Zoé Hamstead is an assistant professor in the Department of City & Regional Planning. Her work focuses on environmental planning, sustainability, urban governance, and environmental justice, particularly in the context of climate change. She uses mixed methods, including field-based data collection with sensing equipment, interviews, focus groups, participatory action research, geospatial analysis, statistical analysis, and other approaches for understanding the social justice dimensions of urban climate. Her work has been published in planning and interdisciplinary journals including Ecological Indicators, Landscape & Urban Planning, Computers, Environment, & Urban Systems, Ecology & Society, among others.
Current and past research projects, practice, and service learning courses include analysis of access to urban parks and ecological amenities, urban resilience scenario development, engaged community solar planning, and climate-exacerbated extreme heat management. Through a project entitled Sensing and Sensitivity, she integrates experiential data on people’s perceptions, subjectivities, capacities, and adaptive practices with objective measures of urban radiative temperature and other thermal indicators to understand residential thermal insecurities. Her recent co-edited volume entitled Resilient Urban Futures describes the processes of developing long-range planning capacities for climate resilience in 9 cities across Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America through six years of coordinated participatory scenario workshops. In particular, she engages in co-production approaches to develop integrative governance frameworks for heat (and more broadly, thermal) management. Her in-progress project, Critical Heat Studies, applies tenets of racial justice developed within legal and educational theory to understand why thermal insecurity has long been neglected as a fundamental environmental threat and social determinant of health, although it is deadlier than all other weather-related disasters. Hazards protection practices tend to be primarily oriented around protecting against property destruction, a highly visible outcome of extreme storm events. By contrast, thermal insecurity is often a highly personal or private experience that we struggle to represent visually and linguistically. Critical Heat Studies brings together multiple epistemologies to understand the often invisible ways that thermal threats are produced in urban physical, institutional, and socio-cognitive spaces, and to develop a political framework for addressing it as a critical environmental burden.