Author Archive

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.”

Racial Coastal Formation: Placing Race in the Making of Vulnerability to Sea-Level Rise

December 23, 2017 Comments off

Hardy, R.D., R.A. Milligan and N. Heynen (2017) “Racial Coastal Formation: Placing Race in the Making of Vulnerability to Sea-Level Rise.” Geoforum. 87: 62-72.


The United States’ deeply racialized history currently operates below the surface of contemporary apolitical narratives on vulnerability mitigation and adaptation to sea-level rise. As communities, regulatory agencies, and policy-makers plan for rising seas, it is important to recognize the landscapes of race and deep histories of racism that have shaped the socio-ecological formations of coastal regions. If this history goes unrecognized, what we label colorblind adaptation planning is likely to perpetuate what Rob Nixon calls the “slow violence” of environmental racism, characterized by policies that benefit some populations while abandoning others. By colorblind adaptation planning, we refer to vulnerability mitigation and adaptation planning projects that altogether overlook racial inequality—or worse dismiss its systemic causes and explain away racial inequality by attributing racial disparities to non-racial causes. We contend that responses to sea-level rise must be attuned to racial difference and structures of racial inequality. In this article, we combine the theory of racial formation with the geographical study of environmental justice and point to the ways racial formations are also environmental. We examine vulnerability to sea-level rise through the process of racial coastal formation on Sapelo Island, Georgia, specifically analyzing its deep history, the uneven racial development of land ownership and employment, and barriers to African American participation and inclusion in adaptation planning. Racial coastal formation’s potential makes way for radical transformation in climate change science not only in coastal areas, but other spaces as situated territorial racial formations.

Keywords: Race, Vulnerability, Sea-level rise, Political ecology, Gullah Geechee, Georgia

Urban Political Ecology III: The Gendered and Queer Century

May 1, 2017 Comments off

Here is my third and final report on urban political ecology (UPE) in Progress in Human Geography.  A shout out to Noel Castree for excellent editorial guidance on the lot of these.

Heynen, N. (2017; on-line first) “Urban Political Ecology III: The Gendered and Queer Century” Progress in Human Geography.


Given the ongoing importance of nature in the city, better grappling with the gendering and queering of urban political ecology offers important insights that collectively provides important political possibilities. The cross-currents of feminist political ecology, queer ecology, queer urbanism and more general contributions to feminist urban geography create critical opportunities to expand UPE’s horizons toward more egalitarian and praxis-centered prospects. These intellectual threads in conversation with the broader Marxist roots of UPE, and other second-generation variants, including what I have previously called abolition ecology, combine to at once show the ongoing promises of heterodox UPE and at the same time contribute more broadly beyond the realm of UPE.

Neil Smith’s Long Revolutionary Imperative

April 7, 2017 Comments off

Happy to announce that we published the special collection of papers about the work of Neil Smith as both an free e-book and a special issue of Antipode:

Heynen, N., A. Kent, K. McKittrick, V. Gidwani, W. Larner (Eds.), 2017. Revolutionary Imperative: Engaging the Work of Neil Smith. Wiley-Blackwell. [published simultaneously as a special issue of Antipode, 49 s1]

Papers in the special collection were written by a fantastic group of scholars, including Andrew Ross, Timothy Brennan, Noel Castree, Susan W.S. Millar, Don Mitchell, John Morrissey, Tom Slater, John Paul Jones III, Helga Leitner, Sallie A. Marston, Eric Sheppard, Setha Low, Patrick Bond and Greg Ruiters.

We, the editors, wrote this introductory essay, based on some of Neil’s archival letters that Don Mitchell allowed us temporary access to.  I’d urge folks to take a closer look at the cover art for the collection which is a portrait of Neil that Deb Cowen painted and allowed us to use.

Heynen, N. A. Kent, K. McKittrick, V. Gidwani, W. Larner (2017) “Neil Smith’s Long Revolutionary Imperative.” Antipode. 49(s1): 5-18.

Abstract: Whether writing about gentrification or nature, the production of space or the politics of scale, uneven development or public space, globalization or revolution, the geographer Neil Smith was nothing if not provocative. Neither Festschrift nor hagiography, this special issue of Antipode critically engages Smith’s work—not to unpick the rich tapestry, but to draw the threads out and spin them on in new directions. Consisting of newly commissioned essays by comrades from across the human sciences, it considers the entire range of Smith’s oeuvre. This paper introduces the essays by offering not only some thoughts about Smith’s intellectual contributions generally, but also new insight into the role he played in Antipode.

Toward an Abolition Ecology

March 15, 2017 Comments off

This is one of my earliest essays on what is much larger project on abolition ecology.  I was happy to have been asked to participate on the Editorial Review Board of the new Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics which quickly became a logical home for this essay which will be in the inaugural issue:

Heynen, N. (2017; on-line first) “Toward an Abolition Ecology” Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics.

“Abolitionist politics continue to evolve in response to the ways racial capitalism exploits, oppresses and commits violence through uneven racial development. As environmental relations have always been part of this, in this short essay, Nik Heynen starts to grapple with what an ‘abolition ecology’ would look like.”

Solidarity in Climate/Immigrant Justice Direct Action: Lessons from movements in the U.S. South

March 7, 2016 Comments off

Happy to have published this paper in IJURR with two wicked smart folks.  Given we all continue to do work within these communities hoping for more work like this down the road.

Black, S., R. Milligan and N. Heynen (2016) “Solidarity in Climate/Immigrant Justice Direct Action: Lessons from movements in the U.S. South”. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 40(2), 284-298.


In October of 2012, youth organizers from the immigrant justice and climate change resistance movements in the southeastern US metropolitan region of Atlanta, Georgia, coordinated a direct action tactic framed by a unified narrative justifying collaboration between immigrant and climate justice activists on equal terms. In a continuing collaborative relationship, these organizers embraced mutually strategic narratives rooted in local civil rights history, but rejected common ‘global climate justice’ narratives used to frame social and environmental collaborative organizing. We examine the departure from ‘global climate justice’ narratives, which was exemplified by coalition building in Georgia, to argue that scholarship articulating ‘global climate justice’ as a new context for integrating social and environmental movements must anticipate barriers to these solidarities, especially historical, regional and racialized dynamics of power among organizations engaged in these developing alliances. Based on an investigation of strategic alliances between anti-racist, immigrant justice organizers and climate change activists in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta and Athens, Georgia, we argue that climate justice narratives in both activism and scholarship would benefit from more attention to the particular political and cultural geographies in which diverse forms of climate justice organizing can take hold.