Chad Newbrough Steacy

Ph.D. Candidate

Phone: 706-542-2926
Fax: 706-542-2388
Office: Geography-Geology Building, Room 120M

Research Interests

Areas of interest:
Urban & cultural geographies
Critical race theory
Qualitative methodologies
Urban land-use and transportation issues
Postcolonial theory



  • Bachelor of Arts (2003), Cornell College History; Religion
  • Master of Arts (2011), San Francisco State Geography
  • Winter School in Methods & Techniques in the Social Sciences(Professional Training) (2017), European Consortium for Political Research, Bamberg University, Bamberg, Germany
  • Interdisciplinary Qualitative Studies, Graduate Certificate (2018), College of Education, University of Georgia
  • Writing Instructor Training (2015), Writing Intensive Program, Franklin College of Arts & Sciences, University of Georgia

Research Projects

My research agenda is organized around human-environment interaction, urban and cultural studies, community resilience and sustainability, and the various meeting points between geography and critical race theory. In addition, my agenda seeks to develop and advance the use of qualitative and interpretive methodologies as effective tools of inquiry and pedagogy in critical social research. Attention to the agency of landscape and place – real, historical, imagined, and designed – is a theme that runs throughout my work, and will likely frame the terms of future projects. My work to this point shows achievement and emerging potential in these areas by way of a proven ability to: design, execute, and complete research projects; secure extra-curricular funding; collaborate successfully within interdisciplinary and international research teams; creatively apply research to pedagogical environments; and publish scholarship in mainstream journals.

My current research program is mainly defined by two projects, focused on climate and landscape change in southern Appalachia and the discourse/representation of race and urban decline in Detroit, Michigan. Both projects make active and diverse use of qualitative methodologies and are conceptually linked in terms of their theoretical attention to environmental and geographic concepts such as place, landscape, sustainability, and justice. In addition, my work seeks to develop and advance the use of qualitative and interpretive methodologies as effective tools of inquiry and pedagogy in critical social research.

My first project is an NSF-funded collaborative investigation of climate-environmental change in Southern Appalachia in joint-partnership with the Coweeta Listening Project ( and the Interdisciplinary Program on Indigenous Indicators of Fauna & Flora, or “PIAF” ( Our interdisciplinary team of anthropologists, geographers, and natural scientists is using a political-economic as well as ethno-ecological approach to examining how people’s everyday practices condition local knowledge of, and formal political and ad-hoc responses to climate and landscape change. Within the development and cultural orbit of Atlanta, Georgia and the I-85 Corridor, work at this site additionally speaks to efforts to understand the effects of landscape change within specifically peri-urban systems within a context of amenity- and climate-migration. My contribution to the project has involved participant-observation and interview-based field work in one of the group’s three research sites in southwestern North Carolina, and has focused on analyzing “lay” and citizen-science data from all three sites to explicate the ways in which environmental knowledge and community resilience are co-constructed through everyday practices embedded in local discourses and imaginaries. As can be seen from my CV, insights from this work have just begun to be drafted into book and journal publications.

I am particularly interested in expanding this work to investigate the role residents’ creative arts practices and citizen-science records play in constructing local “lay” knowledge of climate change. I aim to examine the convergences and divergences between nearby LTER (Long-Term Ecological Research) lab data and resident’s documents like plant and birding records, nature fiction and essays, phenology diaries, performative poetic or narrative compilations, and ad hoc map collections. The objective of this research will be to develop a model by which these and similarly-situated communities can share knowledge and negotiate policy responses at a time when both the politics and epistemologies of climate change are so greatly fraught. I am also actively exploring funding sources both to extend this research into a longitudinal study of residents’ perceptions of climate change as well as to include graduate and/or highly-motivated undergraduate students in this hands-on fieldwork.

            Similarly, I am beginning work investigating popular media discourses and narratives of the Anthropocene. This research is being conducted in conjunction with a loosely organized team of global researchers organized by Dr. Leslie Sklair at the London School of Economics. The objectives of this project include investigating the relative prevalence and dominant representational modes used to portray the contemporary human-environment relationship in terms of its humancentric-ness. As this research develops, I plan explore the ways in which expressive or humanities-based materials alternatively portray the Anthropocene, beginning with the materials I have accessed in southern Appalachia.

My second project focuses on post-industrial urban landscapes in “decline,” and the ways racialized subjectivities are reproduced through representations of decline as a bio-cultural and landscape-based category. This work draws upon critical interpretive methods from the humanities to examine contemporary textual and photographic representations of Detroit, Michigan – particularly those representations characterized as “ruin porn” – and to deconstruct the way in which the U.S. city continues to be imagined and (re-)enacted as a developmentally and racially Othered place. By actively connecting visual, narrative, and discourse analyses to critical race theory, this work crucially interrogates the relationship between geography and identity as well as the unique power of race (and racialized imagery) to structure social life. This work serves to compliment scholarship that argues ongoing racial segregation is a major component in perpetuating racial inequity, and contributes to efforts to improve social- and policy-justice outcomes. This work would contribute to the department in several ways, particularly by way of its methodologically innovative attention to the way popular economies of discursive representation have affected (anti-)urban politics in the United States.

This project currently constitutes my dissertation work and has informed several conference papers and panel presentations. As my dissertation nears completion I am identifying and channeling appropriate portions into journal publications, including an article that reflects on the utility of discourse and visual analysis in critical race theory that is scheduled for completion this summer. As this project develops, I am also looking for ways it may engage with and productively disrupt place-making fields of knowledge, such as urban and regional planning. Traditional planning scholarship is arguably still dominated by realist and quantitative epistemologies, and thereby fails to adequately address the ‘whys’ of urban decline and racial segregation. By building bridges between mainstream urban studies and the critical-qualitative insights this project has begun to generate, this project seeks to connect the semiotic and deconstructive scholarship of contemporary cultural studies with the pragmatic landscape critique favored in planning and urban studies. This engagement will then form the basis of efforts to source funding from both urbanist and social science interests.

Finally, the cultivation and promotion of innovative qualitative methodology in critical social research and pedagogy is a theme that runs throughout my work on both projects. My recent publication in the Professional Geographer and my publication in-production for Qualitative Inquiry assimilating quantitative free-list methodology to qualitative ends reflect this effort. In addition, I am in the beginning stages of a project translating phenology logging – a method located in the environmental humanities – into a specifically socio-cultural research tool. In conjunction with your existing offerings, I believe I would be uniquely positioned to contribute to your department’s ability to train students in the diversifying field of qualitative social-science methodologies.

Of Note

2017 Ph.D. Paper Award recipient
Qualitative Research Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers

2017 Graduate Student Preparedness Grant recipient
National Science Foundation

2016 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award
The Graduate School, University of Georgia

2015 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award
Department of Geography, University of Georgia

Selected Publications

Steacy, C. N. (2017). Geographies of attachment and despair: Evoking the ambivalence of place(ment) through poetic analysis of decline. GeoHumanities. 3(1), 144-157.DOI: 10.1080/2373566X.2017.1292113

Steacy, C. N. (2017). American cinema and the southern imaginary, by D. Barker & K. McKee (Eds.). (Review). Material Culture. 49(2), 97-99.

Steacy, C. N., Williams, B., Petterson, C. and Kurtz, H. (2016). Placing the ‘analyst’ in discourse analysis: Iteration, emergence, and dialogicality as situated process. The Professional Geographer, 68(1), 166-73. DOI:10.1080/00330124.2015.1065550

Steacy, C. N. (2016). Beautiful, terrible ruins: Detroit and the anxiety of decline, by D. Apel. (Review). The Southeastern Geographer, 56(2), 254-56.

Steacy, C. N. (2015). Constituting decline: Discursive practice and critical understanding of abandonment in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Geographer, 53(2), 3-34.