Department of Geography and the Environment

Bjorn Sletto

Affiliated FacultyPh.D., Cornell University

Associate Professor of Community and Regional Planning, School of Architecture
Bjorn Sletto


  • Phone: 512.471.5153
  • Office: SUT 3.124B
  • Campus Mail Code: B7500


Geographic Information Systems, Latin American planning and development, participatory planning, environmental and social justice, social theory


Bjørn Sletto received his doctorate in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. He has a master’s degree in Geography from the University of Kansas and a BA in Journalism from the University of Minnesota. A native of Ål, Norway, Bjørn has more than 20 years’ experience living and working in Latin America and the Caribbean. His research focuses on indigenous resource management, sustainable development, and environmental planning in Latin America. He is particularly interested in the dichotomies and tensions between local knowledge and traditional environmental management systems, and formal planning and management approaches. During the past few years, he lived in indigenous villages and border cities in Venezuela, investigating conflicts associated with fire management and leading a participatory mapping project to assist with the demarcation of the land of the indigenous Pemon.

His current research focuses on indigenous land rights and environmental conflict in the Perija mountains on the Colombia-Venezuela border, and the ways in which these issues articulate with environmental planning and environmental justice in the Lake Maracaibo region. He is also engaged with research on community development in Maracaibo as a Research Associate with the Universidad del Zulia in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Bjørn is still involved with indigenous, participatory mapping as an Affiliated Investigator with the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas in Caracas, Venezuela, and through his teaching and conference activities. His domestic projects include participatory research with the environmental justice organization PODER in East Austin, focusing on children’s perceptions and knowledge of environmental hazards and the planning implications of environmental justice activism in Austin.

Bjørn teaches Geographic Information Systems, environmental planning, environmental justice, public space theory, and Latin American planning and development in the Program in Community and Regional Planning. In spring 2007, his students in CRP 386: Applied GIS and Environmental Justice, were awarded a MYCOE grant from the Association of American Geographers and presented their research at the annual meeting of the AAG in San Francisco. The class produced a Community Information System to document, represent and address environmental justice issues in East Austin. Again in spring 2010, his class again partnered with the environmental justice organization PODER and conducted a community-based design study of the Pure Casting site near Zavala Elementary School. His students in CRP 383: Urban Environmental Analysis developed an urban forestry project with the Hyde Park Neighborhood Organization, working closely with community members to assess the perceptions and planning priorities associated with urban tree management. In spring 2008, his CRP 386: Applied GIS and Environmental Justice class conducted a participatory assessment of risk and vulnerability in an informal settlement in Santo Domingo. This work continued in spring 2010 with the development of a participatory solid waste management plan. In spring 2009, students in his CRP: Social Life of Public Places documented some of the many histories and narratives about Waller Creek and the multiple publics who use this area, including homeless residents.

Bjørn is an associated faculty member in the Department of Geography and the Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS), University of Texas.



  • The Mythical Forest, the Becoming-Desert: Environmental Knowledge Production and the Iconography of Destruction in the Gran Sabana, Venezuela. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28 (2010): 672-690. (Final_EandP_Fall2010.pdf, 207kb).
  • Apök hace feliz a Patá: Sugerencias y retos para una gestión intercultural del fuego en la Gran Sabana. Antropológica LIII n° 111-112 (2010): 149-191. (Antropologica_RodriguezSletto2009.pdf, 602kb).
  • Autogestión en representaciones espaciales indígenas y el rol de la capacitación y concientización: el caso del Proyecto Etnocartográfico Inna Kowantok, Sector 5 Pemón (Kavanayén-Mapauri), La Gran Sabana. Antropológica LIII n° 113 (2010): 43-75. (Final_Revista_Antrop_Pemon_Mapping.pdf, 4.55mb).
  • Education of Self and Others: Narrative, Critical Reflexivity and Knowledge Production in Service Learning. Journal of Planning Education and Research 29(4) (2010): 403–415. (Published_JPER_2010.pdf, 216kb).
  • "We Drew What We Imagined:" Participatory Mapping, Performance, and the Arts of Landscape Making. Current Anthropology 50 (2009): 443-476. (Sletto_CA_August_2009.pdf, 1646kb)
  • "Indigenous people don't have boundaries": reborderings, fire management, and productions of authenticities in indigenous landscapes. Cultural Geographies 16 (2009): 253-277. (Cult_Geogr_Article_April2009.pdf, 485kb)
  • The Knowledge that Counts: Institutional Identities, Policy Science, and the Conflict over Fire Management in the Gran Sabana, Venezuela. World Development 36 (October 2008): 1938-1955. (Sletto_2008_World-Development.pdf, 607kb)
  • Producing Space(s), Representing Landscapes: A Lefebvrian Approach to Resource Conflicts. Cultural Geographies 9 (2002): 389-420. (Cult_Geogr_article.pdf, 1658kb)
  • A Swamp and Its Subjects: Conservation Politics, Surveillance and Resistance in Trinidad, the West Indies. Geoforum 36 (January 2005): 77-93. (Geoforum_Article.pdf, 342kb)
  • Autodemarcación del Sector Kavanayen: Informe Final. Proyecto Etnocartográfico Inna Kowantok. Kumarakapay, Venezuela 2004. (Informe_Final_Sector5.pdf, 3197kb)
  • Mapping the Gran Sabana. Americas Magazine 57, Organization of American States (November 2005). (Americas_GranSabana.pdf, 1460kb).



CRP 395D • Dominican Republic Practicum

01150 • Spring 2018
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM WMB 3.116
(also listed as LAS 381)

Community and Regional Planning

CRP 395C • Dominican Rep Planning Studio

01675 • Fall 2017
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM WMB 3.116
(also listed as LAS 381)

An integrative and comprehensive planning studio project course, involving application of theory, research, fieldwork, and oral, graphic, and written communication. 

CRP 395C • Dominican Rep Planning Studio

01665 • Fall 2016
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM WMB 3.116
(also listed as LAS 381)

An integrative and comprehensive planning studio project course, involving application of theory, research, fieldwork, and oral, graphic, and written communication.

With consent of the graduate adviser, may be repeated for credit.

Prerequisite: Graduate standing and consent of the graduate adviser.

Laboratory hour(s) to be arranged. Restricted enrollment; contact the department for permission to register for this class.

CRP 389C • Readings In Intl Planning

01597 • Spring 2016
Meets W 5:00PM-8:00PM WMB 3.116
(also listed as LAS 381, P A 388K)

This course aims to develop a critical understanding of the principal themes, schools of thought, and theoretical debates in the contested and loosely defined field known as “international planning,” “international studies in planning,” or “international development planning,” which is the term used by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP). From the perspective of ACSP, “international development planning” is the study of planning and related issues “directly relevant to developing countries.” Such research is pursued through “comparative scholarship as well as in-depth analysis of specific countries, regions, rural contexts, cities and networks” in order to elucidate specific planning challenges facing countries in the global south in comparison to what is referred to as the global north.

CRP 395C • Dominican Rep Planning Studio

01645 • Fall 2015
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM WMB 3.116
(also listed as LAS 381)

An integrative and comprehensive planning studio project course, involving application of theory, research, fieldwork, and oral, graphic, and written communication.

CRP 386 • Latin American Planning Studio

01443 • Spring 2012
Meets W 6:30PM-9:30PM WMB 3.116
(also listed as LAS 381)

This is the third in a series of planning studios in informal settlements in Latin America.  These courses are collaborative, experiential, and premised on student initiative and active engagement with community partners, scholars, activists and public officials.  We seek to define, research, and propose technically well-founded, participatory, and empowering solutions to social and environmental problems facing slum communities.  We also aim to assist our NGO and government partners in developing their technical and governance capacity.  This spring, we will build on the environmental risk and vulnerability assessment and solid waste management study conducted in the previous planning studios in spring 2008 and 2010 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We will continue designing a community-based solid waste management program, drawing on models and experiences from similar communities elsewhere, and working with a newly established  community organization.  We will also work with residents (in particular women and teenagers) and NGO partners to design and test a vermicomposting project as a possible and partial solution to the problem of organic waste.  We will be conducting focus groups, interviews, and surveys, and  we will work directly with residents on graphic design and construction.  Students must participate in two field trips to the Dominican Republic (tentatively January 3-15 and March 9-15 (Spring Break). The course has been awarded an Environmental Protection Agency P3 Award and students are required to attend and present their work at the National Sustainable Design Expo, *tentatively* scheduled for April 13-15. Students will receive scholarships to defray most of these travel expenses. Enrollment is limited to 9-10 students and instructor’s permission is required to register for this course. Contact instructor for more information and admissions requirements.

GRG 396T • Local Devel Plan In Latin Amer

37693 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM BEN 1.104
(also listed as CRP 385C, LAS 381)

In the popular imagination, "Latin America" conjures images ofexploding mega-cities, civil unrest, burning forests, indigenouspeople living on the margins of society -- as well as bananaplantations and beach resorts. But Latin America is a complex regiondefined more by its potentials than its problems, by contrasts anduntrammeled modernity more than predictability and tradition. In thiscourse, we examine the roots of Latin American economic dependency,which continues to keep the region in the grips of underdevelopmentafter years of structural adjustment and privatization. We considerthe histories and geographies of the region to better understand thelimitations and opportunities for human development and discuss theramifications of the turn to the left, exemplified by the governmentof Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. We then turn to thematic studies,exploring different countries as we review infrastructure planning,micro-enterprise and other economic development planning, housing andslum development, land rights, indigenous planning issues, andenvironmental planning and natural resource management. We examinedifferent approaches to planning in the region, from state-ledregional planning schemes that resulted in some of the world's largestplanned cities, to the work of neighborhood organizations and socialmovements prompted by the increasing influence of civil society inLatin America. The intent is to unravel some of the persistent mythsabout the region and emerge with a better grasp of the potentials andpitfalls associated with planning and development in Latin America. Wewill read the work of Latin American, European and US journalists,planners and scholars to address the issues facing the region frommultiple perspectives.

  • Department of Geography and the Environment

    The University of Texas at Austin
    305 E. 23rd Street, A3100
    RLP 3.306
    Austin, TX 78712