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Garrett Dash Nelson

Curator of Maps and Director of Geographic Scholarship, Leventhal Map and Education Center, Boston Public Library

Garrett is the Curator of Maps and Director of Geographic Scholarship at the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library. He is 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. He has 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, he is interested in both how places come to be seen as provisionally whole, as well as what the consequences are of such boundary-drawing decisions. He strongly believes 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.