Dr Steven Emery BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD

Lecturer in Environment and Society

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Dr Steven Emery

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


Steven is an interdisciplinary environmental researcher with a broad interest in human-environment relations. His work is informed by rural geography, social anthropology and rural sociology and focuses on the relationship between sociocultural values and environmental practices, interventions, policies and governance. He has applied this approach most especially to the study of agriculture, having conducted extended ethnographic fieldwork with British hill farmers.


BSc (Hons) Environmental Management (Lancaster 2002)

MSc European Environmental Management (Lancaster 2003)

PhD Anthropology and Geography (Durham 2010)


Following the completion of his BSc and Masters in environmental management at Lancaster University Steven worked for three years as an environmental consultant at Scott Wilson (now part of the URS group). Scott Wilson is an interdisciplinary engineering, planning and environmental consultancy and Steven specialized in sustainable waste management, environmental auditing, Environmental Impact Assessment, sustainable construction and sustainability appraisal, working for a range of clients including Standard Chartered Bank, Defence Estates and the government’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). In this role Steven also acted as Project Officer for the East of England National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP), which seeks to find mutually beneficial resource efficiency solutions between disparate industrial and business sectors.

Steven then followed his longstanding interest in farming when he returned to academia to take up a PhD in social anthropology and geography at Durham University. He spent a year living and working on hill farms in the North York Moors to gain an understanding of the cultural influences on farmers’ receptivity to emerging environmental policies such as the Single Payment Scheme and Environmental Stewardship. In 2010 he joined the Centre for Rural Economy in the School of Agriculture at Newcastle University where he worked as a Research Associate conducting some of the first sociocultural research on collaborative agri-environment schemes (Rural Economy and Land Use Programme funded). During this time he also worked on a range of rural projects funded by Defra, the European Union and the ESRC.

Steven joined GEES as Lecturer in Environment and Society in 2013.


Year 1: 101 – Contemporary Human Geography (Contributor)

Year 2: 205 – Environmental Assessment and Management (Co-Lead)

Year 2: Malta Field Trip

Year 4: 404 – Doing Human Geography (Contributor)

Postgraduate supervision

I would be interested to hear from potential supervisees with an interest in rural geography, environmental management and ethnographic approaches (and in particular those interested in farming and the rural environment).


Research interests

Steven’s principal research interest is in the processes by which cultural values are negotiated and changed through social interaction and everyday politics. This approach is grounded in anthropological, geographical and sociological theories and contextualized in terms of environmental uncertainty and change. More specifically his research focuses on:

  • Farming culture
  • The uptake and receptivity of farmers to agri-environmental schemes (AES)
  • The applications of rhetoric culture theory
  • Theorising and better understanding processes of cultural change in the face of environmental, economic and political uncertainty
  • Understanding and demonstrating the complex relationship between cultural values, environmental practices and social resilience
  • Exploring the relationship between cultural values, personhood, places and practices
  • Processes of environmental decision-making, governance and conflict management
  • Ideology, power and agency in environmental contexts

Other activities

Member of European Society for Rural Sociology (ESRS)

Member of Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI)

Steven also works as an independent environmental consultant, working recently for Defra and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Emery, S.B., Perks, M.T. & Bracken, L.J. (2013), ‘Negotiating river restoration: the role of divergent reframing in environmental decision-making’, Geoforum 47: 167-177. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2013.01.008

McKenzie, A.J., Emery, S.B., Franks, J.R. & Whittingham, M.J. (2013), ‘Landscape-scale conservation: Collaborative agri-environment schemes could benefit both biodiversity and ecosystem services but will farmers be willing to participate?’, Journal of Applied Ecology 50(5): 1274-1280. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12122

Franks, J.R. & Emery, S.B. (2013), ‘Incentivising collaborative environmental stewardship: Lessons from existing Environmental Stewardship Scheme options,’ Land Use Policy 30: 847-862. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2012.06.005

Emery, S.B. & Franks, J.R. (2012), ‘The potential for collaborative agri-environment schemes in England: Can a well-designed collaborative approach address farmers’ concerns with current schemes?’, Journal of Rural Studies 28(3): 218-231. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2012.02.004

Carrithers, M.B., Bracken, L.J. & Emery, S.B. (2011), 'Can a Species be a Person?: A Trope and its Entanglements in the Anthropocene Era', Current Anthropology 52(5): 661-685. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/661287

Franks, J.R., Emery, S.B., Whittingham, M.J. & McKenzie, A.J. (2011), 'Options for Landscape Scale Collaboration under the UK's Environmental Stewardship Scheme', CRE Research Report.

Emery, S.B. & Oughton, E.A (2011),‘Conflict Management Review: Interventions in managing environment conflicts: what works, in what contexts and why?’ A report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Policy Studies Institute. Defra, London. Available from: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=Conflictmanagementreview.pdf.

Bell, S., Vanner, R., Oughton, E.A., Emery, S.B., Lock, K. and Cole, L. (2011), ‘Defra NE0109 Social Research Evidence Review to Inform Natural Environment Policy.’ Final Project Report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Policy Studies Institute. Defra, London. Available from: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=Socialresearchevidencereview-Mainreport.pdf.

Emery, S.B.  (2010), ‘In Better Fettle: Improvement, Work and Rhetoric in the Transition to Environmental Farming in the North York Moors’.  Doctoral Thesis, Durham University.  Available from: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/379/

Emery, S.B., Smith, D.N., Johansson, S. & Cope, J. (2007), ‘Demonstrating how Plasterboard can be Collected more Efficiently on Construction and Demolition sites in the UK’, in Chun, Y-M, Claisse, P., Naik, T.R. & Ganjian, E. (eds), ‘Sustainable Construction Materials and Technologies’, pp 575–588, London: Taylor & Francis.

Emery, S.B., Gaterell, M.R., Sammons G., Moon, D. and Smith D.N. (2007), ‘Estimating the Recycled Content of an Existing Construction Project’, Resources Conservation and Recycling 52: 395 – 409.

Emery, S.B. (2005), ‘In Defence of Recycling’, Sustain Jan-Feb 2005: 51-52.

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