders, Oliver Frohling, John Paul Jones III and Susan M. Roberts,  “Mapping the Grassroots:  NGO Formalization in Oaxaca, Mexico,” Journal of International   Development 19: 223-237. (DOI:10.1002/jid.1329)

2006       Susan M. Roberts, “Preoccupation with Occupation,” Review essay,  Geopolitics11, 4: 730-739. (DOI: 10.1080/14650040600891014)

2006       Susan M. Roberts, “The World Economy,” in Barney Warf (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Geography, pp. 541-544. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. 

2006       Susan M. Roberts, “Structural Adjustment,” in Barney Warf (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Geography, pp. 462-464.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

2005       Susan M. Roberts, John Paul Jones III, and Oliver Frohling, “NGOs and the Globalization of Managerialism,” World Development 33, 11: 1845-1864. (DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2005.07.004)

2004       Susan M. Roberts, “Gendered Globalization,” in Eleonore Kofman, Linda Peake and Lynn Staeheli (Eds.), Mapping Women, Making Politics:  Feminist Perspectives on Political Geography, pp.127-140.  New York: Routledge.

2003       Susan M. Roberts, Anna Secor and Matthew Sparke, “Neoliberal Geopolitics,” Antipode 35, 5: 886-897. (DOI: DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2003.00363.x)

2003       Susan M. Roberts, “Economic Landscapes,” in James Duncan, Nuala Johnson, and Richard Schein (Eds.), A Companion to Cultural Geography, pp. 331-346. Oxford: Blackwell.

2003       Susan M. Roberts, “Global Strategic Vision: Managing the World,” in Richard W. Perry and Bill Maurer (Eds.), Globalization under Construction: Governmentality, Law and Identity, pp. 1-38. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 

2001       Susan M. Roberts and Mary Curran, “Dilemmas of Difference: Teaching the ‘Non-West Critically,” International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 10, 2: 179-183. (DOI: 10.1080/10382040108667436)  

2000       Susan M. Roberts, “Realizing Critical Geographies of the University,” Antipode 32, 3:230-244. (DOI: 10.1111/1467-8330.00132)

1995          Susan M. Roberts, “Small Place, Big Money: The Cayman Islands and the International Financial System,” Economic Geography 71, 3: 237-256.   Reprinted in J. Bryson, N. Henry, D. Keeble, and R. Martin (Eds.) (1999) The Economic Geography Reader. New York: Wiley.

1993       Susan M. Roberts and Richard H. Schein. “The Entrepreneurial City: Fabricating Urban Development in Syracuse, N.Y.,” Professional Geographer 45, 1: 21-34.

1994       Susan M. Roberts and Richard H. Schein, “Earth Shattering: Global Imagery and GIS,” in J. Pickles (Ed.), Ground Truth: The Social Implications of Geographic Information Systems, pp.171-195. New York: Guilford. 

1991       Susan M. Roberts, “A Critical Evaluation of the City Lifecycle Idea,” Urban Geography (September-October) 12, 5: 431-49.