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I am a human geographer and political economist interested in how the economic geography of capitalism is made. Within that broad description, I have been particularly focused upon exploring how working people play active roles in shaping economic landscapes under capitalism and how, in turn, the physical and ideological form of the landscape can sometimes enable and sometimes constrain the possibilities for working people’s actions – that is to say, I am interested in the ways in which working people make their own geographies but not under the conditions of their own choosing. It is this approach to understanding working people’s spatiality – what I have termed “Labor Geography” – upon which I have focused much of my research for the past 25 years or so. My research has involved such diverse topics as: how US east coast dockers struggled to control the location of work once technological innovations like containerization began to affect their industry in the 1950s; how dockers also went about building new geographical scales of organizing in response to the growing national spatial integration of the cargo-handling industry; how autoworkers were able to bring General Motors’s operations to a grinding halt in the late 1990s by striking at several strategic choke points in the corporation’s structure; how Western unions went about working with unions in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s to help rebuild the labor movement there after the collapse of Communism; the role played by the US labor movement in fighting Communism in Latin America and the Caribbean, and what this meant for the subsequent globalization of US capital; and the challenges faced by precarious workers in industries such as cleaning and how they are fighting to resist the pressures being brought to bear upon them by neoliberal capitalism.
A second, though related, area of my scholarship has been on the topic of what has come to be termed “globalization.” Globalization is many things – an economic process, a political process, a cultural process, and a historical process. But it is also a fundamentally geographical process, as different parts of the planet are connected together – and sometimes disconnected – in new and different ways than they were in the past. Importantly, this connecting of places geographically also plays out in a historically uneven manner. My main goal, then, has been to understand globalization as a historical-geographical process, both materially and also ideologically (i.e., how do we think about globalization and how do the ways in which we think about it shape what we believe is happening in the global economy and therefore what might be possible politically?). Within this broad goal I have been particularly interested in articulating how working people have played active roles in promoting globalization in some times and places and in resisting it in others, with both activities playing profound roles in shaping how the contemporary global economy functions. What I suggest is that the creation of new linkages between different places and the rescaling of contemporary economic, political, and social life (what we call "globalization") do not come about solely through the actions of collective capital but, rather, are the result of deeply contested processes, ones in which workers have played – and continue to play – fundamental roles. Recognizing this means that we can collectively imagine different futures for our planet and different versions of “globalization” (such as proletarian internationalization) rather than simply accepting a neoliberal version of what globalization is.
More recently, along with colleagues Al Rainnie (Flinders University, Adelaide), Susan McGrath-Champ (University of Sydney), and Graham Pickren (Roosevelt University), I have written on the topic of Global Production Networks (GPNs), especially on the role played by workers in shaping these networks’ organizational (and thus spatial) structures. Extending our interest in how commodities are put together and how the contested labor process shapes the manner in which this occurs, we also have explored how they are taken apart in other types of networks – what we are calling Global Destruction Networks (GDNs) – as their constituent elements (like precious metals, plastics, and so forth) are extracted for possible re-use as inputs into new GPNs. As with our work on GPNs, so does our work on GDNs detail how workers' activities and the ways in which the labor process is organized shape these networks’ structures. Through this work we have sought to insert a focus upon labor into the so-called “circular economy” literature.
Many of my publications can be found on line here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Andrew_Herod/contributions
I would be interested in supervising graduate students with interests in any of these areas, as well as with interests in issues of labor and political economy more generally.
In terms of teaching, at the undergraduate level I regularly teach the “Human Geography: People, Places, and Cultures” (GEOG 1101) course. This focuses upon a number of topics, including: what it means to "think geographically"; critical perspectives on cartography as a mode of representing the world; demographic structure and change in various parts of the world and their connection to processes of economic development; and how 19th and 20th century imperialism have shaped patterns of global development in ways that still affect the lives of the planet’s inhabitants today. I also teach the “Globalization and the Making of the Modern World” (GEOG 3620) course. This focuses upon three key issues: i) how do the ways in which we conceptualize globalization shape what we think is happening in the global economy (is the state becoming weaker in the face of global capital, for instance, or is it simply functioning in different ways than before?)?; ii) how did European and US imperialism in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries serve as a “first round” of globalization and with what effects?; iii) how are transnational corporations connecting the planet together in new and different ways as part of a “second round” of globalization? A third undergraduate class that I teach – though only on the UGA à Paris Study Abroad Program in Paris – is the cross-listed course “Paris and Modernity: Power, Politics, and Identity in the City” (GEOG/ INTL/ HIST 4634). This course focuses upon: France’s rise as a global power (especially the creation of the first and second empires in the 18th and 19th centuries and the French government’s efforts to present itself as a Muslim power during its 19th century conquest of North and West Africa); the rebuilding of Paris from the late 18th century to the early 20th century as Paris was reimagined as a grand capital city fit for an empire and home to the principles of modernist rationalism (this section of the class looks at how the city was physically redesigned and rebuilt to allow the ruling elites to exercise political power over Parisian society and how, in turn, this urban form was resisted); and, finally, what it means to “be French” today in the context of France being a multi-cultural society (thanks to its imperial legacy) and the growing efforts of the European Union to encourage people to abandon national identities and to create post-national ones – i.e., to get people to think of themselves not as French or German or Italian but as “European.”
At the graduate level I regularly teach a variety of courses which all focus, in different ways, upon questions of political economy. These include: “Labor, Class and Politics” (INTL/GEOG 8355), which explores the nature of work, workers, and labor representation in advanced capitalist societies; and “Seminar in Economic Geography” (GEOG 8620), which focuses upon various topics concerning how we think about "the economic" as a field of investigation and how various economic actors (the state, global capital, labor) interact with one another to shape how the contemporary capitalist economy functions. I have also taught the “Seminar in Social Theory in Geography” (GEOG 8920), which I created in the mid-1990s and within which I have covered various topics (such as a seminar exploring debates around questions of globalization, a seminar on reading Capital, and a seminar looking at society-nature relations, amongst others). Finally, for over two decades I was responsible for the “Seminar in Geographic Thoughts and Methods” (GEOG 8910), which I taught as a philosophy of science/ history of geographic thought class and in which we explored questions concerning how the ways in which we think about the world epistemologically shapes how we understand it and can make claims about it through the practice of “science” (it was, in other words, a class in which we thought about how we think about the world and the various natural and social processes shaping it).
Lastly, since 2004 I have directed the UGA à Paris Study Abroad Program. This is a six-week program in which students can take 6 credit hours towards their undergraduate degrees whilst spending time in the city that Walter Benjamin called “the capital of the 19th century” and that Gertrude Stein claimed was “where the 20th century was.” We also spend time in Normandy and Brittany and in the Loire Valley. We accept both UGA and non-UGA students.⟶ University of Georgia, Department of Geography