Benjamin Smith

Since my childhood when I spent many hours looking out the car window on family road trips, I have been fascinated by how we organize our cultural landscapes, why our world looks the way it does. Over time I became particularly interested in how places defined themselves through their landscapes, and that some places (and the people who lived in them) were wildly more sucessful than others in doing so. It is these fundamentally basic geographic questions (to which there are exceedingly complicated answers), which drives my research. And while I have always done small projects wherever I have been based, most of my research is on how landscape matters in shaping the cultural economy of the Gulf city-state of Dubai. To that end I have spent six months in Dubai (over the course of four research trips since 2005), conducting qualitative and archival fieldwork in the Emirate.

At the undergraduate level, I am part of the rotation that teaches the mega-section World Regional Geography (GEA 2000). In addition, I teach upper-division courses on the Geography of the Middle East (GEA 3635), Geography of Global Change (GEO 3001), and Urban Geography (GEO 3602). At the graduate level, I have taught a wide-ranging seminar on spatial thought in social theory called “Space, Place and Identity” (GEO 6473), and hope to be able to offer courses on cultural landscapes, cultural economy or urban geography in the future.