Yi-Fu Tuan Lectures

Yi-Fu TuanThe Yi-Fu Lecture Series features a wide variety of U.S. and international guest lecturers from all geographic disciplines. Lecturers at these Friday seminars also often speak at brown-bag lunches, one-on-one student sessions, and breakfast meetings with student interest groups as part of their visit. Doctoral students are invited to present their final research. The lecture series was initiated by Dr. Tuan (pictured at right) and receives enthusiastic support as a department and campus tradition.

All lectures are presented on Friday at 3:30pm in Science Hall - Rm 180 unless otherwise noted. Alumni, friends and the public are always invited to attend.

Spring 2015 Lectures

Alice Goffman23 January – On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City

  • Alice Goffman
  • UW-Madison, Sociology Department
  • Presented in partnership with: Institute for Research on Poverty, Institute for Legal Studies, & Sociology

Alice Goffman will discuss her six years documenting police violence and over-incarceration in a disadvantaged neighborhood in Philadelphia, the subject of her book "On the Run," which has received widespread attention and acclaim. This talk will take place 3:30 - 5pm at the H.F. DeLuca Forum, Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 330 N. Orchard Street. A reception will follow the talk.

Ian Baird6 February – Who is Indigenous? Politics, Activism, Geography, Indigeneity and Nature-Society Relations in Southeast Asia

  • Ian Baird
  • UW-Madison, Geography Department

Most people take for granted that it is relatively easy to determine who is indigenous and who is not. Indeed, in the Americas and Oceania, Indigenous peoples are generally considered to be the descendants of those who inhabited these spaces prior to white settler colonization. In Southeast Asia, however, there was plenty of European colonialism, but much less white settler colonization. This has made the question of “who is indigenous” much more difficult to answer, as both ethnic minority and majority populations are able to credibly claim that they are “indigenous” to where they live. Indicative of the contested nature of the issue, most of the governments in Southeast Asia stipulate that their populations are either virtually all Indigenous, or that there are no Indigenous peoples within their borders. Yet new globalized concepts of indigeneity are emerging and have begun to circulate, take hold, and hybridize within parts of Southeast Asia. Crucially, Indigenous peoples are now increasingly being conceptualized as “colonized peoples” rather than simply “first peoples”, thus partially uncoupling indigeneity from space. In this presentation, I consider the identity politics, activism and geographies of indigeneity in Southeast Asia, and their implications for nature-society relations and struggles over land and other natural resources.

Erik Steiner13 February – On the Intersection of Design and Research

  • Erik Steiner
  • Stanford, Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA)
  • Co-sponsored by the UW Center for the Humanities

The sciences and humanities - the two great branches of human inquiry - are divided by deep differences in their goals and methods, despite often sharing an interest in human nature. The reductionism of science conflicts with the speculative nature of the humanities, and the emotive essence of the humanities is at odds with the neutral tenor of the sciences. Geography as a borderland field shares an affinity to both modes of thought, and its sub-discipline of cartography can - but often fails - to help unify them, resting somewhat comfortably as a decorative craft for the technically-minded. This talk will explore the role of cartography and design more broadly in research - in both the digital humanities and natural sciences - through several examples drawn from our work at CESTA in the fields of ecology, planning, history, geography and literature.

Sarah Hobbie20 February – A Watershed Approach to Understanding Eutrophication of Urban Waters

  • Sarah Hobbie
  • University of Minnesota, Department of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior

Eutrophication — the degradation of water quality from nutrient-rich runoff — continues to impair the capacity for urban waters to provide clean drinking water, habitat to support biodiversity, food, and recreational and aesthetic opportunities.  Hobbie and colleagues are taking a watershed approach to understanding the sources of nutrients that are contributing to urban water pollution as well as quantifying the pathways by which nutrients move from land into urban waters.

Guido Cervone27 February – Geoinformatics approaches for environmental hazards damage assessment and renewable energy optimization

  • Guido Cervone
  • Penn State Unversity, Geography Department

For more than three centuries, the enterprise of science and specifically the testing of hypotheses has been undertaken through observation, theory, and experiment. Three decades ago, a new and fundamentally revolutionary method was introduced that has since then changed the scope of scientific inquiry: computation- and data-enabled research. This approach, known as CyberScience, has been transformative and will continue to change the way research is undertaken. CyberScience and more specifically geoinformatics algorithms are needed to analyze massive, dynamic, and geographically distributed spatiotemporal big data which are routinely generated through remote sensing instruments, numerical models and social media. New challenges arise from an unprecedented access to massive amounts of Earth science data that are quickly leading towards a data-rich but knowledge-poor environment.

In this talk I will discuss the use of geoinformatics to address two challenging scientific problems of high societal benefits: environmental hazards and sustainable energy. I will focus on the fusion of remote sensing and social media during emergencies, and in the optimization of atmospheric models for uncertainty estimation. Both these problems share the need to analyze massive amount of spatio-temporal data in near-real time using machine learning classification algorithms, evolutionary algorithms and spatial statistics.

Marianne Schmink13 March – Environmental Governance and the New Amazonian Frontier in São Felix do Xingu

  • Marianne Schmink
  • University of Florida, Latin American and Conservation Studies

Since the 1990s, the Amazonian municipality of São Felix do Xingu (SFX), Brazil, has received widespread media attention as one of Amazonia’s “new frontiers” of rapid deforestation, landgrabbing, violent land conflicts, and slave labor regimes overseen by organized groups of gunslingers at the service of large cattle ranch investors.  Through several waves of resource exploitation and in-migration beginning in the 1970s, deforestation of much of the extensive forests in SFX had given way by the 2000s to pastures supporting Brazil’s largest cattle herd, while population continued to grow exponentially.  In response, federal authorities acted decisively in the early 2000s with a series of environmental governance shocks. This exploratory study examined the perspectives of people in key groups of local producers (ranchers and small farmers) and of urban supporters (government, NGO, social movements, merchants), regarding the impact of the measures undertaken since 2006 in São Felix, and the sustainable development strategies currently being proposed by the municipal government and its partners. 

Mamata Akella20 March – Building Maps for Everyone: Experiences from the National Park Service

  • Mamata Akella
  • Colorado State University & U.S. National Park Service
  • Co-sponsored by the UW Center for the Humanities

The National Park Service cares for some of the most stunning landscapes and historically significant places in the United States. With 400+ park units and over 300 million visitors a year, digital products created by the National Park Service serve a wide audience and tell a variety of stories. Using emerging open source technologies, the NPMap team is creating a flexible set of mapping tools that can be used by all Park Service employees to share information with the public via web and mobile applications. This toolset eliminates the technical hurdles traditionally associated with building these applications, and, has accessibility, usability, and graphic identity guidelines built into its core. Our goal is simple:  empower Park Service employees to tell stories through digital media that can be shared with visitors of National Parks – and make it easy. This talk will cover, through example, exactly what it means to build digital products that can be used by every visitor of a National Park and how NPMap’s toolset is enabling the Park Service to more easily do so.

Josh Lepawsky17 April – TBA

  • Josh Lepawsky
  • Memorial University, Geography Departement



Jason Dittmer1 May – TBA

  • Jason Dittmer
  • University College- London



Cheryl Morse8 May – TBA

  • Cheryl Morse
  • University of Vermont
  • Treacy Lecture

Yi Fu Tuan lecture archive

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