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Nik Heynen

Distinguished Research Professor
Visiting Scholar, Spelman College
Co-Director, UGA's Cornelia Walker Bailey Program on Land and Agriculture

Contact info

Geog-Geol Bldg, 210 Field Street, Athens, Georgia 30602, Room 108
Research Interests:

Urban Political Ecology; Abolition Ecology; Environmental Justice; Social Movements

Heynen_CV.pdf (933.44 KB)

My research has explored areas of urban political ecology, abolition ecologies and geographies, and geographies of neoliberalism and racial capitalism. I’ve tried to theorize and demonstrate empirically how racialized processes of capitalism, white supremacy, and settler colonialism produce structurally unjust geographies and ecologies. I discovered geography after having double majored in philosophy and religious studies for a couple years as an undergraduate student. I did so, I now know, because I saw geography as providing the clearest opportunity to work toward a social justice-oriented research agenda that takes rigorous, theoretically sophisticated scholarship seriously, but could also focus on practical, justice-centered work. 

Trained as an urban geographer, I have published research based in Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Atlanta and New Orleans. I am thinking about cities in the U.S. South now and have several streams of research in the southern cities.   

For nearly a decade I have been working with the Saltwater Geechee community on Sapelo Island on the restoration of traditional agricultural practices and flood mitigation made necessary as a result of descendants losing their land to development pressure and increasing sea-level rise. Through this work I co-direct UGA’s Cornelia Walker Baily Program on Land and Agriculture with Maurice Bailey.

Early in my career I was fortunate to serve as part of the editorial collective at Antipode, which was one of the key inspirations that made me want to become a geographer and was the founding Chair of Antipode’s Institute for the Geographies of Justice (IGJ). I have also served as an editor for Annals of the Association of American Geographers and I helped establish the University of Georgia Press book series Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation, as well as was a founding editor of the journal Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.

I have been very lucky to have had opportunities to learn with and from brilliant graduate and undergraduate students who have been a constant source of inspiration and motivation. In addition to my teaching at UGA I am a visiting scholar at Spelman College in Atlanta. I look forward to continuing this work with students, so please reach out to me if you are an undergraduate or graduate student interested in talking about working together.

Please see my CV linked above for more information about my specific research, teaching and service interests.

Selected Publications:

Heynen, N. and N. Luke (2023) “How Cities Are Experimenting with Reparations in Urban Policy”

Hardy, D., M. Bailey, and N. Heynen (2022) “We’re Still Here”: An Abolition Ecology Blockade of Double Dispossession of Gullah/Geechee Land. Annals of the American Association of Geographers. 112(3): 867-876.

Heynen, N. and M. Ybarra (2021) “On Abolition Ecologies and Making 'Freedom as a Place'” Antipode. Antipode. 53(1): 21-35.

Luke, N. and N. Heynen. (2020) “Community Solar as Energy Reparations: Abolishing Petro-Racial Capitalism in New Orleans.” American Quarterly. 72(3): 603-625.

Bailey, M and N. Heynen (2020) “Sweet (and Sticky) Redemption: Gullah/Geechee of Sapelo Island Reclaim Sugarcane to Fight Cultural ErasureScalawag.  September 29. 

Articles Featuring Nik Heynen

University of Georgia professor Nik Heynen has been selected as a 2023 Fellow of the American Association of Geographers. The AAG fellow program recognizes geographers who have made significant contributions to advancing and strengthening the discipline of…

This past June, students and faculty from universities across the Southeast united at the Penn Center National Historic Landmark District on St. Helena Island, SC for a series of discussions, community conversations, workshops, educational excursions, and place…

Last year, Nik Heynen, professor in the Department of Geography, was named a Distinguished Research Professor at the University of…

Dr Nik Heynen’s long time partnership with Saltwater Geechee activist Maurice Bailey and the Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society is bearing fruit – sugar, actually.  SICAR’s agricultural project is to reestablish heritage crops on…

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