Sociology Faculty

Naya Jones
  • Pronouns she, her, her, hers, herself
  • Title
    • Assistant Professor & Core Faculty in Global and Community Health Program
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Sociology Department
  • Affiliations Environmental Studies Department
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Rachel Carson College Academic Building, 322
  • Mail Stop Rachel Carson College Faculty Services
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High St.
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise African Diaspora, African American / Black Studies, Agroecology and Agriculture, Environmental Studies, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, Social Justice
  • Courses SOCY 143: Black Botanical Medicine in the Americas; SOCY 135: Healing Justice; SOCY 196S: Race, Somatics, and Food Pedagogy; SOCY 240: Inequality and Identity

Summary of Expertise

Short Bio:

Naya Jones, PhD (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at UCSC and Core Faculty in the Global and Community Health Program. She is a critical geographer and cultural worker. For solo and collaborative projects, she focuses on Black diaspora geographies of health, ecologies, and healing using arts-based methods. She also studies critical and embodied approaches to teaching and research. Her work has been published in academic journals and on creative platforms. 


At UCSC, Dr. Jones co-facilitates the Black Geographies Lab with Drs. Camilla Hawthorne, Savannah Shange, and James Doucet-Battle. She recently launched the Black Botany Studio, her research lab focused on Black diaspora plant knowledge amid climate injustice, on-going displacement, and everyday thriving.


Among current projects, Dr. Jones is working on a book and multimedia project about Black botanical knowledge and the Great Migration, the migration of an estimated six million Black Americans from the United States South to other parts of the country from the 1910s to the 1970s. Using arts-based methods, she continues to study Afro-Latinx and Black Mexican geographies of health and healing, and you can find her writing about embodied pedagogies for the Radical Food Geographies Book Project. For more, visit



Testimonio/Notes on the Work

Ancestors, teachers, and community members with whom I continue to work, make all of the work possible. As an artist-scholar, archiving, reclaiming, and reimagining "old ways" is central to my solo projects as well as collaborations. I often partner with cultural workers and artists, community healers and gardeners. These old ways are sometimes referred to as traditional medicine or indigenous knowledge, and I critically grapple this language in the context of Black geographies. Drawing on old ways and on bodies of knowledge such as Black and Xicana feminisms, my research and creative practice are grounded in ways of knowing that are embodied, multidimensional, and multi-sensory. I draw on my background as a healing justice practitioner and strategist of 14+ years. Prior to returning to academe, I partnered with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led organizations as they reimagined ancestral healing ways and strategized collective sustainability; I also worked closely with social justice organizations who are committed to anti-racism. These experiences inspire my committment to public and arts-based scholarship.

Research Interests

Black geographies of health and healing; Black ecologies; Black botany; reimagining ethnobotany; philosophy of science; critical food studies; politics and practice of Traditional and Indigenous medicine; spirituality and activism; critical and embodied pedagogy; arts-based methods; African-American Studies; Afro-Latinx Studies (focus on Mexico)

Biography, Education and Training

2020 / Postdoctoral Fellowship in Primary Care Research - Medical College of Wisconsin

2016 / PhD, Geography & the Environment -  University of Texas at Austin

2008 / MA, Latin American Studies - University of Texas at Austin


Honors, Awards and Grants

Selected Recent Awards/Grants

2021-2022 | Sprout Grant (UCSC Institute for Social Transformation)


2020-2021 | Anne S. Chatham Fellowship for Medicinal Botany (Garden Club of America) 


2020-2021 | Folk Arts Apprenticeship Grant w/ Ms. Angela Smith (Wisconsin Arts Board)


2017-2020 | Culture of Health Leader (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Selected Publications

  • Hirsch, L. and Jones, N. 2021. "Incontestable: Imagining Possibilities through Intimate Black Geographies." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Access >>   


  • Jones, N. 2021. "Prologue: Black Dream Geographies." Part of themed intervention in Transactions of the Institute of British GeographersAccess>>


  • Jones, N. 2020. "Intervention: Corner Stores, Surveillance, and All Black Afterlives." In Antipode OnlineOpen Access>>


  • Jones, N. 2019. "Dying to Eat? Black Food Geographies of Slow Violence and Resilience." In ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18 (5), 1076-99. Open Access>> 


  • Cotter, E, and Jones, N. 2019. "Review of Latino/Latinx Participants in Mindfulness-Based Intervention Research." Mindfulness, 11.


  • Thomas, KD and Jones, N. 2019. "Critical Reflexivity: Teaching About Race and Racism in the Advertising Classroom." Advertising & Society Quarterly, 20 (2).


  • Jones, N. 2018. "'It Tastes Like Heaven”: Critical Food Pedagogy with Black Youth in the Anthropocene." In Policy Futures in Education, 17(7), 905-923.  


Selected Exhibitions

Virtual Exhibit & Article: Dying to Eat? Black Food Geographies of Slow Violence and Resilience