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(one to be elected)

Emily T Yeh photoEMILY T. YEH. Professor, Department of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder. Ph.D., 2003, University of California Berkeley, Energy and Resources Group; M.S. 1995, B.S, 1993, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Email:

Professional Experience: Assistant to Full Professor of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder (2003-). Chair, Department of Geography at CU Boulder (2014-2018, 2020-21). Faculty Affiliate, CU Boulder Center for Asian Studies, Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies, and Women & Gender Studies. CU Boulder Arts and Sciences Council, Boulder Faculty Assembly.

Service to Geography and the AAG: As Chair of the Department of Geography at CU Boulder, I prioritized elevating the visibility and status of Geography in the university. I have served on the editorial board of a number of Geography journals including Annals of the American Association of GeographersEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space, and Eurasian Geography and Economics, as well as other journals where geographers publish, such as Conservation and SocietyEnvironmental History, and Journal of Peasant Studies. I have also served as a referee for 95 different journals spanning natural science, social science and the humanities, and as a panelist and a reviewer for the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, and 10 other US and international research foundations. I have reviewed more than a dozen candidates, in Geography and in cognate fields, for tenure and promotion. I have been an active member of the AAG since 2003, and have organized numerous panels and paper sessions. I helped two colleagues at CU Boulder to host the 20th annual Critical Geography conference in 2014.

Other significant service and synergistic activities: China and Inner Asia Council, Association of Asian Studies, 2014-17 (nationally elected); International Association of Tibetan Studies, Coordinator of Geography, Demography and Environment Section for 2019 meeting; Development Team, Natural Assets Knowledge-Action Network, Future Earth, 2017-18. I have reviewed monographs for 10 book publishers, as well as being a frequent reviewer of book proposals. I have served on a number of advisory boards, such as for the Tibetan Village Project, a Colorado-based NGO, and I have been interviewed by US and international press about contemporary Tibet. I have briefed the Foreign Policy Committee of the Danish parliament about Tibet.

Awards, Honors and Grants: Awards2015 E. Gene Smith Book Prize on Inner Asia, awarded by the Association of Asian Studies (for Taming Tibet); 2010 Leopold-Hidy Prize for best article published in Environmental History, (for “From wasteland to wetland?); 2007 Ashby Prize, Environment & Planning A (for “Hip-hop gangsta…”). Fellowship awards: 2018, Fulbright Scholar Award; 2009 Social Science Research Council Book Fellowship; 2019 CU Boulder College Scholar Award; 2009 CU Boulder Faculty Fellowship; 2005 MacArthur Foundation Global Security and Sustainability Research and Writing Grant. National Science Foundation grants include a CAREER award (2009); and grants through the Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems, Human and Social Dynamics, and Geography and Spatial Science competitions.

Publications: In addition to Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development (Cornell University Press, 2013), I have edited/co-edited three books (Mapping Shangrila: Contested Landscapes in the Sino-Tibetan BorderlandsRural Politics in Contemporary China; and The Geoeconomics and Geopolitics of Chinese Development and Investment in Asia), co-edited two additional special journal issues, and published one co-translated book. I have also produced an educational film (Shielding the Mountain), about cultures of nature and environmentalism in Tibet, which has been shown in three film festivals and is currently being used in a number of classes in North America and Europe. In addition, I have authored or co-authored 54 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, as well as a number of other editor-reviewed chapters. Peer-reviewed publications include those in Geography disciplinary journals such as the Annals of the AAGEnvironment and Planning ASociety and Space, GeoforumPolitical GeographySocial & Cultural Geography, and Applied Geography; interdisciplinary journals of the environment and development, such as Global Environmental ChangeWorld DevelopmentHuman Ecology, and Journal of Peasant Studies; and area studies journals, such as Journal of Asian Studies and The China Quarterly. My publications span social scientific work in human geography, interdisciplinary research conducted with modelers and ecologists; and publications for a humanities audience. 

Research and Teaching Interests: My research is ultimately motivated by concerns about environmental and social justice, as manifested in the relationship between society and non-human nature, particularly in processes of development. My inquiries include studies of conflicts over access to natural resources, the causes and consequences of new regimes of property rights, the intersection of ideologies of nationalism and nature, and the effects of state sovereignty and territorial control for landscapes and livelihoods. I have pursued multiple projects on the political ecology of pastoralism on the Tibetan Plateau, including studies of the social and ecological assumptions that underpin development strategies and conservation programs, and how these policies intersect with expanding market relations to deepen vulnerability and marginalization of some people and not others. I have also done collaborative research with interdisciplinary teams to study vulnerability to, and indigenous knowledge of, climate change. Other areas of research have included the formation of environmental identities and the political economy and cultural politics of commodity chains. Empirically, the majority of my research has been in Tibetan areas of China, but I have also conducted research on conservation politics and post-earthquake livelihood trajectories in other parts of China, as well as exile identities in the United States.

I regularly teach undergraduate and graduate courses in environment & society, development geography, political ecology, geography of China, and research design. Mentoring and advising are important to me. I have graduated 8 PhDs and 6 MA students and currently advise 4 PhD students. I have also served on more than 50 other graduate committees. 


We are all navigating unprecedented and exhausting circumstances. I think it is fair to say that this has been a difficult year for everyone. However, some geographers are in much more precarious and vulnerable positions than others. I am grateful to have had the opportunity this past year to serve as a member of the steering committee for the AAG COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Force, which has focused on those most affected by the pandemic. As association president next year, I look forward to continuing to work on these efforts. I have a particular interest in continuing to address the digital divide as it manifests for geography students and faculty at Tribal Colleges and Universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and other Minority Serving Institutions. 

As executive officer terms come and go, I believe it is important to maintain focus on established priorities. Thus, I am eager to continue the work done by past-President David Kaplan to strengthen the regions by offering more national support for regional divisions, and developing closer relationships between the national and regional organizations; and by President Amy Lobben in increasing accessibility of the AAG annual meeting, as well as more broadly. It is also critical to maintain the organization’s momentum in preventing and addressing harassment and bullying, and in diversifying the discipline and the organization.

Beyond these, I hope in the next year to focus membership attention on how, concretely, geographers should meet our commitments to reduce the carbon footprint of our annual meetings. We know that air travel is one of the most significant ways in which academics contribute to climate change, and that the systems that have developed around large conferences also have high climate impacts. On the other hand, embodied, face to face interaction is invaluable and cannot be completely replaced. The AAG Climate Task Force, formed in response to a membership petition to re-design the annual meeting with climate concerns in mind, has been working hard to develop ideas to meet this challenge while also prioritizing equity. I look forward to working with the task force and with creative ideas generated by all members, to navigate a way forward that will allow us to continue providing the benefits associated with the meeting, while significantly decreasing our collective carbon footprint, and providing accessibility to those who cannot travel due to cost and other restrictions.

Looking forward to a changed national situation in which science and other forms of research and knowledge production are once again valued, I believe AAG should continue to strongly advocate for Geography and its relevance and significance for public policy. In addition to championing public funding for geography research, we need to continue to address broader trends in undergraduate education, including the decline in Geography majors and the ever-increasing reliance on non-tenure track faculty members at colleges and universities. Finally, as geographers, I hope we can reaffirm our commitment to ethical inquiry, and to inclusivity and equity for all.