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Hugh CampbellProfessor

Tel +64 3 479 8749

Research background

Professor Hugh Campbell is Professor of Sociology, Gender Studies and Criminology, School of Social Sciences, University of Otago.

Hugh has a long relationship with both the University of Otago and the Centre for Sustainability. He was an undergraduate at the University in the 1980s, and then completed a Masters in Social Anthropology at the university in 1988. He then spent time at Lincoln University where an academic interest in rural sociology, agriculture and sustainability began to form. Following completion of his PhD in Rural Sociology at the Centre for Rural Social Research, Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, he returned to the University of Otago in 1994 and developed university courses on rural society in New Zealand and on the global politics of food. In 2000, he was appointed founding Director of the Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Otago – the centre that subsequently grew into the Centre for Sustainability.

During his career at Otago, Hugh has had leadership roles in many research projects funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI). From 1995–2002, he was the Programme Leader of an MSI-funded programme, Greening Food: Social and Industry Dynamics. This programme examined the social and economic dimensions of developing sustainable agriculture in New Zealand. Specifically, the programme examined the development of organic production and Integrated Pest Management systems by food export organisations like Zespri and ENZA.

After 2003, Hugh co-led the social research team in the MSI-funded Agriculture Research Group on Sustainability (ARGOS) Programme. Working with the kiwifruit, dairy, and sheep/beef sectors, the ARGOS programme brought together 30 researchers from Otago and Lincoln Universities, and from the Agribusiness Group in Christchurch. It undertook a long-term study of social, economic and environmental dynamics on a group of over 100 farms and orchards in New Zealand. That project was extended through 2013–2018 as the NZ Sustainability Dashboard project.

From 2009–2014, Hugh was co-PI of the Marsden fund project Biological Economies: Making and Knowing New Rural Values. This project brought together researchers from across rural sociology and geography in New Zealand and resulted in the publication of two collections:

Biological Economies: Experimentation and the politics of agri-food frontiers (2016)

The New Biological Economy. How New Zealanders are creating value from the land (2018)

As a researcher, Hugh has published work on the social and economic dynamics of 'greening' food systems, the politics of sustainability under neoliberal governance, achieving sustainability via audits, food waste, transitions in agriculture and food systems in New Zealand, and theories of global food regimes.

In 2020, he published a book with Bloomsbury Academic –Farming Inside Invisible Worlds: Modernist Agriculture and its Consequences – on the agency of farms in the colonisation of New Zealand, the creation of modernist farming as the dominant for of land-use in New Zealand, and the many ways in which alternatives to modernist farming are emerging. The book is available on open access at


Current research

Past research

  • Greening Food, which studied the political economy of new commercial alternatives in agri-food systems (like organic agriculture)
  • The 12-year ARGOS project which studied sustainability dynamics on 100+ New Zealand farms and orchards
  • New Rural Economies, working with researchers in Europe, Canada and Australasia to theorise alternatives to neoliberal policy models for rural development
  • Biological Economies, which engaged in a radical re-theorising of rural economies using post-structural and more-than-human approaches to the relationship between biology and economy in land-based industries in New Zealand

Professor Campbell is also a member of Food Waste Innovation, a University of Otago Research Theme which measures food waste, develops reduction strategies, applies innovative technology, and works to modify producer and consumer behaviour.

Food Waste Innovation | Auahatanga Parakai


Current postgraduate students

  • Angella Ndaka (PhD) Reimagining environmental sustainability in AI based robots.

Recent postgraduate students

  • Abbi Virens (PhD 2022) Seeing the city for the weeds
  • Trixie Croad (Masters 2022) Food Waste Regimes in Primary Production
  • Katharine Cresswell Riol (PhD 2021) Right to food, and hunger in New Zealand
  • Rudi Kresna (PhD 2021) Developing economic, social and environmental responsive policies for sustainability of dairy farming in Indonesia
  • Karly Burch (PhD 2018) Fighting for food safety in post Fukushima Japan
  • Elizabeth Simmons (MA 2017) The philosophy and pragmatics of sustainable agriculture
  • David Reynolds (MA 2016) The Depoliticisation of Deprivation: Food Insecurity in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Madeline Hall (MA 2016) From 'Producers' to 'Polluters: Farmers' experience in the Lake Taupō Water Quality Trading Programme
  • Cinzia Piatti (PhD 2015) Enacting the alter-native: A theoretical reframing of local food initiatives in Aotearoa/New Zealand
  • Angga Dwiartama (PhD 2014) Investigating the resilience of agriculture and food systems: insights from two theories and two case studies
  • David McKay (PhD 2013) Education for Survival and Sustainability
  • Ali Stoddart (MA 2013) A Matter of Waste: Making experiences and perceptions of food waste visible
  • Stephanie Rotarangi (PhD 2011) Planted Forests on Ancestral Land: The Experiences and Resilience of Maori Land Owners

Selected books

  • Campbell, H. (2020), Farming Inside Invisible Worlds: Modernist Agriculture and Its Consequences. Bloomsbury Academic: London.
  • Pawson, E. et. al. (2018) The New Biological Economy: How New Zealanders are Creating Value from the Land. Auckland University Press: Auckland.
  • Forney, J., Rosin, C. and Campbell, H. (Eds.) (2018). Agri-environmental governance as an assemblage. Routledge (Earthscan): London.
  • Le Heron, R., Campbell, H., Lewis, N. and Carolan, M. (eds.) (2016) Biological Economies: Experimentation and the Politics of Agrifood Frontiers. Routledge (Earthscan): London.
  • Almas, R., Bjorkhaug, H., Campbell, H. (eds) and Smedshaug, A. (trans). (2013) Fram mot ein Berekraftig og Kilmatilpassa Norsk Landsbruksmodell (Towards a Sustainable and Climate-Secure Norwegian Land-Use Model). Akademika Forlag: Trondheim.
  • Evans, D., Campbell, H. and Murcott, A. (eds.) (2013) Waste Matters: New Perspectives on Food and Society. Sociological Review Monographs (Book 60): Wiley Blackwell.
  • Almas, R. and Campbell, H. (eds.) (2012) Rethinking Agricultural Policy Regimes: Food Security, Climate Change and the Future Resilience of Global Agriculture. Emerald: UK.
  • Rosin, C., Stock, P. and Campbell, H. (eds.) (2012). Food Systems Failure: The Global Food Crisis and the Future of Agriculture. Earthscan: London.


Campbell, H. (2020). Farming inside invisible worlds: Modernist agriculture and its consequences. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic, 232p. doi: 10.5040/9781350120570

Le Heron, R., Campbell, H., Lewis, N., & Carolan, M. (Eds.). (2016). Biological economies: Experimentation and the politics of agri-food frontiers. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 274p.

Campbell, H., Evans, D., & Murcott, A. (2017). Measurability, austerity and edibility: Introducing waste into food regime theory. Journal of Rural Studies, 51, 168-177. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2017.01.017

Campbell, H., & Rosin, C. (2011). After the 'Organic Industrial Complex': An ontological expedition through commercial organic agriculture in New Zealand. Journal of Rural Studies, 27(4), 350-361. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2011.04.003

Campbell, H. (2009). Breaking new ground in food regime theory: Corporate environmentalism, ecological feedbacks and the 'food from somewhere' regime? Agriculture & Human Values, 26(4), 309-319. doi: 10.1007/s10460-009-9215-8

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