Joaquin Villanueva


Assistant Professor in Geography

I conducted my B.A. at the University of Puerto Rico. I majored in Modern Languages (French and Italian) and minored in Geography. Having spent a semester abroad in France I developed an interest in France's immigration and assimilation policies. I decided to study the lives, experiences, and relationships of various immigrant groups in France through the discipline of geography. In 2003 I began my M.A. degree in the Geography Department at Syracuse University. There I studied the politics of public space in Paris with a special focus on the inclusion/exclusion of minority groups in the new Les Halles, a centrally located public park in Paris. I continued in the Geography Department at Syracuse University for my Ph.D.

For my dissertation, I explored contemporary crime-control policies implemented in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the outskirts of Paris. Social housing estates located at the outskirts of Paris have tended to concentrate high rates of poverty, unemployment, and crime among a population, the majority of immigrant extraction, that has not been able to fully integrate to France.  In my research I explored the ways in which populations in social housing estates in Seine-Saint-Denis, northeastern suburb of Paris, cope with high levels of socio-spatial exclusion. I explored, among many other factors, the eruption of occasional 'riots' in Seine-Saint-Denis.

I am particularly interested in the ways the criminal justice system responds to instances of collective violence in social housing estates. Using qualitative methods - archival research, newspaper analysis, and interviews - I traced the origins and evolution of the penal approach that has characterized the French state's response to the myriad social, economic, and political problems that have mired the lives of people in social housing estates at the outskirts of Paris.

One of the most interesting observations I made was the increasing mobility of the courts as they attempt to prevent future 'riots' in the French urban landscape. Generally speaking, we seldom see the courts moving across the urban landscape to impart justice. We often see the police moving around, but the courts tend to be 'fixed' in a specific location. In France, the criminal justice has begun to mobilize judicial personnel in disadvantaged neighborhoods in an attempt to prosecute wrong-doers and bring the law of the state closer to 'problem-areas'. One of my main interests is to answer the following questions: Why the courts are present in the city? Where are they located and why? What does the geographical arrangement of the courts across the urban landscape tell us about the geographies of state power? Conversely, does the presence of the courts in disadvantaged neighborhoods increases the access of poor people to legal and judicial services or does it further the criminalization of the poor?    

I am politically motivated by a concern with social justice. As such, in my work I am continually trying to answer the question 'who has the right to the city'? My persistence to answer this question has expanded my research interests to the fields of urban, political, economic, cultural, and legal geographies. I view the prevalence of 'riots' and the mobility of the courts in the urban landscape as a struggle over the 'right to the city'. Are 'riots' an attempt by the poor to articulate their right to urban services and resources (jobs)? Is the mobility of the courts an attempt by the state to enlarge the access to rights by the urban poor?

I am now beginning to explore Drug Courts in the United States as similar instances where courts move to 'problem-areas'. This project draws on right to the city scholarship along with carceral geographies, legal geographies, and critical urban geography scholarship to help understand the relatinship between courts, urban space, and power. 

I teach courses in human geography, including: world regional geography; introduction to human geography; urban geography; political geography; geographies of peace, crime, and violence; and sports geography.


Ph.D Syracuse University

Courses Taught


GEG-215 (Political Geography) and GEG-242 (Research Methods)

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
GEG-101Introduction to Human Geography52015/FA, 2015/SP, 2014/FA, 2014/SP, and 2013/FA
GEG-236Urban Geography32015/FA, 2014/FA, and 2013/FA
GEG-344ST:Geog of Peace/Crime22015/FA and 2014/SP
GEG-115Sports Geography22015/JN and 2014/JN
GEG-102World Regional Geography22014/SP and 2013/FA
GEG-215Political Geography12015/SP
GEG-242Research Methods12015/SP
GEG-336Urban and Regional Analysis12014/FA