COVID-19 Updates: For advice and updates for staff, students, and applicants who may have concerns about the coronavirus outbreak please visit our Situation Updates page.

Research Profile

Prof John


  • John Horton is a Human Geographer based in the Faculty of Education and Humanities. His research mainly focuses on the spaces, cultures, politics, playful practices and social-material exclusions of contemporary childhood and youth. 

    John is currently one of the Editors of the international academic journal ‘Social & Cultural Geography’, and previously served a term as Editor of the international academic journal ‘Children’s Geographies’. He is co-author of the book Cultural Geographies (Routledge, 2013), and Series Editor of a new major book series on Spaces of Childhood and Youth (Routledge, 2015-25).

    John has been Principal or Co-Investigator on more than thirty funded research/evaluation projects with children and young people in the UK. For example, he has been Co-Investigator on five major, interdisciplinary research projects funded by ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) and AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council). 

    John is Chair of the University of Northampton’s Research Ethics Committee, which is chiefly responsible for reviewing all ethics applications for doctoral research at the University. He is lead author of the updated institutional ‘Research Ethics Code and Procedures’, which summarises expectations and principles for all research at the University of Northampton. 

    Before moving to the University of Northampton, John completed a BSc and ESRC-funded MSc/Doctorate in the School for Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol.


    • 2004 PhD in Human Geography (Children’s Everyday Popular Cultural Consumption: things, practices, spacings, times) University of Bristol (ESRC studentship)
    • 1999 MSc in Society and Space (with Distinction), University of Bristol (ESRC studentship)
    • 1998 BSc Geography (first class honours), University of Bristol 


    • 2010-present Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences (Centre for Children and Youth), The University of Northampton
    • 2005-2010 Lecturer in Social Sciences (Centre for Children and Youth), The University of Northampton
    • 2000-2005 Research Assistant, Centre for Children and Youth, University College Northampton
  • John contributes to undergraduate teaching in Human Geography: 

    • GEO1006 Introducing Human Geographies 
    • GEO2028 Issues in Human Geography 
    • GEO2029 Approaches to Research in Human Geography 
    • GEO4007/8 Geography/Human Geography Dissertation 

    John is an experienced supervisor and examiner of postgraduate research. He currently supervises ten PhD researchers, and has co-supervised six doctoral researchers to successful completion: 

    • 2008: Michelle Pyer – Play, space and teenage wheelchair users
    • 2011: Lee Dunkley – Sure Start and social capital
    • 2012: Matthew Callender – Urban lives of young East European migrants
    • 2015: Rebekah Ryder – Young people in ‘mixed’ communities
    • 2018: Wendy Turner – Young people and health literacy
    • 2018: Rana Hassan – Cyber-activisms and the Egyptian revolution

    John has been External Examiner for PhD research at 15+ different international universities.

    John also currently serves as External Examiner for undergraduate programmes in Childhood Studies (Northumbria University) and Geography (York St. John University). 

  • 1. Spaces of care, service-provision and austerity

    John has a major research interest in the processes through which spaces, services and policies for children, young people and families are produced, regulated and lived-with, particularly ‘in the current climate’ of austerity politics in the UK. He has been Principal or Co-Investigator on a large number of funded studies of diverse youth organisations, public libraries, Sure Start Children’s Centres, youth involvement projects, spaces of care, and spaces of learning/teaching in the UK. For example, in 2007-09 he collaborated with colleagues from Coventry University and University of Leicester on a major AHRC/ESPSRC-funded study of pupil participation in school building (re)design and renewal policies in the UK. He is currently co-editing books on children, young people and care (for Routlege) and young people and austerities (for Policy Press). 

    2. Everyday geographies of sustainable urbanism 

    In 2009-13, John collaborated with Prof. Pia Christensen (University of Leeds), Prof. Peter Kraftl (University of Leicester) and Dr. Sophie Hadfield-Hill (University of Birmingham) on the major ESRC-funded New Urbanisms, New Citizens study of children and young people’s lives, mobilities and participation in new, large-scale urban developments constituted by the Sustainable Communities agenda in England. They are currently co-authoring a book (for Routledge), and an extensive programme of publications and outputs, from the project. John is also Mentor for Dr. Sophie Hadfield-Hill’s ESRC Future Research Leader project on New Urbanisms in India, and a member of the ESRC-funded Sharing Futures/Partilhandø Futurøs knowledge exchange programme between Brazilian Engineering Scientists and British Human Geographers. 

    3. Children and young people’s play and popular culture 

    John has a longstanding research interest in relation to children and young people’s play and poular culture. On one hand he has completed a number of large-scale funded projects focusing on diverse designated play-spaces, which he has written up as a sequence of peer-reviewed papers about the complex, bodily, everyday, social-material, emotional-affective, often-exclusionary geographies of outdoor play. On the other hand, he has written a series of peer-reviewed papers about children and young people’s engagements with different forms of popular culture (e. g. children’s TV, pop music, toys, books, collectables). This line of work began with his ESRC-funded doctoral research, and will continue via a forthcoming monograph (sales pitch: will feature geographies of Disney princesses, Star Wars figures, football stickers, death metal and Postman Pat). 

    4. Thinking-writing-doing children’s geographies 

    With Prof. Peter Kraftl (University of Birmingham) John has written a range of conceptual, critical and methodological reflections upon subdisciplinary work on geographies of children and young people. Their collaborative work has chiefly, though not uncritically, developed through engagements with nonrepresentational theories in Social and Cultural Geography. In their continuing work, they have sought to develop playful, creative, autoethnographic, multiperspectival styles of thinking-writing-doing in order to acknowledge the complexities of everyday, bodily, social-material, emotional-affective geographies.

  • For publications, projects, datasets, research interests and activities, view John Horton’s research profile on Pure, the University of Northampton’s Research Explorer.