“A plantation can be a commons”: Re‐Earthing Sapelo Island through Abolition Ecology

May 25, 2020 Comments off

This was a long time in progress and came with all sorts of challenges but happy to have it out in the world.

Heynen, N. (2020). “A plantation can be a commons”: Re‐Earthing Sapelo Island through Abolition Ecology. Antipode.

This paper is based on the 2018 Neil Smith Lecture presented at the University of St Andrews. It considers the plantation past/futures of Sapelo Island, Georgia, one of the Sea Islands forming an archipelago along the US Southeastern coast. I work through the abolitionist efforts of the Saltwater Geechee’s who have resided there since at least 1803 to better understand how we can mobilise an emancipatory politics of land and property and to produce commons that work to repair and heal the violence done through enslavement and ongoing displacement. I weave together a series of historical threads to better situate linked ideas of abolition democracy and abolition geography, and to extend the notion of abolition ecology as a strategic notion to connect Eurocentric based political ecologies with the emancipatory tradition of Black geographies.

Land Trusts as Conservation Boundary Organizations in Rapidly Exurbanizing Landscapes: A Case Study from Southern Appalachia

March 5, 2020 Comments off

Brownson, Katherine, Jessica Chappell, Jason Meador, Jennifer Bloodgood, Jillian Howard, Linda Kosen, Hannah Burnett et al. “Land Trusts as Conservation Boundary Organizations in Rapidly Exurbanizing Landscapes: A Case Study from Southern Appalachia.” Society & Natural Resources (2020): 1-12.

Exurban development is occurring in many formerly rural areas nationwide, often outpacing the ability of institutions to update land use regulations. These pressures can negatively impact local ecosystems and natural resources, including reduced biodiversity and degraded water quality. Local nongovernmental organizations play an important role in promoting conservation in exurban landscapes, where there is relatively little regulatory and institutional infrastructure. Here, we draw on boundary organization theory to discuss how land trusts can function as boundary organizations, by using boundary objects and working as a bridge between community members, scientists, and governments to navigate complex conservation challenges. Mainspring Conservation Trust in southern Appalachia serves as a case study to explore methods for engaging and connecting diverse stakeholders. We show that land trusts can provide a flexible and necessary alternative to regulations for meeting conservation objectives by working at the boundary between science and local action.

Categories: Publications Tags: ,

What Harriet Tubman and John Brown can teach us about abolishing ‘White men’

January 8, 2020 Comments off

Heynen, N. (2020). What Harriet Tubman and John Brown can teach us about abolishing ‘White men’. Dialogues in Human Geography.

This commentary argues that one path toward Natalie Oswin’s ‘An Other Geography’ is through abolishing the institution of ‘White men’. Like other oppressive institutions, ‘White men’ have produced epistemic violence that has shaped and structured the discipline of geography in uneven and unjust ways. This essay is an effort to show appreciation and gratitude, and to stand in solidarity, with Oswin’s prophetic vision of ‘an other geography’. I mobilize the linked biographies of Harriet Tubman and John Brown as an entry point given how little we have yet worked to understand abolitionist history for thinking through the many ways we can work to transform geography.

Categories: Publications Tags:

Unscripted interview with UGA professor Nik Heynen

October 15, 2019 Comments off


“Professor Nik Heynen is the co-director of the UGA Cornelia Walker Bailey Program on Land and Agriculture on Sapelo Island. Georgia. One of the natural treasures among the barrier islands along the Georgia coast, Sapelo is the home of the only remaining Gullah-Geechee community in America. The island and its people face threats from rising seas as well as exurbanization. Heynen explains the Cornelia Walker Bailey Program and reflects on the island’s past, present and future, including a variety of fascinating subjects, from sugar cane to one of the earliest Islamic texts found in North America.”

Categories: Interviews Tags:

Myths, Cults, Memories, and Revisions in Radical Geographic History

May 3, 2019 Comments off

Warren, G. C., Katz, C., & Heynen, N. (2019). Myths, cults, memories, and revisions in radical geographic history: revisiting the Detroit Geographical Expedition and Institute. Spatial Histories of Radical Geography: North America and Beyond, 59-85.

The power of myth to take on important political meaning while at the same time obscuring embodied historical geographies lurks everywhere. The mythic status of John Henry, when mobilized by Pete Seeger for instance, was used as a symbol for labor struggles across the U.S. Given the positive portrayal of his racialized might and power, so rarely valorized in mainstream U.S. culture, John Henry’s strength and perseverance were mobilized symbolically in the freedom marches of the civil rights movement. This chapter shows how myths about radical praxis can play tricks with history and geography, wherein some people and places acquire cultish status while others are eclipsed with profound impacts on our understanding of the discipline and its community engagements. It focuses on the basics of the popular, mythological, version of the Detroit Geographical Expedition and Institute and Fitzgerald as has been articulated within radical history. The DGEI.

Abolishing the frontier: (De)colonizing ‘public’ education

April 14, 2019 Comments off

In this paper, Nikki Luke and I are working through how to reconcile the history of the university we work at while thinking about how folks working at institutions of higher education can push toward decolonizing public education.

Luke, N. and N. Heynen (2019) “Abolishing the Frontier: (De)Colonizing “Public” Education” Social and Cultural Geography.

ABSTRACT In this paper, we situate the public university as a frontier where structures of settler colonialism, racialization, and citizen formation are both created and contested. We use the historical- geographical position of the University of Georgia, the first public land grant university chartered in the United States, to consider the broader implications of the settler-native-slave triad in the history of public higher education. We use these historical insights to expand upon W. E. B. Du Bois’ notion of abolition democracy and Indigenous discussions of decolonization. We animate the possibilities of abolition democracy informing public higher education through three interventions that question the ways in which people within public institutions of higher education can destabilize and work to democratize the systems that enclose land, labor, and education as private property.


Keywords in Radical Geography: Antipode at 50

March 1, 2019 Comments off

Jazeel, T, A. Kent, K. McKittrick, N. Theodore, S. Chari, P. Chatterton, V. Gidwani, N. Heynen W. Larner, J. Peck, J. Pickerill, M. Werner, M. W. Wright (eds) (2019) Keywords in Radical Geography. Oxford: Wiley.

To celebrate Antipode’s 50th anniversary, we’ve brought together 50 short keyword essays by a range of scholars at varying career stages who all, in some way, have some kind of affinity with Antipode’s radical geographical project.

  • The entries in this volume are diverse, eclectic, and to an extent random, however they all speak to our discipline’s past, present and future in exciting and suggestive ways
  • Contributors have taken unusual or novel terms, concepts or sets of ideas important to their research, and their essays discuss them in relation to radical and critical geography’s histories, current condition and possible future directions
  • This fractal, playful and provocative intervention in the field stands as a fitting testimony to the role that Antipode has played in the generation of radical geographical engagement with the world


Categories: Editorial, Publications Tags:

Facilitating Interdisciplinary Graduate Education: Barriers, Solutions, and Needed Innovations

November 2, 2018 Comments off

Welch-Devine, Meredith, Alana Shaw, Julie Coffield, and Nik Heynen. (2018) “Facilitating interdisciplinary graduate education: Barriers, solutions, and needed innovations.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 50:(5): 53-59.

In Short:

•• Organizational hierarchies, policies, and budgetary models often disadvantage interdisciplinary programs and their students and faculty.

•• Examples exist across the country of improvements that can be made. However, in some areas— for example, accounting for and reporting interdisciplinary efforts— viable approaches are not yet clear and work remains to be done.

•• Improving interdisciplinary graduate education will require strong commitment from university leaders and a willingness to lay out clear, rational, and flexible policies and funding models.

The Antinomies of Nature and Space

May 29, 2018 Comments off

This is the opening essay to the inaugural issue of the new journal Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space that I help edit with the other three authors of the essay.

Collard, Rosemary-Claire, Leila M. Harris, Nik Heynen, and Lyla Mehta. (2018) “The antinomies of nature and space.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. 1(1-2): 3-24.

Here is a brief excerpt:

“This editorial introduces and inaugurates EPE. In what follows, we sketch some of the varied approaches to nature–society scholarship that the journal aims to draw together, distilling some key insights from the literature of the past several decades, while also highlighting key imperatives and ways forward to make progress on these themes and concerns. We are cognizant that there is no way to comprehensively map all of the currents of research and thinking that will allow us to engage with the range of nature– society challenges and questions we currently face. We are hopeful that neglected and newly imagined approaches will be brought to our attention as we work collectively on this journal in the coming years.”

The Enduring Struggle for Social Justice and the City

February 2, 2018 Comments off

This is a substantive introductory essay I co-wrote with three incredibly smart scholars that kicks off the Annals special issue I edited that explores contemporary investigations into Social Justice and the City.

Heynen, N., D. Aiello, C. Keegan, N. Luke (2018) “The Enduring Struggle for Social Justice and the City.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers. 108(2): 301-316.

Here is an excerpt:

“What follows in this article is an effort to trace the genealogy of urban social justice within the Annals to understand its origins since the journal’s first publication in 1911 and gesture at where it might be going. To frame the articles that follow, we work through the archives of the Annals starting with the first published issue, mapping changes in the definition of social justice in three cuts. In the first section, we consider the political discussions of justice and injustice up to the radical turn in the discipline that prefigured what would become social justice as a dominant theme of investigation in geography. We then show, in selected ways, the rapid theoretical development of social justice in its variegated forms after the turn up to this special issue. Over time, we note how the empirical emphasis of articles widens to consider a broad range of geographies, identities, and political aims with a greater preponderance of specifically urban studies. Third, we discuss the ways in which articles published in the Annals have treated “the city” and urban geographical processes more broadly. Following this deeper context, we offer some summary of the twenty six special issue articles. The shift across the journal’s disciplinary history is quite extraordinary, with much of the early research drawing from racist, sexist, colonial, and environmentally determinist thought and transitioning into much more socially engaged and progressive, sometimes radical, scholarship.”