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Cambridge Global Food Security

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge


I grew up in a rural setting in County Clare, on the west coast of Ireland, not far from the estuary of the River Shannon. I studied at University College Cork and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada before moving to Cambridge to take up a lectureship in Geography. I am a Fellow and Director of Studies in Geography at Jesus College and a co-convenor of the Department of Geography’s Vital Geographies Research Group.


For example, my interest in colonial authority and the state's response to large-scale subsistence crises comes together in a series of publications (see below) on Ireland's Great Famine, culminating in a book, Human Encumbrances, published with the University of Notre Dame Press. I am still interested in this line of research and especially in tracing what David Arnold calls the 'comparative phenomenology' of crises. What might the relational study of (seemingly) discrete disasters tell us about the exercise of power, and just as importantly, the praxis of resistance?

My interest in the political economy of agrarian change has drawn me to study a range of contemporary problems too, including practices of global land grabbing, the 'biopolitical' dimensions of food provisioning, and the technification of agrarian systems. More recently I have been exploring the emergence of American philanthropy as a moral and political force shaping global relations, particularly in the fields of population control and food production. Part of this study involves tracing what Raj Patel helpfully terms the 'long' Green Revolution – a prompt which reminds us that the frames of reference for the present are always shaped, though never fully determined, by happenings in the past.

Finally, I maintain an active interest in social theory and the history of political thought - including the history and philosophy of geography as a field of intellectual enquiry. To that end, I have recently co-authored a textbook Key Concepts in Historical Geography (Sage Publications 2014).

In the department I teach (and co-teach) papers on historical and contemporary human geography, research methods, in addition to offering a more specialised final year paper on the historical geography of global hunger. Further details on some of my research interests can be gleaned from the projects tab on the sidebar to this page.

I would be happy to hear from graduate and post-doctoral students with an interest in studying any of the topics here mentioned. I would also consider exciting projects outside my immediate areas of interest, but obviously a very strong case for collaboration will need to be made.




University Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography
Fellow of Fitzwilliam College
Dr David  Nally

Contact Details

Not available for consultancy


Collaborator profiles: 
Departments and institutes: 
Person keywords: 
politics of disaster relief
political, economic and cultural dimensions of colonisation
political economy of agrarian change
geopolitics of subsistence crises