Sept. 2, 2019

The Omega Affair: Discontinuing the Geography Department at Michigan

My colleague, Matthew Rosenblum, and I recently polished off a paper that tells the story of the Department of Geography’s discontinuance at the University of Michigan (R.I.P., 1915-1982). It’s titled “The Omega Affair: Disciplinary Vulnerability and the Discontinuance of the University of Michigan Department of Geography.” This paper builds on the work of Smith (1987) and Lahiri-Dutt (2019). Along the way, we make an argument indebted to e.g., Mattern (2018) and Jackson (2014) about the historiographic usefulness of breakdown episodes. The paper has been submitted to the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, but we share it here as a prelude.

Banner image is a photograph of geography profs. George Kish (left) and John Nystuen (right) taken by Paul Engstrom that was printed alongside Andrew Chapman’s (1981) coverage of the closure in the Michigan Daily.


Chapman, Andrew. 1981. “Regents Ax Geography: Vote Marks End of Long, Rocky, Review.” The Michigan Daily.
Jackson, Steven J. 2014. “Rethinking Repair.” In Media Technologies, edited by Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo J. Boczkowski, and Kirsten A. Foot, 221–40. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Lahiri‐Dutt, Kuntala. 2019. Academic War over Geography? Death of Human Geography at the Australian National University.” Antipode 51 (3): 858–77.
Mattern, Shannon. 2018. “Maintenance and Care.” Places Journal.
Smith, Neil. 1987. Academic War Over the Field of Geography: The Elimination of Geography at Harvard, 1947–1951.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 77 (2): 155–72.

  • Eric Robsky Huntley
  • They/them/theirs.*

  • Eric Robsky Huntley is a Lecturer in Urban Science and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT and a Visiting Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

    Huntley is a GIScientist, geographer, and designer who builds mapping tools in collaboration with and …