My research focuses on economic geography, political economy, and cultural theory. Specific projects focus on the intersection of combined and uneven regional development, social and cultural theories of space and power, and regions under-going large-scale political economic transformation. My engagements with spatial politics, regional development, and globalization are strongly inflected by hermeneutic and post-structural critiques of onto-theology and metaphysics, Althusserian re-reading of capital and political economy, Foucauldian geneaology, and contemporary cultural studies. These include:

Social spaces, critical mapping, and the technics of everyday life

Apartheid and post-apartheid regional political economies
The political economy of post-socialist transformations
Trade liberalization and the geographies of the global apparel industry
Development studies, alternative economies and autonomous politics

Post-socialist spaces
Borders, migration and European Neighbourhood and Euro-Med policies
City spaces and grand design


The spatial turn in contemporary social thought has had enormous impacts on the ways in which we see and act in the world. My first book, subtitled Spatiality and the Human Sciences focused on the ways in which the spatial turn was figured in the philosophies of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. In it, I sought to write an anti-humanist but hermeneutic phenomenology of spatiality. I followed this up with a review and critique of humanism and its too ready acceptance of binaries and dualities of modernist thought and action, and with a collaboration with colleagues on commonplaces and the ‘nature’ of place drawing on the works of both Giambattista Vico and Michel Foucault..
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John Pickles. 2007. Deconstructing Hegemonies and the Ethics and Politics of Theory.
Discussion forum on Matthew Sparke’s In the Space of Theory.  Edited by Jo Sharp.
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.

John Pickles.  2007. Radical Thought-In-Action: Gunnar Olsson’s Critique of
Cartographic Reason.  Geografiska Annaler 89 B (4): pp. 394-7.

John Pickles. 2002. World-as-picture: Geography in a Global Era. Problemi na
(Problems of Geography). 1(4): pp. 109-23.

John Pickles. 1999. Social and Cultural Geographies and the Spatial Turn in Social
Theory: a review essay.  Journal of Historical Geography, 25(1), pp. 93-98.

John Pickles. 1992. Texts, Hermeneutics, and Propaganda Maps.  In Writing
Worlds: Discourse, Text, and Metaphor in the Representation of Landscape
Edited by T.J. Barnes and J.S. Duncan. Routledge: London and New York,

John Pickles and Michael Watts. 1992.  Paradigms for Inquiry?  Criticism and
Explanation in Contemporary Human Geography.  In Geographies Inner Worlds.
Pervasive Themes in Contemporary American Geography
.  Edited by R.A. Abler,
M. Marcus, and J. Olson.  Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, New Jersey,
pp. 301-326.

John Pickles. 1988. From Fact-World to Life-World: The Phenomenological
Method in Social Sciences.  In Qualitative Methods in Geography.
Edited by J. Eyles and D.M. Smith.  London: Polity Press, pp. 233-254.

John Pickles. 1988. Knowledge, Theory, and Practice: The Role of Practical
Reason in Geographical Theory.  In A Ground for Common Search.
Edited by R. Golledge, H. Couclelis, and P. Gould.  Santa Barbara: Goleta Press,
pp. 72-90.

Social spaces, critical mapping, and the technics of everyday life
In referring to the work of Foucault as the ‘new cartographer’, Gilles Deleuze pointed to a mode of investigation and writing that sought, not to trace out representations of the real, but to construct mappings that re-figure relations in ways that render alternative worlds. In this project, we begin with this understanding of new cartographies/new mappings, and then turn to the ways in which these new mappings are emerging within social movement, activist, and artist projects to rethink economic practices and institutions. In forging this research group, we are interested in understanding how this particular genealogy of a new cartography is being and can be mobilized to render new images (and practices) of economies, how it is being deployed in community and alternative economic projects, and how it is being used to understand the institutions and networks of economic organizations such as corporations and the university.

In the early 2000s, working with the University Program in Cultural Studies and the Cultures of Economies Research Program several graduate students and I created the counter-cartographies-collective to develop critical interventions in mapping theory and practice, work with community groups on mapping projects, and to experiment with the possibilities of mapping as a social practice. This group continues independently and virtually at:

My own work has come to focus more directly on science and technology studies and the ways in which mapping practices shape socio-spatial life. This was the focus of my book on the social history and geography of mapping: A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mapping, and the Geo-Coded World(Routledge 2004) and has morphed into projects on borders and spatial imaginaries.  Earlier work in this vein can be found in my Ground Truth: The Social Implications of Geographical Information Systems (Guilford, 1995); Commonplaces, Humanism, and Geography edited with David Black and Don Kunze (University Press of America, 1989); Geography and Humanism (CATMOG, 1987); and Phenomenology, Science, and Geography: Space and the Human Sciences (Cambridge University Press, 1985).

John Pickles. 2006. On the Social Lives of Maps and the Politics of Diagrams: A
story of power, alchemy, seduction, and disappearance. Area 37 (4): pp. 355-364.

John Pickles. 2006. Ground Truth 1995-2005. Transactions in GIS 10(5): 763-772.

John Pickles. 2005. ‘New cartographies’ and the decolonisation of European
geographies. Area. Vol. 37(4), December: pp. 355-364.

John Pickles. 1999. Cartography, Digital Transitions, and Questions of History.
Proceedings of the International Cartographic Association World Congress.  Ottawa,

John Pickles. 1997. Tool or Science?  GIS, Technoscience and the Theoretical Turn.
Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 87(2), June 1997, pp. 363-372.

John Pickles. 1993. Discourse on Method and the History of Discipline:  Reflections on
Jerome Dobson’s 1983 “Automated Geography.”  The Professional Geographer.  45(4),
November, pp. 451-455.

John Pickles and Didi Mikhova. 1994. GIS in Bulgaria:  Development and Perspectives.
International Journal of Geographical Information Systems.  8(5), May, pp. 471-477.

John Pickles and Didi Mikhova. 1994. Environmental Data and Social Change in
Bulgaria: Problems and Prospects.  The Professional Geographer.  46(2), pp. 229-236.

John Pickles. 1991. Geography, G.I.S., and the Surveillant Society.  Papers and
Proceedings of the Applied Geography Conferences
, 14, pp. 80-91.


My research focuses on geographies of globalization, political economy, development, justice, and social action.  From the 1970s to the 1990s this research focused on the political economy and economic geographies of apartheid and anti-apartheid South Africa.  Since the 1980s, my focus has shifted to Europe and the study of post-socialist regional economic change.  I am currently working on projects dealing with the geographies of post-MFA apparel trade; trans-national production networks, and the industrial geographies of post-socialism in Eastern Europe, China, and Vietnam; European Neighborhood Policy and geographies of migration and economic integration in the Euro-med region; and social movements and the practices and politics of diverse economies and autonomous development.

Apartheid and post-apartheid regional political economies
During the 1980s and early 1990s, my research focused on the geographies of apartheid and anti-apartheid struggles with a National Science Foundation funded project on ‘Regional Restructuring and Peripheral Development: The Spatial Constraints on the Reform of Apartheid in South Africa.’  The project focused on the emerging spaces of regulation and control in and around new industrial export zones in the then so-called ‘homelands’.

John Pickles and Jeff Woods. 1992.  South Africa’s Homelands in the Age of
Reform: The Case of QwaQwa.  Annals of the Association of American
. 82(3), pp. 629-652.

John Pickles. 1992. Writing Futures, Re-Writing Pasts: Urbanization in
Post-Apartheid South Africa.  A Review Essay.  Environment and Planning A.
(24), pp. 417-440.

John Pickles. 1991. Industrial Restructuring, Peripheral Industrialization, and Rural
Development in South Africa.  Antipode. 23(1), January, pp. 68-91.  [Abstract
published in Sociological Abstracts, 1991].

John Pickles and Daniel Weiner. 1991.  Rural and Regional Restructuring of
Apartheid: Ideology, Development Policy and the Competition for Space.  Antipode.
23(1), January, pp.2-32.  [Abstract published in Sociological Abstracts, 1991].

John Pickles. 1991. Rural and Regional Restructuring in South Africa. Special
Issue of the Journal Antipode.  Edited by J. Pickles and D. Weiner. 23(1).

John Pickles and Jeff Woods. 1990.  Undermining Disinvestment: From a Marginal
Propensity to Invest to a propensity to Invest in the Margins.  Africa Today. 37(2),

John Pickles and Jeff Woods. 1989.  Taiwanese Investment in South Africa.
African Affairs. October, pp. 507-528.

John Pickles. 1988. Recent Changes in Regional Policy in South Africa.
Geography. 73(3), pp. 233-239.

John Pickles and Jeff Woods. 1988.  Reorienting South Africa’s International
Links.  Capital and Class. 35, Summer, pp. 49-55.

John Pickles. 1987. The Numbers Game: Legitimizing Apartheid.  Review of
African Political Economy
. 38, April, pp. 102-103.

The political economy of post-socialist transformations
pssMy work on post-socialist economic transformations in Central and Eastern Europe began with an National Science Foundation exchange of scholars from Hungary, Bulgaria, and Russia and deepened when I experienced at first hand the expulsion of ethnic Turks from Bulgaria in 1989.  The led to research on violence and ethnic minority populations and regions, regional economic change, and — most recently — with the integration of East European apparel producers into global and regional circuits of trade and investment.  I have recently published two edited volumes on post-socialist transformations:  Globalization and Regionalization in Post-socialist Economies: the Common Economic Spaces of Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and State and Society in Post-Socialist and Post-Soviet Economies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).  These build on earlier work I published in Environmental Transitions: Transformation and Ecological Defense in Central and Eastern Europe, with Petr Pavlinek (Routledge, 2000), Theorizing Transition: The Political Economy of Post-Communist Transformations edited with Adrian Smith (Routledge, 1998), and Bulgaria in Transition: The Environmental Consequences of Political and Economic Transformation edited with Krassimira Paskaleva, Boian Koulov, and Phil Shapira (Ashgate, 1998).

Trade liberalization and the geographies of the global apparel industry
The Global Apparel Project comprises four specific research efforts.  Two have been supported by the National Science Foundation. One recently completed project, focused on the resurgence of apparel production and the development of new geographies of out-sourcing, subcontracting, and trade throughout Central and Eastern Europe [Global Apparel/Clothing Europe].  This was a collaborative project with Robert Begg (Indiana University of PA), Adrian Smith (University of Southampton), Milan Bucek (Bratislava University), and Poli Roukova (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences).  The second has been funded by NSF and deals with the changing geographies of post-MFA apparel trade and production.  It was a collaborative project with Meenu Tewari (UNC), Gary Gereffi (Duke University), and Adrian Smith (Queen Mary College, University of London). Global Apparel Project . A third project is studying the changing geographies, production networks, and supply chains of major global retailers.  A fourth project —‘Capturing the Gains’ has focused on economic and industrial governance and their effects on economic and social upgrading.  It was a collaborative project with colleagues from the Brooks Poverty Center at the University ot Manchester, the Center for Globalization, Governance, and Competitiveness at Duke University, the New School, the ILO, the Indian Institute for Human Development, and a network of researchers in Europe, China, South America, South Africa, and India.


Shengjun Zhu and John Pickles. 2016. ‘Institutional embeddedness and regional
adaptability and rigidity in a Chinese apparel cluster.’ Under review Geografiska Annaler:
Series B, Human Geography
. June 2016, 98(2): 127-143.

Stephanie Barrientos, Gary Gereffi, and John Pickles (co-authors). New
dynamics of upgrading in global value chains: Shifting terrain for suppliers and workers
in the global south. Environment and Planning A Vol. 48(7) 1214–1219.

John Pickles, Stephanie Ware Barrientos, and Peter Knorringa. New end markets,
supermarket expansion and shifting social standards. Environment and Planning A
Vol. 48(7): 1284-1301.

John Pickles. ‘Global Value Chains, Changing Divisions of Labour, and the Regulation of Work in EU28 and Euro-Med.’ In A Global Perspective on the European Economic Crisis, edited by Bruno Dallago, John McGowan and Gert Guri. London: Routledge, May 2016.

John Pickles, Leonhard Plank, Cornelia Staritz, and Amy Glasmeier. ‘Trade Policy and
Regionalisms in Global Clothing Production Networks’. Cambridge Journal of Regions,
Economy and Society.
8(3): 381-402.

Shenjun Zhu and John Pickles. 2015. ‘Turkishization of a Chinese apparel firm: fast
fashion, regionalization and the shift from global supplier to new end markets.’
Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society. 8(3): 537-554.

Tu Lan, John Pickles, and Shengjun Zhu. 2015. ‘State Regulation, Economic Reform and
Worker Rights: The Contingent Effects of China’s Labour Contract Law’. Journal of
Contemporary Asia
, 45(2): 266-293.

Tu Lan, John Pickles, and Shengjun Zhu. 2014. ‘China’s New Labour Contract Law:
State regulation and worker rights in global production networks’. Journal of
Contemporary Asia
, in press.

Shengjun Zhu and John Pickles. 2014.  ‘Bring-In, Go Up, Go West, Go Out: Upgrading,
Regionalisation, and Delocalisation in China’s Apparel Production Networks. Journal of
Contemporary Asia
. 44(1), February, pp. 36-63.

Stephanie Barrientos, Frederick Mayer, John Pickles, and Anne Posthuma. 2011. Labour
standards in global production networks: Framing the policy Debate. International Labour
, Vol. 150, December, No. 3–4, pp. 299-318.

–Also in the French edition: Stephanie Barrientos, Frederick Mayer, John Pickles, and
Anne Posthuma. 2011. Travail décent et réseaux de production mondiaux: construire le
débat politique. Revue internationale du Travail, Vol. 130  décembre, no. 3-4, pp.325-346.

–Also in the Spanish edition: Stephanie Barrientos, Frederick Mayer, John Pickles, and
Anne Posthuma. 2011. Trabajo decente en las redes productivas mundiales. Marco del
debate programático.  Revista Internacional del Trabajo. Vol. 130, Diciembre, num 3-4,
pp. 325-346.

Development studies, alternative economies, and autonomous politics
Originally framed through the Cultures-of Economies Research Group in the University Program in Cultural Studies and collaborative teaching with Larry Grossberg and Arturo Escobar, research and publications have focused on post-autistic economics and autonomous politics and economics and, more recently, on relational approaches to regional development. This has led to a collaboration with Federico Luisetti (UNC Romance Languages) and colleagues at the University of Amsterdam.  The first conference Post/autonomia was held in Amsterdam May 19-21, 2011.  The second, The Anomie of the Earth was held on the campus of UNC, May 4-6, 2012.  An edited volume from the second conference was published by Duke University Press in 2015.
John Pickles. 2006. Collectivism, Universalism, and Struggles Over Common Property
Resources in the ‘New’ Europe. Social Analysis. 50(3), Winter, pp. 178-186.

John Pickles. 2001. Book review essay: Development ‘Deferred’: Poststructuralism,
Postdevelopment, and the Defense of Critical Modernism. Economic Geography
October 77(4): 383-88.


Post-socialist spaces
Since the upheavals of 1989, I have been carrying out research on the economic geographies of socialist and post-socialist spaces in Europe, specifically in Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Hungary. These research projects have been collaborative with colleagues at the Bulgarian Academic of Sciences, Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia Department of Geography, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Economics University of Bratislava, Charles University of Prague, and Peking University Department of Geography. In them we are interested in the ways in which geographically embedded social, economic, and institutional policies and practices shape what we have called ‘actually existing post-socialism’ and how these have been transformed and have in turn affected the patterns of global change of which they are a part. Most recently, this project has focused on EU enlargement and integration process around the clothing industry and export processing in Bulgaria and Slovakia, and the changing regional geographies of clothing manufacture in China.
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Martin Mueller and John Pickles. 2015. ‘Global games, local rules: Mega-events in the
post-socialist world.’ European Urban and Regional Studies. 22(2), April: 121-127.

Adrian Smith, John Pickles, Milan Buček, Rudolf Pástor and Bob Begg. 2014. ‘The
political economy of global production networks: regional industrial change and
differential upgrading in the East European clothing industry.’ Journal of Economic
14(6) November: 1023-1052.

John Pickles and Adrian Smith. 2011.  ‘De-localisation and Persistence in the
European Clothing Industry: the Reconfiguration of Production Networks.’ Regional
45:2, 167-185.

John Pickles. 2010. ‘The spirit of post-socialism: common spaces and the
production of diversity.’ European Urban and Regional Studies Vol.17: 127-40.

Adrian Smith, John Pickles, Milan Bucek, Robert Begg, and Poli Roukova.  2008.
Reconfiguring ‘post-socialist’ regions: cross-border networks and regional
competition in the Slovak and Ukrainian clothing industry.  Global Networks 8(3):
pp. 281-301.

John Pickles. 2006. Trade Liberalization, Upgrading. and Regionalization in the
Global Apparel Industry. Environment and Planning A. December.  38(12): pp.

John Pickles, Adrian Smith, Poli Roukova, Robert Begg, and Milan Bucek. 2006.
Upgrading and diversification in the East European industry: Competitive pressure
and production networks in the clothing industry. Environment and Planning A.
38(12): pp. 2305-2324

Robert Begg, Poli Roukova, John Pickles, and Adrian Smith.  2005.  Industrial Districts
and Commodity Chains: The Garage Firms of Emilia-Romagna (Italy) and Haskovo
(Bulgaria).  Problemi na Geografiyata.  1-2: pp. 153-165. (Released 2006)

Adrian Smith, John Pickles, Robert Begg, Poli Roukova, and Milan Buček. 2005.
‘Outward Processing, EU Enlargement and Regional Relocation in the European Textiles
and Clothing Industry: Reflections on the European Commission’s Communication on
‘The Future of the Textiles and Clothing Sector in the Enlarged European Union’.
European Urban and Regional Studies, January, 12(1): pp. 83-91.

Petr Pavlinek and John Pickles. 2004.. ‘Environmental Pasts/Environmental Futures in
Post-Socialist Europe’, Environmental Politics 13/1 (Spring 2004), pp. 237-265.

Robert Begg, John Pickles, and Adrian Smith). 2003. Cutting it: European integration,
trade regimes and the reconfiguration of East-Central European apparel production.
Environment and Planning A.Vol. 35, pp. 2191-2207.

Adrian Smith, Robert Begg, Milan Bucek, and John Pickles. 2003. Global trade,
European integration and the restructuring of Slovak apparel exports. Ekonomicky
(Slovak Journal of Economics).  51(6), pp. 731-748.

John Pickles. 2002. ‘Gulag Europe? Mass Unemployment, New Firm Creation, and Tight
Labor Markets in the Bulgarian Apparel Industry.’ In A. Smith, A. Swain, and A. Rainnie
(eds), Work, Unemployment, and Economies.  Routledge, [Also published in
abbreviated form as ‘Borderland Europe. Mass Unemployment, New Firm Creation, and
Tight Labor Markets in the Bulgarian Apparel Industry.’ Problemi na Geografi, Spring

Christian Sellar and John Pickles. 2002. Where Will Europe End? Ukraine and the
Limits of European Integration. Eurasian Geography and Economics. 43(2):
pp. 123-142.

Petr Pavlinek and John Pickles. 2000. Environmental Quality in Central and
Eastern Europe under State Socialism.  Kosmas.  Vol. 13, No. 2, Spring 2000.

John Pickles. 2000. Cartography, Digital Transitions, and Questions of History.
Cartographic Perspectives. 37 (Fall): pp. 4-18.

John Pickles and Robert Begg. 2000. ‘Ethnicity, State Violence, and Neo-Liberal
Transitions in Post-Communist Bulgaria.’  Special Issue of Growth and Change:
Ethnicity, Violence, and Regional Change. 31(2), Spring, pp. 179-210.

John Pickles. 2000. Ethnicity, Violence, and Regional Change: an introduction.
Special Issue of Growth and Change.

Robert Begg,John Pickles, and Poli Roukova. 2000. A New Participant in the
Global Apparel Industry: The Case of Southern Bulgaria. Problemi na Geografiata,
Volume #3/4, 1999/2000, Sofia: pp. 121-152

John Pickles. 1996. Restructuring State Enterprises: Industrial Geography and
Eastern European Transitions.  Geographische Zeitschrift.  Number 2, pp.114-131.

Borders, migration, and European Neighborhood and Euro-Med policies
Beginning with Derrida’s claim for a ‘democracy-to-come’ and Balibar’s call for ‘open citizenship’, this project studies the changing borders of Europe and struggles over boundaries and their associated rights and freedoms within Schengen and other Euro-spaces.  The main foci of this research are variously East European post-accession economies, the spatial ethics of post-colonial responsibility, and Euro-Med and European Neighborhood Programs.  In conjunction with Sebastian Cobarrubias and Maribel Casas Cortes, and funded by the National Science Foundation, most of our publications have focused on non-accession integration processes and the changing exercise of sovereignty in the Euro-Med region, and on the role of new visual imaginaries and mapping practices in shaping our understanding of these processes.

Maribel Casas Cortes, Sebastian Cobarrubias, and John Pickles. 2016. ‘”Good
Neighbours Make Good Fences”: Operation Seahorse and the Implementation of the EU
Strategy of Migration Routes Management in North and West Africa’.  European Urban
and Regional Studies
. Vol. 23(3): 231-251.

Maribel Casas Cortes, Sebastian Cobarrubias, and John Pickles. 2015. ‘Riding Routes
and Itinerant Borders: Autonomy of Migration and Border Externalization.’ Antipode
Vol.47(4)m September: 894-914.

Maribel Casas Cortes, Sebastian Cobarrubias, and John Pickles. 2015.  ‘Externalization of
border control policies of the European Union. REMHU: Revista Interdisciplinar da
Mobilidade Humana
(Brasilia, Brazil), Special Issue on Migrações e fronteiras. XXIII(44),
January/June: 47-60.

Maribel Casas-Cortes, Sebastian Cobarrubias, Nicholas De Genova, Glenda Garelli, Giorgio Grappi, Charles Heller, Sabine Hess, Bernd Kasparek, Sandro Mezzadra, Brett Neilson, Irene Peano, Lorenzo Pezzani, John Pickles, Federico Rahola, Lisa Riedner, Stephan Scheel & Martina Tazzioli. 2015. ‘New Keywords: Borders and Migration’. Cultural Studies. 29(1): 55-87.

Maribel Casas Cortes, Sebastian Cobarrubias, and John Pickles.  2013. Re-Bordering
the Neighbourhood: Europe’s Emerging Geographies of Non-Accession Integration.
Journal of European Urban and Regional Studies. Vol. 20(1) January: 37-58.
–awarded the 2013/14 Jim Lewis Prize for the Best Paper in EURS.

Maribel Casas Cortes, Sebastian Cobarrubias, and John Pickles. 2011. Stretching
Borders Beyond Sovereign Territories? Mapping EU and Spain’s Border Externalization
Policies. Geopolitica(s). Revista de estudios sobre espacio y poder. 2(1), pp. 71-90.

Maribel Casas Cortes, Sebastian Cobburrubias, and John Pickles. ‘An interview with
Sandro Mezzadra,’ Environment and Planning D:  Society and Space, 29(4) August
2011, pp.584-598.

Dennis Arnold and John Pickles. 2011.  ‘Global work, surplus labor, and the precarious
economies of the border’ Antipode. 43(5), pp. 1598–1624.

City spaces and grand design
The European city has emerged as the focal point of financial and social restructuring in recent decades. From mega-projects to heritage tourism to grand design, new social formations and capital interests have begun to reshape the discourse and practices of urban life, especially in conditions of changing regional and local labor markets, themselves heavily articulated with global migration flows and shifting border logics. My current research focus is on Paris and the histories of grand design in the ‘capital of modernity’.

Martin Mueller and John Pickles. 2015. ‘Global games, local rules: Mega-events in the
post-socialist world.’ European Urban and Regional Studies. 22(2), April: 121-127.