Nuala Johnson


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applicants in the fields of:
Public memory and Space
Historical Geographies of Natural History
Nationalism and Ireland
Geography and Fictional Literature

1989 …2020

Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research Interests

I joined QUB in 1996 having held lectureships in Human Geography at Loughborough University (1990-91) and University College London (1991-1996). I am an historical and political geographer working in three distinct but related areas of scholarship  (i) the relationships between identity politics and representation; (ii) the spaces of scientific knowledge and the role of aesthetics; and (iii) place and nationalism.

These three strands of my research have been anchored in the following projects. Firstly, I continue to develop the conceptual and empirical dimensions of the performance of social memory with respect to public monuments, museums and heritage venues. My contributions to this research theme are demonstrated by the publication of articles in the key journals in my field (e.g. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Journal of Historical Geography) and in my monograph Ireland, the Great War and the Geography of Remembrance published by Cambridge University Press (2003/ reprinted 2007). William Jenkins observed in his review for the Journal of Interdisciplinary History that “this book offers valuable new insights and methodical directions for future historical and interdisciplinary studies. Its many illustrations add to the reading experience and, all in all, Johnson navigates through a variety of sources and analyzes events with great skill to produce an innovative and cogently argued piece of work.” James Loughlin found it “a challenging, highly stimulating and valuable contribution to an increasingly popular field of inquiry” (European History Quarterly); Joshua Hagen judged it to be “an excellent piece of scholarship” (Professional Geographer); and David C. Harvey thought it “a thoroughly readable and highly original monograph that leaves the reader very much enlightened but also still curious – like all good books, the reader will go away with more questions than they started with” (Progress in Human Geography). My 1995 journal article on monuments and nationalism has been re-printed in two edited collections.

The second strand of my research congregates around the development and design of botanical gardens as sites in which the relationship between science and beauty in the formation of natural history knowledge is practised. This body of work builds on and significantly extends current research on the borderlines between geography and science studies and has culminated in the publication of my second monograph, the 267-page Nature Displaced, Nature Displayed: Order and Beauty in Botanical Gardens published by I.B. Tauris in 2011 which attracted the following judgment by the University of Cambridge geographer James S. Duncan: “Nuala Johnson’s masterful ethnography of three sites where the canons of science and aesthetics are refracted and blurred demonstrates why a geographical imagination matters. This is comparative history at its best.” I am currently examining the relationship between gender, empire and natural history in the context of early twentieth-century Burma.

The third theme of my research has focused on the role of place in the articulation of nationalist identities and has been rooted in analyses of education policy and language, literary geographies and identity, and the role of the heritage industry in representing a nation’s past. Drawing conceptually from Antonio Gramsci’s thesis on the development of ‘organic intellectuals’ in the harnessing of nationalist politics, this work has resulted in the publication of several key papers in the leading academic journals in the discipline (e.g. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Political Geography, Environment and Planning D, Social and Cultural Geography).



Keynote Speaker, Conference of Irish Geographers 2016.

‘Outstanding Academic Title for 2014’ by Choice:  Johnson, N.C. Schein R, and Winders J. (eds.) 2013 Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Cultural Geography Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Elected Member of the Royal Irish Academy 2014

Nordic Research Course, Trondheim, Norway (Keynote speaker), 2008

Visiting Scholar, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, 2005

Visiting Fellow, Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, 2005

Ellen Churchill Semple Lecture - 'In honor of exceptional accomplishment and commitment to the discipline of Geography', Department of Geography, University of Kentucky, 2005.

Historical Geography Research Group [RGS-IBG], Post-graduate Training Conference, Senate House, London (Keynote/plenary speaker), 2003

Visiting Scholar: Cultural Geography Training Programme for Post-Graduates, Department of Geography, University of Lund, Sweden, 1992

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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