Associate Professor Louise Johnson (Australia-International Medal) Citation



Dr Louise Johnson’s research has significantly advanced, and introduced Australian perspectives to, Human Geography world-wide. She has been particularly instrumental in defining, elaborating, circulating and extending Feminist Geography, and bringing this and other critical perspectives (such as Post-colonial Theory) to bear on Urban, Economic and Cultural Geography both within Australia and globally. Her work on the textile workplace, suburban housing, and the role of culture in the renewal of cities has contributed across a broad range of subjects, legitimising the study of gender and sexuality, as well as of domestic spaces and the creative arts, in Human Geography. She has an established international reputation, an extensive record of grants and publications, and intervenes in public debates.

Contributions to Feminist Geography

Feminist Geography argues that spaces are gendered and associated with power dynamics that tend to privilege men over women. Dr Johnson was one of the earliest innovators in this field and has made a substantial and ongoing contribution to its development, recognition and acceptance world-wide. In her many international refereed journal articles and book chapters and through her book Placebound: Australian Feminist Geographies (2000) she has engaged a generation of students and researchers while helping to transform a discipline.

In 2008, in recognition of her significant international role in the field, she was invited by the new editor to write a 15 year survey article: ‘Re-Placing gender? Reflections on 15 years of Gender, Place and Culture’, Gender Place and Culture 15(6): 561-574. Dr Johnson’s status is further underlined by her recent contribution on Feminist Economic Geography to a new major international encyclopaedia on Economic Geography edited by Professor Andrew Leyshon, et al., (Sage, 2011).

Dr Johnson’s intellectual contributions to Feminist Geography world-wide have encompassed conceptualising the field and applying its principles to the analysis of bodies in space, suburban houses, textile factories and shopping centres. Her PhD involved a Feminist Geography of the Australian and Geelong textile industries that was, in part, a detailed study of how technological change impacted on the economic and social geography of one plant and region. Major international refereed articles were drawn from this work, including L. Johnson (1990) ‘New patriarchal economies in the Australian textile industry’, Antipode 22(1): 1-32. In further work, Dr Johnson has made significant contributions to the study of Australian housing, residential and suburban forms, notably the 1993 article ‘Text-ured brick: speculations on the cultural production of domestic space’, Australian Geographical Studies 31(2): 201-213, and the 1994 book Suburban Dreaming: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Australian Cities. Such work has inspired others to consider house designs and interiors as legitimate sites for geographical research and generated spirited debate on the role of gender and sexuality in the design and use of urban spaces.

Contributions to Cultural Economic Geography

An additional research agenda emerged for Dr Johnson from her management role in the School of Contemporary Arts at Deakin University (1998-2001), as well as ongoing Geelong-based regional research: examining the role of the creative arts and cultural capital in the re-imaging and redevelopment of cities. Beginning with a study of Geelong – for which she secured ARC Discovery and Linkage Grants in 2000 – this work was broadened over 2005 to include Bilbao (Spain), Glasgow (Scotland) and Singapore. This research was brought together in a major book published internationally by Ashgate in 2009: Cultural Capitals – Re-valuing the Arts, Remaking Urban Spaces. Professor Jennifer Craik (University of Canberra) wrote of this book:

‘This is an ambitious and passionate “story of hope” for a solution to the global crisis of cities on the brink. Louise Johnson argues that sustainable urban regeneration is possible by

investing in cultural capitals that embody localism…This is a timely and inspiring contribution to the debate about the potential of the arts to enhance urban images, economies and communities.’

This work has led to a number of additional refereed publications, including L. Johnson (2006) ‘What is the value of the arts: theorising and realizing cultural capital in an Australian city’, Geographical Research 44(3): 296-309, which is one of the journal’s most downloaded articles.

International Recognition

Dr Johnson’s international recognition is extensive, reaching across and drawing together her contributions to Feminist, Economic, Urban and Cultural Geography. Through her work and her international standing, Dr Johnson has introduced Australian perspectives on Feminist and Cultural Economic Geography to the global geographical community. Two current international collaborative projects, which introduce Australian material to global research communities, are concerned with understanding suburbia in comparative cross-national perspective:

  • First, the ‘Global Suburbs Project’, which emanates from the City Institute at York University in Toronto, Canada, under the administrative direction of Professor Roger Keil. This is a large international project, planned to take nine years, which examines governance, social differentiation and change in North American, European, Asian and Australasian cities and their suburbs. Dr Johnson will direct the satellite research in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Second, the ‘Culture of the Suburbs Project’, funded by the Luverhulme Trust, which is based at Exeter University in the UK, under the direction of Dr Joanna Gill. This project seeks to examine the culture of suburbs across the globe. To facilitate this goal, Dr Johnson has been invited to serve as a member of the International Advisory Group.

Indeed, Dr Johnson has a long history of international leadership in Human Geography. Apart from the above ongoing cross-national collaborations, her leadership is evidenced by her role on international committees and editorial boards. Since 1988, Dr Johnson has been a long-standing Corresponding Member of the International Geographical Union’s Geography and Gender Study Group. Moreover, Dr Johnson has served in a leadership capacity on the following international journals’ editorial and advisory boards:

  • 1986-1997, Editorial Advisory Board Member, Women’s Studies International Forum
  • 1993-2006, Inaugural Editorial Board Member, Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography
  • 1998-2009, Editorial Board Member, New Zealand Geographer
  • 2001-present, Inaugural Editorial Board Member, ACME: An Online Journal of Critical Geography
  • 2002-2004, International Advisory Board Member, Canadian Geographer

Given her significant and interconnected contributions in Feminist, Economic, Urban and Cultural Geography, both within Australia and internationally, Dr Louise Johnson is a highly appropriate recipient of the Australia-International Medal.

Nominator (1)
Dr Andrew Gorman-Murray, University of Wollongong.

Nominator (2)
Dr Lesley Instone, Newcastle University.

Seconder (1)
Professor Ruth Fincher, University of Melbourne.

Seconder (2)
Dr Christy Collis, Queensland University of Technology.