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Black Geographies: Getting Started

About This Guide

Black Geographies has gained considerable currency across various disciplines, including geography, ecology, sociology, feminist studies, and African Diasporic studies. However, attention to the interconnections between Blackness, Black people, and geography reach far beyond our contemporary moment. This guide is not meant to be exhaustive. Instead, it provides a variety of resources to inspire dialogue, craft scholarly research and creative projects, and deepen our understanding and intellectual commitments to the racialization of space, place, time, scale, and landscapes, Black geographic practices and knowledge production, and African Diasporic interventions into colonial geographic theories, concepts, and methodologies.

What is Black Geographies?

Black Geographies (as a subfield) centers Blackness as a geographic framework to:

  • explore the geographic, social, political, racial, ecological, cultural, and economic processes and spatial patterns that constitute the poetics and materialities of Black life
  • challenge, reorient, and refute the racialization of geography (as space, place, time|temporal, scale, landscape, and diffusion) and colonial geographic theories, concepts, and methodologies
  • emphasizes the geographic interventions, practices, knowledge, and livingness of African Diasporic communities
  • examines the "whens" and "wheres" of Blackness and Black people and why and how they occur through racial formations, political economy, poetics, and the built and "natural" environments

What is Geography?

"Geography is the study of the earth’s surface, including its physical, biological, and social systems. It is concerned with how people shape and in turn are shaped by the natural and ecological systems around them, how societies create landscapes and places, and the spatial distributions of many kinds of phenomena. The discipline seeks to describe and explain why different phenomena are located where they are and how their spatial patterns change over time."  Oxford Bibliographies Online 


This guide was a collaborative effort between april l. graham-jackson and Dr. Robert Moeller with support from Susan Powell and Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis. Special thanks to Dr. Camilla Hawthorne, Dr. Jane Henderson, and Dr. Serin D. Houston for their generative comments. 

Searching For Resources

UC Library Search is your go-to spot to find most UC books, journal articles, media, archival collections, and more in one integrated library platform for the entire UC System. This does not include content from some databases, numeric data, and other content. For more information on getting started please see this guide. Here is a step by step guide for locating resources using UC Library Search: 

  • Simple Search allows you to search by keyword(s). Click here to learn more about how to select the right keywords. 
  • Advanced Search allows you to search by keyword(s), title, author, subject, call number, or ISBN/ISSN.
  • Browse Search (available in an item record) allows you to browse by title, author, series, or call number.

Catalogs and Search Engines:

Google Scholar. Functions as both a key word database for articles and books. On campus it automatically connects to licensed content held by the UC libraries.

Google Books. Search the text of the books, view previews from books still in copyright, and read the full text of out-of-copyright books. 

What are Primary and Secondary Sources?

Berkeley Library has a useful definition of primary versus secondary sources. However, the interdisciplinary approach in Black Geographies critiques the colonial tradition of this methodological viewpoint. For Black Geographies, a useful distinction may be:

  • primary sources: various evidence from statistics to poetry that directly addresses a research question
  • secondary sources: a theoretical and|or conceptual scholarly analysis that helps define the problems your research addresses through dialogue

Scholarly vs. Popular Articles

Example of a Scholarly Article


Note the Author's credentials, abstract, and citations in the text. These features indicate that the article is scholarly.

Scholarly articles often have abstracts, footnotes or citations, and list the author's credentials.

Learn more about the difference between scholarly and popular resources on our Evaluating Resources guide

Example of a Popular Article

Popular articles, like this one from Scientific American may be from a reputable publication but not peer-reviewed. The Author may or may not be an academic, but the article is written for a popular audience. There are no footnotes or citations.

Learn more about the difference between scholarly and popular resources on our Evaluating Resources guide

Using Library Guides

Library guides do two things: 

1. Offer bibliographies for a discipline, larger research concern, or a particular course

2. Provide resources and strategies for conceptualizing a research question in a field or on a topic and how to go about analyzing this question

Here is a link to all of the library guides at UC Berkeley. 

Need Help?

For research help, contact Subject Librarians by clicking here. Subject Librarians have a wealth of knowledge about specific fields, provide library instruction and research assistance, and are here to help you with your questions. 

For off-campus access to library resources: click here for more information. For 24/7 research help, click here for assistance.