Andrew Grant

Critical Geographies of Urbanization and Asian Geopolitics

About Me

Andrew Grant Portrait

Thank you for visiting the website of Andrew Grant. I am a political geographer who studies belonging and exclusion in global borderlands. I have teaching experience in geography and international studies. I hold a PhD in geography from UCLA.

Starting in 2023, I am Assistant Professor of Geography at University of Tampa.

Broadly, my research contributes to discussions about the role of urbanization, borders, and other materials in global geopolitics and the politics of marginalized groups.  My studies include the urban geopolitics of rural-to-urban migration amid state-led urbanization drives on the Tibetan Plateau, complications between soft power and security at China’s Inner Asian borders, and the geopolitics of China’s Belt and Road Initiative cartography. My research is grounded in qualitative methods including ethnography, interviews, and textual analysis.

Please look around and explore my current and future research plans, publications, teaching experience, and CV.

New Book Out Now

The Concrete Plateau: Urban Tibetans and the Chinese Civilizing Machine from Cornell University Press, 2022

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The Concrete Plateau: Urban Tibetans and the Chinese Civilizing Machine examines the experiences of Tibetan rural to urban migrants under conditions of state-led urbanization in 21st century China. Focusing on the city of Xining, the largest city on the Tibetan Plateau, I argue that China’s national urbanization project is becoming entangled with Tibetans' place-making projects, leading Tibetans to produce an urban modernity that differs from the hegemonic Chinese urbanism that is increasingly taking root in Western China. This subaltern urbanism sits uncomfortably within a Han Chinese urban hegemony that leaves little place for un-regulated ethnicity. The study contributes to research on politics and urbanization, proposing that subaltern urbanization can challenge state-led "civilizing machines" through place-making practices that use places, memories, and animals, as well as critiques of social policy and aesthetic practice.

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Award Winner
Weatherhead East Asia Institute First Book Award AAG-PGSG Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award

Curriculum Vitae


Philosophy and Courses

Coming Soon: Borders of Global China

My forthcoming manuscript for the Cambridge Elements series on Global China is named Borders of Global China. This Element examines the roles of borders and borderlands in Global China’s practices of economic development, securitization, and soft power. In the postreform period, China’s borderlands are more closely with the national economy and urban social order than ever.   Drawing primarily from two Chinese borderlands: the Sino-Himalayan and Sino-Kazakh, this manuscript argues that new border-erasing connectivities - linked to the infrastructures and discourses of Global China and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - belie a deepening securitization that hardens borders and channels profits and opportunities to privileged populations. Border gateways and borderlands urbanization double as security outposts and bulwarks against perceived separatist threats. As China pronounces its openness to flows of people, goods, and ideas for the sake of win-win development and mutual cooperation, a borderlands perspective reveals anxieties and frictions that challenge understandings that Global China is successfully altering its Inner Asian frontiers to meet its geopolitical goals.

2021 Special Issue in Asian Geographer

Northeast Asia in Regional Context

This new special issue, co-edited with Alex Diener and Mia Bennett, contains four original contributions from scholars that grapple with Northeast Asia's "regional betweenness" - its liminal position between other world regions. They offer new perspectives on the composition of the region amidst shifting economic, geopolitical, infrastructural, and logistical configurations, as well as its analytic purchase as a world region.

Current Projects

Seasonal Urbanisms

Urbanizing Pastoral Tibet

Through a study of urban sites that ring Qinghai Lake, the world's largest high-altitude salt lake, this project examines how seasonally fluid urbanization is transforming the Tibetan Plateau. Building on research on governance and ecological construction in pastoralist resettlements and the development of coastal Chinese eco-cities, I am investigating how urbanization in the mode of “ecological civilization,” or 生态文明, works to homogenize difference by importing inner Chinese-developed best practices for environmental stewardship and green urban design at the expense of indigenous practices. This is not a one-way process, however; my work will highlight Tibetans’ strategies to modify and “green” their urban milieus using their own environmental practices. 

Geopolitical Urbanization

Frontier Urbanism as Geopolitical Project

This research brings together cities in two states that have invested in campaigns to re-create their peripheries as urban zones. India’s “Smart City” and China’s “Civilized City” programs, working with private developers, are increasingly using urbanization to attempt to homogenize their Inner Asian borderlands. This project explores how flexible urbanism is a mobile model adaptable to topographically difficult terrain, but which is ultimately dependent on state-led developmentalist goals. The concept of geopolitical urbanization captures not only processes of state politics and urban development, but also ongoing processes of racialization, surveillance, and disempowerment that affect borderlands peoples. 

Partitions of the Sensible

Infrastructure, Boundaries, and Human Rights 

Infrastructure is an increasingly important part of the political aesthetics of mapped space.
This project explores how communities of sense gather around the technical aesthetics of cartographic and infrastructural portrayal. Today, boundaries and borderlands are being illustrated and geopolitically mobilized as aesthetic and technical practices. Remote sensing and satellite imagery, in combination with interpretation, are used to tell publics about what is happening in relation to moving boundaries, road development, and detention camps. 
This infrastructure-fare is a form not only of political disagreement, but also generates a shared public and diplomatic culture about what counts as visible and what remains invisible. What is deemed visible has ethical implications for human rights.

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