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

By way of introduction

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.

Curriculum vitæ

Academic employment


Peer-reviewed publications

Book reviews

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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