View all news

Professor Jonathan Rigg awarded Victoria Medal

21 May 2020

Professor Jonathan Rigg, Chair of Human Geography at the University of Bristol, has been recognised with the prestigious Victoria Medal from the Royal Geographical Society.

The Victoria Medal recognises “conspicuous merit in research in geography" and has been given since 1902, in honour of the late Queen Victoria.

Professor Rigg joins a respected list of notable Victoria Medal holders including George Darwin, son of Charles Darwin, Torsten Hägerstrand and Doreen Massey – all pioneers in the fields of physical and human geography.

Jonathan’s work has focused on understanding – and judging – the effects of agrarian transformations on rural livelihoods in Asia, especially on poorer sections of rural society. The aim is to reveal the connections that have emerged over space, across genders and generations, and between farming and non-farming activities. Jonathan’s research began in Thailand in the early 1980s and expanded geographically to include fieldwork in Laos, Vietnam, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Work continues to the present day in Thailand.

As rural areas of Asia have become implicated in wider processes of economic change, Professor Rigg has tracked rural households and their livelihoods, working with labour migrants to the Middle East, factory workers in the Central Plains of Thailand, and rural-urban migrants in Hanoi.

Jonathan is currently contributing to the global COVID-19 research effort, interviewing coronavirus-affected international labour migrants from India, Bangladesh, Laos and Myanmar working in Singapore and Thailand. This work is in collaboration with researchers based in Canada, Laos and Singapore and seeks to understand how the effects of the virus are rippling back from countries of work to places of origin.

A second area of focus in Jonathan’s work has been in disasters and resilience. This followed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami but has developed since to include earthquake preparedness. A new grant is looking at multi-hazards in Nepal.

Before arriving at Bristol in January 2019, Jonathan was Director of the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, and before that in the Department of Geography at Durham University. He completed his PhD and was a British Academic Post-doctoral Fellow at the School of Oriental & African Studies.

Jonathan has been funded by grants from the British Academy, NERC, ESRC, EPSRC, the US National Science Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the EU, the Singapore Social Science Research Council, and the Danish aid agency DANIDA. He has also undertaken reviews and written papers for the FAO and the World Bank.

On the recent award, Jonathan comments: "To be recognised by the Victoria Medal of the Royal Geographical Society is a tremendous thrill. I became a Fellow of the RGS early in my career and over the years have come to appreciate how important the Society is for the health and vitality of the subject, supporting geography in schools as well as in universities, and keeping the subject in the public eye.

"Few of us are ‘lone’ scholars and this is particularly true of my own work which has required the support of funding bodies, governments and research agencies in other countries, colleagues and friends scattered across Asia and, most importantly, the willingness of rural people to talk to me at length about their struggles and aspirations.”

Jonathan’s latest book is More than rural: textures of Thailand agrarian transformation (Hawaii University Press, 2019).

Edit this page