The People’s Geography of the United States

The discipline of geography has undergone a colossal transformation over these years, becoming a vital site for the development of social and political theories concerned with how power is organized and exercised within and across spaces and places.  It has become a discipline that workers in other fields in the humanities and social sciences turn to for guidance on how to understand processes of capitalist globalization, geopolitics, political struggle, and identity formation.  Yet the insights developed within academic geography are little known outside the academy.  Geographers have not had the sort of influence on public discourse that, for example, social history, critical legal studies, critical race studies, or women’s studies have had.  Rectifying this holds tremendous political promise: insights into the role of household, neighborhood, urban, regional, national and global space in social relations and political struggles clarify how power operates to both constrain and provide the possibility for social life.

            Moreover, a progressive, radical approach to space and place – to geography –  can also indicate how we might contest uneven power relations.  Such an approach helps provide both understandings of the geographical structures of power and insights into strategies that have been and can be used to transform them.  Unfortunately, none of the current venues for popular geographic education, such as The National Geographic or books like Geography for Idiots, have as their goal the dissemination of critical geographical knowledge.  Indeed, such venues seem to either be interested in the (admittedly interesting and important) exploration of anthropological difference and environmental variability, or in the (far less important and interesting) rote memorization of country locations, place names, or locations of rivers. The second goal of the People’s Geography Project is thus to radicalize popular geography, to show that a radical, critical perspective on geography is even more interesting – and more important – than what currently passes for popular geography.

            It is with these goals in mind that the People’s Geography Project’s collective is planning on writing a book entitled, The People’s Geography of the United States.  The main purpose of the book is to show – though numerous examples as well as an overarching narrative about the importance of the geography of power and social contestation – just how people make the places, spaces, regions, and landscapes in which they live.  It will also show how these places, spaces, regions, and landscapes in turn constrain and enable peoples’ everyday lives and possibilities for the future.