My research program focuses on social justice dynamics of urban food and environmental systems. Through my work, I link social scientific inquiry to on-the-ground initiatives to achieve food security, sustainability, and environmental justice. My approach is interdisciplinary; Drawing theoretical insights from human geography, environmental justice, and international agricultural development. I examine the processes through which agricultural communities and grassroots movements confront food and environmental challenges, and policies that support, or may hinder, such initiatives. I am interested in the roles of research and scholarship in advancing social justice at multiple social, political, and spatial scales. To this end, I engage an action research stance, which envisions methodologically sound research as a tool to inform positive social and political change.
Over a fifteen-year span, my research has examined social justice dimensions of urban agriculture in the Global North. Urban agriculture is often understood as a way to advance food system- and environmental justice by providing benefits such as access to healthy food and green spaces. Yet, without attention to the social and political structures in which farms and gardens are situated, initiatives can effectively reinforce, rather than diminish, inequities. Understanding how urban agriculture can help shift social and political dynamics in cities, in addition to enhancing community food security and improving local environments, is key to creating socially just and resilient urban systems, and is a major goal of my research program. More recently, this focus extends to international and rural settings.
Current research includes an analysis of the evolution of commercial and high-tech urban agriculture in Paris and New York City (in collaboration with colleagues at Université Paris). A new project (in 2021) examines how interrelated trajectories of farmer-led stewardship of land races of cereal grains/blés de pays and emerging niche markets in consumer products connect or diverge from food sovereignty principles in the Parisian and Grand Est regions of France. As a part of my action-oriented scholarship, I collaborate regularly with community based food and environmental organizations and supporters, including as co-founder and coordinator of the Food Justice Scholar-Activist/Activist Scholar community of practice(FJSAAS), within the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers.
As a geographer and social scientist, I believe that one of the most important aspects of teaching is to guide students in their development of critical thinking, interdisciplinary research, and proactive problem solving skills. I am dedicated to preparing students to address global society’s most pressing food and environmental issues – from the impacts of climate change and land dispossession on food security to the roots of food system inequities including structural racism and colonialism —during their tenure as students and in their post-graduate careers.
A primary teaching goal is to help students continually refine their understandings of social, political, environmental, and food system issues as they evolve. This, I believe, helps students develop responsive leadership skills that are, and will continue to be necessary in addressing global food and environmental issues in grounded, interdisciplinary, and culturally sensitive ways. I expect students in my courses to challenge themselves to expand understandings of key environmental justice and food systems issues related to their individual academic and professional goals.
My teaching philosophies are grounded in longstanding action research and popular education traditions, including W.E.B. Dubois' late 19th/early 20th century use of social scientific research in the US as contributive to social change and identification as racism as structural, and Paolo Freire’s problem-posing educational model for community empowerment and political change in Brazil.
In keeping with these emphases, my courses center the fact that principles of inclusivity, diversity, equity, and social justice extend beyond the theoretical. We operate under the assumption that diverse (i.e., demographically; culturally; in terms of communication modes) knowledges and knowledge creation are needed to understand the food system and to collectively develop strategies for justice. Courses emphasize dialectical knowledge formulation, recognition of experience-based knowledge, in addition to research-based knowledge, as critical to societal understanding; and, following the Cite Black Women movement and teachings from the Academics for Black Survival and Wellness collective, curated learning through scholarship, knowledge creation, and strategies created by diverse thinkers and actors, including Black and/or Indigenous scholars, too often excluded from course syllabi or literature reviews in the fields of food systems and environmental studies.
Ph.D., University of California, Davis
M.S., University of California, Davis
B.S., Colorado State University
B.A., Colorado State University