Heidi J Nast

Professor, International Studies, DePaul University, Chicago
Managing Trustee, Dharani USA, Chicago

Citizenship relates to an individual’s right to express themselves politically at local, regional, and national levels. Those who have the most resources and the most to gain build states through violence (e.g.: war and colonization). This violence does not end when the state is created but becomes part of it: not everyone in the state has equal citizenship rights, and some have no citizenship rights at all.

Throughout the world, these inequalities are increasingly life-threatening. To ensure human survival, we need to build a more generous kind of citizenship space that takes into account all life. The International Geography Youth Summit – 2017 explores how to achieve this by:

  • Working to identify and care for the geographies of life around us, and
  • Envisioning a future sustained by geographies of care.

Thus, we re-orient citizenship away from state violence and towards a ‘Citizen Geography of life.’ The emphasis on care comes out of The Institute of Geographical Studies’ (TIGS) long-standing commitment to promoting planetary life.

I look at this commitment through two TIGS exercises that promote Citizen Geography:

  1. Learning and applying geographical skills needed to help U.S. National Security Agency whistle-blower, Edward Snowden find the safest route out of Moscow, Russia to La Paz, Bolivia; and
  2. An outdoor exercise where students are given physical encumbrances and asked to explore social justice issues.

Both show how thinking about “geographies of care” can connect local and global spaces in life-affirming ways.


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