Brian J. Godfrey

Professor of Geography and Director of Urban Studies
Man with grey hair and a blue button-down collared shirt smiling

Brian Godfrey’s interests center on urban and regional change. Brian studies global cities, place-making and public space, race and ethnic geography, memory and heritage, urban political ecology, and global urbanization. Favoring the analytical lens of historical geography, he asks how and why social, spatial, and environmental patterns change over time. For example, what are the causes and consequences of urban redevelopment, immigration, gentrification, historic preservation, ecological restoration, and so on? His scholarship focuses largely on the Americas—particularly the United States, Latin America, and Brazil—while his teaching covers global issues.

BA, Pomona College; MA, PhD, University of California-Berkeley
At Vassar since 1985


Ely Hall
Box 482
Wednesday 1-3 pm and by appointment, Ely 116


GEOG/INTL/URBS 252 Cities of the Global South: Urbanization and Social Change in the Developing World
GEOG 304 Senior Seminar: Issues in Geographic Theory and Method

Selected Publications

Published Books

  • 2021. Preserving Whose City? Place, Memory, Identity. Rowman & Littlefield, 223 p. (ISBN 978-1-5381-3654-6 cloth, 978-1-5381-3662-1, ppk, 978-1-5381-3663-8, eBook). 
  • 2006. Cidades da Floresta: Urbanização, Desenvolvimento, e Globalização da Amazônia Brasileira. Manaus: Editora da Universidade Federal do Amazonas, 384 p. (ISBN 85-7401-183-5; with J.Browder).
  • 1997. Rainforest Cities: Urbanization, Development, and Globalization of the Brazilian Amazon. New York: Columbia University Press, 429 p. (with J.Browder; ISBN 0-231-10654-8 cloth; ISBN 0-231-10655-6 pbk).
  • 1988. Neighborhoods in Transition: The Making of San Francisco’s Ethnic and Nonconformist Communities. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 233 p. (ISBN 0-520-09718-1).

Selected Publications: Articles and Book Chapters

  • 2024. "The Color of Preservation: Black Historic Placemaking in New York City." Journal of Historical Geography (2024), Vol. 83, 128-141
  • 2020. “Gentrifications: A Review of Recent Books on Gentrifying American Cities.” Middle States Geographer (2020), 53: 51-60 (with Cullen Riley-Duffy).
  • 2018. “Remembering Rio: From the Imperial Palace to the African Heritage Circuit.” The City as Power: Urban Space, Place, and National Identity, eds. A. Diener and J. Hagan, Rowman & Littlefield, 105-120.
  • 2016. “Cities of South America.” Cities of the World: Regional Patterns and Urban Environments (6th edition), Roman and Littlefield: 137-186 (with Maureen Hays-Mitchell).
  • 2016. “New Ethnic Landscapes: Place-Making in Urban America.” Contemporary Ethnic Geographies of America, Roman & Littlefield: 59-89.
  • 2013. “Favelas, Urban Renewal, and Guanabara Bay: Environmental Justice and Sustainability in Rio de Janeiro.” Sustainability: A Global Urban Context, Michigan State Univ. Press: 359-388.
  • 2012. “Envisioning Amazonian Frontiers: Place-making in a Brazilian Boomtown.” Journal of Cultural Geography 29, 2: 215-238 (with Sam Thypin-Bermeo).
  • 2012. “Regulating Public Space on the Beachfronts of Rio de Janeiro.” Geographical Review 102, 1: 17-34 (with Olivia M. Arguinzoni).

Recent Professional Papers and Presentations

  • 2018. “Counter-Memory, Race, and Memorialization: African Heritage Sites in New York and Rio de Janeiro.” Paper presented at the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA), July 25, 2018.
  • 2018. “Contested Understandings of the World’s Largest Urban Forest.” Paper presented a session on “Trees in the City: Socio-Ecological Interactions in the Urban Forest” at the Association of American Geographers, New Orleans, LA, April 12, 2018.
  • 2017. “Rio’s African Heritage Circuit: Counter-Memory, Race, and Social Justice.” Paper presented in a session on “Race, Place and Violence: Historical and Contemporary Issues” at the Association of American Geographers, Boston, MA, April 7, 2017.
  • 2016. “Olympic City: Legacies of Athletic Mega-Events in Rio de Janeiro.” Lecture at Colgate University, Hamilton, NY, October 16, 2016.
  • 2016. “Brazil in Crisis: What is Really Going on?” Lecture for the Center For Lifetime Learning, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York, Sept. 14, 2016.
  • 2014. “Remembering Rio: Historic Place-Making, Memory Brokers, and Brazilian Nationalism.” Paper presented in a session on “Narrating the Nation through Urban Space” at the Association of American Geographers, Tampa, April 9.
  • 2013. “Defensive Ethnic and Immigrant Communities: Responses to Urban Change In San Francisco, New York, and Beyond.” Co-organizer of a panel at the Urban Affairs Association, San Francisco, April 5.