University of Colorado at Boulder

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Joe Bryan

Indigenous Politics in the Americas; Human Rights; and Critical Cartography.

Associate Professor of Geography 

Human Geography
303-492-8642 Gugg 102C  
Ph.D. University of California Berkeley, 2007

Research Interests

My work focuses on indigenous politics in the Americas, human rights, and critical cartography. My most recent work addresses the role of community-based mapping in a 2001 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case concerned a land claim brought by the indigenous Mayangna community of Awas Tingni against the Republic of Nicaragua, and set an important legal precedent for recognizing indigenous land rights. I have also worked on issues related to indigenous land rights in Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, and the western United States. I am currently developing a new project that examines the legacy of the Contra War in Nicaragua and Honduras as it relates to contemporary concerns with security, development, and resource claims.

Selected Publications

Bryan, J. (2009). Where would we be without them? Knowledge, space and power in indigenous politics. Futures, 41: 24-32. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2008.07.005

Wainwright, J., and Bryan, J. (2009). Cartography, territory, property: postcolonial reflections on indigenous counter-mapping in Nicaragua and Belize. Cultural Geographies, Vol. 16, No. 2, 153-178. DOI:10.1177/1474474008101515

Publications updated February 2009

Recent Courses Include

Spring 2017  GEOG 3812 () Mexico, Central American and the Carribean

Spring 2016  GEOG 3812 () Mexico, Central American and the Carribean

Graduate Students

Indigenous rights, development, legal geographies, political ecology, Latin America
IDPs; refugees; Colombia
global climate policy, justice, land use, Latin America
Legal geography; political ecology
Political Agroecology: Social Movements and Food Sovereignty in Argentina
Subia Smith
Political Geography, Land rights in Columbia
Ph.D. Alumni
Boundless, Wild and Free: An Exploration of human-wildlife ecologies in Greater Yellowstone.
M.A. Alumni
Rebuilding Haiti? Discourses of Development and Security in Post-Earthquake Haiti

What's New

I am currently developing a new research project on the legacy of the Contra war in Nicaragua that builds on my prior work with "excombatants" from the Miskito insurgency in the 1980s. This new work will build on my concern with contemporary forms of indigeneity, human rights, and political geography. I also continue to work on various mapping projects with indigenous organizations in the Americas, using those experiences a means to develop a critically informed approach to mapping and experiment with new forms of representation.

"What's New" updated February 2009

More Info


Caribbean and Central American Research Council
An overview of the Awas Tingni case
Western Shoshone Defense Project

Methodological Inspirations: 

Susan Meiselas' work in Nicaragua and Kurdistan (inspired by Paul Gilroy's similarly titled work). 
John Krygier's blog, "Making Maps
Margaret Pearce's and Michael Herman's "Journey Cake" mapping project 
Intellectually, I am interested in questions of social change, as broadly construed.  That interest informs my  approach to research and  teaching, using the latter as means to help students to developing their analytical skills to find and engage with topics that they care deeply about.  I take full advantage of geography's disciplinary emphasis on synthetic analysis, multiple research methods, and 'field work'.  This approach allows me to find ways of integrating my analytical and creative interests in photography, map-making, and writing, that speaks to my interests in being in "geography" rather than simply describing it, finding new ways of writing about the world and making geographies through research, cartography, and political engagement.  I enjoy the Dead Kennedys as much as Talal Asad, reading Thomas Pynchon and Roberto Bolaño as much as Rebecca Solnit and Doreen Massey, riding my bike as much as being in the "field".