Garrett Dash Nelson
Geographer of retrospect, process, and prospect.
Personal photo

By way of introduction

I'm a graduate student in historical geography at the University of Wisconsin–Madison whose work focuses on the two-way relationships that connect the landscape to ideas about society. I am broadly interested in the way that communities come to define and understand themselves through the process of transforming the environment, and, in turn, how those processes of transformation are motivated by political and moral convictions. As someone who works in both of the two great integrative disciplines in the social sciences, history and geography, I am interested in the many different forces, both material and immaterial, which work together to produce, modify, and destroy the human patterning of the earth over time. My interests are primarily in North America and Europe, during what I like to call the "really long nineteenth century," from the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake to the 1973 oil crisis.

Right now, I'm working on a dissertation which explores the problem of what size geographic areas are appropriate for community planners to deal with when trying to encompass a total set of relationships that make up a "single" place. When trying to answer this question, planners have confronted a tricky paradox. Small areas are less complex and more conducive to a sense of mutual social solidarity, but very rarely constitute a self-sufficient whole. On the other hand, large areas, while they better match the weave of interrelationships in the modern world, rarely produce a sense of shared membership. I'm interested in moments where planners and reformers have attempted to square this circle, hoping to preserve an organic sense wholeness while imagining new kinds of "units" at very different scales. Through a close historical study of proposed units which did and did not come into existence, I look at the way different thinkers approached the basic geographic problem of "unity in diversity."

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in New Hampshire; since then, I've lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Tiranë, Albania; Nottingham, England; and Madison, Wisconsin. My fiancée, Lihlani Skipper, is a Program Associate with the National Farm to School Network.

Curriculum vitæ


Peer-reviewed publications

Other publications

Grants and awards

Teaching and project assistantships

See also my teaching website.

Presentations and conferences

Programming, Design, and Languages


Selected work

See CV for major publications.

Interactive projects



Journalistic writing

Elsewhere on the web

Viewshed — my personal blog

Twitter @en_dash

Contact information

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