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Space, Place and Social Worlds

The Space, Place and Social Worlds cluster has many ties to our Department’s Sustainability Studies program, and complements our other two departmental clusters: Environmental Changes and Surface Processes, and Digital Landscapes.

Our work examines wide ranging socio-cultural and political-economic processes, with a focus on modernization, urbanization, globalization and development. These processes operate at multiple scales to (re)produce asymmetries such as poverty, health disparities, ethnic/racial discrimination, gender inequity, political exclusion, identity violation, spatial segregation and other forms of marginalization in a globalizing world. These processes are also inherently spatial, spanning the scales of the urban, regional, national and the global, and affecting people and places unevenly.  We are interested in the varied ways these processes are represented, their materialities, and the relationships that produce and maintain them. Some of the topics we work on include migration and mobility, communication and media technologies, environmental health, media and communication, urban development and human rights, cultural survival and environmental conservation.  Some examples of our work include:

  • the legal geographies of asylum and immigration, the geographies of detention in Texas, African diasporic politics in the US, the political-ecologies of tourism, and routine vehicular and pedestrian movements within urban spaces.
  • maps, film, television, print media, advertising, and the Internet as sources of worldviews and place images, as well as contexts for social interaction.
  • agricultural development and change over time in Latin American and transnational perspective
  • globalized networks of production and consumption that include a range of spaces and places, embodied labor forces, and products including flowers, textiles and clothing, hair and cosmetics
  • the ties between economic growth logics and contemporary environmental protection efforts
  • environmental health and regulation in Texas
  • urban development, growth and gentrification in the US

Researchers in this cluster are interested in how modernization and globalization not only create but also reflect patterns of difference in wealth, knowledge, culture, and communication and transportation infrastructure. Research settings bridge the divide between physical places (the United States and its borderlands, Latin America, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and India) and virtual places (Internet forums, social networks, television and movie sets), while addressing multiple scales (global, national, regional, urban, community, household and individual). All four of these areas of concentration frame empirically grounded, theoretically innovative scholarship, while contributing to social justice and sustainable alternatives. All four areas also, and they grow out of a more general interest in modernization and its associated flows and patterns which are thoroughly social and historical in character, and composed of both human and non-human elements.

Associated Faculty