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Photo of Dr Steven Emery

Dr Steven Emery

Senior Lecturer

 I am Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Agriculture at the Centre for Rural Policy Research. My research and teaching is informed by rural sociology, social anthropology and rural geography and broadly concerns the intersection of rural land-use management, cultural values, power and governance.

I joined the University of Exeter in 2022 and am 50% seconded to Rothamsted Research (Sociology of Farming Systems Group, Net Zero and Resilient Farming Directorate).

Research group links

Research interests

 My primary research interest is in the relationship between cultural values, practices and power in the management of the farmed landscape. I am interested in how cultural values shape farmers' decison-making, practices and responses to exogenous policy interventions. I view values as dynamic and incessantly negotiated through social interaction (using the lens of rhetoric-culture-theory) but also as subject to ideological manipulation.

I have applied this approach, more specifically, to the study of farmers' agri-environmental and collaborative behaviours,demonstrating how a more nuanced understanding of farming culture allows for a critical reflection on behavioural theory, policy interventions, and neoliberal food systems more broadly. 

Between competing demands for food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity protection and landscape heritage, debates over land-use have perhaps never been so critical and contested. By working in interdisciplinary teams and alongside multiple stakeholder groups my research seeks solutions to such debates that are both socially and environmentally just.

Research supervision

 Doctoral supervision with completion dates:

Septin Puji Astuti - 2016

Bakare Hakeem Oladimeji - 2018

Tzu-Hsiang Liao (Watan Basaw) - 2021

Faye Shortland - 2021

Augustine Ifedi Nwankwo - 2022

Jill Smith - 

Jennifer Knight - 2023

Rob Booth - 

May Appleby (Rothamsted Research) - 





 I completed undergraduate and masters degrees at Lancaster University in Environmental Management and Policy. I then worked for three years in Environmental Consultancy for Scott Wilson (RIP, now several times swallowed up by mergers and and acquisitions!), based in Peterborough, specialising in sustainable waste management, environmental impact assessment and sustainabilty appraisal.

My combined yearning to return to academia and to move into agricultural research then took me to Durham where I completed my PhD in Anthropology and Geography (2010). My research involved long-term ethnographic fieldwork with hill farmers in the North York Moors and I became intimately and infinitely interested in the cultural values of farmers, their ideological entanglements and how these shape their practices, engagements with the landscape and responses to external policy interventions. The single word 'Fettle' structured much of my analysis and it has remained an academic and personal pre-occupation ever since (read: foundational principle for the conduct of life).

After the PhD I worked for three years as a Post-Doc at the Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle Unversity on a variety of projects, and here became particularly interested in farmer cooperation and collaboration (for environmental and other purposes). I then took up a lectureship in Human Geography at the University of Birmingham, where I taught primarily in the fields of environmental and rural geography.  I was delighted to join the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter in 2022.

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