Bio

Background

Julian Agyeman Ph.D. FRSA FRGS is a Professor in the Department Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, and is the Fletcher Professor of Rhetoric and Debate, an endowed professorship at Tufts University.

He is the originator of the increasingly influential concept of just sustainabilities, which explores the increasingly intersecting goals of social justice and environmental sustainability, defined as:

the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now, and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems.

Born and trained in the UK, he holds a B.Sc. in Geography and Botany, with a minor in Anthropology (University of Durham, 1980), a Post Graduate Certificate in Education in Geography and Environmental Studies (University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1982), an MA in Conservation Policy (Middlesex University, 1987) and a Ph.D. in Urban Studies (University of London, 1996).

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His combined science and social science background, together with extensive experience in local government, consulting, working for, and board-level advising of NGOs and community-based organizations in the UK and US, helps frame his perspectives, research and writing. This enables him to thrive at the borders and intersections of a wide range of disciplines, knowledges and methodologies which he uses in creative and original ways.

Research

He identifies himself as a critical urban planning and environmental social science scholar. He centers his research on critical explorations of the complex and embodied relations between humans and the urban environment, whether mediated by governments or social movement organizations, and their effects on public policy and planning processes and outcomes, particularly in relation to notions of justice and equity.

He believes that what our cities can become (sustainable, smart, sharing and resilient) and who is allowed to belong in them (recognition of difference, diversity, and a right to the city) are fundamentally and inextricably interlinked.

We must therefore act on both belonging and becoming, together, using just sustainabilities as the anchor, or face deepening spatial and social inequities and inequalities.

His key research contributions are in:

Just sustainabilities in policy, planning and practice;

Environmental and food justice;

Antiracist panning in, and for intercultural cities;

Planning in, and for co-produced and sharing cities.

Writing

With over 175 publications, he is the author, co-author or co-editor of 13 books, including:

Sacred Civics: Building Seven Generation Cities (Routledge, 2022);

The Immigrant-Food Nexus: Borders, Labor, and Identity in North America  (MIT Press, 2020);

Food Trucks, Cultural Identity, and Social Justice: From Loncheras to Lobsta Love (MIT Press, 2017);

Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities (MIT Press, 2015), one of Nature’s Top 20 Books of 2015;

Incomplete Streets: Processes, Practices, and Possibilities (Routledge, 2014);

Introducing Just Sustainabilities: Policy, Planning and Practice (Zed Books/Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013);

Environmental Inequalities Beyond Borders: Local Perspectives on Global Injustices (MIT Press, 2011);

Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class and Sustainability (MIT Press, 2011);

Speaking for Ourselves: Environmental Justice in Canada (UBC Press, 2010);

Environmental Justice and Sustainability in the Former Soviet Union (MIT Press, 2009);

The New Countryside?: Ethnicity, Nation and Exclusion in Contemporary Rural Britain (Bristol University Press/Policy Press, 2006);

Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice (NYU Press, 2005) Book Award finalist, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), 2006;

Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World (MIT Press, 2003);

Impact

Worldwide, he is recognized as a public intellectual, an innovator and thought leader. His Google Scholar citations highlight the (academic) impacts of his peer reviewed work which have placed him in the top 10 most highly cited urban planning academics in the USA and Canada.

His wide-ranging and influential journal articles include Mind the Gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? (2002), the single most highly cited journal article by an urban planning academic in North America.

In addition to its theoretical contributions, Mind the Gap continues to have great practical impact around the world, influencing policy development by leading think-tanks such as the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Economic and Social Research Institute; governments such as the USACanada, Australia, New Zealand, UKFrance, and Ireland, as well as regional/global governing entities such as the European Parliament, the European Environment Agency, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Food And Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, among others.

Complementing his academic writing, he publishes regularly in popular, quality media such as The Guardian, The Boston Globe, TIME and The Conversation.

Service

Julian was co-founder in 1988, and chair until 1994, of the Black Environment Network (BEN), the first environmental justice-based organization of its kind in Britain. He is a Founding Senior Advisor/Thought Leader at PlacemakingX , a member of the External Advisory Board of the Boston University Initiative on Cities, a member of the Academic Board of the Centre for the Study of Places (KTH Stockholm, Sweden) and is chair of the Advisory Board of Shareable (San Francisco, USA). He sits is on the Just Growth Advisory Council of the Partnership for Southern Equity (Atlanta, GA, USA) and is also on the Advisory Boards of  Biophilic Cities (University of Virginia), Participatory City (London, UK) and Sharecity (Dublin, Ireland).

He was co-founder in 1996, and is now Editor-in-Chief of Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability. He is Series Editor of Just Sustainabilities: Policy, Planning and Practice published by Zed Books/Bloomsbury Publishing. He is Co-Editor of the Routledge Equity, Justice and the Sustainable City Series and the Bristol University Press/Policy Press Series Creating Smart and Sharing Cities. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Australian Journal of Environmental Education.

Honors

He has held Visiting Professorships at:

University of Waterloo, Canada (2020-21): TD Walter Bean Visiting Professorship in Environment;

McGill University, Montréal, Canada (2017-18): Visiting Professor in Urban Planning;

University of Washington, Seattle (Feb-March 2017): The Walker Ames Visiting Professorship;

Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK (2010-14);

University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia (2008-13);

University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada (April-May 2011);

He has held Visiting Fellowships at:

McConnell Foundation Cities for People program in Montréal, Canada (2017-18).

The Center for Humans and Nature, Chicago (2013-16);

The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada  (April-May 2011).

In 1996, he was elected to the Fellowship of the UK Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA), a network of people dedicated to enriching society and shaping the future through ideas and action. In 2015, he received the Benton H. Box Award from Clemson University Institute for Parks which is presented to an educator who inspires students and encourages curriculum innovation and an environmental ethic. In 2016 he became a Fellow of the UK Royal Geographical Society (FRGS), the learned society and professional body advancing geography and supporting geographers.

In 2018, he was awarded the Athena City Accolade by KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, for his "outstanding contribution to the field of social justice and ecological sustainability, environmental policy and planning". On September 1, 2021, he became the Fletcher Professor of Rhetoric and Debate, an endowed chair at Tufts University. In November 2021, he was invited by then Boston Mayor-Elect Michelle Wu to be a Transition Advisor on her Transition Committee. On November 17, 2023, he became Hedersdoktorer (Honorary Doctor) at KTH Royal institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.