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Assistant Professor of Sociology, Brandeis University

Rachel McKane is an environmental sociologist with research and teaching interests in environmental justice, spatial inequality, urban political economy, and mutual aid.

Their primary research agenda explores the connection between environmental justice and processes of urban change rooted in racial capitalism, city development, and present and historic housing inequality. This research agenda is driven by a broad set of questions, including: What are the spatial and temporal scales of urban environmental justice struggles? How can multiscalar analyses guide cities towards centering justice in their sustainability efforts? This work applies a critical environmental justice (CEJ) lens to interconnected ecological and urban crises by deepening our understanding of the spatial and temporal scales of environmental justice struggles. Their most recent project explores the environmental legacy of redlining, racially restrictive covenants, and residential segregation.

Professor McKane’s secondary research agenda explores community-based approaches to environmental justice through networks of solidarity and mutual aid. One manuscript, forthcoming at Environmental Justice, brings critical environmental justice into closer conversation with critical disability studies by exploring how disabled communities, predominantly queer, trans, and BIPOC, leverage mutual aid as adaptive strategy to climate change.

After obtaining their PhD from Vanderbilt University, they worked as a postdoctoral research associate at Brown University in the Population Studies and Training Center (PSTC) in the Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) program on projects pertaining to redlining, housing inequality, and residential segregation. They also contributed to the Longitudinal Tract Data Base (LTDB), a public-use tool that harmonizes spatial boundaries of historic and contemporary data from the U.S. Census.

Professor McKane’s articles appear in Environmental Research Letters, Environmental Justice, Environmental Sociology, Local Environment, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, Cities, Environmental Politics, Energy Research and Social Science, Social Science History, and Mobilization.


  • 2023–present
    Assistant Professor, Brandeis University


  • 2020 
    Vanderbilt University, PhD


  • 2023
    Antipode , Mutual Aid as a Praxis for Critical Environmental Justice: Lessons from W.E.B. Du Bois, Critical Theoretical Perspectives, and Mobilising Collective Care in Disasters
  • 2023
    Environmental Justice, Envisioning Disabled and Just Futures: Mutual Aid as an Adaptive Strategy for Environmental Change and Ecological Disablement