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J. Mark Pendras, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
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Rutgers University
Rutgers University
International Studies
University of Washington Seattle


My research concentrates on three primary areas of inquiry: urban political economy, alternative urban and regional development politics and policy, and university/community relations. The bulk of my published work has emerged out of my dissertation research on urban political economy. This research focuses takes a critical legal geographic approach to investigating how capital mobility influences urban politics and development and to indentifying ways to denaturalize and positively reconsider the relationship between capital and place in the United States. My intention with this work has been to develop new knowledge about the politics of urban development while expanding social and economic equity in urban development by informing and enabling new struggles over the terms and conditions of capital mobility.

My critical legal geographic research suggests that capital mobility is politically produced and contestable, which, in turn, opens space for thinking about alternative approaches to urban development. As I continue to explore critical legal dimensions of urban political economy, I have therefore recently expanded my research to include a more focused exploration of creative urban development alternatives and the political challenges associated with alternative urban development. This research examines how and why urban development policy might be redirected from the current narrow focus on post-industrial activities--professional services, high-wage knowledge work/workers, downtown redevelopment--to focus instead, or in addition, on creating advancement opportunities for the low-skilled and/or poorly educated members of the city. This entails examination of the politics of alternative urban development and consideration of how research may open new political space for advancing urban development alternatives.

My third area of research considers how critical scholarship and teaching can both improve university/community relations and advance positive urban development. Drawing from my own efforts to connect my teaching and research to the local community--for example, through critically-oriented research, service learning projects, participation in local elections, and teaching innovative "hybrid" courses that bring students, citizens, and local public officials together to discuss urban development concerns--this work aims to define and defend the classroom and the campus as spaces of active and critical engagement with urban politics and development, and to push university-based teachers and researchers to expand their definitions of 'partnership' and 'community engagement' in a way that recognizes the positive role that a critical voice can play in urban politics and development.


My teaching draws from my research interests to cover questions of urban political economy. I currently teach the following courses:

  • T SUD 240 (formerly T URB 440): The City and Nature
  • T SUD 475 (formerly T URB 475): Community and Economy
  • T URB 205: Images of the City
  • T URB 230: Cities and the Constitution
  • T URB 345: Urban Government and Organizations
  • T URB 379: Urban Field Experience, Holland (on a periodic basis)
  • T URB 492: Urban Studies Seminar

Current Research

  • The political economy of stasis: examining urban industrial transition in a second (class) city
  • Decentralized greenspace: mapping youth connectedness to urban nature
Selected Publications

"The problematic potential of the university to advance critical urban politics" (Co-authored with Yonn Dierwechter). In press, Journal of Geography in Higher Education. (2011)

"Law and the political geography of US corporate regulation." Space and Polity, Vol.15, N.1, pp.1-20. (2011)

"Confronting capital mobility." Urban Geography, Vol.31, N.4, pp.479-497. (2010)

"Urban politics and the production of capital mobility in the United States." Environment and Planning A, Vol.41, N.7, pp.1691-1706. (2009)

"Whither critical inquiry?" The Professional Geographer, Volume 58, 99-103. (2006)

"From local consciousness to global change: asserting power at the local scale." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, V. 26, N.4, pp. 823-833. (2002)