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Urbanizing Latin American Geography: discussing a future agenda for research on Latin American Urban Geography

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group, Latin America Specialty Group
Organizers: Nikolai Alvarado, Laura Neville, Nicholas Crane


Latin America is one of the most urbanized regions in the world with 81% of the population living in urban areas. Yet, research and publication record on Latin America within geography (particularly U.S. geography) reflects insufficient interest in urban processes and an overt rural bias (Alvarado 2020). This insistence on rural settings has become a disciplinary practice that helps perpetuate a longstanding idea of Latin America as an “exotic venue” captivating to visitors and scholars alike due to it “being appealingly different in environments, landscapes, peoples, and practices” (Gade, 2002, p. 12). Latin American urban spaces, often perceived and theorized as disorderly, chaotic, and dangerous, both in popular and academic circles, do not fit this romanticized view of the region. Needless to say, this view cannot be detached from a long tradition of explorer-geographers serving specific colonial, imperialist, and militaristic purposes that date at least to Humboldt. In addition, much of the Latin Americanist geography tradition in the U.S. continues to be heavily influenced by the (non-urban) research agendas of the so-called “descendants” of Carl Sauer (Alvarado 2020). Sauer’s openly anti-urban stance drove him to avoid getting his boots dirty in our cities and to inculcate among his disciples his particular idea of Latin America and of true geographic fieldwork: in el campo. Moreover, the hegemony of USAmerican scholarship in the geopolitics of knowledge production helps cement this imagined geography of Latin America. The result is this: the rural bias within Latin Americanist geography, in research and publications, contributes to “dissemination of particular representations and to other broader ways of learning about, and of ‘viewing’ Latin America” that implicitly silences the majority of people living in the region who in fact live in cities (Marcus 2011, 132). A critical Latin Americanist geography that engages with “the most crucial scholarly and social debates of our times” (Gaffney et al., 2016, p. 1) needs to begin by recognizing and engaging with the lives and spaces of the majority of Latin Americans.

This panel session brings together geographers conducting research in urban Latin America and aims to create a space to discuss the future of urban research in our region. The panel will serve to both discuss the need to develop research on and in urban Latin America, and also a way for participants to share insights on their own research.

We are looking for panelist who would like to contribute to these debates. Topics for discussion might include (but are certainly not limited to):

1) Decolonial and other critical approaches to urban research/ Reflecting on what doing postcolonial research means for
studying urban Latin America.
2) Silences of Latin Americanist Geography in urban research.
3) Indigenous, Feminist, LGBTQ+ urban geographies
4) Community geography/ engaged scholarship
5) Urban Political Ecology/Urban Environments/ Climate Change and Environmental Inequality in Urban Areas.
6) Emerging spatial configurations and urban morphologies.
7) Urban governance, urban politics, urban informality.
8) Territorios en Resistencia.
9) Urban Violence
10) Transnational migration and urban spaces
11) Gentrification and renovation of historical urban districts
12) Urban geography and health

If interested in participating please send an e-mail to Nikolai Alvarado (

Alvarado, N.A. (2020). Where Are the Cities? On Not Excluding (Much More Than) Half of the Latin Americans in Latin Americanist Geography. Journal of Latin American Geography 19(1).

Gade, D. W. (2002). North American Reflections on Latin Americanist Geography. Yearbook. Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers, 27, 1-44.

Gaffney, C., Freeman, J., Seeman, J., Finn, J. C., & Carter, E. D. (2016). JLAG Editorial Team Statement of Purpose. Journal of Latin American Geography, 15(1), 1-6.

Garcia-Ramon, M. (2012). Las diferencias que crea el lugar. Una mirada crítica a la hegemonía angloamericana en geografía. Documents d'Anàlisi Geogràfica, 58(2), 307-319. doi:10.5565/rev/dag.176

Marcus, A. (2011). Rethinking Brazil's Place within Latin Americanist Geography. Journal of Latin American Geography, 10(1), 131-149. doi:10.1353/lag.2011.0003


Type Details Minutes
Panelist Nikolai Alvarado University of Denver 10
Panelist Nicholas Crane University of Wyoming 10
Panelist Laura Neville University of Lausanne - Faculty of Faculty of Geosciences and Environment 10
Panelist Beth Tellman Columbia University 10
Panelist Irene Molina Uppsala Universty 10
Panelist Richard Kruger Clark University 10
Panelist Risa Whitson Ohio University 10

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