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Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, Chair 305 E. 23rd Street • CLA 3.306 • A3100 • Austin, Tx 78712 • 512-232-1595

Naya Jones

MA Latin American Studies; PhD Geography and the Environment (in progress), University of Texas at Austin

Doctoral Student / Teaching Assistant
Naya Jones


  • Office Hours: Spring 2013: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12-1 PM
  • Campus Mail Code: Mailcode A3100


Thesis Research

For my thesis, I studied the use of medicinal plants in an Afro-descendant community in Veracruz, Mexico (Coyolillo). During fieldwork I realized the significance of gardenspaces where primarily women cultivated useful plants for medicinal and cooking purposes. Gardens were gendered and multi-generational; they represented key resources for local people. Coyolillo was established in a region of sugar cane cultivation based on enslaved African labor, when the colonial casta system determined social mobility according to "race" and physical appearance. While no longer in effect, the legacy of social and racial hierarchy persists. Socially, economically, and environmentally, Coyolillo remains marginalized. In this context, the everyday act of gardening holds tremendous meaning. Not only does gardening provide food and medicine, but it is also supports survival on the margins. 

Current Research

Now I turn to social and environmental dynamics closer to home, in Austin, Texas. For the dissertation, I  am researching how self-identified African-American/Black youth navigate the uneven local foodscape in context of rapid gentrification.  

Campus & Community Involvement 

In addition to participating in the Portfolio Program in Sustainability at UT Austin, I am co-creator of Food for Black Thought which hosts events about blackness, Black communities, and food on campus and in the greater community. In the past, I have worked with Urban Roots, a local non-profit dedicated to youth and sustainable agriculture as a curriculum and program evaluation intern. As an oral historian, I also gather people's stories about food and farming for Foodways Texas


The first in my family to attend college or graduate school, I enjoy teaching undergraduates as they define their own paths. My family is African-American and Mexican/Chican@. Personal experiences and my background teaching Black/Brown youth inspires my focus on these populations. Chronic health trends and spatial disparities deeply motivate my current work. I like to think of research as gathering stories, the stories of local ingenuity of people "make do" spur me onward.

Staying Centered

Reading, writing, hiking, meditation, potlucks, traveling, working with community organizations - all these help me stay centered. 


Children/youth geographies, urban agriculture, food systems, critical food studies, participatory action research, participatory GIS, Black Diaspora (United States and Mexico)
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