About Michael Dear
My intellectual journey began in the 1970s with a concern for social planning issues relating to people with disabilities, and to homelessness. It broadened organically to incorporate the welfare state and state theory, that is, to examine the institutions that decide how social policy is decided and implemented. From this developed an interest in social theory more broadly, and during the 1980s I began revising theories about cities and urban cultures. In recent years, I have focused on the cultures of cross-border cities along the US-Mexico border, and got caught up in the conflict over the building of border walls along the boundary line. This interest in cross-border cultures led me to formulate a transdisciplinary project in the emerging field of Geohumanities, and to curatorial practice with large and small art institutions.
This section contains my brief biography and a brief curriculum vitae, together with two other items useful for those wishing to follow up on the research threads introduced in the four sections of the website:
- a long curriculum vitae including a full list of my publications; and
- an account of my career pathway which combines the introductions of the four sections into a single convenient text.
I have been blessed by a great many collaborators and mentors throughout my career. I ask forgiveness because I do not cite their names in this document, especially those who co-authored some the publications I mention. I elected to omit full references in the text for brevity’s sake and to avoid constant interruptions of the reader’s experience. Full citations for all publications are available in the long CV.
The time periods and primary locations reflected in this record are:
1971—1974 University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
1974—1986 McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
1986—2009 University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
2009—Present University of California, Berkeley.
Michael Dear is Professor Emeritus in the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley, and Honorary Professor in the Bartlett School of Planning at University College, London. His graduate education was at University College London and the University of Pennsylvania. Before coming to Berkeley in 2009, he worked for two decades at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Michael was the founding editor of the scholarly journal Society and Space: Environment & Planning D, and is a leading exponent of the Los Angeles School of Urbanism. His monograph, ‘The Postmodern Urban Condition’, was chosen by CHOICE magazine as an “Outstanding Academic Title” of 2000.
His latest book, Why Walls Won’t Work: Repairing the US-Mexico Divide was awarded the Globe Prize for ‘Geography in the Public Interest’ from the American Association of Geographers. His recent edited volume, entitled Geohumanties: Art, History, Text at the Edge of Place focused on emerging transdisciplinary intersections among geography, environmental design and the humanities.
He recently curated an exhibition entitled ‘Califas: Art of the California-Mexico Border’ at the Richmond Center for the Arts. He is a frequent contributor to exhibition catalogues for such major institutions as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and is the author/editor of fifteen books and many scholarly essays. His work has been translated into several languages, and he has lectured in over twenty countries on four continents. He has written widely for non-academic publications, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic en Español, the Huffington Post, and Politico Magazine.
Michael has been a Guggenheim Fellowship holder, a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, a Fulbright Specialist, and Fellow at the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, Italy. He has received the highest honors for creativity and excellence in research, and numerous undergraduate and graduate teaching and mentorship awards. In 2014, he was elected Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales (his country of birth), and in 2019 was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from McMaster University in Canada.
He has engaged in professional practice in Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the US, including (most recently) the preparation of amicus briefs relating to US-Mexico border issues on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union before the US Supreme Court.
Brief Curriculum Vitae
Emeritus Professor, College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley.
Honorary Professor, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, U.K.
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania.
Master of Arts, University of Pennsylvania.
Master of Philosophy, University College London.
Bachelor of Arts, University of Birmingham, England.
Honorary Doctor of Laws, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada
Elected as Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.
Globe Book Award from the Association of American Geographers for Why Walls Won’t Work.
Fulbright Specialist Program, Lisbon, Portugal.
Fellow, Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio Center, Italy.
Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University.
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow.
Association of American Geographers Distinguished Scholarship Award.
USC Associates Award for Excellence in Research.
USC Raubenheimer Award for outstanding scholarship, teaching, and service.
USC General Education Undergraduate Teaching Award.
USC-Mellon Award for Excellence in Mentoring Graduate Students.
CHOICE magazine’s “Outstanding Academic Title, 2000” for The Postmodern Urban Condition.
SELECTED CREATIVE & CURATORIAL WORK
“Califas: Art of the California-Mexico Borderlands,” co-curator, Richmond Art Center, California.
“Trazando la línea/Pasado, presente y future de las communidades transfronterizas,” Co-curator, Centro Estatal de las Artes y Culturas, Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.
“Theatrum Orbis Terrarum,” Collaboration with artist Marjolin Dijkman, MATRIX 234, Berkeley Art Museum.
“Mixed Feelings: art and culture in the postborder metropolis/Sentimentos Contradictorios: arte y cultura en la metrópolis posfronteriza,” Co-curator, USC Fisher Gallery.
“El nuevo mundo: The landscape of Latino Los Angeles. Photographs by Camilo Jose Vergara,” Catalogue contributor and editor, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
SELECTED RECENT PUBLICATIONS
M. Dear, “Occupation and in-Between Zones: US-Mexico Border, 1848-present,” in Infrastructure Space, Ilka and Andreas Ruby (eds.), Ruby Press / LafargeHolcim Foundation, 2017, 84-92.
M.Dear, “Practicing Geohumanities,” GeoHumanities, 2015, 1(1), 1-16.
M. Dear Why Walls Won’t Work: Repairing the US-Mexico Divide. Oxford University Press, expanded paperback edition, 2015.
M. Dear, J. Ketchum, S. Luria and D. Richardson (eds.) Geohumanities: Art, History & Text at the Edge of Place. Routledge, 2011.
M. Dear, G. Leclerc (eds.) Postborder City: Cultural Spaces of Bajalta California, Routledge, 2003.
M. Dear The Postmodern Urban Condition, Blackwell/Wiley, 2000.
My academic career reflects a passion for scholarly work and teaching in combination with a commitment to professional practice and public policy-making. The outcome has been a socially-engaged critical theory, teaching, and city planning practice. My experience is based mainly in the USA, Canada, and Europe, but also in South America and Australia.
In a nutshell, my intellectual journey began in the 1970s with a concern for social planning issues relating to people with disabilities, and to homelessness. It broadened organically to incorporate the welfare state and state theory, that is, to examine the institutions that decide how social policy is decided and implemented. From this developed an interest in social theory more broadly, and during the 1980s I began revising theories about cities and urban cultures. In recent years, I have focused on the cultures of cross-border cities along the US-Mexico border, and got caught up in the conflict over the building of border walls along the boundary line. This interest in cross-border cultures led me to formulate a transdisciplinary project in the emerging field of Geohumanities, and to curatorial practice with large and small art institutions.