The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture

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Bjørn Sletto

Ph.D. Program Coordinator for Community & Regional Planning
Associate Professor


SUT 3.124B | office
+1 512 471 5153 | phone

The University of Texas at Austin
School of Architecture
310 Inner Campus Drive Stop B7500
Austin, TX 78712-1009

areas of interest

Latin American planning and development, participatory planning, environmental and social justice, social theory

Bjørn received his doctorate in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. He has a master’s degree in Geography from the University of Kansas and a BA in Journalism from the University of Minnesota. A native of Ål, Norway, Bjørn’s research focuses on indigenous land rights, social justice, and environmental planning in Latin America. He is particularly interested in the dichotomies and tensions between local knowledge and traditional environmental management systems, and formal planning and management approaches. During the past decade, he has lived and worked in indigenous villages and border cities in Venezuela, investigating environmental conflicts and land rights struggles and conducting participatory mapping projects with the Pemon in the Gran Sabana and Yukpa in the Sierra de Perijá. As the director of the Institute of Latin American Studies’ (LLILAS) Research Initiative in Participatory Mapping, Bjørn works closely with partner institutions in South America to further international scholarship on representational politics and social justice in vulnerable communities. More closer to Austin, Bjørn is concerned with the relationahip between pedagogy, planning practice, and environmental and social justice in low-income communities in Texas.

His current research focuses on indigenous land rights and environmental conflict in the Perija mountains on the Colombia-Venezuela border, and the ways in which these issues articulate with environmental planning and environmental justice in the Lake Maracaibo region. He is also engaged with research on community development in Maracaibo as a Research Associate with the Universidad del Zulia in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Bjørn is still involved with indigenous, participatory mapping as an Affiliated Investigator with the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas in Caracas, Venezuela, and through his teaching and conference activities. His domestic projects include participatory research with the environmental justice organization PODER in East Austin, focusing on children’s perceptions and knowledge of environmental hazards and the planning implications of environmental justice activism in Austin.

Bjørn teaches Geographic Information Systems, environmental and social justice, public space theory (LINK TO http://www.soa.utexas.edu/work/publicspace/index.html), planning theory, and seminars and studio courses focusing on Latin American planning and development. Through his partnership with the environmental justice organization PODER, Bjørn offers critical service learning courses where students investigate issues of social and environmental justice in partnership with community members. He also teaches studio courses in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where students work closely with community leaders, activist organizations and public officials in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to address environmental and social vulnerability in the informal settlement of Los Platanitos. In spring 2008, students conducted a risk and vulnerability assessment; in spring 2010, a second group of students built on this study and developed a participatory solid waste management plan; and in spring 2012, students will draw on this work to develop a vermicomposting feasibility study with a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Bjørn is an associated faculty member in the Department of Geography and the Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS), University of Texas.




  • The Mythical Forest, the Becoming-Desert: Environmental Knowledge Production and the Iconography of Destruction in the Gran Sabana, Venezuela. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28 (2010): 672-690. (Final_EandP_Fall2010.pdf, 207kb).
  • Apök hace feliz a Patá: Sugerencias y retos para una gestión intercultural del fuego en la Gran Sabana. Antropológica LIII n° 111-112 (2010): 149-191. (Antropologica_RodriguezSletto2009.pdf, 602kb).
  • Autogestión en representaciones espaciales indígenas y el rol de la capacitación y concientización: el caso del Proyecto Etnocartográfico Inna Kowantok, Sector 5 Pemón (Kavanayén-Mapauri), La Gran Sabana. Antropológica LIII n° 113 (2010): 43-75. (Final_Revista_Antrop_Pemon_Mapping.pdf, 4.55mb).
  • Education of Self and Others: Narrative, Critical Reflexivity and Knowledge Production in Service Learning. Journal of Planning Education and Research 29(4) (2010): 403–415. (Published_JPER_2010.pdf, 216kb).
  • "We Drew What We Imagined:" Participatory Mapping, Performance, and the Arts of Landscape Making. Current Anthropology 50 (2009): 443-476. (Sletto_CA_August_2009.pdf, 1646kb)
  • "Indigenous people don't have boundaries": reborderings, fire management, and productions of authenticities in indigenous landscapes. Cultural Geographies 16 (2009): 253-277. (Cult_Geogr_Article_April2009.pdf, 485kb)
  • The Knowledge that Counts: Institutional Identities, Policy Science, and the Conflict over Fire Management in the Gran Sabana, Venezuela. World Development 36 (October 2008): 1938-1955. (Sletto_2008_World-Development.pdf, 607kb)
  • Producing Space(s), Representing Landscapes: A Lefebvrian Approach to Resource Conflicts. Cultural Geographies 9 (2002): 389-420. (Cult_Geogr_article.pdf, 1658kb)
  • A Swamp and Its Subjects: Conservation Politics, Surveillance and Resistance in Trinidad, the West Indies. Geoforum 36 (January 2005): 77-93. (Geoforum_Article.pdf, 342kb)
  • Autodemarcación del Sector Kavanayen: Informe Final. Proyecto Etnocartográfico Inna Kowantok. Kumarakapay, Venezuela 2004. (Informe_Final_Sector5.pdf, 3197kb)
  • Mapping the Gran Sabana. Americas Magazine 57, Organization of American States (November 2005). (Americas_GranSabana.pdf, 1460kb).