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Exeter Human Geography Winter Lecture: Prof. John Allen (Open University) – Power that defies maps

A Geography seminar
Date14 December 2017
TimeEvent spans several days
PlaceBuilding:One Matrix Lecture Theatre

The Exeter Human Geography Winter Lecture, a Geography research event. All welcome.

The Exeter Human Geography Winter Lecture is an important event in the annual Geography seminar series. An internationally renouned scholar is invited to present their research in dialogue with the Exeter Geography research community. The 2017 Winter Lecture will be given by John Allen Professor of Economic Geography from The Open University, with the title "Power that defies maps", building from his most recent monograph Topologies of Power.

The Human Geography Winter Lecture is coordinated by Prof. Steve Hinchliffe and Simon Dickinson.


Water bills and topology are two things not usually found on the same page. Since the privatisation of household water in England and Wales in the late 1980s, many water companies have ended up in the hands of global investors whose interest is not water, but the captured revenue streams, the packaged water bills, that can be engineered ‘elsewhere’ for financial gain. That ‘elsewhere’ is the topological fiction of offshore finance, a distorted space, much like the two-side Mobius strip, that works through a relational, or in this case a jurisdictional, twist. The twist itself represents an innovative form of spatial manipulation, one that takes place in plain sight and is best understood as an act of dissimulation: the ability to present yourself as you actually are without revealing all there is to know. Dissimulation and spatial innovation, I hope to show through the example of Thames Water and its 14 million bill paying households, are the base practices through which a privatised utility and its customers have been ‘gamed’ financially.

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