Robert  Winstanley-Chesters Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Robert Winstanley-Chesters

Robert completed his PhD at the University of Leeds (School of Geography) with a dissertation entitled “Ideology and the Production of Landscape in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”. This was later published as “Environment, Politics and Ideology in North Korea.” Robert was appointed a Post-Doctoral Fellow within the Beyond the Korean War Project at the University of Cambridge, and is now a Research Fellow at Australian National University, College of Asia and the Pacific.


Growing up in London, New York and Hamburg, I completed a degree in Theology (BD) at the University of Edinburgh’s Faculty of Divinity, before working within the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. Returning to academia I completed a Masters degree at the University of Leeds, School of Geography (as part of the first cohort of students in its ground breaking Activism and Social Change programme), before completing my PhD at the School of Geography with a dissertation entitled Ideology and the Production of Landscape in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. I was appointed a Post-Doctoral Fellow within the Beyond the Korean War Project, funded by the Academy of Korean Studies at the University of Cambridge, as well as a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, School of Geography. I have also served as Director of Research and Environmental Analyst as the online academic community focused on North Korean-Chinese border issues, Sino-NK.

My research interests focus on the landscape and topographies of the Korean Peninsula and in particular North Korea and their interaction with political, ideological, cultural and social developments. I approach these spaces of nature from the perspective of critical geography investigating the processes of natures construction and reconstruction at the behest of the forces of Capital and ideology. My doctoral dissertation an extensive analysis of North Korea’s environmental history, specifically those of its forests and coasts, was published by Lexington Press in 2014 as Environment, Politics and Ideology in North Korea: Landscape as Political Project. I have since focused on the role of topography within North Korean political narratives, considering specific natural features as participant or participating within those narratives. I have also worked on the mineral histories of North Korea, the forest histories of the Korean peninsula under Japanese colonisation and Animal Geographies of North Korea. I am the co-author of a forthcoming monograph New Goddesses on Mt Paektu: Gender, Myth and Transformation in Korean Landscape in which I specifically focus on natural features found within the hagiographies of Kim Jong Suk, the first wife of Kim Il Sung. I am also co-editor of the forthcoming edited volume Change and Continuity in North Korean Politics (Routledge).

At Australian National University I am part of the Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship project Informal Life Politics in North East Asia under the leadership of Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki. Within this project I am tasked with researching the topography and history of fishing and fishing infrastructures in North Korea and the communities which form part of those landscapes and topographies.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Critical Geographies
    Environmental History
    North Korean Environmental History
    Geographies of Colonial Korea
    Animal Geography




Asian Perspective

Charisma in a Watery Frame: North Korean Narrative Topographies and the Tumen

Published: Sep 01, 2016 by Asian Perspective
Authors: Robert Winstanley-Chesters
Subjects: Asian Studies

The paper considers the Tumen River’s place within North Korean narratives of struggle and overcoming. It considers such watery spaces reframing within its current politics, and recent examples of processes of de-territorializing and re-territorializing of historical and politically important crossings of North Korea’s northern rivers. Together these analytic elements suggest the rivers' key position in both the bounding and unbounding of North Korean politics, ideology and nationhood

Captalism Nature Socialism

From Dialectic of Nature to the Asian Mode...

Published: May 26, 2016 by Captalism Nature Socialism
Authors: Robert Winstanley-Chesters
Subjects: Asian Studies

This paper traces the journey made by North Korea's environmental philosophy from Marxist tradition through Korean nationalism to its current manifestation within Pyongyang's ideology.

S/N Korean Humanities

New Goddesses at Paektu Mountain: Two Contemporary Korean Myths

Published: Jan 31, 2016 by S/N Korean Humanities
Authors: Robert Winstanley-Chesters, Victoria Ten
Subjects: Asian Studies

This paper examines the mythologies of two female figures vital to Korean history and their encounters and becomings on the terrain of Paektu. Considering Kim Jong-suk and the Woman of Heaven (\天仙女 Ch’ŏnsŏnyŏ) within the Korean traditions of Sanshin or mountain worship the paper finds places and spaces of transformation, violence and gender.

Akademisk Kvarter (Academic Quarter)

The Socialist Modern at Rest and Play: Spaces of Leisure in North Korea

Published: Oct 01, 2015 by Akademisk Kvarter (Academic Quarter)
Authors: Robert Winstanley-Chesters

Far from a blank leisure canvas, Pyongyang’s political and cultural repertoire of praxis has required and supported an extensive net-work of narrative, ideology, infrastructure and facilities focused on politically appropriate sport, and entertainment which embedded and enmeshed leisure and non-productive time at the heart of Pyongyang’s acutely charismatic and theatric political form.

Papers of the British Association of Korean Studies (BAKS Papers)

North Korean Pomiculture 1958–1967: Pragmatism and Revolution

Published: Jul 24, 2015 by Papers of the British Association of Korean Studies (BAKS Papers)
Authors: Robert Winstanley-Chesters
Subjects: Asian Studies

Building on past analysis by its author of North Korea’s history of developmental approach and environmental engagement, this paper encounters the field of pomiculture (or orchard development and apple farming) in the light of another key text authored by Kim Il-sung, 1963’s “Let Us Make Better Use of Mountains and Rivers

Tiempo Devorado (Journal of Consumed Time)

Rescaling Charismatic Landscapes in North Korea

Published: Jun 01, 2015 by Tiempo Devorado (Journal of Consumed Time)
Authors: Robert Winstanley-Chesters

In particular this paper encounters the courtyard of a Mr Ri Song-ryong and a number of other participants and terrains within North Korea’s political narratives and campaigns. With methodologies in mind it analyses the substructures and transformative powers present in these political-social manifestations, assessing the impact on landscape and terrain and the utilities of scale, scaling and re-scaling in the transference of charisma from one temporality or terrain to another.