Matthew Sparke

TitleVisiting Professor
DivisionSocial Sciences Division
DepartmentPolitics Department
Phone(831) 459-3153
Web Site
OfficeCrown College, Ivan Vallier Hall, 233
Campus Mail StopMerrill Faculty Services
MailMerrill Faculty Services, Politics Department, UCSC
Santa Cruz, CA
Matthew Sparke

Research Interests

My work focuses on the changing geography of politics and citizenship in the context of globalization. Early on this took the form of a series of research projects examining how borders, geopolitics and national sovereignty are remade in the context of transnational free trade agreements.  This research conducted in North America, Europe and South East Asia complicated simplistic ‘geoeconomic’ meta-narratives about ‘the end of the nation-state’ and a ‘borderless world’ in the new millennium. It showed instead how forms of national sovereignty were still being drawn upon to enforce pro-market governance and neoliberal norms of citizenship at a transnational scale.  This work was written-up and published in a wide variety of articles and book chapters.  It also took shape as a set of political theory interventions in my first book, In The Space of Theory: Postfoundational Geographies of the Nation-State (Minneapolis, 2005). With the book I sought to use geographical evidence about territorial transformations more generally to develop a series of sympathetic critiques of abstract appeals to ‘space’ by post-foundationalist theorists, including Arjun Appadurai, Homi Bhabha, Timothy Mitchell, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt.

Building on my early border region work, I secured an NSF CAREER award and other funding to study the impact of globalization on governance and citizenship in other areas too, including on the ability of civil society groups to re-group and resist market reforms transnationally.  Much of this work went on to inform my second book, Introducing Globalization: Ties, Tensions and Uneven Integration (Oxford, 2013).  Published as a textbook, this book also represented an intellectual attempt to deepen my critique of geoeconomic myth-making and the ways in which it continues to obscure the asymmetrical influence of national-state authority within a context of heightened global interdependencies. My textbook and teaching work about globalization has led in turn over the last decade to research on the politics of global health, including into what I have come to theorize as the ‘biological sub-citizenship’ resulting from austerity and other neoliberal reforms.  

Biography, Education and Training

I was was born in Tonbridge, England in 1967. I was educated at a state comprehensive school in Tunbridge Wells, then at the University of Oxford (where David Harvey was my main mentor), and then at the University of British Columbia (where Derek Gregory was my PhD advisor). I joined the faculty in International Studies and Geography at the University of Washington in 1995.  After 22 years in Seattle, I moved to the Department of Politics at UC Santa Cruz in 2017.

Honors, Awards and Grants

2012, Award for Teaching Excellence from the Pan-Hellenic Association, University of Washington

2010, Award for Excellence in Teaching, Jackson School of Intl. Studies, University of Washington

2007, Award for ‘Most Global Professor’ from the Pan-Hellenic Association, University of Washington

2007, Lifetime Distinguished Teacher Award, University of Washington

2005, Award for Excellence in Teaching, Dept. of Geography, University of Washington

2000-5, National Science Foundation, CAREER award

1989-1994, University Graduate Fellowships, The University of British Columbia

1989, Congratulatory First Class, The University of Oxford.

1987-89 Scholarship in Geography, The University of Oxford

Selected Presentations

 “Interdisciplinarity, global exchange, and the future of the university.” Interviewed by Gray Kochar-Lindgren for Hong Kong University, Common Core, 2017.

 “On the problems and promises of online education.” Lecture for the University of Washington’s Integrated Social Sciences BA.



Teaching Interests

Global Politics, Global Health, Global Studies, Globalization, Geopolitics and the Politics of Space