Julie Sze, Ph.D.

Julie Sze

Position Title

American Studies

Hart Hall 2140B

Julie Sze is a Professor of American Studies at UC Davis. She is also the founding director of the Environmental Justice Project for UC Davis’ John Muir Institute for the Environment, and in that capacity is the Faculty Advisor for 25 Stories from the Central Valley. She received her doctorate from New York University in American Studies. Sze's research investigates environmental justice and environmental inequality; culture and environment; race, gender and power; and urban/community health and activism and has been funded by the Ford Foundation, the American Studies Association and the UC Humanities Research Institute. Sze’s book, Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice, won the 2008 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize, awarded annually to the best published book in American Studies. Her second book is calledFantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis (2015). She has authored and co-authored 39 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on a wide range of topics and has given talks in China, Abu Dhabi, Canada, Germany, France and Italy. Sze has been interviewed widely in print and on the radio. 


Link to website: http://julie.szewordpress.com/about
2140B Hart Hall
Fax: 530-752-9704


  • Environmental Studies (environmental justice, urban environments, environmental activism, gender and the environment, garbage, transportation and energy)
  • Urban Studies / Urban Planning
  • Ethnic Studies (racial formation, race and space)


AMS 1E: Nature & Culture

What is nature? What is culture? This course examines concepts of nature and culture in the United States. The core idea in this class is that concepts of nature and the environment are culturally constructed. In other words, nature is an “artifact” of particular cultures, contexts and communities. We explore the relationship between nature and the environment, how artifacts (i.e. the lawn or an orange) contain a set of belief systems about nature and culture, political economies and how pollution creates impacts outside the object itself. Some of the topics we may explore include: meat, natural history museums, teddy bears, water and wilderness, garbage and human waste. We also examine how categories like race, class and gender shape experiences and representations of nature and culture.

This course is an introductory American Studies course. That means two things: the course materials and our relationship to them are interdisciplinary (meaning that we borrow and use insights from many fields such as literature, history, anthropology and folklore, sociology, literary, visual studies etc), and that we are focused on making connections between ideas of nature and culture, and our everyday lives.

AMS 10: Introduction to American Studies

This class is an introduction to the field of American studies, specifically, as an interdisciplinary framework through which to understand American culture. Being “American” means something more than U.S. Citizenship. It is both idea and ideal. How have and do Americans conceive of national belonging, citizenship and culture? Given the racial, geographic and cultural diversity in the United States, the ways in which Americans have imagined our nation has changed over time, place and depending on factors such as race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion and place.

This course will examine the promises and the problems of American identity, around certain themes and questions: How and why do Americans think of themselves as a nation? What ideas of national history, patriotism, and moral character shape visions of American-ness? How are boundaries drawn to define belonging in the nation, who is included and excluded and why? What uses have been made of the claim to American identity and what is at stake in that claim? How do we represent the past and what importance does cultural representation have? The course is divided in temporal and thematic terms. The second half of the course will focus on the postwar era, and particularly on California, which has a particular place in the national cultural imaginary.

We will use an interdisciplinary approach, meaning that we will use a variety of primary and secondary sources including film, art, music, photography, autobiography, and fiction to explore class themes.

AMS 100: Methods In American Studies

This course is for American Studies majors and others interested in interdisciplinary research methods. In it, you will learn about the field of American Studies. What is its history? What does American Studies scholarship look like now? What are the major debates in the field? You will also learn the “how?” That is, what does it mean to “do” American Studies, and by extension, what it means to be an American Studies major through guest speakers who use interdisciplinary methods at UCD and through a final project that demonstrates interdisciplinary skills. At its core, American Studies is an interdisciplinary approach to major topics and problems in American culture, politics and history.

AMS 101G: Environmental Justice

This course examines the concept of environmental justice through interdisciplinary lenses. We begin by examining different attempts to define “environmental justice.” We focus on environmental justice in the United States for reasons of time and scope, although environmental justice issues are also important at the global level. Various frameworks analyze environmental issues through the lens of social justice and human inequality, specifically categories of race, class and gender.

AMS 160: Consumption

This course examines consumption in 20th Century America through interdisciplinary lenses: literary, historical, psychological, anthropological, and environmental. How did a consumer society emerge? What is the relationship between citizenship and consumption, historically and in the present? How do gender, race, and class shape consumption practices, marketing and resistance? This course in interested in several key questions: What do we consume? How do we consume? Where we buy products? Why we consume? What are the benefits and the consequences—positive, negative and ambivalent?


Publications & CV

For an updated list of publications, see:



Professor, American Studies, University of California at Davis, As of July 2015
Associate Professor, American Studies, University of California at Davis, 2008-Present
Assistant Professor in American Studies, University of California at Davis, 2003-2008
Director, Environmental Justice Project, John Muir Institute for the Environment, U.C. Davis, 2006-Present



Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007. Noxious New York was awarded the 2008 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize. This prize is awarded annually to the best published book in American Studies.

Fantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis. Forthcoming, University of California Press 2014. http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520284487

Articles and Book Chapters


(#39) Environmental Justice and Environmental Humanities in the Anthropocene. Proceedings of the German Association of American Studies, published in America After Nature

(#38) With Lindsey Dillon, Police Power and Particulate Matters: Environmental Justice and the Spatialities of In/securities in U.S. Cities,English Language Notes, December 2016

Coverage of this research in City Lab, SF Examiner, and Colorlines.


(#37) Exploratory Concepts, Case Studies and Keywords for Teaching Environmental Justice and Climate Change from the Humanities,Teaching Climate Change in Literary and Cultural Studies, (Routledge) edited by Stephanie LeMenager, Stephen Siperstein and Shane Hall, 2016, 184-190


(#36) Engaging Contradictions: Teaching and Pedagogy in American Studies, Convener and Editor for Forum on Teaching and Pedagogy in American Studies, American Quarterly, 68: 2, June 2016, 341-345.

(#35) Scale, Keywords for Environmental Studies. Edited by Joni Adamson, William Gleason and David Pellow. NYU

Press, February 2016, 178-180.


(#34) Environmental Justice and Anthropocene Narratives: Recognition and Representation in Kivalina, Resilience: A Journal of Environmental Humanities Vol. 2:2, Fall 2015



(#33) Lead Guest Editor of Special Issue of AAPI Nexus on AAPIs and the Environment, with Paul Ong and Charles Lee, Asian American and Pacific Islander Environmentalism: Expansions, Connections, and Social Change, Volume 11, No. 1, 2013, 83-90.          

(#32) Alison Alkon, Marisol Cortez and Julie Sze, What’s in a Name? Language, Framing and Environmental Justice Activism in California’s Central Valley. August 2013. Volume 18, 1167- 1183. Local Environment.


(#31) Jonathan London, Alex Karner, Dana Rowan Sze, Julie, Gerardo Gambirazzio, Deb Niemeier, Racing Climate Change: Collaboration and Conflict in California’s Global Climate Change Policy Arena, Global Environmental Change. August 2013, 791-799.  2013.

(#30) Sze, Julie. Boundaries of Violence: Water, Gender, and Development in Context, in American Studies, Ecocriticism and Citizenship: Thinking and Acting in the Local and Global Commons (Routledge) 2013.

(#29) Sze, Julie with Gerardo Gambarizzio ¬¬. Constructing Ideologies and Valuing Nature in Two Eco-Cities in Resilience in Urban ecology and Design: Linking Theory and Practice for Sustainable Cities, Ed. Cadenasso, Pickett, et. al. Springer

(#28) Sunaina Maira and Julie Sze, Dispatches from Pepper-Spray University: Privatization, Repression, and Revolts. American Quarterly, June 2012.

(#27) Sze, Julie. Asian American, Immigrant and Refugee Environmental Justice Activism Under Neoliberal Urbanism for Asian American Law Journal. 2011. Vol. 18. 5-23.

(#26) Niemeier, Deb, Tom Beamish, Alicia Kendall, Ryken Grattet, Jonathan London, Carolyn de la Pena, Julie Sze (2012) Characterizing the Impacts of Uncertainty in the Policy Process: Climate Science, Policy Construction, and Local Governance Decisions. Transition Towards Sustainable Mobility: The Role of Instruments,
Individuals and Institutions, edited by Harry Geerlings, Yoram Shiftan, and Dominic Stead. UK: Ashgate, 2012.

(#25) Lievanos, Raoul, Jonathan London and Julie Sze. Uneven Transformations and Environmental Justice: Regulatory Science, Street Science, and Pesticide Regulation in California. Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Expert Cultures in a Grassroots Movement, edited by Gwen Ottinger and Benjamin Cohen. 201-228. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011

(#24) Sze, Julie and Yi Zhou. Imagining a Chinese Eco-City. Environmental Criticism for the 21st Century. Edited by Stephanie LeMenager, Teresa Shewry, and Ken Hiltner. Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century. 216-230. New York: Routledge. 2011.

(#23) Perkins, Tracy and Julie Sze. Images from the Central Valley. 1 (1): 70-80. Boom: A Journal of California. 2011.

(#22) With Gerardo Gambirazzio, Alex Karner, Dana Rowan, Jonathan London, Deb Niemeier, Best in Show?: Climate Policy and Environmental Justice Policy in California. Environmental Justice. Environmental Justice. 2 (4): 179-184. 2009.


(#21) with Jonathan London, Fraser Shilling, Gerardo Gambirazzio, Trina Filan, and Mary Cadenasso (Lead Author). Defining and Contesting Environmental Justice: Socio-natures and the Politics of Scale in the Delta. Antipode. 41 (4): 807-843. 2009. Reprinted in Spaces of Environmental Justice (Antipode Book Series), edited by Ryan Holifield, Michael Porter and Gordon Walker. 219-256. Wiley Blackwell, 2010(#20) With Tom Angotti. Environmental Justice Praxis: Implications for Interdisciplinary Urban Public Health. Interdisciplinary Urban Health Research and Practice, edited by Nicholas Freudenberg, Susan Saegert and Susan Klitzman. 19-41. New York: Jossey Bass, 2009.

EJ Praxis.

(#19) With Mike Ziser. Climate Change, Environmental Aesthetics and Global Environmental Justice Cultural Studies. Discourse, 29 (2): 384-410. Spring & Fall 2007.

(#18) Sports and Environmental Justice: “Games” of Race, Place, Nostalgia and Power in Neoliberal New York City. Journal of Sports and Social Issues, 33 (2): 111-129. 2009.


(#17) The Question of Environmental Justice. In Urban Climate Change Crossroads, edited by Richard Plunz and Maria Paola Sutto, 11-16. New York: Urban Design Lab, Columbia University. 2009.

climate justice.

(#16) with Jonathan London and Raoul Lievanos. Problems, Promise, Progress, and Perils: Critical Reflections on Environmental Justice Policy Implementation in California. UCLA Journal of Environmental Policy, 26 (2): 255-289. 2007.

(#15) with Jonathan London (lead author), Environmental Justice at the Crossroads, Sociology Compass 2 (4): 1331-1354.

(#14) Boundaries of Violence: Water, Gender, and Globalization at the U.S. Borders. Special Issue on Women and Water in International Feminist Journal of Politics, 9 (4): 475-484. 2007.

women and water.

(#13) The Hummer: Race, Military, and Consumption Politics. In The Hummer: Myths and Consumer Culture, edited by Ellen Gorman and Elaine Cardenas, 221-232. Lanham: Rowman Littlefield. 2007.


(#12) Boundaries and Border Wars: DES, Technology and Environmental Justice. Rewiring the “Nation”: The Place of Technology in American Studies: Special Issue on Technology and American Studies in American Quarterly, 58 (3): 791-814. 2006.
Reprinted in Technonatures: Environments, Technologies, Spaces, and Places in the Twenty-first Century. Edited by Damian F. White and Chris Wilbert. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 2009.
Reprinted in Rewiring the “Nation”: The Place of Technology in American Studies, edited by Carolyn De La Pena and Siva Vaidhyanathan, 237-260. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 2007.

Boundaries and Border Wars.

(#11) Bodies, Pollution and Environmental Justice, Educating for Environmental Change: Feminist Pedagogy and Environmental Justice Practice Special Issue, Feminist Teacher. 16 (2): 124-132. 2006.

Bodies and Pollution.

(#10) Environmental Justice, Urban Planning, and Community Memory in New York City, in Echoes from the Poisoned Well: Global Memories of Environmental Injustice, edited by Sylvia Washington, Paul Rosier, and Heather Goodall, 171-182. Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.

Community memory in NYC.

(#9) With Swati Prakash and Alice McIntosh. (2005). Empowering Youth and Creating Healthy Environments in Northern Manhattan: WE ACT’s Youth Programs. Children, Youth and Environments 15 (1): 265-277. Invited Field Report for Children, Youth and Environments.
Retrievable at http://www.colorado.edu/journals/cye/15_1/f4_WEACT.pdf

(#8) Race and Power: An Introduction to Environmental Justice Energy Activism, in Power, Justice and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement, edited by David N. Pellow and Robert J. Brulle, 101-115. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005.

race and power.

(#7) Gender, Asthma Politics, and Urban Environmental Justice Activism, In New Perspectives on Environmental Justice: Gender, Sexuality, and Activism, edited by Rachel Stein, 177-190. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

Gender, Asthma and EJ.

(#6) Asian American Activism for Environmental Justice, Peace Review 16 (2), 149-156. June 2004.

asian americans and EJ.

(#5) Sze, Julie and Swati Prakash. Human Genetics, Environment, and Communities of Color: Ethical and Social Implications, Environmental Health Perspectives. 112 (6), 740-745. May 2004.

(#4) The Literature of Environmental Justice, In The Environmental Justice Reader: Politics, Poetics and Pedagogy, edited by Joni Adamson, Mei Mei Evans and Rachel Stein, 163-180. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2002.
EJ Literature.

(#3) Expanding Environmental Justice: Asian American Feminists’ Contribution, In The Socialist Feminist Project: A Contemporary Reader in Theory and Politics, edited by Nancy Holmstrom, 408-415. New York: Monthly Review, 2002.

(#2) ‘Not By Politics Alone’: Gender and Environmental Justice in Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange, In Bucknell Review, edited by Glynis Carr, 29-42. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press. 44 (1), March 2000.

(#1) Have You Heard?: Gossip, Silence and Community in Bone, In Critical Mass: A Journal of Asian American Criticism. 2 (1), 59-69, Winter 1994.
Toxic Soup Redux: Why Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Matter after Katrina. October 2005. Understanding Katrina: Perspectives from the Social Sciences. Social Sciences Research Council, retrievable at http://understandingkatrina.ssrc.org/Sze/

Grants, Fellowships, Honors and Awards (Individual)

1. 2008 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize. This prize is awarded to the best published book in American Studies.
2. Faculty Development Award, 2008-2009. UC Davis. *
3. U.C.D., Small Grant in Aid of Research Award, 2008-2010 ($2000).
4. Gifford Fellow on Population Studies, Center for the Study of Regional Change. $7500. 2007-2008.
5. Art of Regional Change Faculty Fellow, Center for the Study of Regional Change and Davis Humanities Institute. $1500. 2007-2008. *
6. U.C.D., Davis Humanities Institute Fellow, 2006-2007.
7. U.C.D., Small Grant in Aid of Research Award, 2005 ($2000).
8. U.C.D., Educational Technology Partner Grant, 2004.
9. U.C. Office of the President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, 2003-2004, U.C.S.D. Ethnic Studies.
10. Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow, Williams College, 2002-2003, joint appointment in American Studies and Environmental Studies.
11. American Society for Environmental History, Travel Grant, 2003.
12. Environmental Leadership Fellow, Environmental Leadership Project, 2002-2004.
13. American Association of University Women American Dissertation Fellow, 2002-2003.

Grants, Fellowships, Honors and Awards (for EJP)

1. UCCSI Community Outreach & Teaching Grant (with Flora Lu at UCSC), UC Humanities Research Center, $7500. 2009-2010.
2. Community Partnership Project Grant, American Studies Association. $3000. 2008-2009.
3. UCCSI Community Outreach & Teaching Grant, UC Humanities Research Center, $7500. 2008-2009. *
4. Ford Foundation. Co-PI: “Participatory Action Research on Environmental Justice in the Central Valley” (JMIE/EJP). $130,000. 2008-2010
5. New Initiative/ Collaborative Interdisciplinary Research Grant, Committee on Research. Co-PI: “Environmental Justice and Regional Change in the Central Valley. (John Muir Institute of the Environment/Environmental Justice Project). $30,000. 2007-2008.
6. Ford Foundation. Co-PI: “Building Capacity for Environmental Justice Research.” (JMIE/EJP). $69,500. 2007-2008.
7. Consortium for Women and Research. Co-PI: “Research Interest Group on Gender, Race, and the Environment.” (JMIE/EJP). $2000. 2007-2008.
8. Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety. Co-PI: Grant: “Building a Foundation for Participatory Action Research with Agricultural Worker Communities: An Environmental Justice Perspective” (JMIE/EJP). $7500. 2007-2008.


Web Links

Community-Based Organizations


There are a number of federal and state agencies that work on environmental justice: