Dr Nicolas Ian Lewis

BA/Bcom/MA(Hons)/PhD (Auckland)

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Associate Professor


Growing up in various parts of the Global South (including Taranaki!), I developed a healthy intellectual and highly critical interest in development. Early in my research career, I worked on modes of production in the Cook Islands. Although my own research is now centred on New Zealand, I maintain a keen interest in the political economy of the small island Pacific through my work with graduate students. I also teach in the Centre for Development Studies programme and sit on its Advisory Board.

My academic career was broken by a period of six years travelling the world from a base working in various roles in London. Since returning to University to complete my PhD on the audit technologies of New Zealand’s Education Review Office, I have devoted my primary research interests to the study of neoliberal technologies of control and their effects and affects in the New Zealand setting.

These interests, theoretical and empirical, were drawn together in my postdoctoral work on industry formation. This work involved me in several research teams and collaborative data collection and publication initiatives working with geographers, educationalists, anthropologists, and sociologists. This highly positive experience, the privileges of working with highly motivated graduate students with diverse backgrounds and rich personal experiences, and my own multi-disciplinary training has made me a strong advocate of trans-disciplinary research and of collaborative research endeavour. Subsequently (and consequently), I have become involved in the government funded Building Research Capability in the Social Sciences initiative, which aims to help build a foundation for a new generation of collaborative social science. I have played a part in various BRCSS initiatives, particularly those around postgraduate students and early career researchers, and have joined its Management Committee. My work on the BRCSS network gives me an opportunity to participate in the politics of knowledge production in the New Zealand context – as a critic of neoliberalism and as an advocate for critical social theory and the ‘emerging researcher’. I have written about BRCSS, its objectives, the challenges it faces, and the political projects to which it is being harnessed.

Research | Current

  • Geographies of neo-liberalism and the state
  • The post-foundational geographies of Brand New Zealand
  • Governance and the making of industries
  • Geographies of education – particularly the internationalisation of education and emerging knowledge spaces
  • The New Zealand wine industry
  • The political economy of the small island Pacific

My main research interest is in the making and governance of industries as spaces of governance in neoliberalism and contemporary ‘late’, ‘rolled out’, or ‘after’ neoliberal political projects. This interest brings together disciplinary reading in both political and economic geography and a theoretical interest in post-structural political economy inspired by governmentality analysis. This is also an insightful theoretical position from which to track developments in the wine, fashion and global education industries – empirical fields in which I have worked and built understandings of agents, institutions and trajectories of change. My work on the development of the New Zealand wine industry has opened opportunities to study policy formation, industry level governance, and representations of place and quality in agri-food networks as well as the socio-spatial embeddedness of enterprise development and the path dependence of industry development. I have similarly been able to explore with colleagues the interplay of cultural and political economy through the making of a designer fashion industry in New Zealand.

These various themes are integrated by a central interest in the production of subjects and spaces of governance and the geographies of the core problems of the state associated with translating influence or control into micro settings. These themes also crystallise in a disciplinary project to extend geography and the insights that geographers can offer to the study of the organisation of education and the spatialities of educational institutions.

Teaching | Current

I coordinate the second year field studies course in geography (GEOG 207: Field Studies In Environment and Community) and teach as art of the team on a number of co-taught courses, including Population, Health and Society (GEOG305), Geographies of Pacific Development (GEOG 312), Landscape, Environment and Heritage (GEOG 352); and the Postgraduate Population Studies paper (GEOG725).

In addition, I coordinate the School of Environment contribution to the geography courses in the Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching run through the Faculty of Education and teach a block of lectures on the development of the New Zealand wine industry on the University’s Wine Science programme.

Postgraduate supervision

Current postgraduate students

  • Manea Sweeney, Waste management in the Cook Islands: effective governance for environmental sustainability in small island economies.
  • Stign te Strake, Leading the Next Phase of Internationalisation: Building Global Universities through International Networks.
  • Amy Brockbank, Interpreting BRCSS as a knowledge space: geographies of coming of age in social science
  • Ritesh Shah, Democracy where art thou? A comparative analysis of school governance in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Venezuela (co-supervised with Eve Coxon, Development Studies)
  • Elisa Worner, Free market policy and the development of the Chilean wine industry (co-supervised with Yvonne Underhill-Sem, Development Studies)
  • Alison Greenaway, Spaces of community learning for environmental management (co-supervised with Richard Le Heron)
  • Bev Trowbridge, Subjectivities and Socialities in Sustainable Development (co-supervised with Richard Le Heron)
  • Ivo Keel, Environmentally progressive practices in the New Zealand wine industry
  • Rendt Gorter, The political ecology of conflict mitigation in natural resource management (co-supervised with Richard Le Heron)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Lewis, N., Le Heron, R., Campbell, H., Henry, M., Le Heron, E., Pawson, E., ... Rosin, C. (2013). Assembling biological economies: Region-shaping initiatives in making and retaining value. New Zealand Geographer, 69 (3), 180-196. 10.1111/nzg.12031
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Richard Le Heron

Contact details

Primary location

Level 7, Room 733
New Zealand