Key Social Justice Issues in Geography

The concept of social justice is threaded through academic geography.

The geographer David Harvey and his book ‘Social Justice and the City (1973)’, provided an important marker for the emergence of a more socially justice orientated geography. 

Smith (1994) argues that all aspects of Human Geography – cultural, social, economic and political – are, by their very nature, invested in the study of Social Justice, and Hopkins (2021) cites three broad fields of geographical research where social justice and injustice is central to the work of geographers: 

  • poverty and welfare, 
  • gender and sexuality, 
  • race and ethnicity, 

Read his full article here

Peter Hopkins image


An example of the importance of a social justice lens in academic geography is in the field of Young People’s Geographies (YPG). This research seeks to better understand the different geographical lives young people lead at a range of scales, and was sparked by the United Nations focus on social justice for children and young people following the publication of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1989.

Young People’s Geographies

young people;s geographies image source colton jones unsplash

YPG examines diverse subjects such as :

  • children and young peoples’ access to and exclusion  from  spaces and places, 
  • young people’s experiences of social and public institutions, including school, 
  • young peoples’ migratory experiences
  • young people’s agency and their political activism such as their  climate change activism,   

Find out more about Young People’s Geographies

It might seem that social justice is limited to the field of human geography – it is not.

Ethical geography research is as relevant to physical geography as it is to human geography, and particularly to the physical/human interface. For example, in migration studies, understanding processes such as climate change can be central to understanding the challenges and motivations some people face when deciding or being forced to move and travel.


Harvey, D., 2010. Social justice and the city (Vol. 1). University of Georgia Press.

Hopkins, P. (2021) Social Geography III: Committing to Social Justice. Progress in Human Geography, 45(2), 382-393

Smith, G., 1994. Political theory and human geography. In Human Geography (pp. 54-77). Palgrave, London.

UN (1989), United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,