Professor Katherine Brickell

Personal profile


Home SOS: Gender, Violence and Survival in Crisis Ordinary Cambodia (Wiley 2020)

The Handbook of Displacement (Palgrave 2020)



Katherine Brickell is Professor of Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL), UK. At RHUL she is Director of the Geopolitics, Development, Security and Justice Research Group. She is also editor of the journal Gender, Place and Culture and is former Chair of the RGS-IBG Gender and Feminist Geographies Research Group. Her feminist-oriented research cross-cuts social, political, development, and legal geography, with a long standing focus on the domestic sphere as a precarious space of contemporary everyday life. Katherine’s work forwards scholarship on critical geographies of home and gendered experiences of violence explored through in-depth qualitative interviews and visual methods, and conceptual thinking on intimate war and slow violence, law and lawfare, and rights to dwell. Her research and writing aims to reaffirm and reprioritise the home as a political entity which is foundational to the concerns of human geography. Katherine’s new monograph Home SOS: Gender, Violence and Survival in Crisis Ordinary Cambodia brings domestic violence and forced eviction into twin view to pursue this, and was published in July 2020 by the Wiley RGS-IBG Book Series.

While Katherine has over 15 years of research experience in Cambodia, since 2017 she has undertaken newer collaborative work in the UK and Ireland (with Mel Nowicki and Ella Harris) to understand residents’ experiences of living in modular housing newly-built by local authorities turning to prefabrication as a (contested) means of addressing housing shortages for homeless families in London and Dublin. She has co-written two reports on this research, Temporary Homes, Permanent Progress? Resident Experiences of PLACE/Ladywell (2019) and Home at Last? Life in Dublin’s Rapid Build Housing (2018). 

Katherine has published multiple co-edited collections which speak to her connected interests in home (un)making, displacement, and (im)mobilities. These include Translocal Geographies (2011 with Ayona Datta), Geographies of Forced Eviction (2017 with Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia and Alex Vasudevan), The Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia (2017 with Simon Springer), and The Handbook of Displacement (2020 with her departmental colleagues). She has (co)-written over 40 journal articles in geography (e.g. Transactions of the Institute of British GeographersProgress in Human GeographyAntipode, and Annals of the American Association of Geographers), international development (The Journal of Development StudiesProgress in Development Studies), women’s studies (Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society), and anthropology (Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology).

In recognition of research excellence, Katherine was conferred the Gill Memorial Award by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG) in 2014 and the Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2016. During her Philip Leverhulme Prize, she developed new thinking on feminist legal geographies (with Dana Cuomo), key outputs being a Progress in Human Geography (2019) paper and special issue of Environment and Planning A (2019) on this theme.


Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Projects

Katherine is currently Principal Investigator of two Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) studies.

The first (2019-2022) in Cambodia and India (Tamil Nadu) is taking a gendered lens to explore the relationship between climate resilience, credit-taking, and nutrition. Small-scale credit is exalted in mainstream development thinking as a key means of supporting women and their families in dealing with daily, ongoing, and often slow-onset climate disasters. Facing growing crises of agricultural productivity from droughts and floods, and taking primary responsibility for the nutritional wellbeing of their households, women are targeted as credit borrowers globally. Credit provisioning therefore speaks to the push for 'resilience' against climate disasters that is central to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, 'Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts', and which has serious implications for SDG 5 'Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls' that prioritises the valuing and recognition of women's unpaid care and domestic work. The project probes at the issue of how to ensure that 'climate resilience' does not come at the cost of women's emotional and bodily depletion through processes of household nutrition provisioning. Katherine is coordinating an interdisciplinary team across geography, development studies, anthropology, economics, nutrition, and art to engage in this endeavour.

The second study, ReFashion (2020-2022) is focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic  on the global garment industry. It is of huge importance not only to Cambodia’s economy, but also to its 1 million workers, 80% of whom are women. Many garment factories are interrupting production with the effect that 1/4 of workers have been dismissed or temporarily suspended. Formal social protection in the sector, though improving due to multi-stakeholder efforts, is weak and fragile. Mixed-method longitudinal research will track and amplify the experiences and coping mechanisms of 200 women workers as they navigate the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project's interdisciplinary team from human geography, political economy, and organisation studies will generate new knowledge on underlying and differentiating determinants of risk and resilience arising from formal and informal social protections. The study focuses its policy attention on learning to ‘Build Back Better’ social protection to prevent and mitigate longer-term impacts of the pandemic and future risk events. The research centres women's representation in planning and decision-making as critical to 'stitching back better' just and resilient garment supply chains to make progress towards gender equality (SDG5), inclusive economic growth and decent work (SDG8).


Further information

Katherine completed her ESRC-funded PhD at the London School of Economics in 2007 entitled ‘Gender Relations in the Khmer Home: Post-Conflict Perspectives’ under the supervision of Professor Sylvia Chant. She then moved to RHUL as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in 2008 with the mentoring support of Professor Katie Willis. During this time she undertook more focused research on marriage and its breakdown in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and new fieldwork on household gender relations in Huế, central Vietnam and Luang Prabang, Laos. Since, Katherine has led two research projects in Cambodia funded by the ESRC-DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research, the first on domestic violence law (2012-2015) and the second (2016-2019) on the negative impacts of climate change in compelling the out-migration of rural families to live and work in brick kilns (see here for the "Blood Bricks" project). As a result of the former, Katherine has acted as an expert witness, and initiated a working group (with Alex Jeffrey and Fiona McConnell) examining geographers’ practising of law (in different guises). This has taken the form of a RGS-IBG supported survey and follow-up interviews with geographers. A special issue of Area on 'Practising Legal Geography' will be published in 2021.


Postdoctoral fellowship mentoring

2021: Vincent Guermond (Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship) 'Remittances in the Covid-19 era: Work, social reproduction and digitalisation'.

2019: Jordana Ramalho (ESRC SeNSS Postdoctoral Fellowship) ‘Unequal geographies of risk in the city: “Everyday” embodiments and strategies of resistance in Metro Cebu, the Philippines’.

2018: Laurie Parsons (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship) ‘Climate mobilities: Linking climate vulnerability and cultural change in translocal Cambodia’.

2017: Sabina Lawreniuk (Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship) ‘Moral geographies of work and activism in Cambodian garment supply chains’.

2016: Janet Bowstead (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship) ‘Women on the move: The journeyscapes of domestic violence’.

Doctoral supervision

2021 ongoing: Jasmine Joanes (ESRC-funded) 'Seeing red: Alter-geopolitics of menstrual management and activism in the United Kingdom'.

2021 ongoing: Evie Gilbert (RHUL-funded) 'Speculative futures of work for Cambodia's female garment workers: Educational inequalities and women's economic empowerment in industry 4.0'.

 2018 ongoing: Valentine Gavard (RHUL-funded) ‘Elusive victims? Anti-trafficking and the politics of (in)visibility in Vietnam and the UK’.

2018 ongoing: Alice Reynolds (ESRC-funded collaborative award with Dublin City Council) ‘The Commodification, Marketisation and Neoliberalisation of Student Housing: A Case Study of Purpose Built Accommodation amidst Dublin’s Housing Crisis’.

2018 ongoing: Laura Shipp (EPSRC-funded as part of the RHUL doctoral training centre in Cyber Security). ‘Menstruapps: Analysing Security and Privacy Issues within Menstrual Cycle and Fertility Tracking Apps’. With Dr Jorge Blasco (Information Security Group).

2017 ongoing: Will Jamieson (AHRC-funded) ‘Granular Geographies of Endless Growth: Cambodian Sand, Singaporean Territory, and the Fictions of Sovereignty’. With Prof Phil Crang (Dept of Geography).

2014-2019: Naomi Graham (ESRC-funded) ‘Sheltering from Violence: Women’s Experiences of Safe Houses in Cambodia’.

2013-2017: Melanie Nowicki (RHUL Crossland Award) ‘Bringing Home the Housing Crisis: Domicide and Precarity in Inner London during the Coalition Era (2010-2015)’.

2012-2016: Mary Cobbett (ESRC collaborative award with World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts)‘Empowering Girls to Claim Rights? Non-Formal Education and the “Stop the Violence” Campaign in Kenya’.

2011-2016: Laura Prazeres (SSHRC, Canada) ‘Learning Beyond Borders: International Student Mobility to the Global South’.

2011-2016: Tianfeng Liu (self-funded) ‘Transnational Academic Mobility: The Experience of Chinese and British Academic Migrants in a Sino-UK Joint Venture University’. With Prof Katie Willis (Dept of Geography).



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