Barry A. Vann

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Dr. Barry Aron Vann
Barry Promo Photo.jpg
Born (1960-03-30) March 30, 1960 (age 54)
Clinton, Tennessee
Occupation Author, Lecturer

Barry Aron Vann (born 1960) is an author, speaker and director of community and higher education and professor of geography at University of the Cumberlands. He obtained his Ph.D. in Historical Geography of Religion, dually awarded by the faculties of Church History and Earth and Geographical Sciences, from the University of Glasgow and also holds a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in adult education with a focus in community development from the University of Arkansas. He received an M.S. in Geography from Western Kentucky University and a B.S. in Social Sciences from Tennessee Technological University. He also received an A.S. from Roane State Community College and was selected for their 2012 Outstanding Alumni award.[1] A prolific writer, Vann has published on a wide range of geographic topics. He is most noted for his work in religious geography, in particular themes in which religious beliefs are associated with forming environmental perceptions and politicized regions such as Northern Ireland and the American Bible Belt.[2]

The conceptual framework he uses to analyze the relationship between belief systems and spaces, including nations and towns is called geotheology (the general relationship between the worship of the divine and spaces, including nations). Geotheology is a concept conceived by geographer John Kirtland Wright (1891–1969).[3] Recognizing the limits of Wright’s taxonomy in describing how people view the forces of nature as mechanisms through which divine agents deliver punishments and rewards on wayward or deserving people, Vann added geotheomisthosis (earth, God, reward) and geotheokolasis (“earth, God, punishment”).[4] To capture the ways in which secular people see human environmental interactions, Vann coined geokolasis (earth punishes) and geomisthosis (earth rewards). In addition to work in the area of geotheology, Vann has also contributed insights into the interface between history and geography, as well as issues related to overpopulation and environmental hazards.[5]

Among Professor Vann's more important books are Rediscovering the South's Celtic Heritage; In Search of Ulster-Scots Land: The Birth and Geotheological Imaginings of a Transatlantic People; Geography Toward History: Studies in the Mediterranean Basin and Mesopotamia (with Ellsworth Huntington); Puritan Islam: The Geoexpansion of the Muslim World; and The Forces of Nature: Our Quest to Conquer the Planet. Puritan Islam: The Geoexpansion of the Muslim World was chosen as a Top 25 Outstanding Academic Title for 2012 by Choice, a division of the American Library Association (ALA).[6]

Professor Vann has been a guest on a number of radio and television shows, including BBC Scotland; Fox News Channel's "Spirited Debate" with Lauren Green; "Science Fantastic" with Professor Michio Kaku; and the “Mancow Experience.” His articles and reviews have appeared in the Huffington Post; the Journal of Transatlantic Studies; the Journal of American History; Geography of Religions and Belief Systems; the Journal of Historical Sociology; and Human Resource Development Quarterly, among others.

Although a distant relative of Cherokee Chief James Vann and comedian Will Rogers,[7] Professor Vann’s early life was typical of poor families living in southern Appalachia in the mid-twentieth century. He was born in Clinton, Tennessee, on March 30, 1960. The home in which his family lived did not have plumbing, and heat was provided by wood fuel or coal burned in a stove. His parents were Dorothy A. Voyles (b. 1935) and Harry Mack Vann Jr. (1935–2010), but he was raised by Rufus (1912–1995) and Vernedith Voyles (1919–1999), his maternal grandparents. Vann did, however, live at times with his mother, stepfather, and four siblings in Detroit, Michigan.[8] According to Vann in an interview on “Science Fantastic” in 2012,[9] it was his childhood experiences traveling to and from his mother’s neighborhood in Detroit that inspired him to become a geographer. Professor Vann and his wife Amy have two children, Sarah and Preston.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Warren R. Hofstra, The American Historical Review. Vol. 114, No. 4 (October 2009), pp. 1032-1033; J. Todd Nesbit, Appalachian Journal. Vol. 37 No. 1-2, (Fall-Winter 2009); Nelson McCausland, “Nelson’s View,” retrieved May 22, 2012.
  3. ^ John Kirtland Wright, “Terrae Incognitae: The Place of Imagination in Geography,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers Vol. 37, (1947): pp. 1-15.
  4. ^ Barry A. Vann, In Search of Ulster Scots Land: The Birth and Geotheological Imagings of a Transatlantic People (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008); Barry A. Vann, Puritan Islam: The Geoexpansion of the Muslim World (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2011).
  5. ^ Ellsworth Huntington and Barry Aron Vann, Geography Toward History: Studies in the Mediterranean Basin and Mesopotamia (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009); The Forces of Nature: Our Quest to Conquer the Planet (Amherst, NY, 2012).
  6. ^
  7. ^ Worth S. Ray, Tennessee Cousins: A History of Tennessee People (Austin, TX, 1950, pp. 228, 229. 235).
  8. ^ Dennis Vann and His Many Descendants by Harry Mack Vann; Vann Generations with Cherokee Origins: From John Joseph Vann and James Clement Vann I from NC, SC, and GA, ca. 1750-1991 by William H. Vann.
  9. ^ Professor Michio Kaku, “Science Fantastic,” April 14, 2012.