I am the Curator of Maps and Director of Geographic Scholarship at the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library. I am interested in the processes through which human and nonhuman systems cohere together into distinct geographic entities called “places.” Very broadly, this means that I’m curious about how we construct and identify discrete geographic objects like neighborhoods, cities, districts, and regions, and then use these objects as meaningful categories in social and political life.
I’ve studied this question from several different perspectives, ranging from the history of urban and regional planning to big-data analyses of economically-integrated megaregions. Because the tension between unity and differentiation works itself out in terms of both ideological and empirical arguments about inclusion and exclusion, I’m interested in both how places come to be seen as provisionally whole, as well as what the consequences are of such boundary-drawing decisions. I strongly believe in the integrative impulse in geography and in the necessity of using techniques drawn from fields as diverse as spatial analysis, cartography, ethnography, social theory, and visual studies.
I was born in Massachusetts and have lived in Nashua, New Hampshire; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Tiranë, Albania; Nottingham, England; Madison, Wisconsin; Lebanon, New Hampshire; and now Dorchester, Massachusetts. My wife, Lihlani Skipper Nelson, is the Associate Director of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School.
Garrett Dash Nelson and Ryan McKeon, 2018. “Peaks of People: Utilizing Topographic Prominence to Measure the Ranked Significance of Population Centers,” The Professional Geographer (accepted, in typesetting). doi:10.1080/00330124.2018.1531039
Alasdair Rae and Garrett Dash Nelson, 2018. “From ‘Big Data’ to Big Regions: The Geography of the American Commute,” in LA Schintler and Z Chen, eds., Big Data for Regional Science (London: Routledge).
Humanities Exchange (HEX). Center for the Humanities, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2014–15. Joint award with Rebecca Summer. Public outreach grant for developing humanities projects in collaboration with community organizations.
Postgraduate Travel Bursary. Historical Geography Research Group, RGS–IBG, 2015.
Vilas Research Travel Grant. Graduate School, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2014.
Research & Travel Grant. Center for Culture, History, and Environment, 2014 and 2013.
Trewartha Conference Travel Grant. Department of Geography, 2014 and 2013.
Trewartha Research Travel Grant. Department of Geography, 2014.
Clarence W. Olmstead Citizenship Award. Department of Geography, 2013.
Robert S. Birch Student Travel Award. Society for American City & Regional Planning History, 2011.
Vilas Welcome Award. Graduate School, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2011.
Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar. US–UK Fulbright Commission, 2010–11. Funded MA program, with emphasis on scholarly cultural exchange.
Occasional Lecture Fund. British Fulbright Scholars Association, 2011.
George Peabody Gardner Traveling Fellowship. Harvard College, 2009–10. Grant awarded to one Harvard senior to pursue an independent project in an understudied country. Funded nine months of research in Albania on the changes in planning and spatial organization from communism to capitalism.
Phi Beta Kappa. Harvard Colleg, Alpha and Iota of Massachusetts, 2008.
Harvard College Research Program. Summer research grant, 2008.