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Research Clusters

The University of Kentucky’s Department of Geography is known for high quality research and education in human geography, physical geography, and mapping. During the Fall Semester we encourage interested students to reach out to individual faculty and the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss the possibility of joining our M.A. and Ph.D. programs.

Faculty and student research in the Department of Geography focuses on interrelated thematic clusters. The clusters facilitate collaborative scholarship though they typically do not function as formal research teams. The clusters tend to work as loose and overlapping intellectual communities that can incorporate working groups, reading groups, and collaborative projects, and they give a sense of the breadth of the research conducted in the department. Descriptions of each cluster and their associated faculty are listed below.

Black Geographies: The Black Geographies cluster includes (but is not limited to): Black historical, cultural, political, economic, social, feminist, and queer geographies, as well as the racialization of space, housing, busing, policing and incarceration, environmental justice, urban community development, rural black geographies and/or geographies of racial justice. 
Critical Financial Geographies: The Critical Financial Geographies cluster centers on the dynamic relationship between between finance and space. This includes the role of emerging digital technologies (e.g., FinTech, blockchains, artificial intelligence, digital currencies, etc.) and their impact on the spatial organization of financial markets (both centers and offshore locations), employment and businesses. Other topics of active work include financialization (particularly of urban development), money and money markets, and the  intersection of digital geographies and finance. 
Critical Mapping and GIS: The Critical Mapping and GIS cluster encourages both critically-engaged technical work and technically-capable critical work, including topics in critical GIS, critical cartography, community geographies, public participation and participatory GIS/mapping, volunteered geographic information and neogeography, citizen science, histories of cartography and GIS, social implications of mapping/GIS, big data analytics and smart cities/objects.
Digital Geographies: Digital Geographies includes critical GIS and mapping, digital economies and fintech, big data practices, creative coding, digital hacking/resistance, smart urbanism, platform economies, digitally-mediated social relations and formations, algorithmic governance, and co-production of race, gender, sexuality, and/or disability online and beyond. 
Environmental Geographies: Faculty interests in Environmental Geographies focus on coupled human-environment systems, with an emphasis on urban weather and climate, bioclimatology and phenology, climatic change, coastal change, complexity and resilience theory, environmental remote sensing, and biogeomorphology. We also study animal and plant geographies; impacts and meanings of the Anthropocene; postgenomic conceptions of nature and environmental causality; philosophies of science and ecology; and theories of the society-nature complex. 
Political Ecology: The Political Ecology cluster includes work on (feminist) political ecology; health and the environment; Anthropocene narratives; global climate change and climate justice; environmental justice and injustice; gender, race, and the environment; the production of environmental knowledges; philosophies of praxis; environmental politics and biopolitics; theories of the society-nature complex; and human dimensions of water, extractivism, energy, and/or waste and pollution. The vibrancy of our program is reflected in the internationally recognized Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference (DOPE) that our graduate students organize with the support of faculty members. 
Political Geographies: Political geographers in our department investigate questions of states, territory, and law, especially relating to citizenship and belonging; migrant transnationalism; refugee geopolitics; borders and border enforcement; incarceration and racialization; mobility, migration and nationalism; labor migration and employment; and the everyday lives of migrants in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. Another area of research focuses on urban governance and the politics of urban development in the U.S and Europe, and a third major focus is on political ecology (see related cluster), especially concerning the global south. Our research tackles these topics drawing on diverse theories, including feminist political geographies, political economy, post-colonial, anti-racist, and intersectional approaches. 
Feminist and Queer Geographies: The Queer and Feminist Geographies cluster includes studies related to studies of gender and sexuality, and/or the application of feminist, queer, and/or trans theories, methods, and approaches. Our research interests include transnational feminisms, migration and immigration, gender equity, prison studies, lesbian and queer urban political economies, trans digital spaces, the relationship between food justice and spirituality, and the role of feminism and gendered knowledge in shaping policies ranging from climate change in Tanzania to health policies in Sri Lanka. We are particularly interested in supporting the growth of geographical scholarship that takes an intersectional approach.
Social Theory: Faculty regularly contribute to debates in critical, social, and political theory, while also facilitating reading groups around a range of scholars across the clusters in the Department, including affect theory, critical race theory, feminist theory, marxist theory, queer and trans theory, phenomenonology, postcolonial theory, poststructural theory, practice theory, science and technology studies, and theories of space and place. Faculty and graduate students are heavily involved in the University of Kentucky’s Committee on Social Theory which offers a certificate of study, lectures, and working and reading groups, as well as a graduate student-led journal.
Urban Geographies: The Urban Geographies cluster studies public and private space, civic participation and citizenship, urban property markets, gentrification and displacement, the relationship between urban space and social difference (relating to race, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality), the racialization, gendering, and sexualization of space and urban landscapes, the politics of sprawl and urban planning, property developers and property development, the financialization of urban development, urban governance and political economy, the politics of urban economic development, urban historical geography, and historical preservation.