I am a broadly trained human geographer. My research is rooted in fields such as community economies, agrarian studies, political ecology, post-colonial theory, and rural development. For 20 years I have focused on the response of communities to regional economic crises - in coffee and coal country - and the central role of solidarity, mutual aid, grassroots initiatives and social movements in forging alternative rural development pathways in those regions. Methodologically I practice critical ethnography but in recent years have more fully embraced my identity as a participatory action researcher - working in teams to accompany community partners as they work for social change. With my students I have established a robust action research program and experiments focused on cooperative economics, food justice, food system development, community health and environmental justice in West Virginia and Appalachia which is now housed in the WVU Center for Resilient Communities. In recent years I have been thinking about pragmatist pedagogies and how to practice community geographies.
Learn more about our participatory research endeavors through the WVU Center for Resilient Communities, WVU Food Justice Lab or WVFOODLINK.
I teach courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. For undergrads I regularly teach our introductory World Regional Geography 102, Economic Geography 209, Rural and Regional Development 411, and our Professional Field Experience 491. I also teach graduate seminars in Political Ecology, Resilient Communities and Community Engaged Research. I also support students in directed readings in Diverse Economies, Environmental Justice and Space, Culture and Capitalism.
I have published in peer-reviewed journals such as Antipode, the Journal of Peasant Studies, Rethinking Marxism, Geoforum, Gender, Place and Culture, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, Human Organization and Applied Geography. I have also authored numerous reports related to research conducted on food and farming in West Virginia. My research and that of my graduate students has been funded by Fulbright, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, and Food and Nutrition Service, the Appalachian Regional Commission, as well as impact foundations such as the One Foundation, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Sisters Health Foundation and more.
I am currently working on two books, the first a collaborative project focused on food justice experiments over the past decade entitled Food Justice for All: Equity, Solidarity and Social Action in West Virginia which is under contract with WVU Press. This book explores the problem of food access inequalities and tells the story of the Food Justice Lab which has created critical maps, tools, pedagogies and case studies that for advancing food justice coalitions at the local, state and regional level. The second is entitled Grounds for Solidarity: Coffee, Crisis and Cooperative Action consolidates a decade of multi-sited ethnographic work studying in Nicaragua and the United States. This book explores how U.S. solidarity advocates, farming cooperatives and farmworker unions negotiated the effects of a civil war, coffee price declines, widespread unemployment, land inequalities and agro-industrial restructuring in the coffee trade.
Here are the recent projects of my graduate students in geography.
Valentina Muraleedharan, Ph.D. “Drawing No Lines: Social Justice and Youth Participatory Research in the Neighborhood.” Anticipated May 2023.
Grace Dever, Ph.D. Areas: Participatory Mapping, Vulnerability / Resilience, Water Justice, Appalachia. Anticipated May 2024.
Alanna Higgins, Ph.D. “Food as Medicine?: Produce Prescription Programs and Federal Nutrition Policy in the United States.” Anticipated August 2022.
Aron Massey, Ph.D. ”Direct Action, Drones, and Development: Shifting Spatialities and Tactical Repertoires of Mountaintop Removal Activism in West Virginia.” Anticipated August 2022.
Valerie Slone. MA Project. Healthy Food Access Initiatives and Food Hub Development in WV: A Case Study of Turnrow Appalachian Farm Collective. Completed August 2021.
Jed Debruin, MA Thesis. “Deconstructing the 30 Mile Meal: Towards an Equitable Local Food System in Appalachian Ohio.” Completed May 2019.
Joshua Lohnes, Ph.D. “Feeding Lines: The Geography of Humanitarian Food Networks in West Virginia.” Completed January 2019.
Amanda Marple. MA Thesis. “Democratizing Campus Foodscapes: Student Food Cooperatives and the Corporate University.” Completed December 2017.
Thomson Gross, MA Project. “Building Capacity for Food Justice: GIScience, Online Learning and Community Transformation.” Completed May 2017.
Mary Beth Ryan. MA Thesis. “Growing Community Gardens in the Mountain State.” Completed May 2017.
Alyssa Sobey. MA Thesis. “Locating Conflict: Methyl Isocyanate, Community Activism and Global Environmental Justice in West Virginia.” Completed August 2014.
Chad Spade. MA Thesis. “Fractured Communities: Natural Gas, Resource Control and Social Response in Bradford County, PA.” Completed August 2012.
Philip Gardone. MA Project. “Natures of Contention: At the Intersection of Political Ecology and Social Movements.” August 2011.
Autumn Long. MA Thesis. “The Politics of Self-Provisioning: Food Production for Household Consumption in West Virginia.” May 2011.