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Dr. Derek Alderman

Specialties: cultural and historical geography
See Also: Personal Website, Curriculum Vitae, Follow Him On: Twitter,, ResearchGate, Linkedln

I am a Professor and former Department Head in the Department of Geography. My interests are cultural and historical geography with a specific focus on public memory, race, heritage tourism, social/spatial justice, and politics of geographic mobility and travel–all with the goal of advancing our understanding of the American South (southeastern United States).
Much of my work focuses on the histories, memory-work, commemorative activism, and place-making efforts of African Americans as they assert and claim civil rights, their right to belong with public spaces, and the power to remember the past and shape the American landscape on their own terms. In particular, my interests focus on critical place name studies and using cultural struggles over the naming and renaming of streets, schools, parks, and other public spaces as important lens for understanding the unresolved place of race, memory, and identity in America.
My work has spanned many aspects of the southern experience, including Civil Rights memorials (esp. streets named for Dr. Martin Luther King), slavery and plantation museum tourism sites, NASCAR, Elvis commemorative geographies, Mayberry and film tourism, Hurricane Katrina tattoos, BBQ tourism, the cultural geography of kudzu, and recently African American car travel during the Jim Crow era.

In August of 2012, I joined the faculty at Univ. of Tennessee-Knoxville after serving at East Carolina University since 2000. I also held a tenure-track position at Georgia College (1998-2000), a visiting position at Georgia Southern University (1995-1996), and temporary faculty/graduate teaching positions at the University of Georgia (1990-1998).

I am a devoted scholar-teacher who enjoys working and publishing with students, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I am also committed to conducting critical public scholarship that engages, informs, and helps the news media, government officials, community activists and organizations, and the broader citizenry.

I founded and co-coordinate the RESET (Race, Ethnicity, and Social Equity in Tourism) Initiativealong with Stefanie Benjamin (University of Tennessee) and Alana Dilette (San Diego State University).  Composed of research fellows and other affiliated scholars from across the country and in several different disciplines, RESET analyzes and challenges the historical and contemporary inequalities that have characterized travel, tourism, and hospitality–with special attention to the African American freedom struggle.

I am part of team of scholar-teachers from six other universities that recently completed a large NSF-funded project that describes and explains the manner and extent to which southern tourist plantations are moving (or not) toward an incorporation of the history of the enslaved into their guided tours, exhibits, and preserved landscapes. That project has resulted in several journal articles, a special issue of Journal of Heritage Tourism, instances of public outreach, and media interviews. The team is presently writing a book contracted with University of Georgia Press.

Dr. Josh Inwood (Penn State) and I are presently working on a NSF-funded project that examines how SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) workers used social and geographical data and intelligence, photography, and educational curriculum to track, counter-map, and analyze segregation and discrimination the 1960s Civil Rights Movement along with enacting a defiant black sense of place and community empowerment. Thus far, that project has resulted in numerous conference presentations, invited talks, and referred publications in Cultural Geographiesand Annals of the AAG.

I recently completed a term as President of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). Previously, I served on the Council of the AAG as Regional Councilor (representing the Southeast) and Chair of the Association’s Publications Committee. I am also a former President of the Southeastern Division of the AAG and a former co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Southeastern Geographer.

Contact Information

Dr. Derek Alderman
Ph.D., University of Georgia
305 Burchfiel Geography Bldg.
Knoxville, TN 37996-0925
Phone: (865) 974-0406