Great Problems, Great Minds Seminar Series: Understanding Capitalist Globalization—A Spatio-Temporal Perspective



Join the of Social Sciences Colloquium at the Department of Social Sciences for this Great Problems, Great Minds seminar series event featuring guest speaker Eric Sheppard, a Distinguished Research Professor (emeritus) in the Department of Geography at UCLA, who will give a talk on “Understanding Capitalist Globalization: A Spatio-Temporal Perspective.” This event is open to the public and will take place on October 27, from 3:15–4:30 p.m. over Zoom.


From a northern perspective, capitalist globalization typically is presented as a necessary North-South diffusion of political, economic, and cultural norms of urbanization, and of prosperity. Yet really-existing globalization is very different: socio-spatial inequalities persist across geographical scales; globalization is now in question also within its northern core; xenophobic nationalism is rising; and global heating is undermining environmental and climate justice. This talk argues that geographical thinking can help unpack this seeming paradox. The diffusionist narrative stems from a Rostowian place-based imaginary, which implies that all nation-states should follow the North Atlantic economies along a common trajectory of capitalist development, culminating in a long-run equilibrium characterized by ubiquitous prosperity. Against this imaginary, this talk shows that attending to inter-place connectivities, inter-scalar relations, temporality, dynamical complexity, and nature-society dialectics helps us understand why current uneven geographies of globalization are predictable, not paradoxical. Drawing on recent research with Helga Leitner on land transformations in Jakarta, Indonesia, this presentation illustrates how and why northern thinking fails to fully grasp the challenges faced by formerly colonized countries, why it matters to think from ‘southern’ socio-spatial positionalities, and why a socially and ecologically just future requires more-than-capitalist globalization. 


Eric Sheppard completed his bachelor’s with honors in geography at Bristol University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in geography at the University of Toronto. He taught at the University of Minnesota for thirty-six years where he was awarded a Regents Professorship, before becoming the Alexander von Humboldt Chair at University of California, Los Angeles, where he recently retired. At University of Minnesota, he co-directed its Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change and co-founded its master’s of development practice program. He holds an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Bristol, served as president of the American Association of Geographers, and co-edited Antipode, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, and currently, Area Development and Policy. His scholarship embraces geographical political economy, socio-spatial theory, and geographical epistemologies, currently focusing on uneven geographies of capitalist globalization, more-than-capitalist practices, southern urban theory, urban social movements, and urban land transformations in southern cities. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Urban Studies Foundation, Compton Foundation, Mellon Foundation, and National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis. His publications include thirteen books and 200 refereed journal articles and book chapters. His most recent books include: Spatial Histories of Radical Geography: North America and Beyond published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; Urban Studies Inside/Out: Theory, Method, Practice published by Sage Publishing; and Limits to Globalization: Geographical Disruptions of Capitalist Development published by Oxford University Press. He has supervised over 60 Ph.D. and M.A. students undertaking research in North and South America, East, Southeast and South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, also serving on the committees of over 200 other graduate students.

“Understanding Capitalist Globalization: A Spatio-Temporal Perspective” event is part of the Department of Social Sciences’ Great Problems, Great Minds seminar series which explores the major problems facing humanity as we move into the heart of the twenty-first century. To see the full schedule and videos from previous events, visit the seminar series page. For more information, contact Associate Professor of Social Sciences Hao Huang at

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