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Dydia DeLyser, Ph.D.

Dydia DeLyser, Ph.D. is the Associate Professor at the Department of Geography & the Environment California State University, Fullerton

As a cultural-historical geographer her work is both contemporary and historical, seeking to understand cultural processes and politics from a geographical perspective, and exploring the significance of cultural materials, media, texts, and representations in a geographical context. She is interested in how culture and its artifacts manifest in landscape, in how they travel, and in how culture is practiced in everyday life. That emphasis on practice has led to a sustained interest in qualitative-research methods in work that seeks to meld empirical, theoretical, and methodological contributions.

Her work demonstrates broad-ranging empirical expressions drawn together by distinct theoretical and methodological concerns of significance in contemporary cultural geography (and the humanities and social sciences more broadly), in publications on disparate topics that are in fact closely related in a growing research arc. Their appearance in and award-winning book and in some of the discipline’s top journals—including all four of the “society” journals for the American and British geographical associations (Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Professional Geographer, and Area), the discipline’s leading critical reviews journal Progress in Human Geography, and multiple sub-disciplinary journals including Social and Cultural Geography, cultural geographies, Geographical Review and Journal of Historical Geography—speaks to the reception and relevance of this tripartite approach.

Empirically her work has seen broad reach, but finds consistent place within the American landscape, often focusing more closely on the American West, southern California, and the Los Angeles area. Within that regional setting she has explored a diverse array of topics including: the discursive and material messages of ghost towns contemporary American culture, tourism related to the 1884 southern California novel Ramona, issues of gender and mobilities among early women pilots, material devotion in restoring antique motorcycles, and tracing the biography of a rare antique car to reveal the mobilities of car restoration and enthusiasm. Her current work explores how neon signs transformed the American landscape.

Since 2010 she has been collaborating with Paul Greenstein (a specialist in the design, fabrication, installation, and restoration of neon signs) on the research and writing of a book about the history and historical geography of neon signs. Their careful historical research has already revealed that the Los Angeles “Packard” sign long thought to have been the first neon sign in America, was, in fact, not first.

Together with Greenstein, she has given keynote presentations about our collaborative neon research, including at the LAVA (Los Angeles Visionaries Association) Salon (2013), the California Sign Association conference (2016, 2017), at the Neon Speaks Symposium (2019), and at The Neon Museum in Las Vegas where she was their 2019 Scholar in Residence.

She takes service seriously and seeks to integrate community and disciplinary service with her research and personal life. She serves as Editor in Chief of the journal cultural geographies and serve on the editorial boards of four other journals. She has served on the Board of the American Sign Museum, and currently serve as Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Neon Art. She also serves on the Boards of the Heritage Flight Museum and and as Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Bodie Foundation. She is a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society, the Association of American Geographers, the Royal Geographical Society, the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, the Society of Women Geographers (elected membership) and the 99s (the international association for licensed women pilots). She enjoys working with artists, practitioners, and Museums in the practice of a participatory historical geography—in work that seeks to bring forward the experiences and issues of the past in ways relevant and meaningful in the present.

In 2021 she and Greenstein published a short, richly illustrated book, Neon: A Light History that reveals how neon signs transformed the American landscape and have helped build American communities. More information about the book is available here:

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