David is an associate professor (docent) of human geography and director of graduate studies, and is a US citizen (now also with Swedish citizenship) with roots on Åland. Previous to coming to Uppsala in 2007 he taught at Vassar College in New York State. He received a PhD in human geography from Pennsylvania State University in 2005, and his research focuses primarily on geographic identity. His teaching is primarily in the areas of political geography and planning.
Academic merits: PhD, Docent
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My first university degree is in psychology (Cornell University, 1989), and my understanding of the world has been shaped by this psychological perspective ever since. When I eventually did a master's (2001) and PhD (2005) in human geography (Pennsylvania State University), it was with a focus on identity, and the ways in which we psychologically negotiate sameness and difference in the West.
I have served in various administrative roles in the Department of Social and Economic Geography here in Uppsala, and am current director of graduate studies, and am responsible for the department's gender equality work.
My research agenda has been primarily focused on understanding how geographic identities are produced through spatial and discursive processes. My first research project investigated the relationship between Southern identity in the US and American national identity. My intention was to develop a spatial theorization of the concept of internal orientalism through applying this framework to the case of the "America"/"the South" binary in US discourse. My master's thesis considered the "voice of the Self" in the discourse of internal orientalism in the US, by examining representations of the South in journalism, scholarship, and popular culture. My PhD dissertation went on to examine the "voice of the Other" of internal orientalism, or more precisely, the "voices of the Others." I conducted interviews with two groups, representing the Others of internal orientalism: black Southerners in the Lynchburg, Virginia, area, and members of the (virtually all-white) Southern nationalist organization the League of the South. The interviews revealed how both groups both resist and reinforce the essentialist binary of internal orientalism through their conceptualizations of "Southern" identity.
My second project brought me to Scandinavia in 2007. I was invited to participate in a study of migration from the Åland Islands to Sweden and the Finnish mainland. Åland is an autonomous, Swedish-speaking province of Finland, an archipelago in the Baltic between Sweden and Finland. This project was financed by Ålands självstyrelses 75-års jubileumsfond, Kulturfonden för Sverige och Finland, Svenska kulturfonden, William Thurings stiftelse, Stiftelsen Margit Althins stipendiefond, and Stiftelsen Emilie och Rudolf Gesellius fond. I conducted interviews with Ålanders who moved to Sweden or the Finnish mainland as adults. I explored issues of language, culture and belonging, with a particular emphasis on the sense of in-betweenness that most Ålanders associate with Ålandic identity. In 2010 I produced a museum exhibition for Ålands Museum to report the results of this project for the government and public of Åland.
My most recent project is entitled The Car and the Folkhem: The Role of Mass Motoring in the Creation of Modern Sweden and is being financed by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. This project investigates an apparent paradox. In a country that is known for its folkhem, a philosophy and social project based in values of collective action and solidarity, the primary mode of transportation is that icon of individualism, the automobile. Indeed, the folkhem (literally, “people’s home,” referring to the welfare state and its ideology) and the automobile system were established simultaneously during the 20th century. Given this coincidence, it is curious that the potential symbiotic relationship between “automobility” and the folkhem has not been studied previously. This study investigates the role of the individualistic mobility provided by the car in the construction of the collective project of the welfare state, and indeed in the construction of a modern Swedish national identity. The project seeks to explore the ways in which the individualism of the automobile and the collectivism of the folkhem met to form Sweden’s “car society.”
I have an emerging interest in the topic of "valfriheten" in Sweden ("freedom of choice"), and have so far published two opinion pieces in the daily newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning looking at "valfriheten" from a geographic perspective (the first article was co-authored with the geographer Matt Hannah). I am interested in the kinds of subjectivity that are produced by a neoliberalist valfrihet agenda, and how these subjectivities are also shaped by the capitalist world-economy. I am thus increasingly interested in the intersections between psychoanalysis and political economy, and am particularly eager to work with graduate students whose research touches on these areas.
Aside from these projects I have interests in visuality and antiwar protest (with an article published in ACME), place branding (having published an article on place branding and racism on Åland), and the philosophical critique of the geographer Gunnar Olsson (see my book chapter on this topic).
Current PhD students: Dominic Teodorescu, Erik Hansson, Hanna Zetterlund.
Former PhD students: Madeleine Eriksson (Umeå University), John Guy Perrem
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