Professor Robert M Vanderbeck



I am a social, cultural and urban geographer whose research focuses on issues of social difference, identities, relationships, and contemporary processes of social and legal exclusion.  In particular, I have a sustained interest and expertise in the following areas:

  • The geographies of childhood and youth (particularly the processes that marginalise children and young people in contemporary society)
  • Intergenerational space and intergenerational justice
  • The influence of religion on law and policy related to same-sex relationships and sexual orientation equality (particularly related to law and policy concerning schools, same-sex marriage, and equalities legislation)
  • Transnational religion and debates about sexuality and same-sex relationships, with a particular emphasis on the Anglican Communion
  • Geographies of race and racism
  • Urban public spaces
  • Qualitative methodologies and international comparative research

I adopt an interdisciplinary approach to research, drawing on (and seeking to contribute to) fields including sociology, anthropology, childhood and youth studies, sociolegal studies, religious studies, and environmental studies.


I attended high school in Florida where I studied at a so-called 'magnet school' which was created to promote voluntary desegregation of the highly segregated Broward County school system. I graduated as a National Merit Scholar and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I completed a BA degree in Geography, having spent the first year and a half (in classic American university style) uncertain about which subject would be my 'major'. However, after taking many classes in diverse subjects, I found the UNC Geography department to be the place that taught about the issues I cared most about in a contemporary, relevant and truly international way (inequality at diverse scales, segregation, youth, gender and sexuality, and more). I had the opportunity to study at UNC Geography with some inspiring academics including Altha Cravey, James H. Johnson Jr., Thomas Whitmore, and Melinda Meade, each of whom left a lasting impact on me. 

I stayed in Chapel Hill to study for my MA degree under the direction of Jim Johnson, a period during which I also worked as Programme Manager for the Durham Scholar Program, an after-school, weekend and summer programme that launched in 1995 to increase educational opportunities and University access for young people living in a set of inner-city neighbourhoods in Durham, North Carolina.  After completing my MA, I moved to Sheffield, U.K. to complete my doctoral studies under the supervision of Peter Jackson. 

My doctoral research focused on the social exclusion of Gypsy-Traveller young people in the U.K., and this research involved a substantial ethnographic component working with a voluntary sector support group for Gypsy-Travellers. I served there as a volunteer youth worker and creche worker over a three year period. Having completed my doctorate, I accepted my first academic post at the University of Vermont, where I worked for four years in a small department with some very engaging and talented colleagues. In Vermont, I had the pleasure of volunteering with Outright Vermont, an excellent initiative for LGBTQ youth in Vermont that is still going strong.  I subsequently moved back to the U.K. to work at the University of Leeds, where after twelve years I was appointed Head of School in 2017. I continue my personal interest in working with young people in practical  and supportive ways, having volunteered weekly as a youth worker with Leeds City Council since 2005.


  • Head of School

Research interests



Diprose, K., Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., Liu, C., and McQuaid, K. (2019) Climate Change, Consumption and Intergenerational Justice: Lived Experiences from China, Uganda and the U.K. Bristol: Bristol University Press.  

Johnson, P. and Vanderbeck, R.M. (2014)  Law, Religion and Homosexuality.  London: Routledge.  [Reviewed in European Human Rights Review; Feminist Legal Studies; Social and Legal Studies; Ecclesiastical Law Journal

Edited books

Vanderbeck, R.M. and Worth, N. (eds) (2015) Intergenerational Space.  London: Routledge. [Reviewed in Children’s Geographies; Children, Youth, EnvironmentsJournal of Intergenerational Relationships]

Punch, S. and Vanderbeck, R.M. (eds) (2018)  Families, Intergenerationality and Peer Group Relations. Volume 5 of the series Major Reference Work on Geographies of Children and Young People (series editor: Tracey Skelton). New York: Springer. 

Articles in peer reviewed journals

McQuaid, K. Vanderbeck, R.M., and Mbabazi, L. (2021) ‘Girls have powers’: using research-led arts to connect policymaking with girls’ lived experiences in UgandaGender, Plade and Culture. 8(5): 605-26.

Falcetta, S., Johnson, P., and Vanderbeck, R.M. (2021) The experience of religious same-sex marriage in England and Wales: understanding the opportunities and limits created by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.  International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family.  35(1).

Zebracki, M., Janssens, F., and Vanderbeck, R.M. (2021) Gay monuments in queer times: Amsterdam’s Homomonument and the politics of inclusive social practice.  Sexualities

Diprose, K., Liu, C., Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., and McQuaid, K. (2019) Caring for the future: climate change and intergenerational responsibility in China and the UK. Geoforum.

Diprose, K., Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., Liu, C. and McQuaid, K. (2019) Building common cause towards sustainable consumption: a cross-generational perspectiveEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space 2(2) 203-28.

Liu, C., Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., Diprose, K. and McQuaid, K., 2019. Rural–urban inequality and the practice of promoting sustainability in contemporary ChinaGeoJournal84(5), pp.1187-1198.

McQuaid, K., Vanderbeck, R.M., Valentine, G., Liu, C., and Diprose, K. (2019) ‘An elephant cannot fail to carry its own ivory’: Transgenerational ambivalence, infrastructure and sibling support practices in urban UgandaEmotion, Space and Society. Article 100537,

Liu, C., Chen, L., Vanderbeck, R.M.,  Valentine, G.,  Zhang, M., Diprose, K. and McQuaid, K. (2018) A Chinese route to sustainability: post-socialist transitions and the construction of ecological civilisationSustainable Development 26(6): 741-8.

Liu, C., Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., McQuaid, K., and Diprose, K. (2018) Placing 'sustainability' in context: narratives of sustainable consumption in Nanjing, China.  Social & Cultural Geography.  Online advance access. 

Diprose, K., Fern, R., Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., Chen, L., Liu, C., McQuaid, K., and Zhang, M. (2018) Corporations, consumerism and culpability: discourses of sustainability in the British press.  Environmental Communication 12(5): 672-85.

Samson, M., Vanderbeck, R.M., and Wood, N. (2018) Fixity and flux: a critique of competing approaches to researching contemporary Jewish identities.  Social Compass 65(1): 97-113.

McQuaid, K., Vanderbeck, R.M., Valentine, G., Liu, C., Zhang, M., Chen, L., and Diprose, K. (2018) Urban climate change, livelihood vulnerability and narratives of generational responsibility in Jinja, Uganda.  Africa 88(1): 11-37.

Johnson, P. and Vanderbeck, R.M. (2017) Sexual orientation equality and religious exceptionalism in the law of the United Kingdom: the role of the Church of England.  Oxford Journal of Law and Religion  6(3): 498-522.

McQuaid, K., Vanderbeck, R.M., Plastow, J., Valentine, G., Liu, C., Chen, L., Zhang, M., and Diprose, K. (2017) Intergenerational community-based research and creative practice: promoting environmental sustainability in Jinja, Uganda. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships 15(4): 389-410.         

Johnson, P. and Vanderbeck, R.M. (2017) Sacred spaces, sacred words: religion and same-sex marriage in England and Wales.  Journal of Law and Society 44(2): 228-54.

Vanderbeck, R.M. and Johnson, P. (2016) The promotion of British values: sexual orientation equality, religion, and England's schools. International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 30(3):292-321

Vanderbeck, R.M. and Johnson, P. (2015) Religion, homosexuality and the contested legal framework governing sex education in England. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 37: 161-79.

Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., Sadgrove, J., and Andersson, J, (2013) Producing moral geographies: the transnational dynamics of homophobia within a global faith network.  Geographical Journal 179(2): 165-76.

Andersson, J., Vanderbeck, R.M, Valentine, G., Sadgrove, J., and Ward, K. (2013) Same-sex marriage, civil rights rhetoric, and the ambivalent politics of Christian Evangelicalism in New York City. Sexualities 16: 245-60.

Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., Sadgrove, J., Andersson, J., and Ward, K. (2013) Transnational religious networks: sexuality and the changing power geometries of the Anglican Communion.  Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 38: 50-64.

Sadgrove, J., Vanderbeck, R.M., Andersson, J., Valentine, G., and Ward, K. (2012) Morality plays and money matters: towards a situated understanding of the politics of homosexuality in Uganda.  Journal of Modern African Studies 50(1): 103-129.

Vanderbeck, R.M. and Johnson, P. (2011) ‘If a charge was brought against a saintly religious leader whose intention was to save souls…’: an analysis of UK Parliamentary debates over incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.  Parliamentary Affairs  64(4): 652-73.

Vanderbeck, R.M., Andersson, J., Valentine, G., Sadgrove, J., and Ward, K. (2011) Sexuality, activism, and witness in the Anglican Communion: the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops.  Annals of the Association of American Geographers 101(3): 670-89.

Andersson, J., Vanderbeck, R.M., Valentine, G., Ward, K., and Sadgrove, J. (2011) New York encounters: religion, sexuality, and the city.  Environment and Planning A  43(3): 618-33.

Johnson, P. and Vanderbeck, R.M. (2011) ‘Hit them on the nose’: representations of policing in Parliamentary debates about incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.  Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice. 5(1): 65-74.

Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., Ward, K., Sadgrove, J., and Andersson, J. (2010) Emplacements: the event as a prism for exploring intersectionality, a case study of Lambeth Conference (2008). Sociology. 44(5): 925-43.

Sadgrove, J., Vanderbeck, R.M., Ward, K., Valentine, G. and Andersson, J. (2010) Constructing the boundaries of Anglican orthodoxy: an analysis of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON).  Religion. 40(3): 193-206.

Vanderbeck, R.M., Valentine, G., Ward, K., Sadgrove, J. and Andersson, J. (2010) The meanings of communion: Anglican identities, the sexuality debates, and Christian relationality.  Sociological Research Online. 15(2).

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2009) Gypsy-Traveller young people and the spaces of social welfare: a critical ethnography. Acme: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 8(2): 304-340.

Johnson, P. and Vanderbeck, R.M. (2009) A response to ‘Islamic marital order and the threats of homosexuality in Nigeria’. Journal for Faith, Spirituality and Social Change. Vol 2(1).

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2008) Reaching critical mass? Theory, politics, and the culture of debate in children’s geographies. Area. 40(3): 393-400.

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2008)  Inner-city children, country summers: narrating American childhood and the geographies of whiteness.  Environment and Planning A. 40(5) 1132-1150

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2007) Intergenerational geographies: age relations, segregation, and re-engagements.  Geography Compass. 1(2): 200-21.

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2006) Vermont and the imaginative geographies of American whiteness.  Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 96(3): 641-59.

Clough, Nathan L. and Vanderbeck, R.M. (2006) Managing politics and consumption in business improvement districts: the geographies of political activism on Burlington, Vermont’s Church Street Marketplace.  Urban Studies.  43(12): 2261-84.

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2005) Masculinities and fieldwork: widening the discussion. Gender, Place and Culture. 12(4): 387-402.

Hayes-Conroy, Jessica and Vanderbeck, R.M. (2005) Ecological identity work in higher education: theoretical perspectives and a case study.  Ethics, Place and Environment: A Journal of Philosophy and Geography. 8(3): 309-29.

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2005) Anti-nomadism, institutions, and the geographies of childhood.  Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.  23(1): 71-94.

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2003) Youth, racism and place in the Tony Martin affair.  Antipode. 35(2): 363-84.

Vanderbeck, R.M. and Dunkley, Cheryl Morse (2003) Young people’s narratives of rural-urban difference.  Children’s Geographies. 1(2): 241-59.

Vanderbeck, R.M. and Johnson, James H., Jr. (2000)  “That’s the only place where you can hang out”: urban young people and the space of the mall.  Urban Geography. 21(1): 5-25.

Edited journal special issues

Bell D., Chatterton P., González S., Hodkinson S., Unsworth R., and Vanderbeck R.M. (2007) Northern Urban Renaissance?  Yorkshire & Humber Regional Review.  Special Edition.  pp. 1-2 [co-edited special issue, with editorial introduction]

Vanderbeck, R.M. and Dunkley, C.M. (2004)  Geographies of Exclusion, Inclusion and Belonging in Young Lives.  Children’s Geographies.  2(2): 177-83. [introductory essay to peer reviewed special issue co-edited by R.M. Vanderbeck and Cheryl Morse Dunkley]

Book chapters and sections

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2017) Intergenerational geographies in theory and practice.  In Skelton, T. and Aitken, S. (Eds.) Establishing Geographies of Children and Young People.  Volume 1 of the series Major Reference Work on Geographies of Children and Young People (series editor: Tracey Skelton). New York: Springer. 

Diprose, K., Liu, C., Vanderbeck, RM., Valentine, G., McQuaid, K., Chen, L., and Zhang, M. (2017)  Just savings or capabilities?  Contrasting theories of intergenerational justice.  In Punch, S. and Vanderbeck, R.M. (Eds.) Family, Intergenerationality and Peer Group Relations. Volume 5 of the series Major Reference Work on Geographies of Children and Young People (series editor: Tracey Skelton). New York: Springer. 

Punch, S. and Vanderbeck, R.M. (2017) An introduction to families, intergenerationality and peer group relations.  In Punch, S. and Vanderbeck, R.M. (Eds.) Family, Intergenerationality and Peer Group Relations. Volume 5 of the series Major Reference Work on Geographies of Children and Young People (series editor: Tracey Skelton). New York: Springer. 

Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., Sadgrove, J., Andersson, J., and Ward, K. (2017, in press) Researching global faith networks: a framework for transcending conventional perspectives on international comparative research. In Woodhead, L. (Ed.)   How to Research Religion: Putting Methods into Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Vanderbeck, R.M., Sadgrove, J., Valentine, G., Andersson, J., and Ward, K. (2015) The transnational debate over homosexuality in the Anglican Communion.  In Brunn, S. (Ed.) The Changing World Religion Map.  Springer.

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2010) Kompetentteja sosiaalisia toimijoita? Pohdintoja lapsuuden tutkimuksen ‘aikuisista’. [Competent social agents? Reflections on the ‘adult’ of childhood studies] In Kallio, P.K., Ritala-Koskinen, A. and Rutanen, N. (Eds.) Missä lapsuutta tehdää? [Where is childhood made?] Helsinki: Finnish Youth Research Network, the Finnish Society of Childhood Studies, and the Childhood and Family Research Unit of the University of Tampere. pp. 33-50.

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2006)  Commentary on ethical case study.  In Hay, Iain and Israel, Mark (eds.) Research Ethics for Social Scientists: Between Ethical Conduct and Regulatory Compliance.  Sage Publications.

Vanderbeck, Robert. M. (2006) ‘Segregation’. in Warf, Barney (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Human GeographySage Publications. pp. 423-4.


Johnson, P.J., Vanderbeck, R.M., and Falcetta, S. (2017) Religious marriage of same-sex couples : A report on places of worship in England and Wales registered for the solemnization of same-sex marriage. Report. University of York and University of Leeds.  Available at:

 [This report was covered in media sources including the following: the Daily Telegraph (, Yorkshire Post (, twice in PinkNews ( (, twice in Gay Times ( (, Thinking Anglicans (, Christian Today (, Evangelical Focus (, Premier Christianity ( Revealed-number-of-gay-weddings-at-churches), Christian Daily (, and Law & Religion UK (].    

Vanderbeck, R.M. (2011) An Evaluation of the Leeds City Council Equalities Assembly.  Leeds City Council. Summary report available at: 111020-robert-vanderbeck-equalities-assembly-report.pdf

Valentine, G., Vanderbeck, R.M., Ward, K., Sadgrove, J., and Andersson, J. (2010)  Sexuality and Global Faith Networks: A Research Project on Debates over Homosexuality in the Anglican Communion. Available at: fileadmin/downloads/school/research/groups/faith/ACCESSIBLE_REPORT.pdf 

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, University of Sheffield
  • MA, University of North Carolina
  • BA (Hons), University of North Carolina

Student education

I contribute to teaching in the following areas:

  • research design and qualitative research methods
  • urban and social geographies of Miami as a global city 
  • social difference and identities
  • undergraduate tutorials
  • undergraduate dissertations

Research groups and institutes

  • Social Justice, Cities, Citizenship

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>