Profile: Robin Kearns

Robin Kearns, Professor, School of Geology and Environmental Science, The University of Auckland, New Zealand. Robin’s research and teaching interests combine aspects of cultural and health geography and include: the cultural politics of place, the links between neighbourhood dynamics and well being, and the geography of health services.

Robin Kearns was born in England, spent his childhood in the far north of New Zealand, and a year in the American South as an exchange student. These diverse experiences led to a passion for piecing together how the world works and understanding the nature of place. His academic path took him through Auckland (MA degree) then to Canada in the 1980s (McMaster, Ph.D) . He completed his degree in 1987, working with Martin Taylor, and back to New Zealand for two years of postdoctoral work supported by the Medical Research Council. Since then, apart from sabbatical periods in Canada, he has been based at the University of Auckland.

Robin has published two books (with Wil Gesler ) and numerous articles addressing aspects of the links between culture, place and health and has contributed to theoretical debates within health geography. He has supervised over 30 masters and a dozen PhD students many of whose work has focussed on socio-geographical aspects of Auckland. Three have gone on to academic careers in North America and Asia.

In terms of service, Robin has held a position on the Public Health Research Committee of the Health Research Council of NZ (since 2001- 06) and the Board of the Centre for Housing Research Aotearoa New Zealand (CHRANZ) (since 2003-07). Robin is currently a ministerial appointment on the Public Health Advisory Committee and the National Health Committee. He is an editor of two journals: Health Place, and Health Social Care in the Community.

Robin s current research interests include: cultural transformations of the New Zealand coastline, the changing place of the voluntary sector in health care, links between housing, ageing and place, and connecting neighbourhood designs and physical activity (especially for the children). His research (with Damian Collins) has had local practical application, having provided foundational knowledge for the establishment of Auckland s network of walking school buses. A recent preoccupation has been his editorship of the Population and Health section of Elsevier’s Encyclopaedia of Human Geography due out in 2009.

Robin’s research and teaching goals are to make visible the ordinary and reveal relationships within and between places that might otherwise remain obscure. His work has, in the past, employed quantitative methodologies, but he comes from a strong humanities tradition. He teaches courses in population, health society (3rd year) health and place (graduate) as well as contributing to a range of urban, research design and public health courses.

Robin may be contacted at

Updated: March 2009