Nate Gabriel, Ph.D.
Instructor, Rowan University
Contact: nategabriel [at] gmail


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Research


My work lies at the intersection of political ecology, urban geography, and environmental justice, and examines questions related to urban environmental governance, specifically governance by the state (local, regional, and national), quasi-governmental institutions, and the public.

I am interested exploring "the urban" not simply as a site in which to examine the politics of the environment, nor merely the scale at which many environmental conflicts emerge, but as a discourse through which nature and society are understood and produced. My work demonstrates that the way we understand the urban has a profound impact on the ways we interact with the built environment and the non-human.

Research Project: The Work That Parks Do

I am currently working on a book project, based on my PhD dissertation, that documents the discursive role that Philadelphia's Fairmount Park system played in the formation of the city as an object of knowledge from the nineteenth century to the present. Fairmount Park is one of the oldest and largest urban parks in the United States (established in 1868, now encompassing over 9,000 acres), and had a profound effect on the ways that other cities were imagined and organized at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. My research employs a genealogical method that combines an array of qualitative methods to examine the practices that continue to reproduce the discursive split between nature and society through the technology of the urban park. I demonstrate how various forms of discursive power associated with the management of parks (such as the disciplining of bodies, the arrangement of urban space, and the erasure of non-capitalist economic practices) reproduce the city as capitalist space by nullifying and rendering impotent competing framings that would suggest otherwise.

Research Project: Discourses of Urban Sustainability

This project examines questions regarding the effects of emerging modes of governance of the urban public sphere with regard to the environment. Specifically, it examines the effects of two opposing urban environmental narratives, their associated modes of governance, and their relationship to urban publics. The first of these narratives is that associated with urban "greening" and urban sustainability, in which many US cities have become heavily invested in recent years. The second is that of urban blight, to which the post-industrial city has been subjected for decades. Divergent as they are, these framings are underpinned by the same tension between the neoliberalization of urban governance, whereby private property relations come to play a central organizing role, and an increased focus in sustainability, which tends to frame urban space as an environmental commons. Yet, they are more than the consequence of a shift toward neoliberalism.

These narratives have wide-ranging effects in terms of producing new environmentally- oriented constituencies and new spaces of everyday environmental governance and discipline, as cities are increasingly recast in environmental terms. By tracing the specific practices through which urban environmental spaces are produced (for example, through infrastructural reorganization, efforts to increase efficiency of resource use, increased attention on community-led initiatives like urban gardening and cycling, and abandonment of entire sections of cities), this research continues to interrogate the relationship between state governance and "everyday" forms of environmental management and self-discipline. I'm especially interested in the extent to which these new environmental strategies enable or encourage public participation in environmental decision-making, what consequences that participation has on participants, and the potential (or lack thereof) that such projects have for producing more diverse and more inclusive configurations of the interface between urban nature and urban people.

Publications

In Print, Forthcoming

Gabriel, N. (Forthcoming) "Visualizing Urban Nature in Fairmount Park: Discipline, Economic Diversity, and Photography in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia." In Braddock and Isenberg (eds), A Greene Country Towne: Art, Culture, and Ecology in Philadelphia. (Under Contract for publication in 2014)
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Gabriel, N. (2013) "Urban Political Ecology: Past and Future," Geography Compass
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Gabriel, N. (2013) "Territorializing Urban Space: the Production, Division, and Reconfiguration of Natures and Economies." City. 17:3
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Mclain, R.J., Gabriel, N., et al. (2012) "Gathering in the city: An annotated bibliography on urban-based non-timber forest products gathering." Pacific Northwest Research Station General Technical Report, PNW-GTR-XXX. 177pp
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Gabriel, N. (2011) "The Work That Parks Do: Toward an Urban Environmentality." Social and Cultural Geography 12:2
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In Progress

Gabriel, N. "Mending Fences: Constituting the Urban Through Environmental Stewardship." Under revision for Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.
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Gabriel, N. "Fixity and Rupture: Neoliberalism Happens in Place." Under revision for Geoforum.
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Gabriel, N. and Sarmiento, E. "Food, Actor-Networks, and the 'Transatlantic Destiny of Michel Foucault.'" Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, 2011.
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