Donald Planey


  • M.A., University of Chicago
  • B.A., Augustana College (IL)

What I work on: My dissertation research is on regionalist economic development projects in the metropolitan region of Chicago.  Specifically, on the race and class politics underscoring efforts to bring disparate ‘subregions’ of the metropolitan area together on infrastructure- and innovation-related issues.  The concept of the ‘imaginary’ is central to my work: “Subregions” of city-regions can have drastically different class and racial formations, and the ways in which different planning enthusiasts, factions of capital, and communities understand their own possibilities and limitations in adapting to economic regionalization is a major determinant in how political regionalization is moving (or lurching) forwards in the Chicago metro.  While at times casting a critical eye on the organizations I study, I also try to collaborate with regionalists who pursue socially progressive outcomes. 

How I work: My research methods are primarily semi-structured interviews and event ethnography.  The regionalist projects I study are highly aggressive, particularly following the Great Recession, in trying to expand their stakeholder base and public support, which makes for good qualitative data.  I try to keep my GIS and quantitative analysis skills up-to-date, but I primarily deploy these for narrative purposes.

Why I work on this: Concern about communities being ‘left-behind’ by techno-social change and globalization processes has always been a driver for me.  My research attempts to shed light on the connects (and disjunctures) between elite political projects dedicated to economic restructuring in city-regions and the on-the-ground struggles faced by the denizens of post-Recession city-regions.


Planey, D. (Forthcoming) Producing the Economic Imaginary: Manufacturing Discourse in the Chicago Metropolitan Region. Territory, Politics, Governance. Accepted November 2019.

Planey, D (2019) The Chicagoland Regional Planning Tradition: 1909-2018.  Illinois Geographer. Fall 2019.

Courses Taught

  • GEOG 106: Geographies of Globalization
  • GEOG 105: Digital Earth
  • GEOG 204: Cities of the World
  • GEOG 101: Development and Environment