Camilla Royle

Camilla Royle


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Personal profile

Biographical details

I am a part time student- as well as working on my PhD I am deputy editor of the International Socialism journal (edited by Alex Callinicos- professor of European Studies at KCL)

Research interests (short)

  • Marxist thought
  • Environmental politics
  • New materialism
  • Geographies of animals and wildlife
  • Geography and the Anthropocene


Research interests

My research looks at the concept of a “dialectics of nature”- what seeing nature as dialectical might mean for biology and also how such an approach within the biological sciences might inspire geographers. 

The methodology developed by Karl Marx to study (and to change) capitalist societies is often referred to as dialectical. However, the question of whether dialectics is also valid for a study of “nature” has been a long standing issue of debate among Marxists. The unfinished attempt by Marx’s collaborator Friedrich Engels to put forward a “dialectics of nature” and the dogmatic adoption of a particular interpretation of his work within the Soviet Union led various theorists to argue that the only proper place for dialectics was in a study of human society. Therefore the thesis also aims to elaborate why some Marxists have been sceptical of the idea of a dialectics of nature and what is at stake for those that seek to utilise such a theory. 

Some geographers- notably David Harvey- have argued that their own approaches are informed by dialectics. Harvey sees no problem with understanding both society and nature in a dialectical way. This stands to reason as a major concern of the work of Harvey and others involves denying that there is such a clear separation between "nature" and "society". So geographers have something to add to this debate. But I feel that the work of radical scientists also offers an approach to developing an understanding of material reality which relates to current debates within geography. In particular the self proclaimed “dialectical biologists” Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin have been critical of biologists’ tendency to see organisms as passive subjects of external forces. They have drawn attention to the agency of non-human organisms in driving their own evolution. 

My research involves interviewing biologists, particularly those self identifying themselves and their work as dialectical and also speaking to environmental geographers to look at the ways in which dialectical biology might offer insights for political ecology. 

Two ideas I'm working on:

1. Niche construction- do organisms make their environments (or more specifically, their ecological niche)? how does this challenge our assumptions about evolution? In what ways does this notion fit with and differ from existing thinking around non-human agency within geography? Can humans be thought of as niche constructors? In what ways does niche construction challenge the assumption that scale is socially construcrted? What role has niche construction played in the development of human societies through history?

2. Metapopulation theory- Richard Levins argued that many species live in networks of small populations with individuals able to move from one population to another- how do these spatial configurations come about? what kinds of environments might enable species to move between populations? what are implications for how spatiality is thought of in conservation biology? 

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 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Master in Science, UCL University College London

Award Date: 1 Jan 2009

Bachelor of Science, Imperial College London

Award Date: 1 Jan 2008


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