AAG Journal Articles on Black Geographies and Racial Justice

Image showing signs placed on fencing outside Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, on June 7, 2020; photo by Becky Pendergast
Credit: Becky Pendergast

The following titles reflect vital scholarship on Black Geographies in AAG’s journals in recent years. Through September 30, 2024, AAG and Taylor & Francis are providing free access to these articles, available for download at the links listed below.

For additional reading recommendations, see Black Geographies Reading List, sponsored by the AAG Black Geographies Specialty Group.


Brooke Hatcher

By Emily Frisan

Since childhood, Brooke Hatcher has been fascinated with climatology. Growing up on a horse farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains shaped her love for earth, nature, and weather. Now as a geospatial/remote sensing lead, she measures changes on Earth and brings visualizations from data to life. From her job as a senior geospatial analyst at New Light Technologies to her volunteer storytelling work with URISA as vice chair of outreach, or her recognition by Geospatial World as a Young Geospatial Professional to Watch in 2024, Hatcher credits her positive experience in the industry to the examples of powerful women in the field, including her first professional mentors at MAXAR Catherine Ipsan and Amanda Monse, who showed her that she, too, can “become a master in this field.”

Hatcher discovered her passion for geospatial information systems in an undergraduate geography course. “Being able to visualize patterns and spatial analysis, like seeing the charts over time of rain gauges, was seeing nature in a new way,” she says.


Educational journey in and beyond the classroom

Hatcher received her undergraduate degree in geography from the University of Mary Washington. Like many geographers, she stumbled upon the discipline almost by coincidence. She excelled in history during high school but hesitated to pursue a career in the subject because she was unsure about potential job prospects. She began her undergraduate degree as a biology major but soon realized a career in the lab wasn’t suitable, either.

Hatcher began her professional career creating digital nautical charts for Leidos, which opened the world to features humans can’t see with our eyes, like hydrolines and ocean depth. Following her experience at Leidos, an opportunity opened at MAXAR where Hatcher would go on to create global products for clients, such as the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. This was the first time she began to gain experience in Landsat and Sentinel 2.

“You’re seeing the ocean in a whole new way,” Hatcher explained. “It was really beautiful to have my first job working on digital nautical charts, then working at MAXAR with land cover and creating remote sensing products with five-meter resolution.”

After gaining a few years of professional experience, Hatcher decided to pursue her master’s degree in geography. After considering her options, she got her degree online at North Carolina State.

As a geospatial engineering consultant, Hatcher continues to learn and keeps up with the latest news and information in the industry. In her professional career, she continues to read peer-reviewed papers and professional blogs and consult tutorials on platforms like YouTube and Udemy.

From Local to Global: How Geography and Opportunities Expands Horizons

Hatcher’s career is focused on developing geospatial solutions and products for disaster response with FEMA and World Bank, working on predictive damage assessments, assessing the potential impact on communities and critical infrastructure, and sharing disaster geospatial data through interagency communication efforts. As a geospatial analyst and a geographer, Hatcher’s jobs involve collaborating with other experts in many other areas, including glaciology, meteorology, paleotempestology (the study of hurricanes), and specialization in biohazards.

The resulting collaborations are mutually beneficial. Geographers “need to know that information… [and] we help work with them to make their vision come to life. We’re translating for them by creating maps,” Hatcher states.

Specifically, FEMA hired Hatcher for remote sensing and image processing, creating products to assist during disasters. Remote sensing techniques can penetrate hurricanes or wildfire smoke to extract information about structures that have been damaged.

“It was so rad,” Hatcher recalls. “It reflects geography in a beautiful way.”

In her latest role at New Light Technologies, Hatcher frequently works with user interfaces (UI) and user experience (UX) to build web applications that help clients understand the community’s profile, such as which areas are going to be most vulnerable, and who are at the most risk of disasters. She explains, “We need to really make sure that the final product is visualized to a specific community, playing into the history and culture, so that it respects the community, and they understand it enough to feel comfortable giving feedback.”

Beyond the Map: Community Impact

Beyond technical skills, important geographic skills include being able to conduct and analyze qualitative and quantitative data. “We don’t always need maps,” she states. “The reason why we need some maps is because we can’t see anything when people are dying, or buildings are being destroyed.”

Therefore, even when making predictive risk products, qualitative skills are important to understand the ability to organize various types of data, understand the importance of scales, whether there are invisible boundaries, which ones take priority, and how this affects the results of the map or product. It’s essential to have a deep understanding of community demographics and vulnerability.

“After doing this for five or six years, I am convinced more than ever, the most effective data is at the community level. We can work globally, but it just strips so much quality and quantity of data. Also, when reporting or responding to a disaster at the community level, there is passion associated with it because that’s your home.”

Being a geographer, Hatcher finds it fascinating to understand why certain geographies are so unique in the world, and how they have shaped rare communities throughout history. “It is important to preserve these unique geographic properties, even outside of my job. I am passionate about creative traveling and exploring these unique places.”

From the Pacific Northwest, Cascades, or the nation’s capital, Hatcher hopes to use her geospatial and web design skills to inspire women to take risks, explore the world, and “make geography hip.” Although her goals are constantly changing, she is dedicated to finding her purpose, and path, and is passionate about capturing the stories, art, culture, problems, and risks of the small and unique communities.

Learn more about what a degree in geography can do for you by reading more AAG Career Profiles and discover the resources we offer for your professional development journey.


Inwood, Christou Named Editors for GeoHumanities

Anastasia ChristouIn January 2024, the AAG welcomes Anastasia Christou as the new GeoHumanities editor, joining Joshua Inwood, whose term as GeoHumanities editor began in January 2023. Inwood and Christou are replacing outgoing and founding GeoHumanities editors Deborah P. Dixon and Tim Cresswell.

Christou is professor of Sociology and Social Justice at Middlesex University, London, UK. Her work is immersed in the critical geography, humanities, social sciences, and the arts, seeking to create “a public sociology which is relevant, meaningful and transformative,” she says. She has published widely on issues of migration and mobilities; citizenship and ethnicity; space and place; transnationalism and identity; culture and memory, gender and feminism; inequalities and austerity; postsocialism; home, belonging and exclusion; emotion and narrativity; youth and aging; sexualities; translocal geographies; affect, care and trauma; motherhood and mothering; women, men and masculinities; racisms and intersectionalities; gendered violence and social media; tourism mobilities; material culture; academic exclusion and solidarity; educational inequalities; embodiment. Christou is co-author with Eleonore Kofman of Gender & Migration (Springer, 2022), and co-author with Russell King of Counter-diaspora: The Greek Second Generation Returns ‘Home’ (Harvard University Press, 2015). She brings to her editorship significant experience editing book volumes and journal special issues, and serves on the international board of journals in the US and Europe. Her multi-sited, multi-method, and comparative ethnographic research in more than a dozen countries includes Narratives of the Greek Civil War: Memory and Political Identities as Public History; and the poem “Ruination,” anthologized in The Other Side of Hope.

In assuming editorship of GeoHumanities, I am inspired by a commitment to ensuring critical and interdisciplinary advances in knowledge production,” says Christou. “I would also like to attract and encourage more global scholarship in the journal.” 

Joshua InwoodInwood is a professor in the Department of Geography and The Rock Ethics Institute at the Pennsylvania State University. His research and teaching are focused on the social, political, and economic structures that perpetuate exploitation and injustice with a specific focus on the US South. His work explores racial capitalism and the broad trajectories of white supremacy. In addition, his work has engaged with the U.S. civil rights struggle and a broad understanding of the geography of the American Civil Rights struggle. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation and his work has been recognized with several AAG honors including the Glenda Laws Award and the AAG’s media achievement award. He has authored or co-authored over fifty peer-reviewed journal articles and is co-editor of the volume Non-Killing Geographies: Violence, Space, and the Search for a More Humane Geography (Center for Global Non-Killing, 2011) and has a forthcoming co-edited book on Geographies of Justice (Bristol University Press 2024). He brings to his editorship at GeoHumanities an awareness of the intersection of geography, humanist value systems and human rights, politics, and history.

“At no point in the last 50 years have the humanities been more central to a series of unfolding political crises across the globe,” Inwood says, citing recent high-profile debates about public monuments, education about historic and contemporary acts of oppression, and the need to counteract anti-democratic forces that have mobilized in many nations. “I will strive to build on the last decade of significant scholarship in the journal and engage in this contemporary moment.”

The AAG would like to express its appreciation for the work of cultural geographer Tim Cresswell and feminist political geographer Deborah P. Dixon to establish GeoHumanities and develop its articles and readership since 2015.

Tim CresswellCresswell is Ogilvie Professor of Human Geography in the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on geographies of place and mobility and their role in the constitution of social and cultural life. He is the author or editor of a dozen books and over 100 articles on the role of space, place, and mobility in social and cultural life. Cresswell is also a widely published poet with three collections – most recently Plastiglomerate (Penned in the Margins, 2020). His most recent academic book, Muybridge and Mobility (co-authored with John Ott) was published by the University of California Press in 2022. 

deborah dixonDeborah Dixon is Professor of Geography at the University of Glasgow. Dixon’s internationally recognized work in feminist geopolitics was instrumental to the emergence of geohumanities as an inter-disciplinary field of research and practice. Her work cuts across scientific, artistic, and cultural categories to examine and imagine the ecological and social presence and futures of landscapes and places. Her collaborations include Sustainable Extractive Landscape Futures, working with earth scientists and artists on the conceptual and practical work of ‘fast geology’ in the Anthropocene, specifically in extractive landscapes. Dixon specializes in researching aesthetic, technological, political, and cultural responses to environmental problematics (including toxic landscapes, loss of biodiversity, and climate change) in Europe, the US, Australia and Asia. Her book Feminist Geopolitics: Material States (2016, Routledge) set the tone for investigations of feminist geopolitics and ecologies. A follow-up monograph will interrogate possible futures for the Earth created by viral and drone phenomena, geoengineering, and toxic exposures. She is also engaged in collaborative work that juxtaposes and recomposes citizen science, humanitarian technologies, and ethics in Malawi.

GeoHumanities has published 18 issues since its beginnings in 2015. As Dixon recalls, the journal was “broadly conceived … as a venue wherein the diverse and proliferating engagements between the geographical sciences and the arts and humanities could be showcased.” GeoHumanities has highlighted research from “environmental humanities; the body and well-being; place and performativity; big data and neogeographies; history and memory; creativity, experimentation, and innovation; media and film studies; religion, belief, and the cosmos; and landscape and architecture.” While most of these have been articles, GeoHumanities has welcomed experimentations with form, combined media, and creative collaborations. Dixon recalls that the journal’s ‘Practices and Curations’ section has been the most innovative area of the publication, featuring research based on creative practice, as well as work produced during inquiry.

From the beginning, GeoHumanities was conceived to have a team of two co-editors. The founding team of Dixon and Cresswell drew Dixon’s experience in combining art and science, in particular her work with geo- and environmental scientists; and Cresswell’s humanities experience in the history of geography and his work as a poet. The range of work this team wished to attract to GeoHumanities—from Anthropocene geographies to spatial histories— called on further expertise from associate editors Sarah De Leeuw, Harriet Hawkins, Chris Lukinbeal, and Matt Zook, as well as an interdisciplinary editorial board and attentive reviewers.

In their first editorial for GeoHumanities in 2015, Cresswell and Dixon noted that the birth of the journal was emblematic of the long history of interdisciplinary, humanist work in geography, “endeavors that saw cultural geography become both a mainstay of the discipline and an arena where dialogue with other disciplines was encouraged and facilitated.” Cresswell dedicated the journal to “grasp the opportunity provided by the array of creative writers, artists, performers, and musicians who engage with geographical ideas in their work…That, to me, would be a fine thing for a confident and outward-looking radically interdisciplinary discipline such as ours.”

AAG thanks Tim Cresswell and Deborah Dixon for their vision and leadership during the founding and subsequent eight years of editorship and commends Anastasia Christou and Joshua Inwood for their willingness to continue the tradition established by the founding editors.

Find out more about GeoHumanities and other AAG journals.


Chen Named Editor for The Professional Geographer

Guo ChenGuo Chen has been named the first Human Geography/Nature and Society editor for The Professional Geographer, inaugurating a new position at the journal. Chen will join current editor Heejun Chang, who will continue in his second term as editor, focusing on articles related to Geographic Methods/Physical Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Chen is an associate professor of Geography and Global Urban Studies in the College of Social Science, a core faculty member of the Asian Pacific American (APA) Studies Program, and an affiliated faculty member of the Asian Studies Center and Environmental Science and Policy Program at Michigan State University. A human geographer with broad interests in urban, economic, crititical, and environmental areas, she is also a teacher scholar and public intellectual who has authored and co-authored over 50 publications with a focus on inequality, urban poverty, housing rights for the poor, slums, migrants, urbanization and land use, urban governance, and social and environmental justice, including articles in The Professional Geographer and other leading geography journals. She is co-editor of Locating Right to the City in the Global South (Routledge 2013) and “Interrogating unequal rights to the Chinese city” (Environment and Planning A Special Issue based on her initiated sessions at the AAG meeting), as well as initiator and editor of a Focus Section for The Professional Geographer titled “Hidden Geographies: Migration, Intersectionality, and Social Justice in a Global Contemporaneous Space” (2023) featuring research articles on race, gender, ethnicity, class, nationality, citizenship, and social justice, by ten diverse scholars around the world. Her public scholarship includes many op-eds for key policy forums and her professional society, TV interview, and webinars. She has served on geography/urban studies flagship journals’ editorial boards (The Professional Geographer and Journal of Urban Affairs), serving as ad hoc reviewer for close to 50 journals, many programs and book publishers, and over a hundred organized professional sessions, invited talks, and conference presentations. Guo is a recipient of many prestigious awards in research, teaching, leadership, and service, including a Wilson Center Fellowship, university-wide teaching and women’s professional achievement awards, and an AAG specialty group outstanding service award.

Chen got a glimpse of the editorial role at Professional Geographer as a guest editor of a Focus section in 2023 and 2024/25 issues of the journal on the theme of Hidden Geographies. Her experiences have strengthened her vision for helping the journal to achieve valuable dialogue between the Global South and the Global North, and for attracting and publishing underrepresented authors in geography. “As I learned from editing our recent PG Focus section, the highest-impact articles increasingly need to speak to a diverse and international geography readership and the communities beyond,” says Chen. “My vision for the journal is to continue to bring in a diverse scholarship and to continue to stimulate communication, awareness, and exchange.”

Find out more about The Professional Geographer and other AAG journals.


Adams, King Named Editors for Annals of the American Association of Geographers

Paul Adams is the new editor for Human Geography, and Brian King is the new Nature & Society editor at the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, effective January 2024. They will replace Kendra Strauss and Katie Meehan, respectively.

Paul AdamsAdams is the longtime director of the Urban Studies Program at the University of Texas, first in the UT Department of Geography and the Environment now in the Department of American Studies. His service to AAG includes founding the Media Geography Specialty Group (now Media and Communication). From 2015 to 2020, he served as associate professor II at the University of Bergen, funded by the Research Council of Norway. In 2001, he was a Fulbright fellow at McGill University and University of Montreal, Quebec. His current research focuses on sociospatial and political aspects of digital media, digital humanities, and culturally specific understandings of environmental risk and climate change.

Adams is the author of three monographs: The Boundless Self: Communication in Physical and Virtual Spaces (Syracuse University Press, 2005); Atlantic Reverberations: French Representations of an American Election (Ashgate Press, 2007); and Geographies of Media and Communication: A Critical Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), which received the 2009 James W. Carey Media Research Award from the Carl Couch Center for Social and Internet Research, and has been translated into Chinese. He has also served as co-editor of four volumes: Textures of Place with Steven Hoelscher and Karen E. Till (University of Minnesota Press, 2001); the Ashgate Research Companion to Media Geography with Jim Craine and Jason Dittmer (Routledge, 2014); Disentangling: The Geographies of Digital Disconnection with André Jansson (Oxford University Press, 2021); and the Routledge Handbook on Media Geographies with Barney Warf (2021).

Adams will devote his editorship in Human Geography to illuminating “the synthetic potentials” of cross- and interdisciplinary explorations in geography: “Emerging geographical approaches, including feminist geography, decolonial geography, studies of affect and emotion, embodied theory, political ecology, and others are not so much ‘specializations’ as new encounters with central questions of the discipline, and as such they offer new ways to synthesize diverse perspectives on the world.” As AAG’s flagship journal, the Annals’s unique task of representing the full breadth of geography can be applied to embracing, rather than entrenching, the disciplinary and methodological differences in the field: “Geography is growing but not necessarily growing apart,” says Adams. “The Annals is key to promoting this process.”

Brian KingKing is professor and head of the Department of Geography at the Pennsylvania State University. His affiliations range across the university, as a faculty research associate with the Population Research Institute, research affiliate with the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, and faculty affiliate with the School of International Affairs and Consortium on Substance Use and Addiction. King is an honorary research associate with the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town and was selected as a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow in 2017. He previously served from 2021 to 2023 as co-editor of Human Geography and Nature & Society for the Annals. King’s research, teaching, and outreach focuses on livelihoods, conservation and development, environmental change, and human health, centering in Southern Africa. King’s laboratory group (HELIX: Health and Environment Landscapes for Interdisciplinary eXchange) is examining how COVID-19 is transforming the US opioid epidemic. His book, States of Disease: Political Environments and Human Health University of California Press, 2017), received the Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award.

King’s goals as editor include making sure the review process is timely and efficient, acting from his knowledge of the process as a reviewer and as an editorial board member of African Geographical Review, Geoforum and Health & Place. He also seeks to expand the range of the publication to include even more work in emerging directions, and to address underrepresented content areas that can advance the future of nature and society geography.

Related to this commitment is King’s interest in broadening the scope of contributors’ disciplinary backgrounds. “One of the unexpected outcomes of my research in health and environment are the ways that I am increasingly engaging with other disciplines, particularly anthropology, sociology, rural sociology, and biobehavioral health,” he says. King plans to leverage his many commitments and professional contacts outside of geography to widely promote the Annals to potential contributors.

The AAG thanks outgoing editors Kendra Strauss, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology and associate member of the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University, as well as director of the Labour Studies Program and the SFU Morgan Centre for Labour Research; and Katie Meehan, Reader in Environment and Society in the Department of Geography at King’s College London and Co-Director of King’s Water Center, for their dedicated editorship.

kendra straussStrauss brought to the role of editor their significant publications in economic and labor geographies, feminist theory, migration studies, legal geographies, environmental change, urban political ecology, and critical urban theory. With extensive publications in geography, social science, and law journals, Strauss has also served on six editorial boards and been a reviewer for many papers in and beyond geography. Strauss’s tenure with the Annals was characterized by encouragement of paper submissions from outside of North America and in diverse topics areas “that still evidence a commitment to engagement with geography and geographical debate.”

Katie MeehanMeehan is a broadly trained human-environment geographer with expertise in urban political ecology, environmental justice, water policy, mixed methods, and science and technology studies. She is co-author of Water: A Critical Introduction (Wiley, 2023), with Naho Mirumachi, Alex Loftus, and Majed Akhter. She is co-editor with Kendra Strauss of Precarious Worlds: Contested Geographies of Social Reproduction (University of Georgia Press, 2015). In 2023 she won the European Research Council’s Consolidator Grant award to support her research on household water insecurity and water shutoffs in high-income countries. During her time at the Annals, Meehan sought to democratize knowledge and expand the audiences for the journal, beyond the geography discipline and beyond academia. She encouraged the use of Annals as a platform for key debates in the discipline and worked with the other editors to bring human-environment topics into the foreground, especially work that focused on racialized natures and environmental justice. “I have been thrilled to work with the editorial board, my co-editors, AAG staff, and the AAG Council to shepherd the very best geographic scholarship to the pages of the Annals,” Meehan says.

Find out more about the Annals of the American Association of Geographers and other AAG journals.


Member Profile: Kenneth Martis

Ken Martis created the map to visualize the political party division of the 80th Congressional Congress.
Credit: Kenneth C. Martis, Ruth A. Rowles, cartographer, Gyula Pauer, production cartographer (full image shown below)

As a graduate student at the University of Michigan in 1972, Ken Martis stumbled on one of the greatest information vacuums in political geography — the lack of documentation for congressional districts since the founding of the United States. He decided then and there to fill the gap. His quest would result in groundbreaking research, nine books, and a lifelong calling.

“I had just chosen a dissertation topic,” Martis recalls, “which was mapping roll call votes in the United States Congress. I was focused on voting patterns on natural resources, conservation, and the environment through time, starting with the earliest congresses through the environmental issues of the 1960s.” To get started, Martis went to the university library — one of the biggest in the nation at the time — to find national-scale district maps for the last 170 years. The reference librarian took him through the card catalog. Then the Guide to Reference Books. They could find nothing. “She was as puzzled as me. She told me to give the staff a chance to look into it, and to return the next day. So I did. I was met by the librarian and the head of the reference department. They’d turned up nothing, not even for landmark eras like Abraham Lincoln’s time.”


“I realized I could be the first person in American history to map every congressional district from the First Congress forward,” he says. “It was humbling, and exciting.”

Martis is now Professor Emeritus in the Geology and Geography Department at West Virginia University. He is the author or co-author of award-winning books that have fundamentally shaped our awareness of political patterns in the United States. His first historical political atlas was The Historical Atlas of United States Congressional Districts: 1789-1983, with maps by cartographer Ruth A. Rowles. This book was the first to map every congressional district and analyze every apportionment change for every state for all of United States history. It won numerous honors, including the American Historical Association’s Waldo G. Leland Prize for the best reference book in all fields of history for the period 1981-1986. He went on to write eight additional volumes with partners, including a historical atlas of congressional political parties, a historical atlas of congressional apportionment, and the 2006 Historical Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections 1788-2004. He has continued to document the American political landscape with co-edited works on the pivotal 2012, 2016, and 2020 elections.

Geography as Lifeline

Martis’s four grandparents and father were Slovakian immigrants from Austro-Hungary in the early 1900s. He was also the first in his family to finish high school, attend college, and attain advanced degrees. “My mother saved my grade school report cards,” he says. “They show I was a poor to average student, except in one area; geography! I loved it.”

His love of geography saved his academic career in college at the University of Toledo. After several semesters he describes as “disastrous” and himself as “barely surviving,” Martis took geography courses with engaging professors, and found his academic passion. One Toledo geography professor in particular, Dr. Donald Lewis, took Martis under his wing. “I have told him several times, he is my number one influence in becoming geographer.”

I realized I could be the first person in American history to map every congressional district from the First Congress forward.” 

The selection of geography courses and excellent professors were no accident. “The Department of Geography at the University of Toledo is a story unto itself,” says Martis. In 1958, the university appointed a new president, arctic geologist Dr. William S. Carlson. Carlson earned his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, where his graduate advisor was geologist William Herbert Hobbs, president of the Association of American Geographers in 1936. In 1963 President Carlson finalized the creation of a new stand-alone Department of Geography and hired full-time tenure-track faculty. Martis was among the first beneficiaries of this investment.

“Your journey in life is marked by the many choices or paths you select,” he says now. “Nevertheless, the mere existence of the path is predicated by hundreds of choices previously, mostly by people you will never know. What if William Carlson had chosen another advisor in the 1930s? Or what if he chose to remain President of the University of Delaware in 1958? What if Professor Lewis had not taken me under his wing? I believe there is no journey to geography for me if there was no Hobbs, no Carlson, no Lewis, and no establishment of Toledo geography.”


Ken Martis created the map to visualize the political party division of the 80th Congressional Congress.
The Eightieth Congress of the U.S., 1947-1949. Republicans are represented in blue, Democrats in red. Credit: Kenneth C. Martis, The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress: 1789-1989, p. 201. Ruth A. Rowles, cartographer, Gyula Pauer, production cartographer.


At San Diego State University, Martis discovered political geography. Mentored by Dr. Jim Blick, he was able to complete his thesis even as he lived through the uncertainty of preparing to report to the U.S. Army in the middle of the Vietnam War. After a two-year stint in the Army, he applied to the University of Michigan, under dissertation supervisor George Kish. As his career advanced, mentors and colleagues such as Stanley Brunn, Ruth Anderson Rowles, J. Clark Archer, Gerald Webster, and Fred Shelley collaborated and supported his participation in American electoral geography beyond Congress to presidential elections, gerrymandering, specific elections, and the highlights of political eras and history.

Over his nearly 50 years as a professor at West Virginia University, Martis has seen great growth, including the addition of a Ph.D. program. A critical factor in the department’s development was the incorporation of GIS into the program during the 1980s and 1990s, led by Gregory Elmes and Trevor Harris. WVU also gave faculty the academic freedom to pursue their research interests, and proximity to research resources helped, too: Morgantown is about four hours from the National Archives and Library of Congress, where Martis spent many hours over the years.

Martis’s research continues to have lasting impacts in the public arena. Using modern GIS technology and historical digital boundary databases, UCLA has worked with Martis’s maps to create highly detailed district lines  that are now the standard in congressional boundary history. Martis’s work has been used by investigative journalists and attorneys to show the history of anti-democratic gerrymandering. He has also been a consulting volunteer with the League of Woman Voters and Common Cause in their effort for fair maps, and served on the organizing committee for the AAG redistricting webinars in 2021.

“I consider myself a historical political geographer with a passion for maps,” says Martis. “I am 11 years past retirement. I am still doing geography. It looks like I always will.”


Islands and Agriculture: The coevolution of agroecological systems and society in Hawai‘i

Judith Keller

By Mikelle Benfield

AAG Summer 2023 Intern, Annie Liu, sat down with Judith Keller to find out more about what it’s like to have a career as a geographer in academia. For Dr. Keller, this wasn’t even an initial consideration, but it’s become a fulfilling career path. Read more to learn how Dr. Keller has navigated (and is still navigating) academia as a professional geographer, from her inspirations to her current research, to her advice on whether or not to pursue a PhD.

How would you describe your current position and the primary responsibilities associated with it? 

“I’m a postdoctoral researcher at the geography department at Heidelberg University and at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, and I’m currently at the very beginning of my postdoc. I’m still figuring out this new role, but I can say that my main focus is on research and writing. I’m not obliged to teach, but I usually teach one class per semester because it’s just something that I enjoy doing. And then there’s always small things happening at the department and in our program where I’m involved in organizing different little events, where we invite guest speakers, things like that.

“I also do science communication every now and then. I’ve been in podcasts. I’ve published some work with The Conversation, which is an online news outlet for academics. And then here in Heidelberg we’ve also done tours on Urban Development for school kids and various groups. I’m also an editor with the Radical Housing Journal.”

Can you talk a little bit more about your research interests and what you’re researching in particular right now? 

“I’m an urban geographer and my main focus is on housing and housing development. I’m particularly interested in looking at how people’s housing biographies influence their political biographies and tracing their ways into housing activism. That’s what I hope to do or focus more on during my postdoc: to have sort of a political ethnography of housing rights movements.”

When you say “biography,” what are you meaning by that?

“There is the term ‘housing biography,’ which is basically tracing people’s movements through time. At certain life stages, they’re more likely to live in certain housing situations than in others. Like, as a student, you might share an apartment. Later in life, you might settle down, invest in real estate, things like that. We can trace those movements. But there are also certain ruptures within that housing biography because of displacements, evictions, or foreclosures. I want to look at what happens when there is such a break. What does it do to people’s political biography and to their sense of home and belonging and ontological security?”

When you look back at your education trajectory, how did you discover geography and how did you realize it connected with your passions and goals?

“It definitely started with my dad. He used to be a big geography nerd without ever formally studying it. So, geography has been with me for most of my life and it has always been something that I enjoyed doing. But it took me quite a while to figure out that it was something you could pursue as a career.”

“I remember towards the end of my high school years when I was looking into what would I go on doing after, my mom was like, ‘So why don’t you major in geography?’ And I was like, ‘Well, that makes a lot of sense!’ And I know this sounds a bit cheesy now, but then I never looked back. And that’s how it all got started.”

“During my studies, I thought that I wanted to become a teacher. I never intended to stay in academia. And then one thing led to another. I became a research student in our department. And then while I was still trying to figure out what to do with all of it, I got offered a Ph.D. position. And that’s my way into professional geography.”

Talk more about the second part of that question, talking about aspirations.

“Even when I was in high school, we were taught that geography is always about creating sustainable futures: ecologically, economically, and socially. And all of my life I have been very concerned with issues of social justice. And then I realized I could become a professional geographer and make it part of my professional life. I can use my own interests and my talents best.”

“It’s something that I always treasure about geography: that it allows me to connect my concerns for social and spatial justice with my everyday work as a researcher and as a teacher here at the university.”

“Compared to other career paths, geography is always concerned with real life issues and is trying to produce real life solutions, especially in a field like Urban Development and housing. That’s why I rarely feel like I’m trapped within the ivory tower that is academia, because I always see my work as having real-life impact … beyond my professional life.”

How has your education in geography prepared you to be a researcher? What geographic knowledge do you think is important and useful to know for your research? 

“I was a research student and that has been quite crucial because it gave me a very accurate picture of what academic life and research look like in the day-to-day. When I decided to stay in academia, I did so very intentionally. I knew the pros and cons of the job.”

“As a student, I was always able to take interdisciplinary courses so I could bridge all my various interests … I could look into how geography relates to cultural studies or to history. One of my favorite classes was called “Planning and Protest,” and it was taught by an urban geographer and a historian. It looked at how protest movements and riots influence urban planning in the U.S. I always think it’s so cool to learn about different disciplines and how researchers from different disciplines work and do their research because we all use different methods and frameworks.”

“I think what’s most important is that we teach students methods and a certain way of thinking through and with data. Learning about methodology has been most crucial for my career. And it’s not only about how to apply certain methods in the field, but also about critically reflecting on positionality and on ethical issues in the field.”

Are there any specific methodologies that are super important to your work, or specific theories and practices?

“I mostly do qualitative research. I’ve worked a lot with interviews and participatory observations. I think particularly participatory observations have had quite an impact on my work because most of my research takes place abroad. And so just being there, being in the field and being in this very specific and different setting has always informed my research outcomes. It’s exciting to go into the field and learn things that you could never learn when you’re just staying at home in front of your computer. It has certainly been foundational to my work.

Do you have a favorite part of your job?

“I really enjoyed the mix of research, writing, reading, and teaching. You always learn and process information in different ways and I often find that something that you might understand theoretically only makes sense when you put it into practice or when you go into the field. I really need this sort of mix.”

“More generally, I’d say that I love that within academia we have a very high degree of flexibility and independence. I treasure that I can work remotely whenever I want to or that I can have a late start into my day if I don’t feel well. I can just follow my energy flow and see where it takes me on certain days. I can travel a lot and explore new places, and I think that really makes it all worthwhile.”

What advice do you have for geography students and early career researchers?

“You really have to love academia in order to do it wholeheartedly. I see a lot of people who are not in a Ph.D. program or a postdoctoral program for the right reasons or who expected it to be something else, and then it makes them feel miserable. You have to be very intentional about your decision, or else it’s just going to be very stressful and exhausting. I truly believe that there’s so many wonderful jobs out there that you don’t have to bully yourself into doing a Ph.D. or pursuing a certain degree if it’s not for you.

“If you decide to do a Ph.D., my advice would be to always stay true to yourself.”

“It’s very hard not to get distracted by the long publication lists that you see in other people’s bios. You have so many people around you that work overtime all the time, and you feel like, ‘Oh, is that something I should do? Am I doing enough?’ It distracts you from focusing on yourself and your own path — and that should be enough.”

“Always take some time off. There’s a terrible tendency in academia to always keep going. But you have to take your weekends. You have to take your vacation days. Go to a yoga class, read a book, start a new hobby, and I’m almost certain that you will have more energy and be more productive than the person who is working 24/7.”

What were the deciding factors for you to keep pursuing academia?
“It’s really the mix of various things that we do in our day to day. I feel like every single day is different. I’m almost certain that I will never get bored in this job. Some days you’re teaching. The next day you might focus on reading and writing. Then sometimes you have periods that you spend in the field. You organize conferences or workshops. You meet new people and very interesting people too. And you always keep learning. That’s why it can never really get boring.”

Any final wisdom that you want to impart?

“It’s important to celebrate the things that we achieve throughout our career. If you had a great day, if you managed to publish a paper, if you just reached your personal goal of writing two pages today … enjoy the little things.”


Harrison Campbell, Jr.

Harrison Sherwood Campbell, Jr., who lived a thoughtful, love-filled life, now rests at peace, passing away at age 60 on Saturday, October 8, 2022.

Harry, as he was known by his family, friends, and colleagues, was born on February 25, 1962, in Encino, California. He spent his formative years in Briarcliff Manor, New York, and graduated from Wellesley High School in 1980, where he lettered in baseball all four years and played clarinet in the concert band and orchestra. Left to cherish his memory are his loving wife, Terry Albanese, his stepsons, Jacob and Benjamin Gefell, his brothers, Alan (Marcia) Campbell and Drew (Karen) Campbell, sister-in-law, Connie Lappa, and nieces and nephews, Katharine and Elizabeth Campbell, Colin and Megan Campbell, and Peter and Joseph Campbell. Harry was predeceased by his first wife, Jama Mooney, his father, Harrison Sherwood Campbell, Sr., his mother, Joyce Campbell, and his brother Bruce (Connie) Campbell.

Harry received a B.A. in Economics and Geography (1985) from Clark University and an M.A. in Geography (1987) and Ph.D. in Geography (1994) from the University of Illinois. As an economic geographer at UNC Charlotte for nearly 25 years, Harry was focused on understanding the nature of place, and, more importantly, communicating what he learned to his community, students, and colleagues. In addition to his often pathbreaking scholarship, his partnership with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce to project local economic growth helped to shape modern Charlotte. In this partnership, Harry was author of Charlotte’s Business Growth Index for many years. As an administrator, he played a significant role in developing new degree programs in Geography, Public Policy, and Environmental Sciences. Harry’s most significant professional accomplishment was, by far, the contributions he made to students and colleagues.

Always generous with his time, and unfailingly supportive, Harry impacted the lives of thousands via his teaching, mentoring, and friendship.

Above all, family and friendship were most important to Harry. He adored his wife and embraced his stepsons with open arms and incomparable generosity, always looking forward to holidays and extended visits with the only kids he had. He went to lunch with neighbors and stayed connected with friends across the country and globe. He loved to banter about baseball with his brothers, always kept up with his nieces and nephews, and wrote notes to his mother that she described as “the sweetest ever.” Harry was a man of meaningful relationships.

Harrison Campbell with mountains in backgroundAlso an adventurer, Harry enjoyed traveling the world. He explored Indonesia, swam the oceans of Nicaragua, walked the streets of Buenos Aires, hiked the mountains of Argentina, and explored the high desert plains of Colorado. He visited many national parks, here and abroad, sharing a love of nature and the outdoors with his wife and best friend, Terry. He sought to learn about these places and was an active observer and researcher, never forfeiting a chance to gain insight or perspective about how our planet and its people work.

At home he enjoyed quiet mornings sipping coffee on the porch, watching birds at the feeder, and laughing at the Sunday comics. As much bad news as there was around, Harry always made space for jokes; there was always room to squeeze in a zinger.

Baseball was a special pastime for Harry. Whether watching from home or going to minor league or professional games — counting strikes and hoping for homeruns never got old. One of his favorite pastimes was going to Charlotte Knights games with his good friend and colleague, Bill Graves.

Husband, brother, son, stepfather, friend, professor, traveler, thinker, enjoyer-of-life, Harry brought smiles to our world, and he will be missed dearly by many.

Published with permission from Terry Albanese.


Natasha Rivers

Geography wasn’t the only major Natasha Rivers had in mind. In fact, it wasn’t even her first choice. “I originally thought I was going to study business or become a veterinarian,” she explains. It was a course on globalization that caught her attention, however, where for the first time she really learned about the core periphery of inequality and relative inequality in America. “I was interested in the people I was learning about, not just why they move and transform places that they inhabit, but the history of these people. What’s the language with the culture? What culture do they have to get rid of in order to assimilate?”

Understanding the interconnectedness of people and places has stuck with Natasha throughout her education and into her career. “It’s like, oh, okay, we’re all connected. It’s all relative,” she says. She continues on, emphasizing to this point. “But also, what can we do?”

How to create opportunity after getting a foot in the door

Natasha’s current position is the Sustainability and Measurement Director at BECU, a not-for-profit credit union, having worked her way up after originally being hired as a Program Manager. This original position initially entailed calculating the company’s carbon footprint, but that was where the environmental sustainability responsibilities ended. She quickly realized that there were so many other opportunities associated with the role, whether through expanded staff collaborations or providing members with resources. By asking questions, assessing what was needed and what was possible, while also not being afraid to make recommendations, Natasha elevated her role and presence within the organization.

How does geography play a role in your current position?

“Geography gave me a good idea of understanding people and places, of understanding the natural environment and the built environment. I’m thinking about all of these systems and how they play together with the economy. When thinking about our members, I asked for their demographics. Can we understand more about their race, education, background so that we can really deal with those different segments of the population that might need more resources or financial education?”

Using an understanding of spatial relationships to create effective initiatives in the workplace

What’s been a constant is the importance of understanding people in places. Natasha gives the example of Seattle, a place that has experienced a lot of change and growth in recent years. As a native of the city, she’s seen how the dot com and tech booms have impacted the region. “I grew up in Seattle. But Seattle’s unaffordable for most of the people in my family. So, a lot of them live in South King County.”

This diasporic movement impacts not just Natasha’s own family but the members at BECU. With her background in geography, she’s asking important questions about forced versus chosen migration and seeking answers about why and how people congregate in certain enclaves. By doing so she can better provide short- and long-term sustainability and financial health initiatives that educate members as well as staff on the connection between environmental sustainability and a financial institution.

What was your educational path? What did you study?

Natasha’s geography journey began at the University of Washington, where she double majored in Geography and American Ethnic Studies with a focus on Gender Studies. She continued on to get her PhD in Geography from University of California Los Angeles, where she built upon her interest in demography, followed by two post-docs, one at the University of Minnesota Population Center and the other at University of Washington.

“I had goals of just being an academic, publishing papers, teaching, going to conferences,” Natasha says. “That was my actual first goal. But there wasn’t a lot of opportunity at the time. This was 2010, so our country was still in the process of recovering from the Great Recession of 2008 and jobs were limited.”

If I get a Ph.D., I have to stay in academia? Right?

“So, I have this Ph.D. and it has not worked out for me and I need to figure out what my transferable skills are. I need to tap into my network and luckily my connections at the University of Washington introduced me to someone at the Seattle School District. They had just opened a new role, a Demographer role, and that was exactly my track in undergrad, grad, and my postdoc as well.”

But moving into industry from a perceived career in academia is a difficult transition. “I had to accept that and then adjust,” says Natasha. “That was the biggest adjustment: it was realizing I’m not going to have this current path, so what else is out there for me.”

How does one transition out of academia and into industry?

The key to transitioning out of academia was investing in her own professional development. Natasha had been networking for years with others in her community, from volunteering on boards to working with nonprofits, and she learned how to market herself in a non-academic way by speaking their language. Humility also played a big role in this transition. “I think a lot of times people with PhDs might go into industry and think they should be director right away or VP because of what they’ve achieved in the academic space. But I think it’s humbling to go in as a project or program manager and work your way up.”

What is your favorite part about where you work and what you do currently?

In Natasha’s current role, her favorite aspect of the job is getting to be curious and innovative. “There was no blueprint, this role was the first of its kind,” she explains. “I’m trusted to create these initiatives and do a lot of research, see what other people are doing.”

How Natasha came to work at BECU is a valuable lesson for all of us. Her previous position as a Demographer with the Seattle School District offered no opportunity for growth, and while it served her for a while, there came a time when she felt like she needed to do something more.

“A valued member of my expanded network had an opening at BECU and she had opened the role of Sustainability and Measurement,” Natasha says. “I didn’t think a financial institution would need someone thinking about the environment or sustainability. I could totally do that! So, I went for it, and I got the job.”

How does geography and its components impact not just your professional life, but your personal life?

Geography is more than a profession for Natasha, it factors into her day-to-day life as well. “There’s always the question of why was this made, or where? Where is this coming from? There are different languages being spoken here. I wonder where they came from, or what’s their journey to the U.S. It keeps me alert. It keeps me connected. It keeps me curious.”

One example came from a recent snowstorm in the Seattle area earlier this year. “Our trash wasn’t picked up for two weeks and the trash guys went on strike. So, we got these automated calls about where you can drop your trash off, but most people didn’t know where it was, even though it might be a block or two blocks from their house. Once your trash is picked up, you don’t think about it. You don’t think about where it’s going or how it’s taken care of. You just put your bin out. But when you have to take your bin TO the trash, you see all the trash there.

“I think that is what is so fascinating to me, that there are two types of people: ones that ask questions and people who don’t. Some people just want their trash picked up. But there’s others that think about the impact on the environment or how their trash is being disposed of.”

What advice do you have for geography students and early career professionals?

“Learn a lot from people, learn what you can. Don’t have such a strict view of your life, or what your career is going to look like. Be open. Keep your heart open as well. This life does surprise you, and there’s new roles that will fit exactly what you’re looking for.

“I do think that geography is relevant today, just as it was yesterday, and will be, so don’t be discouraged. There’s so much to do, so much work to be done.”