On Being an Urbanist

I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Oklahoma, jointly appointed in two units:

Department of Geography & Environmental Sustainability
College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences
Division of Regional & City Planning
College of Architecture
Trained as an urban geographer, my research interests revolve around urban politics, questions of ecology and sustainability, and the globally variegated production of urban landscapes.

Geography is about synthesis, bringing together social and physical insights through a spatial lens. The discipline is cognate with urban studies, planning, sociology, environmental studies, ecology, climatology, geology, biology, and more. Geographers seek insights hidden in juxtapositions between such cognate disciplines via spatial analysis.
Planning is the process of articulating—and then encouraging—useful patterns of development. Planning is at its core a design discipline, yet planners are also extensively engaged in research on what might be described as practical urban theory: the limits of the kinds of places that can be produced under "actually existing" political regimes.

Urban geography and planning overlap, but there are also important divergences. Urban geographers, as a group, tend more toward critique than intervention: they have spent much of the past thirty years working to better understand the ways that urbanism as a process has contributed to increasingly uneven outcomes for those who live in cities. Planners, who are professionally charged with the task of helping to define and implement development policy at local and regional scales, are often more focused on "positive" intervention: they work to design urban patterns that are more efficient, more effective, more desirable, more sustainable, and/or more just.

Over the past few years I have been working on research examining Community Land Trusts in Minnesota. Recently, I've been taking a closer look at large-scale redevelopment and neighborhood change in Atlanta, Georgia. My ultimate aim is to better understand the potential for maximal justice in urban contexts. More information about my current efforts is available in a section on research projects.

Information about my past and current roles as an educator and mentor is available. My C.V. has a complete downloadable history of my academic career; a list of publications formatted for your browser can be found here.

Please feel free to be in touch. I can be reached via email at:
my first name {at} joe pierce {dot} org.

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