Gregory W. Knapp

Faculty Research AssociatePh.D., University of Wisconsin at Madison

Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment
Gregory W. Knapp


  • Phone: 512.232.1588
  • Office: CLA 3.712
  • Office Hours: by appointment
  • Campus Mail Code: A3100


Long term population geography of indigenous groups in the Andes.


Gregory Knapp received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley, in Mathematics and Economics with Distinction in General Scholarship, and his PhD in Geography (minor in Anthropology) from the University of Wisconsin. He taught at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities before joining the University of Texas faculty in 1984.

Knapp’s research has focused on adaptive dynamics of prehistoric and traditional agriculture in Peru and Ecuador, including embanked fields, sunken fields, raised fields, irrigation, and slope agriculture. The adaptive dynamics approach emphasizes local decision making, while also recognizing the salience of particular environmental, cultural, social, economic, and political contexts as they change over time. The approach is also consistent with attention to the cultural landscape in the tradition of Carl Sauer and Yi-Fu Tuan. In addition to working on reconstructing prehistoric landscapes and demography, Knapp was involved in the first major international study of the impacts of climate change on Andean agriculture, where he argued for policies maximizing local adaptive flexibility. Supervised student research has included the persistence of smallholder farming (with Katia Raquel Avilés-Vázquez) and discourses on water management practices (with Cyrus Reed and Patricia Mothes). Knapp’s recent research on this theme focuses on agricultural modernization in the Andes, especially floriculture.

A second major research theme has been the critical study of regional identities, ethnogeography, ethnic territoriality and mapping. Knapp was involved in organizing conferences on the ethnic geography of Latin America and a series of international conferences on regional identities in Texas and Mexico in the 1980s. He published one of the first studies of the ethnogeography of Ecuador and co-edited a pioneering special issue of a refereed journal devoted to the topic of participatory mapping. Supervised doctoral student research on this theme has included the importance of food and foodways and female empowerment in creating distinctive Kitchenspace (with Maria Elisa Christie) and ethnohistory and territoriality in Nicaragua (with Karl Offen). Knapp’s current research concerns language persistence and salience for identity.

A third theme has been the contextualization of modernization (both neoliberalism and social democracy) in historical cultural ecology, as the latest phase of humanity’s progressive achievement of greater efficiencies through collaboration, and in feminist political ecology and post-development theory. Modernization has both advantages and disadvantages, as recently addressed in discourses about sustainability. Supervised student research on this theme includes the role of NGOs in creating distinctive landscapes (with Juanita Sundberg and Tom Perreault), and the empowerment of indigenous communities and women in the face of larger scale modernization processes (with Mary Brook, David Salisbury, Gregory Schwartz and Maria Belén Noroña Salcedo).

A fourth theme has been the history of geographic thought, both in terms of institutions and in terms of regions. Knapp is an editor for the Library of Congress relating to bibliographies of Western South America, and has also authored departmental and biographical histories in the discipline of geography.

Knapp has received three separate Fulbright Fellowships, as well as other grants. He has been elected to national offices in the Association of American Geographers and Conference of Latin American Geographers; the latter honored him with its Outstanding Service Award. He was elected President of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Alpha chapter at the University of Texas.

Knapp’s local service includes five years organizing transnational conferences on cultural, environmental and historical commonalities between northeastern Mexico and Texas. He served for two consecutive four year terms as Department Chair, crafting the Urban Studies major, initiating UT’s partnership with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, changing the department’s name to “Geography and the Environment,” and co-sponsoring the creation of the Institute of Environmental Science. After his chairmanship he served for five years as Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee and Graduate Advisor. Most recently, as co-chair of the BA in Sustainability Studies committee, he has been active in helping bring this new major to fruition in the next undergraduate catalog.

Knapp’s current teaching at the undergraduate level includes a Large Format Signature Course in Latin American Environmental History and Sustainability (recipient of a competitive Course Conversion Award), a large course in Geography of Latin America which meets one of the University’s core requirements, an upper division course on Nature, Society and Adaptation, and a faculty-led study abroad course on Nature, Society and Sustainability which has been conducted in Argentina and (currently) Ecuador. His courses are cross listed with Latin American Studies or Anthropology, and bear flags in Global Cultures, Writing, and/or Ethics and Leadership. Knapp welcomes honor’s thesis students working on issues related to his research themes.

Knapp’s graduate level teaching includes a seminar, Latin America: Culture, Environment and Development which is open to all students by instructor permission. He has supervised 38 doctoral dissertations and master’s theses; former students include tenured faculty at the University of British Columbia, Oberlin, University of Richmond, and Syracuse, as well as employees of government, non-governmental organizations, education, and business. He continues to welcome applications from prospective advisees who are interested in critical and innovative field work in Latin America.

Selected Publications by Research Theme

Adaptive Dynamics

1988 (co authored) The Effects of Climatic Variation on Agriculture in the Central Sierra of Ecuador, in The Impact of Climatic Variations on Agriculture. Volume 2: Assessments in Semi-Arid Regions., M. L. Parry, T. R. Carter and N. R. Konijn, eds., pp. 383-493. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

1988 (co-edited with N. Allan and C. Stadel), Human Impact on Mountains. Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield.

1991 Andean Ecology: Adaptive Dynamics in Ecuador. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.

1999. (with P. Mothes) Quilotoa Ash and Human Settlements in the Equatorial Andes, pp. 139-155 in Actividad Volcánica y Pueblos Precolombinos en el Ecuador, Patricia Mothes, Coordinator. Quito: Ediciones Abya Yala.

2007. The Legacy of European Colonialism, in The Physical Geography of South America, edited by T. Veblen, K. Young, and A. Orme, pp 279-288, Oxford University Press.

2015. Mapping Flowers in the Equatorial High Andes, Journal of Latin American Geography 14(3): 229-244.

Ethnogeography and Regional Geography

1995 (with C. Caviedes) South America. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

1987 Geografia Quichua de la Sierra del Ecuador. Quito: Ediciones Abya Yala. (First Edition; third edition 1991)

2003 (with Peter Herlihy, guest eds.) Participatory Mapping of Indigenous Lands in Latin America, special issue of Human Organization. Volume 62, number 4.


2002 (editor) Latin America in the Twenty-First Century: Challenges and Solutions. Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers and University of Texas Press.

2010. The Andes: Personal Reflections on Cultural Change, 1977-2010, Journal of Cultural Geography 27:307-316.

In press. Human Ecology, in The Wiley-AAG International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology.

History of Thought

1998. Geography at the University of Texas at Austin: A Departmental History, The Southwestern Geographer 2: 95-123.

2005 (with W. Doolittle). Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov, 1938-2003, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 95(2): 462-470.

2014. Geography: Western South America, in Handbook of Latin American Studies: No. 69: Social Sciences, edited by Tracy North and Katherine D. McCann, University of Texas Press.