Relevant Degree Programs
Complete these steps before you reach out to a faculty member!
- Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available to you before you reach out to a faculty member. Be sure to visit the graduate degree program listing and program-specific websites.
- Check whether the program requires you to seek commitment from a supervisor prior to submitting an application. For some programs this is an essential step while others match successful applicants with faculty members within the first year of study. This is either indicated in the program profile under "Admission Information & Requirements" - "Prepare Application" - "Supervision" or on the program website.
- Identify specific faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
- Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member’s research interests.
- Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research being conducted in the department.
- Familiarize yourself with their work, read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations that they supervised. Be certain that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.
- Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your specifically targeted faculty member, and remember to use their correct titles.
- Do not send non-specific, mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
- Address the faculty members by name. Your contact should be genuine rather than generic.
- Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department. The supervision enquiry form guides you with targeted questions. Ensure to craft compelling answers to these questions.
- Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students and you may have less than 30 seconds to pique someone’s interest.
- Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
- Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
- Convey the specific ways the program/lab/faculty member is a good fit for the research you are interested in/already conducting.
- Be enthusiastic, but don’t overdo it.
G+PS regularly provides virtual sessions that focus on admission requirements and procedures and tips how to improve your application.
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2020)
The complex of favelas known as Complexo do Alemão in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has recently been targeted by two large-scale state projects: infrastructural upgrading via the country’s Growth Acceleration Program (PAC, or “urbanization”) and military police occupation via the Police Pacifying Unit program (UPP, or “pacification”). In this dissertation I focus on the various regimes of power, profit, and discourse that constitute these state presences. Based on participant observation, interviews, policy analysis, and popular discourse analysis, I argue that a global urban research agenda requires theorizing in historically and geographically-situated ways. Inspired by the Gramscian tradition, by Brazilian urbanists, by modernity/coloniality scholars of Latin America, and by local activists, I develop a conceptual framework that integrates four different characteristics of urbanization projects. They are informed by historical processes; shaped by flows of capital, people, and policy; negotiated between civil society and state; and influenced by myriad regimes of power. Through this framework I make two related arguments. First, I argue that PAC and pacification strategies overlap in a nexus that I call PACification. PACification joins together marketization, the construction of racialized threats, and violent securitization. It manifests in strategies to attract international investment, extend microfinance, enroll people in mortgages, and foment entrepreneurial behavior, often informed by military police violence. Second, I argue that residents’ and activists’ modes of autoconstruction – in which people build their own communities often over generations – are central to the contemporary manifestation of PACification. Presently, residents are not only building communities out of bricks and mortar, but also through discourses, images, texts, and digital practices in order to safeguard their neighbours and to improve their daily lives.
Despite being central feature of economic and social life, markets remain largely understudied within geography. Recently however, a geography of markets has emerged as scholars have begun to excavate the spatial dimensions of markets and their role in shaping the wider economy and everyday life. This dissertation contributes to this literature’s development through the study of charter school policies, which have been used to create markets for publicly-funded schooling in the United States. As argued throughout the dissertation, the study of these schooling markets, which have been the site of fierce political struggles, can help contribute to our understanding of the role markets play in wider sociospatial processes.Grounded in empirical fieldwork and utilizing a geographically-attuned approach to markets inspired by Polanyi and Gramsci, this dissertation approaches the study of charter school markets through case studies examining their functioning in two American states, Michigan and Oregon. It does so through asking the following questions: (1) How are market-making projects in American schooling being constructed, circulated and contested? (2) How have ideologies specific to schooling and education shaped the functioning of charter school markets? and (3) How are market-making 'projects' in education articulated with other sociospatial dynamics?In answering these questions, I argue that, contra to their most common depictions, charter school markets cannot be understood through a narrow focus on the decisions made by actors within them. Instead, the exchange that takes place within these markets is structured by the institutions constructed around them, including struggles over their form and the wider power structures these struggles occur within. This understanding of markets has ramifications beyond schooling and offers new insights into how geographers can understand the role of markets within wider sociospatial relations.
In order to address the expected impacts of climate change, international development institutions have instigated adaptation projects and policies. These efforts promise to mitigate anticipated harms in vulnerable-to-climate-change social and ecological systems. This dissertation examines the operation and dissemination of adaptation projects and policies in the context of small island states in the Pacific region. It also explores the important role that the pre-eminent development institution, the World Bank, plays in programming adaptation. The research questions explored here are: i) How do finance, policy and science circulate in the name of adaptation? ii) What do the circulation of finance, policy and science achieve for adaptation in Kiribati and Solomon Islands? and iii) Why is the World Bank invested in adaptation, or what does adaptation do for the World Bank and other developmental actors? In answering these questions, I draw from multi-sited primary fieldwork, participant observation, and documentary analysis: at the World Bank in Washington, DC and Sydney, within the public bureaucracies of Australia, Kiribati, and Solomon Islands, and with regional organizations and development partners in the Pacific region. This dissertation posits the emergence of a Pacific Adaptation Complex. The analytical concept of the Pacific Adaptation Concept recognizes the vast institutional arrangements, configurations of expertise, and project technologies that come together to make adaptation happen. Within the Complex, experimental nodes are key, as are multi-directional flows. Yet, I find that, overwhelmingly, flows and investments for adaptation are dogged by persistent stickiness, and a rhetorical attention to mobility and success that is indifferent to practical outcomes. However, the promise of adaptation finance, policy, and science works through failing development institutions and imaginaries, allowing reinvention in an era of development crisis.
Drawing on the literature on state rescaling, this dissertation investigates how post-1978 layers of policy shifts interact with regulatory logics of Mao Zedong-era policies, and in turn how this reproduces what the Chinese state now deems to be ‘necessary’ forms of uneven development. It proceeds on the premise that the shifting regulatory geographies of the Chinese state constitute a prism through which to evaluate socioeconomic change in China. The analysis is presented in two parts. First, it questions the logics and implications of designating specific territories – Hengqin and Qianhai in the Pearl River Delta and Liangjiang in Chongqing – into “nationally strategic new areas” after the 2008 global financial crisis. These logics were assessed through triangulating three primary empirical sources: policy documents, published comments by state actors and interviews with planners and scholars in China. The contemporary cases are presented in two segments, each comprising two chapters (Chapters 6 to 9). The first chapter of each segment explores how the geo-historical context and key actors enabled the national designation, the second examines the implications of key policy experimentation in the areas. Working from these empirical findings, the dissertation revisited historical sources (memoirs from different state actors of the Mao era, statistics extending back to 1949, academic articles in China, etc.) and developed a geographical-historical narrative that evaluates how the spatial logics of socioeconomic regulation have evolved during and after the Mao era (Chapters 4 and 5). The outcome is a two-pronged, mutually-reinforcing attempt to theorize the past from the lens of the present, and to conceptualize the present through ascertaining the impacts of policies inherited from past regimes. In so doing, the dissertation problematizes simple ‘transition’ models that portray a unidirectional, epochal change in the post-1978 Chinese political economy, a change characterized by decentralized governance and intensified economic-geographical inequality. It emphasizes, instead, a more deeply sedimented pattern of development that is marked simultaneously by significant (and enduring) forms of uneven socioeconomic development and experimental (and capricious) attempts to transcend these forms.
This thesis analyzes the emergence in the 1990s and 2000s of novel forms of ‘green goods’ or ‘sustainable commodities’. Particular goods come in many forms and include fair trade coffee, certified wood, ethical investment funds, or higher density housing. They represent examples of how sustainability has emerged as a paradigm for the regulation of production and consumption networks. The thesis provides a survey of geographical and interdisciplinary work in commodity studies and suggests sustainable commodities challenges traditional geographical theories of commodification and commodity regulation. The thesis offers a survey of theories of regulation that can apply to global and local production and consumption networks and suggests the use of Strategic Relational Cultural Political Economy as a theory of regulation. The thesis includes four case studies that vary as to type of commodity and type of regulation. The first considers one of the first global certification systems -- the dolphin-safe label for tuna and which linked Thailand to California. The second concerns corporate social responsibility in foreign direct investment in bauxite (a core component in aluminum), linking a Montreal based aluminum company to mine sites in Orissa, India. The third case study concerns a domestic commodity under traditional state regulation -- that of inner city housing under urban sustainability and Smart Growth zoning initiatives in Vancouver, Canada. The fourth case study also considers housing in Vancouver but concerns the relationship between housing, neighbourhood change and rezoning initiatives outside of the urban core. The thesis concludes by showing how the case studies show the applicability of Strategic Relational Cultural Political Economy: Each study indicates a way in which environmental policies and sustainability contribute to a spatio-temporal and institutional fix for a production and consumption network.In each of the case studies, the expansion of capitalist processes involved a contradictory and conflict laden relationship with extra-economic, non-capitalist social and environmental processes. While this created societal pushback, the result was a process of negotiation and compromise which modestly incorporated civil society concern but was also protective of existing economic processes and firm market position.
Vancouver is increasingly being recognized as a model of urban development in the 21st century. While much of the attention paid to Vancouver has focused on ‘Vancouverism’ as an urban planning and design approach that encourages high-density, amenity-rich, mixed-use development to reenergize urban cores, this dissertation examines the exceptional economic development trajectory underlying Metro Vancouver’s urban transformation since the early 1980s. The central claim in this research is that changes to the built form of the city over the past three decades represent a fundamental shift in the orientation of the local economy away from export-oriented resource activity and business services towards local consumption in real estate and tourism which is driven by inward international investment and immigration. The single most important outcome of this largely unplanned shift in urban economic development has been the unprecedented increases in local housing prices. Instead of a healthy ‘diversified’ economy, this reorientation of Vancouver as a consumption city has created a dysfunctional ‘hybrid’ economy characterized by significant job losses in key local economic sectors, below average levels of productivity and exports, and relatively low incomes. Through a set of comparative sectoral case studies exploring food and beverage services, legal services and digital media services, this dissertation seeks to understand what impact the rise of Vancouver as a consumption city has had on local workers and firms. This research complicates a variety of conceptual frameworks used by human geographers such as precarious employment, global and creative cities, firm competitiveness, and entrepreneurial governance. Above all, the many paradoxes of Vancouver’s contemporary economic development trajectory are exposed in the words of local workers, firms, commentators and industry experts: Vancouver is simultaneously the most livable and unaffordable city in the world; Vancouver is a leading creative city in which creative firms and workers alike struggle under conditions of precariousness; Vancouver is mythologized as a healthy, sustainable, lifestyle city while these very qualities often must be sacrificed by working Vancouver residents. Tracing the underlying story and challenges of Vancouver’s emergence as a global consumption city provides important insights into 21st century urban development.
In spite of a United Nations sponsored transition to democracy and peace in the early 1990s, violence remains a ubiquitous feature of the Cambodian landscape in the posttransitional era. Contra the commonplace Orientalist renderings that suggest an inherently violent and authoritarian culture underpins Cambodia's failure to consolidate democracy and its ongoing encounters with violence, this study advances an alternative interpretation. Combining (post)Marxian and poststructural theoretical approaches, this study proceeds as a (post)anarchist critique through a series of distinct yet thematically connected chapters that examine the intersections between neoliberalism and violence, and the (re)productions of space that both result from and contribute to their entanglement. This critical approach reveals how neoliberalization plays a paramount role in the continuation of violent geographies in Cambodia's contemporary political economy. The first half of this study theorizes the geographies of neoliberalism and violence through an analysis of the discursive procession of neoliberalism and the imaginative geographies that position it as the sole providence of nonviolence. In orienting itself as a 'civilizing' project, neoliberalism as discourse actively manufactures the misrecognition of its violences. Struggles over public space are viewed as a necessary reaction against such symbolic violence, allowing us to relate similar constellations of experiences across space as a potential basis for emancipation, and thereby quicken the pace at which neoliberalism recedes into history. The second half of this study examines the violent geographies of neoliberalism in 'postconflict' Cambodia, bringing empirical focus to the (re)visualizations, (re)administrations, and (re)materializations of space that have informed the neoliberalization of violence in the country. The pretext of security under which marketization proceeded, the asphyxiation of democratic politics through ordered productions of space, the discursive obfuscations of the 'culture of violence' thesis, and Cambodia's ongoing encounters with primitive accumulation are all revealed to inform the exceptional and exemplary violences of neoliberalization. Ultimately, this study illuminates the multiplicity of ways in which the processes of neoliberalization are suffused with violence. A critical appraisal of neoliberalism's capacity for violence can open geographical imaginations to the possibility of (re)producing space in ways that make possible a transformative and emancipatory politics.
Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Recent years have seen the City of Calgary adopt a suite of sustainability policies in a bid to shift its received trajectory of sprawling urban development towards eco-conscious alternatives. But where sustainable urban development is typically rendered as a consensus-driven project portending mutual benefits for a given locality, the historical adoption of sustainability policies in Calgary has been characterized by waves of conflict and controversy which have allegedly watered down the City’s policy objectives. Rather than evaluating the technical merits of individual policies against ‘best practice’-type standards, this thesis argues that the meanings and implications of particular policy paradigms – such as Calgary’s move towards sustainability – must be found in both the specific institutional configurations in which policies are formed and the political-economic conditions to which they respond. This thesis explores these institutional pressures and conjunctural forces through a historical analysis of several key moments in the emergence and evolution of sustainability-oriented policy in Calgary. Chapter 1 establishes context for this inquiry, while Chapter 2 formulates a theoretical framework by synthesizing neo-Marxian interpretations of local environmental policy and recent innovations in the field of ‘policy mobilities’ with the work of Antonio Gramsci, particularly related to his conception of hegemony. Building upon this edifice, Chapter 3 comprises a historical overview of the City’s first attempts at sustainability-oriented policy, which I argue are best viewed as a ‘fix’ for several tensions and contradictions surrounding Calgary’s hegemonic development model, which I term ‘developer-led suburbanization’. Attempts to reformat and restructure this model through consensual community ‘visioning exercises’ and ‘systems’-based rationalities are considered in Chapter 4, which I explain as a manoeuvre by the City to restore political legitimacy and wrest control over development matters from private sector actors. These narratives converge in my central argument: the historical formation of sustainability policies in Calgary has not been a process of incremental rationalization or evolutionary refinement, but has instead reflected a series of struggles for political leadership within an arrangement that can be best understood through the Gramscian concept of hegemony.
This thesis presents a history of the State of Florida's convict leasing program (1877-1920) and situates critical developments in the prison system within concurrent transformations of racial capitalism in the American South. The social struggles that followed the Civil War forged the legal, political, economic, and ideological practices and strategies for white supremacy and capitalist production that remained predominant in the region until roughly World War II. Drawing extensively from archival sources including the reports of state prison supervisors and physicians, correspondence between prison officials and lessees of convicts, and official biennial reports on the state prison system, this research proposes a three-fold interpretation of the postbellum South's penal system. The prison system was, first of all, among the primary disciplinary mechanisms for planters and industrial capitalists who sought to maintain a pliable, submissive, and impoverished workforce through debt peonage arrangements and corporal punishment. Second, the prison system was a revenue-driven human trafficking network that redistributed labour to various capitalists throughout each state. I document how race, gender, ability, and the demands of industry were the primary determinants in the apprehension of prisoners and their distribution throughout the state of Florida. Lastly, this work argues that the prison system must be understood as a form of institutionalized state terrorism organized to permanently suppress the Black Freedom Struggle. The labour camps were juridically produced spaces of unlimited violence within which prisoners were subjected to debilitating and life-threatening beatings, medical malpractice, and execution. As a whole, this thesis uses Marx’s method to construct a thorough critique of the claim that proletarian labour is necessarily "free wage labour" by detailing the mutually reinforcing relationship between capitalist social relations, as expressed within the process of production, and forms of personal and group domination including enslavement, debt peonage, imprisonment, and male domination.
In this thesis I analyse the effects of the Kiribati Adaptation Project (KAP). The KAP is an early climate change adaptation project and it has been instrumental in the World Bank’s (the implementer of the KAP) expansion into the climate change agenda. I situate the KAP in the long, colonial, history of developmentalism and draw from critical development and policy studies to understand this project. Although climate change adaptation and development are contradictory in many senses, they have similarities: they are practiced by the same institutions, with the same project management techniques, and they are implemented through projects. I ask the following research questions:1. What work does climate change adaptation do as an organising principle for a project?2. How is climate change adaptation as a policy articulated into grounded practices?3. What are the unintended effects of a novel climate change adaptation project in an archetypical vulnerable place?To answer these research questions I draw from six weeks field work in Kiribati, where I met with KAP project managers and consultants, government officials and other interested onlookers. In chapter three, I observe that the KAP was focused on producing technical reports and technical expertise. I analyse why this is the case and what some of the effects of this are. By participating in the KAP, consultants, funders and other i-Matang relatives of the project gain expertise in the novel, and increasingly lucrative, arena of climate change adaptation. In chapter four, I analyse the ways in which i-Kiribati actors assemble and perform their vulnerability to climate change. Performances are an intentional strategy to gain recognition for the plight of the low-lying and fragile atoll nation. Officials and public servants have little choice but to perform their vulnerability; the Government of Kiribati depends on these finances, but this dependence is uncertain. The KAP is a key site, as it exemplifies the asymmetries of climate change adaptation and mitigation. The KAP expects to create local resilience in the face of an exogenous threat, in the place least able to be resilient, and least responsible for causing the threat.