Tom Sykes
  • Burnaby Road, Milldam

    PO1 3AS Portsmouth

    United Kingdom

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Personal profile


My research is at the intersection of history, literary studies and journalism as practice. My main focus in recent years has been the Philippines, having both reported from the country for the media, and written academically about its culture, politics and society. My monograph, Imagining Manila: Literature, Empire and Orientalism (Bloomsbury/IB Tauris), uses the theoretical frameworks of Orientalism and cultural materialism to critique three centuries of Western journalism, travel writing and realist fiction on Manila. It has received good reviews, been endorsed by leading scholars and prompted invitations to lecture at the Universities of Oxford, Sydney and Hawai’i.

In 2018, I published The Realm of the Punisher (Signal Books), a 'political travelogue' of the Philippines which, according to the Times Literary Supplement, "conveys in an affectionate, unpatronizing tone the many layers of injustice that run through the Philippines, and uses interviews and site visits to try to explain the eccentric ways and popular appeal of its more muscular leaders."

In 2022, I was awarded a Commendation in the 2022 Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence for “the inspiring commitment demonstrated to your students, involvement in the local literary community and your contributions to local, national and global journalism.” I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and sit on the boards of the academic journals Media Asia and Studies in Travel Writing.

I am a regular contributor to Private Eye, Britain's biggest selling political magazine, and have written for New Statesman, The Scotsman, The Telegraph, Morning Star, New Internationalist, Monocle, New African, Red Pepper, Travel Africa, South East Asia Globe and numerous print and digital media around the world.

My academic articles have appeared in Interventions: The International Journal of Postcolonial StudiesA Global History of Literature and the Environment (Cambridge University Press), Supernatural Cities (Boydell and Brewer), The Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Social Identities, Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction and Children’s Literature Review. 

I have co-edited a collection of political journalism and five anthologies of travel stories. The first, No Such Thing as a Free Ride? (Cassell Illustrated), was serialised in The Times and named The Observer’s Travel Book of the Month. I am one of the founding editors of Star & Crescent, a hyperlocal community news, culture and commentary website focusing on the Portsmouth area. Star & Crescent has published a great deal of writing and visual art by University staff, students and alumni.

My new book, Coast of Teeth, is a collaboration with UoP’s Course Leader for Illustration, Dr Louis Netter, and has received an endorsement from novelist Will Self. It has led to invitations to talk at the Royal Geographical Society, Institute for Historical Research and Arts University Bournemouth. 

I am Community Research Liaison for my school and teach on numerous BA and MA journalism and creative writing modules. I am available to supervise creative or critical PhD projects in the areas of journalism, memoir, reportage, Philippines studies, postcolonial literature and critical media studies.

Research Interests

My broad research interests include:

  • Creative nonfiction
  • Travel writing
  • Conspiracy theories and disinformation
  • Memory studies
  • Postcolonial literature and history
  • Psychogeography
  • Asian Studies
  • Historical materialism
  • Ecocriticism
  • The New Wave of Science Fiction
  • The neoliberal university

My PhD and my latest book, Imagining Manila, addressed the following theoretical issues:

  • The formal strategies of the autobiographical travelogue
  • The ethics and politics of Western discourses representing the Oriental 'other' in the Philippines
  • The construction of Chinese Filipinos as a 'supranational stereotype' shaped by Western attitudes to Chinese within the Filipinos, Chinese immigration to the West and the changing geopolitical role of China
  • The representation of Manila as a hell-like, supernatural textual space informed by Hispanophobia, religious bigotry and 'Third World Blues' (Pratt)
  • The late 19th/early 20th century colonial adventure novel's deployment of rhetorical devices to sanitise, ignore or justify US misconduct in the Philippine-American War   
  • The hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance of Western state-corporate media coverage of the Duterte regime  

I have published journalism on a wide variety of foreign affairs from British arms sales to Southeast Asia to sustainable development in Ghana.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Ph.D., Searching for Manila: Personal and Political Journeys in an Asian Megacity, Goldsmiths, University of London

20 Sept 201120 Jul 2018

Award Date: 20 Jul 2018

BA (Hons), English and American Literature, University of East Anglia

1 Oct 19985 Jul 2001

Award Date: 5 Jul 2001

External positions

Summersdale Publishing

1 Jul 2016 → …

Star & Crescent, Star & Crescent

2 Apr 2015 → …


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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