Nigel Thrift

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Nigel Thrift in 2011

Sir Nigel John Thrift, DL, FBA, FAcSS (born 12 October 1949 in Bath)[1][2] is a British academic and geographer. He is the current Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick and a leading academic in the field of human geography.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in 1949, and educated at Nailsea School, Thrift has held posts at numerous universities, including the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, the University of Wales, Lampeter, the University of Bristol, and the University of Oxford.

At Oxford, Thrift served as head of the Life and Environmental Sciences Division before becoming Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research. In 2003, he became a fellow of the British Academy,[3] and was awarded the Victoria Medal of the Royal Geographical Society.[4]

In 2005 he was appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick, taking up the position in July 2006. He was awarded the Scottish Geographical Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 2008.[5] He intends to retire at the end of the university’s 50th anniversary year in 2015.[6]

Thrift was knighted in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to higher education.[7][8]

Contribution to geography[edit]

Thrift has been described as one of the world's leading human geographers[9] and social scientists, and is credited with coining the phrase soft capitalism as well as originating non-representational theory. He has been awarded several prizes and commendations recognising his research, including the Scottish Geographical Medal in 2009, and was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2003. Thrift sits on a number of advisory committees for the UK government and was a member of the ESRC Research Priorities Board. In 1982 he co-founded the journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space[10] whilst serving as managing editor, since 1979, of Environment and Planning A.[11]

Thrift's early work was most readily associated with economic geography and the effects of capitalist mode of production on spatial relations, conceptions of time, and labour markets. Latterly, and controversially for early collaborators like Richard Peet, he moved towards poststructuralism with attention to subjectivity, representation, identity, and practice in Western societies. His work on time, language, power, representations, and the body has been influential, and it has been suggested that Thrift's career reflects and in some cases spurred substantial intellectual changes in human geography in the 1980s and 1990s.

Most recently he has written on what he terms non-representational theory, which stresses performative and embodied knowledges and is a radical attempt to wrench the social sciences and humanities out of an emphasis on representation and interpretation by moving away from contemplative models of thought and action to those based on practice. Thrift has claimed that non-representational theory addresses the "unprocessual" nature of much of social and cultural theory. Major themes within non-representational theory include subjectification, space as a verb, technologies of being, embodiment, and play and excess. Non-representational theory has provoked substantial debate within the field of human geography around the limits of the mediation of our world through language and how we might see, sense, and communicate beyond it.

Thrift has also edited and authored a number of textbooks, encyclopaedias, and primers in human geography.


In the financial year 2011–12, Thrift's salary rose by £50,000 to £288,000, a 21% increase over the previous year.[12] Some students claimed that the pay raise was unjustified in light of Warwick's performance in international university league tables. Their protests were rebuffed and in June 2013 when a pay rise of £42,000 (to £316,000) was announced, a small number of students again protested. The grounds were again that the raise went against university cutbacks to staff and student support/bursaries.[13] The most recent pay increase of £16,000, announced in December 2014, was again met with protests.[14]

On 3 December 2014 police used CS spray to tackle protests at the University of Warwick, after a security guard was allegedly assaulted[15] (two protestors, including a student were later prosecuted[16]). Thrift issued a written statement that denounced the alleged violence.[17] This was followed soon afterwards by a petition calling for Thrift's knighthood to be rescinded, with over 350 signatures.[18][19] The university's registrar Ken Sloan stated that Thrift has been "targeted personally and directly" by students, including being spat on and verbally assaulted near his home.[20]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Selected books[edit]

Thrift has written three monographs and co-authored more than twenty other books.[21]

  • Peet R & Thrift N (Eds.) (1989) New Models in Geography: The Political-Economy Perspective, Boston: Unwin-Hyman
  • Pile S & Thrift N (Eds.) (1995) Mapping the Subject: Geographies of Cultural Transformation, New York, NY: Routledge
  • Thrift N (1996) Spatial Formations, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
  • Corbridge S, Martin R & Thrift N(Eds.) (1997) Money, Power and Space, Oxford: Blackwell
  • Leyshon A & Thrift N (Eds.) (1997) Money/Space: Geographies of Monetary Transformation, London: Routledge
  • Miller D, Jackson P, Holbrook B, Thrift N and Rowlands, M (1998) Shopping, Place and Identity, London: Routledge
  • Pile S and Thrift N (Eds.) (2000)City A-Z: Urban Fragments. London: Routledge
  • Crang M and Thrift N (eds.) (2000) Thinking Space (Critical Geographies) London: Routledge
  • Amin A Massey D and Thrift N (2000) Cities for All the People Not the Few. Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Thrift N and May J (eds.) (2001) Timespace: Geographies of Temporality. London: Routledge.
  • Amin A and Thrift N (2002) Cities: Reimagining the Urban. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Amin A Massey D and Thrift N (2003) Decentring the Nation. A Radical Approach to the Regions. London: Catalyst.
  • Harrison S Pile S and Thrift N (eds.) (2004) Patterned Ground: Entanglements of Nature and Culture. London: Reaktion.
  • Thrift N (2005) Knowing Capitalism (Theory, Culture and Society). London: Sage.
  • Thrift N (2007) Non-Representational Theory. London: Routledge.
  • Glennie P & Thrift N (2009) Shaping The Day: A History of Timekeeping in England and Wales 1300 – 1800. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Kitchin R & Thrift N Co-editors of The International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Oxford and Boston: Elsevier Publishing

Journal articles[edit]

  • Thrift N (1981) "Owners time and own time: The making of capitalist time consciousness, 1300–1880" in Pred A (Ed.) Space and Time in Geography: Essays dedicated to Torston Hagerstrand, Lund: Lund Studies in Geography Series B, No. 48
  • Thrift N (1983) "On the determination of social action in space and time", Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1: pp. 23–57
  • Thrift N (1997) "The Rise of Soft Capitalism" in Cultural Values, Volume 1, Number 1, 1997, pp. 29–57
  • Thrift N (1999) “Steps to an Ecology of Place” in Massey D, Allen J & Sarre P (Eds.) Human Geography Today, Cambridge: Polity Press: pp. 295–323
  • Thrift N (2000a) "Performing cultures in the new economy", Annals of the Association of American Geographers 4: pp. 674–692
  • Thrift N (2000b) "Afterwords", Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18 (3): pp. 213–255
  • Thrift N & Olds K (1996) "Refiguring the economic in economic geography", Progress in Human Geography 20: pp. 311–337
  • Thrift N (2004) "Intensities of Feeling: Towards a Spatial Politics of Affect" in Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography, Volume 86, Number 1, pp. 57–78
  • Thrift N (2005) "But malice aforethought: cities and the natural history of hatred" in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 30, Number 2, pp. 133–150


  1. ^ Debrett's entry
  2. ^ Lucy Hodges (13 September 2007). "Going up in the world: Warwick's rank ambitions". The Independent on Sunday (London). Retrieved 15 November 2009. 
  3. ^ "THRIFT, Professor Nigel". British Academy Fellows. British Academy. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nigel Thrift". University of Warwick. Retrieved 26 June 2009. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Graeme Brown (13 February 2014). "University of Warwick boss to step down". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61092. p. N2. 31 December 2014.
  8. ^ 2015 New Year Honours List
  9. ^ The Geographer Spring 2009 page 2
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "VC's knighthood a double-edged sword". The Australian. 
  20. ^ Grove, Jack (March 17, 2015). "Warwick v-c Nigel Thrift recorded calling student protesters ‘yobs’". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  21. ^ A full list of all of the books he has co-authored is available from Professor Thrift's website: Nigel Thrift's Books and Monographs –

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
David VandeLinde
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick
Succeeded by