Archive for the ‘Students’ Category

Congratulations to Dr. Ellen Kohl!

February 13, 2015 Comments off

I am a bit tardy on posting this, but wanted to send out a warm congratulations to Dr. Ellen Kohl who recently successfully defended and submitted her Ph.D. dissertation entitled “Permanence of the Struggle: Race, Gender, And Environmental Justice In Gainesville, Georgia”

Ellen’s research has been some of the most exciting I’ve advised to date.

Thanks to her research committee members Drs. Steve Holloway, Amy Ross, Patricia Richard and Laura Pulido.


In this dissertation, I examine the socio-spatial processes which contribute to and maintain places of persistent environmental injustices. I argue that there are compounding political, social, economic, and geographic processes that work in conjunction with the fatal coupling of difference and power to create almost insurmountable barriers to remedy social and environmental injustices. They would be insurmountable except for the sheer tenacity of activists and residents who work tirelessly to make positive change in their communities. Through an integrated lens of Black feminist thought and theories on the racial state I draw on my empirical research to introduce factors that independently and in their interactions with one another, lay the groundwork for the persistence of places of environmental injustice. I argue that while nuanced details differ from place to place, the challenges faced by environmental justice communities fall into six interrelated and compounding categories: 1) urban planning, (2) regulatory processes, (3) scale of analysis, (4) the role of science, (5) political economy, and (6) cultural capital. I consider these processes in a historic-geographical context because without explicitly considering these histories and their relationship to difference and power, regulators and activists intentionally or unintentionally perpetuate the uneven development of discriminatory processes. To do this, I rely on extensive participant observation, semi-structured interviews and archival research, with the Newtown Florist Club, a social and environmental justice organization in Gainesville, Georgia, elected and career representatives of the City of Gainesville, and representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Southeastern Division. I examine how through every day experiences and narratives, activists and governmental officials contest or perpetuate persistent injustices. I also examine how activist use storytelling as a way to reassert themselves on the physical and political landscape they feel ignores their lived experiences. In this way, they use the stories of their lived experiences to not only draw attention to individual environmental hazards, but also to the structural processes which allow these injustices to exist, and persist, in the first place.

KEY WORDS: Environmental Justice, Race and Racialization, Black Feminist Thought, Environmental Policy, Urban Policy

Categories: Students

Congratulations to Dr. Seth Gustafson!

March 22, 2014 Comments off

I am very pleased to congratulate Seth Gustafson on having just successfully defended his Ph.D. Dissertation that is entitled “Urban Political Ecology and Exurban Environmental Knowledge in Post-2008 Southern Appalachia.”

Seth’s project will no doubt push the boundaries of urban political ecology in important ways.

Also, many thanks to his research committee members Drs. Jennifer L. Rice, Steve Holloway, Josh Barkan and Ted Gragson.


This dissertation draws on urban political economy, urban political ecology, and science
studies to examine the social and environmental consequences of urbanization in historically
rural areas, especially the driving influences prompting new rounds of urban development in the
countryside and as how communities draw upon different forms of knowledge to address the
socioenvironmental burdens and benefits of exurban growth. More specifically, the dissertation
examines how the 2008 financial crisis impacted the politics of environmental knowledge and
uneven development in exurban southern Appalachia. I draw on my diverse training in
qualitative methods of archival work, interviews, and participant observation; quantitative
examination of parcel-level tax data and other socio-economic and socio-ecological data; and
spatial analysis using GIS. The case study I use is a local policy controversy in Macon County,
North Carolina, regarding the regulation of steep mountain slope development to prevent
landslides. This economically peripheral region experienced rapid urban growth from 1960-
2008 but lacked state regulatory or civil society capacity to address the economic,
environmental, and social upheaval resulting from the decades of growth and the post-2008
crisis. With varying degrees of success, local residents had long attempted to mitigate landslides
and other negative environmental externalities of urban growth in their historically rural area, but
did so only under the auspices of massive capital investment via residential construction. I show
that as the financial crisis constricted this influx of capital, it intersected with attitudes toward
expert geological knowledge and non-expert knowledge of the landscape, thereby thwarting
attempts to mitigate landslide vulnerability.

KEY WORDS: urban metabolism, urban political ecology, uneven development,
environmental knowledge, Coweeta LTER, southern Appalachia

Peas and Praxis: Organizing Food Justice through the Direct Action of the Newtown Florist Club

August 27, 2013 Comments off

Several years ago Ellen Kohl (a Ph.D Student I work with) and I started to collaborate with an incredible group of community activists called the Newtown Florist Club who live and organize in Gainesville Georgia.  The Newtown Florist Club is a social and environmental justice organization who will be celebrating their 63rd Anniversary this year and are directed by a truly amazing woman named Ms. Faye Bush. Together, with a group of other academics, lawyers and a couple environmental engineers, we formed of a research/writing collective that we called the Newtown Florist Club Writing Collective (NFCWC).  We formed the NFCWC out of concern that too often scholars parachute into communities to “research them” and just as quickly disappear.  We have worked hard over the course of these years to build trust and get to know each other and hope to share our collective insights through a series of publications we are working on.

The first publication from this collective endeavor has just been published in an exciting book edited by Rachel Slocum and Arun Saldanha titled Geographies of Race and Food: Fields, Bodies, Markets.

Our chapter is titled:

“Peas and Praxis: Organizing Food Justice through the Direct Action of the Newtown Florist Club”.

Beyond this collective effort, Ellen is also working on her dissertation is close collaboration with the NFC.

Stay tuned for her great project in due course.


Congratulations to Dr. Jason Rhodes

July 10, 2013 Comments off

Happy to congratulate Jason Rhodes on successfully defending his Ph.D. Dissertation that is entitled “Finding Value in Racism: The Spatial Choreography of Black & White in Early Twentieth Century Atlanta.”

Much appreciation to his committee members Drs. Amy Ross, Steve Holloway and Josh Barkan.


In recent decades a powerful narrative has taken shape which explores the impact of
federal housing policies in shaping the highly racialized geography of poverty and privilege
which forms the landscape of today’s American city. Called the “New Suburban History,” it
documents the racial discrimination written into the subsidized home loan policies of the federal
government after WWII, based upon the assumption that property values depended upon the
maintenance of neighborhood homogeneity on the basis of race and class. By lavishing
neighborhoods comprised exclusively of white homeowners with federal subsidies, while
targeting the neighborhoods of non-whites and renters for red-lining, these programs, it is
argued, became self-fulfilling prophecies of growth and decline, and it is generally assumed that
the racism of both policy-makers and white homeowners distorted their conception of “value.”
This dissertation argues that the problem with this narrative is that “value,” so central to the
story, in fact is never defined. It asks what urban planners actually meant by the term “value,”
which they explicitly stated to be what their exclusive land-use regulations were designed to
pursue. It does this by connecting a history of the changing definition of “value” in 19th and
turn-of-the-20th century economic theory to the development of exclusionary land-use
regulations at the National Conference on Urban Planning, developed in pursuit of “value,” and
argues that privilege and exclusion are essential to the category of “value” itself, regardless of
whether they are distributed on the basis of skin color. Against the standard narrative, which
holds that racism distorted conceptions of “property values” in the 20th century American city,
what is argued here is that the institution of value, and the social categories of privilege and
exclusion which it requires, has fundamentally shaped our categories of race.

IPEE, Foodshare event and Black Creek Farm

June 22, 2013 Comments off

I just had an absolutely great time teaching the International Political Economy and Ecology Summer School at York University in Toronto over the last two weeks with Liette Gilbert and 31 fantastic students.

I’ve long been aware of the IPEE and pretty blown away by the cast of folks who had taught it before, but think we lived up to the expectations.

Poster Hunger Politics v4

Here are pictures from two of the highlights.

First, we had a public event at Toronto’s Foodshare with Utcha Sawyers from Food Justice/FoodShare, Damion Adjodha from Black Creek Community Farm, Anan Lololi from AfriCan FoodBasket, Lauren Baker from Toronto Food Policy Council, and  Melissa Addison Webster from Put Food in the Budget.


Then, we had a class at Black Creek Farm and discussed popular education and the ideas of Paulo Freire and Myles Horton under a large shade tree in the middle of the farm while sitting on stumps.   It was awesome.

Black Creek

Congratulations to Dr. Graham Pickren

May 16, 2013 Comments off

Congratulations to the new “Dr.” Graham Pickren for defending his excellent dissertation today entitled “Understanding the Emerging E-Waste Regime: The Politics of Certification and Labeling in the Electronics Recycling Industry!  Thanks to his committee members Drs. Amy Ross, Hilda Kurtz, Josh Barkan and external member, David Pellow (in Sociology at U of Minnesota).


Recent work on the electronics recycling industry has drawn attention to the hazards associated with the export of used electronics, or e-wastes, from the U.S. to informal recycling sites in developing countries where hazardous recycling practices are often used. This dissertation seeks to understand how the geographic movement of e-waste becomes a subject of political concern and to evaluate the types of political interventions that have been developed in the U.S. to confront this growing ‘e-waste problem’. My empirical work investigates the development of labeling and certification schemes for electronics recyclers designed to embed some modicum of accountability into the used electronics supply chain. In addition, extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws seek to reduce the use of toxics in electronics production by requiring producers to take financial responsibility for the end-of-life management of their products. Thus, the politics of e-waste in the U.S. revolve around attempts to mitigate hazardous ‘downstream’ flows of discards while also working to make ‘upstream’ preventative changes in production. By examining the important roles that consumers, NGO’s, corporate actors, and governments play in these processes, my work speaks to the opportunities and limitations of contemporary forms of social and environmental governance. I utilized qualitative methods, including interviews, archival work, and participation in policy workshops through the United Nations University’s Solving the E-Waste Problem Initiative. My analysis of e-waste politics points to a broader critique of sustainability and of the ‘greening’ of capitalism more generally. Finally, this work contributes to the study of one of the more profound contradictions of the information age: although seemingly ‘virtual’, placeless, and predicated upon flows of information, the rise of digital technologies is grounded in particular places with particular socio-natural effects.

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