University of Minnesota
Department of Geography, Environment and Society

Department of Geography, Environment
and Society's home page.

Eric Sheppard, Regents Professor

Contesting Neoliberalism book cover.
A World of Difference
Politics and Practice in Economic Geography
Scale & Geographic Inquiry book cover.
Reading Economic Geography book cover.
Economic Geography book cover.
Rediscovering Geography book cover.
Capitalist Space Economy book cover.


I seek to develop general explanations for the spatial organization and dynamics of economic activities in capitalist societies, and to determine how a geographical perspective illuminates such explanations. Economists recently have rediscovered economic geography as a place to apply economic theory, but my research shows that a proper incorporation of the spatial dimension of society challenges much of what economic theory tells us. A geographical approach can capture the complex evolution of economic landscapes and the various non-economic processes affecting economic change.

Geography has basic theoretical contributions to make to knowledge, not just empirical elaborations. I am interested in how geographers think about the world, and the changing philosophical and methodological disputes in geography. Good scholarship in geography must be grounded in an understanding of these issues, requiring familiarity with contemporary debates in philosophy and methodology outside geography.

I examine the geography of development at scales ranging from the global to the local. Development possibilities don't just depend on local (site) conditions; the interdependencies between places are just as important. The ability of local actors and institutions to effectuate change must be evaluated in this context, to avoid erroneously blaming local conditions and actions for local underdevelopment. I am concerned with human welfare and inequality; with how socio-spatial positionality shapes the conditions of possibility of livelihood practices. Underlying much of my research is a concern for the persistent and too often expanding social and geographic inequalities in society, for the processes creating these, and for what can be done to create more equitable societies and a greater respect for the non-human world. I have spent considerable effort promoting radical geography, where this theme is of central importance.

I have always been interested in the economic interdependencies between places (trade, investment, technology diffusion, information and migration flows). While a graduate student, I took up radical political economy as an approach to economic geography, co-authoring The Capitalist Space Economy with my first doctoral student, Trevor Barnes. I remain fascinated by the geographical dynamics of economic change at different scales, and how these are shaped by the rapidly globalizing capitalist world economy we live in. Currently, I am examining the role of trade, and free trade discourses in shaping global change, since Britain adopted free trade in 1846.

I have also long been interested in the evolution of geography as a discipline, its contested modes of inquiry, and its position as an academic discipline. For example, I co-authored a National Research Council study titled Rediscovering Geography, and co-edited a book of essays on scale across the discipline: Scale and Geographic Inquiry. I have closely explored and tracked the evolution of economic geography, and its contentious relationship with mainstream and heterodox Economics, co-editing A Companion to Economic Geography, Reading Economic Geography, and Politics and Practice in Economic Geography.

I study the two-way relationship between the development of geographic information technologies and social change. I have put much effort into promoting scholarship that transcends pre-existing divides between the geographic information systems and critical geography communities, catalyzing a new generation of scholars finding innovative ways to put these approaches into conversation with one another.

Finally, I have long been interested in the evolution of urban life, particularly the intersections between economic processes and urban politics. Cities must be understood not only as distinctive kinds of places, but as places that are penetrated by co-evolving with nature, larger scale processes and one another. Current research examines the emergence, in and beyond cities, of contestations that call into question the generality and influence of neoliberalism, recently co-editing Contesting Neoliberalism: Urban Frontiers.


I am responsible for co-teaching the introductory human geography course for undergraduates, “Our Globalizing World” involving extensive experimentation with how to use contemporary pedagogic principles and technologies effectively in undergraduate instruction. I teach the undergraduate courses “Geography of the World Economy” and “The Third World: Development, Poverty, Possibility”, for which I co-authored the textbook A World of Difference: Society, Nature, Development. I also teach the undergraduate major capstone course “Modes of Geographic Inquiry”, introducing the different modes of inquiry employed by geographers, the debates about them, and their relative merits. Graduate seminars include an introductory seminar on spatiality, economy and polity, and thematic research seminars on economic geography, contentious politics and geography, technology and society.

Graduate Advising

I supervise students in my core areas of interest (political economy, geographic theory, and GIS and society), but also work with other students interested in sharpening the theoretical foundations to their own work in such areas as political ecology and feminist geography. I believe that the successful student should not enroll in graduate school at a research university such as Minnesota simply to get a job, but must be motivated by intellectual questions to which they are willing to devote some years of their life. Students I have worked closely with have taught at UCLA, Ohio State University, the University of New Orleans, Syracuse University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Washington, Dartmouth the University of Wisconsin (Madison), College, Vassar College, the University of Vermont, the University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota, the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary, The University of Edinburgh, the University of Bristol, University College London, and Hitosubashi University (Tokyo).

Selected Recent Publications

  • Contesting Neoliberalism: Urban frontiers. Helga Leitner, Jamie Peck, Guilford, Co-Editor, 2007. Link
  • A World of Difference, second edition. David Faust, Richa Nagar, Philip W. Porter, Guilford Press, Co-Author, 2007.
  • Politics and Practice in Economic Geography. Trevor J Barnes, Jamie Peck, Adam Tickell, Sage, Co-Editor, 2007.
  • Scale and Geographic Inquiry. Robert B. McMaster, Blackwell, Co-Editor, 2004. Link
  • Reading Economic Geography. Trevor J Barnes, Jamie Peck, Adam Tickell, Blackwell, Co-Editor, 2003. Link
  • A Companion to Economic Geography. Trevor J Barnes, Basil Blackwell, Author, 2000. Link
  • Geography matters: Agency, structures and dynamics: Paul S Plummer, Journal of Economic Geography, 6 , 2006. Plummer&Sheppard JEG 2006.pdf
  • Free Trade: The very idea!. Author, 2005. Sheppard TIBG 2005.pdf
  • Knowledge production through critical GIS: Review and Assessment: Cartographica, 40 5-22, 2005.
  • The city is dead, long live the network: Harnessing networks for a neoliberal urban agenda. Leitner, H., Author, 2002. Leitner&Sheppard Antpde.pdf
  • The spaces and times of globalization: Economic Geography, 78 307-330, 2002. GlobalizationEG.pdf
  • GIS-based measures of environmental equity: Exploring their sensitivity and significance. R. McMaster, H. Leitner and H. Tian, , 1999.