Dr John Heathershaw


I was born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in 1976 and raised in Retford, just across the border in Nottinghamshire. I was educated at what Tony Blair would later call a 'bog standard' comprehensive school.  Although the school was subsequently assessed as failing and closed down by the authorities, I enjoyed most of my years there and became fascinated by history and politics at a time when the region was suffering from unemployment and social disolocation following the miners strike and subsequent pit closures of the 1980s and 1990s.  After graduating with my first degree in 1997, I followed the logic of decades of UK government policy and contributed to the 'brain drain' of the north by migrating to southern England.  I subsequently became an immigrant to The Gambia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and the United States - often benefitting from generous hospitality from the citizens of those countries.  I returned to the UK in 2007 and have been increasingly concerned by the debasement of national discourse, the decline of British internationalism, the diminshiment of public services at home, and the continued failure of successive Westminster governments to re-articulate the purpose of politics: sustaining and expanding the common good. 

In the late-1990s and early-2000s, I worked in the policy-making and practice of development, security and post-conflict interventions. After being as a volunteer on a UNHCR programme in West Africa, and a researcher at a conflict prevention NGO in London, I became a research analyst at the UK’s Ministry of Defence. I have also held research and consultancy positions at the Department for International Development and with various non-governmental organisations in Central Asia and offer advice to members of parliament, senior diplomats and government officials working on the region. From 2001-2005, I spent a total of three years living and working in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and have returned for extended visits on many occasions since that time.

I completed my PhD at the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2007. I have degrees from Aberystwyth and Hull, and have previously held teaching and research posts at the LSE, the American University in Central Asia, and King’s College, London. Before coming to Exeter I was a Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies of the University of Notre Dame. I have also studied Theology and Religious Studies at Notre Dame, London School of Theology, and Bristol Baptist College, and Central Asian languages in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

As a practising Christian, I am involved with and support a number of faith-based peace movements and development organisations; I am committed to understanding and taking part in the world from a theistic perspective which is specficially centred on the person of Jesus Christ.  I have written and spoken on the role of religion in public life and have taken part in inter-faith dialogues between various Muslim and Christian traditions in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

I am married with two children and live in the city of Exeter.  

I now split my football loyalties between Nottingham Forest and Exeter City.  I like to swim off the cost of the south-west of England and cycle and hike through the hills, valleys and moors of Devon.