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John Western

John Western

Contact Information:


528 Eggers Hall

John Western

Professor Emeritus, Geography and the Environment Department

Maxwell Professor of Teaching Excellence

Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence

Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence

Highest degree earned

Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 1978


In 2004 his "Africa is Coming to the Cape" was awarded the Wrigley-Fairchild award of the American Geographical Society for the best article published during the three-year period of volumes 89 through 91 of The Geographical Review.

John Western received the Distinguished Teaching Honors of the Association of American Geographers for 2003.

Areas of Expertise

Social, cultural, urban geography, Southern Africa, Europe

Research Interests

John's interests range broadly across social, cultural, political and urban geography, with a particular interest in qualitative methods. For a number of years he has helped create and team-teach trans-disciplinary lower-division social science courses in the Maxwell School. He has won a number of teaching awards, in 1993 was elected an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa, and in 1999 was designated a Maxwell Professor of Teaching Excellence. From 1997 through 2000 he was resident director of Syracuse University's Abroad's program in Strasbourg, France , and then from 2000 through 2003 served as chair of department.

In the last decade professional travels have taken him throughout Europe and also to South Africa. Having lived in the latter country in the mid to late 1970s, he returned in the summer of 1996, after a 16-year absence, in order to update his 1981 book "Outcast Cape Town," which documented apartheid's effect upon that city. A new paperback edition of the book, with the addition of a prologue and an epilogue both composed of his post-apartheid observations of 1996, was published by the University of California Press in 1997. Progress in Human Geography featured it in their "Classics Revisited" series in 1999. "Outcast Cape Town" finally went out of print during 2005, after a run of 24 years. The study continues to be available in e-book form. His second book, "A Passage to England," continues in print with the University of Minnesota Press after 23 years.

From January 2004 until July 2011 John pursued fieldwork in Strasbourg. Two full-length articles, in the Annals AAG and in The Geographical Review, appeared from this research. After completing 162 semi-structured, open-ended interviews there, "Cosmopolitan Europe: A Strasbourg Self-Portrait," was published by Ashgate in the UK and the USA in summer 2012. A second, paperback edition was published by Routledge in 2016.

In 2013 he was awarded the University-wide Meredith Teaching Professorship for a three-year term, the first geographer to be so honored.

Selected Publications

Most Recent Publications

Cosmopolitan Europe: A Strasbourg Self-Portrait (Ashgate Press, 2012; Routledge, 2016)

"What's in a name? Linguistics, geography, and toponyms." Geographical Review, Vol 100, 3 (July 2010), 394-412.  Jointly authored with Lisa Radding.

"Russian Dolls or Scale Skippers? Two Generations in Strasbourg." In The Geographical Review, 98, 4 (October 2008), 532-550.

"Neighbors or Strangers? Binational and Transnational Identities in Strasbourg." In Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 97, 1 (March 2007), 158-181.

OP-ED: "Racial exclusion erupts into violence in France." Knight-Ridder news service, 11/8/05 (with Arthur Paris). Appeared in, inter alia, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel, and the AAG Newsletter (12/05).

Principal Publications

Outcast Cape Town (2nd edition, with new Prologue and Epilogue; Berkeley, University of California Press, 1997).

A Passage to England: Barbadian Londoners Speak of Home (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press: London, University College Press, 1992).

Outcast Cape Town (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1981).

Africa is Coming to the Cape, Geographical Review, 91,4 (October 2001  [2002]): 617-640.

Qualitative Research and the Language Trap, Area, 28, 2 (1996).

A Heap of Broken Images, Research & Exploration,10,1 (1994).

Ambivalent Attachments to Place in London : Twelve Barbadian Families, Society & Space,11, 2 (1993).

Pretext or Prophylaxis? Racial Segregation and Malarial Mosquitoes in a British Tropical Colony: Sierra Leone, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 78, 1988: 211-228.(with Steven Frenkel).

Undoing the Colonial City?, Geographical Review, Vol. 75, 1985: 335-357. 

Previous Teaching Appointments

1993-present, Professor of Geography, Syracuse University
1984-93, Associate Professor of Geography, Syracuse University
1978-84, Assistant Professor, Geography and Urban Studies, Temple University, Philadelphia
1977-78, Visiting Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University