Yi-Fu Tuan Lecture Archive

Yi-Fu Tuan in a classroom

All lectures are presented fully online via Zoom every Friday at 3:30 PM. The link to join the meeting is https://uwmadison.zoom.us/j/99623736476 except when otherwise indicated. Brown bag sessions start at noon on the days there are speakers. Alumni, friends and the public are always invited to attend.


Fall 2018 Lectures

September 21 - Estimating Forest Resilience to Changing Fire Frequency in a Fire-Prone Region of Boreal Forest
Sarah Hart
UW - Madison

Future changes in climate are widely anticipated to increase fire frequency, particularly in boreal forests where extreme warming is expected to occur. Feedbacks between vegetation and fire may modify the direct effects of warming on fire activity and shape ecological responses to changing fire frequency. Here I present research, conducted with scientists from the University of Saskatchewan, that seeks to understand how feedbacks between vegetation and wildfire might modify the effects of high wildfire activity on the composition and age structure of North American boreal forests.

September 28 - Ice Sheet Modulation of Glacial Southwest Monsoon Rainfall
Tripti Bhattacharya
Syracuse University

Monsoons are critical features of the global hydrological cycle, yet our understanding of their dynamics is incomplete. I use proxy indicators of past monsoonal climates and general circulation model simulations to explore the processes that regulate the long- term evolution of these circulations. I focus on the North American Monsoon (NAM), an iconic feature of the Southwest climate that is the dominant source of rainfall for northwest Mexico and the American Southwest. Novel measurements of the isotopic composition of leaf waxes indicate a regional decrease in monsoon rainfall during the Last Glacial Maximum (21 ka BP), and show that the deglacial trajectory of the NAM closely tracks North American ice cover. GCM simulations reproduce this link between monsoon strength and ice volume, largely as a result of ice-sheet induced changes in the subtropical jet that 'ventilate' the monsoon by favoring the mixing of cold, dry air into the NAM region. This work coheres with a growing body of literature that highlights the role of mid- latitude circulations in altering the energetic environment for monsoon convection. It also shows that comparisons of the sensitivity of regional hydroclimates to large-scale forcings across proxies and models can provide unique insights into the dynamical drivers of climate change.

October 5 - Field Rhetoric: Ethnography, Ecology, and Engagement in the Places of Persuasion
Caroline Druschke
UW - Madison

In this talk, Dr. Druschke builds from fieldwork in Iowa and Wisconsin with farmers and agricultural landowners to explore the trope of "stewardship," its particular persuasive power in the midwestern US, and the grounded impacts of its force, especially on water quality throughout the Mississippi Basin. Taking the Greek notion of agôn, or productive struggle, as both subject matter and methodology, Druschke identifies material and symbolic points of tension in agricultural beliefs and practices, attending to the friction that emerges when universal commonplaces like "feeding the world" and "cheap food" enter the fray.

October 12 - 'A Worse Type of Slavery': Photographic Witnessing the Old Jim Crow
Steve Hoelscher
University of Texas - Austin

My presentation explores a crucial moment in the turbulent history of American race relations, when post-emancipation hopes for African American civic equality and economic independence were crushed by disenfranchisement, lynching, and a vast array of legal structures aimed at black suppression. Central to that white supremacist project was the South's notorious penal system that coerced incarcerated African Americans into a new form of state-sponsored slavery. Although widely accepted by whites as a natural and beneficial solution to a labor shortage, the forced use of African American prisoners for the hard and often fatal work of road building and other tasks after the Civil War did not go unchallenged. Among those critics was the radical, investigative journalist John L. Spivak, whose anti-racist work may have helped him earn the moniker "America's Greatest Reporter" from Time magazine, but who has been largely forgotten. Today, when the confluence of race and incarceration has resurfaced as a central national issue, it is essential to understand their historical antecedents, a point powerfully demonstrated in Michelle Alexander's important bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010) and the Equal Justice Initiative's recently opened legacy museum, From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. This presentation, as it examines the "Old Jim Crow", investigates one man's efforts to expose the atrocity of racially-based forced labor through the act of photographic witnessing.

October 19 - Whatever Happened to Uneven Development?
Jamie Peck
University of British Columbia

A condition of existence for economic spatiality itself, and an axiomatic principle for most political-economic geographers, "uneven development" has not really been a focus for active theorization or debate since the 1980s. Back then, the theoretical problematization of uneven development was prompted by two things, by the growing influence of radical political economy, and by the pervasive sense that the very gestalt of capitalism was undergoing transformative change. Both the world and our preferred theories of it have changed considerably in the intervening decades, yet with but a few rare exceptions there has been no reevaluation of the theoretical and methodological implications of uneven (and combined) development. Conceptually speaking, uneven development has become almost inert, a background condition, or a fleetingly acknowledged article of faith, when an argument could be made that it is needed more than ever. The presentation will make a case for the latter, not as a retro move but as a necessary maneuver in the conjunctural analysis of capitalist transformation.

October 26 - The Mapping of Riverscapes
Mark Fonstad
University of Oregon

Humans have populated and mapped riverscapes informally since the time of the earliest known cultures. The act of mapping riverscapes, as is true in all mapping, reflects the intentions of those doing the mapping, the tools available for the act of mapping, and the physical nature of the mapped space. In the past two decades, diverse perspectives on riverscape mapping have grown rapidly. Theorists are endeavoring to see rivers as complex spaces that include elements such as patches and boundaries rather than simple pipes defined by cross-sections. Disparate groups are voicing differing opinions on what aspects of riverscapes ought to be mapped and for what reasons. And a set of methodological revolutions is challenging existing views of rivers at many scales. This lecture will illuminate these themes with two quite different case examples: the international efforts to develop and use the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite to map river flows worldwide, and the bottom-up efforts to create tools to allow mapping of ecological habitats at high-resolution.

November 2 - Mapping the Emerging Global Higher Education & Research Landscape
Kris Olds
UW - Madison

This presentation examines key dimensions of the emerging global higher education & research landscape which, taken together, points to the 'denationalization' and 'desectoralization' of higher education. In particular, new authorities, and associated infrastructures and platforms, are helping to facilitate the harnessing of the higher education sector and institutions to serve a wider array of political-economic (vs cultural-political) objectives, often with very different temporal horizons. In such a context, what roles should relevant stakeholders and individuals play in understanding and shaping (if not governing) this emerging landscape?

November 9 - Elements of Visual Complexity in Geospatial Information Displays
Arzu Coltekin
University of Zurich

Geospatial information displays --whether in the form of static or interactive maps, three-dimensional virtual cities, or fully immersive virtual environments-- are ubiquitous in science, businesses and in everyday life. In this talk, we discuss their complexity from perspectives of technology, design and human factors; and present various observations from our empirical controlled lab studies.

November 16 - Citizen-Led Walking and Cycling Infrastructures and Just Transportation Futures
Denver Nixon
Oxford University

In this talk I will discuss grassroots walking and cycling infrastructural innovations in London and São Paulo and their potential to embody a more socially just alternative, or complement, to mainstream infrastructural interventions. Mainstream attempts to resolve transport sustainability challenges and inequalities in the distribution of mobility often involve changes in physical infrastructures that are predicated upon dominant conceptions of justice, such as the rights of individuals or universal principles of fairness. These may, however, ignore the importance of the 'soft' dimensions of infrastructure, such as social networks and processes, and the weaknesses associated with popular notions of justice, such as the paradox of freedom, the top-down imposition of rules that are not open for debate, or limited spatio-temporal frameworks. We discuss findings from research on community-led initiatives aimed to render active transport more feasible and attractive for disadvantaged communities. Examples of these 'grassroots innovations' include cycle repair workshops for refugees, do-it-yourself and do-it-together crosswalk and bike lane painting, or collective walking activities for women and gender variant people in low-income and culturally diverse communities. We argue that these initiatives may offer particularly just sustainable transport infrastructures because of their unique spatial and temporal practices whereby: (a) their small size and interpersonal nature sensitizes them to the intersecting disadvantages faced by all who participate in them, and (b) their extemporaneous and experimental modus operandi facilitates ongoing adaptations and collective decisions on what is just in any particular moment.

November 30 - The Neighbor Who Might Kill You: Encounter and Difference in Turkey
Anna Secor
University of Kentucky

How does sectarian (Sunni-Alevi) difference emerge and come to matter in the polarizing political environment of Turkey? Countering portrayals of sectarian differences as timeless and placeless, we show how difference is embodied and localized in affective and ethical encounters with others. Traversing the sites of everyday urban life, we analyze how encounters create openings for receptive ethical engagement at the same time as they frequently collapse into anxious antagonisms that exacerbate the precarity of marginal populations. While political theory has focused on the stranger or the foreigner as the basis of ethics in pluralist democracies, our project rethinks the politics of difference through the figure of the neighbor and the spaces of neighborhoods in Turkey. Based on extensive fieldwork in three Turkish cities from 2013-2016, our work shows how encounters between neighbors both (re)produce Alevi precarity in a Sunni-dominated society and reconfigure such relations. Our aim is to contribute a new understanding of the ethics of encounter, situated in relation to the neighbor, as a resource for cohabitating in a world of difference.

December 7 - Beyond Indigeneity? Rights, Governance, and Comunalidad in Oaxaca, Mexico
Joe Bryan
University of Colorado - Boulder

Indigenous peoples in Mexico find themselves at an uneasy crossroads. The newly elected administration of President Manuel Lopez Obrador promises a new level of indigenous representation and inclusion within the state. At the same time, unease and critical discomfort with the term indigeneity is strong in communities, ranging from a reluctance to identify with the term to its outright refusal. This talk strings together a series of those sites, drawing from ongoing, collaborative work done by members of SURCO, a Oaxaca-based autonomous study group. Each site visited in the talk interrogates different aspects of indigeneity, situating the term historically and geographically by way of opening it up to critique and alternatives.

December 14 - Indeterminate Natures: Ice, Race, and Indigeneity in Alaska and the Arctic
Jen Rose Smith
University of California - Berkeley

This talk will trace a racial history of ice. I will demonstrate how ice is a non-conforming geography: as a milieu that morphs, melts, freezes, and moves, and is a materiality that troubles the categorization of land and sea. Moreover, I will show how ice and Arctic climate have shaped conceptualizations of race and indigeneity through geological and anthropological sciences and have been concretized in law. I will argue that ice as an imaginary and material terrain has enabled unprecedented forms of dispossession in Arctic regions, and ultimately leave Alaska Natives in a precarious political position—particularly in the time of climate change. This talk is co-hosted by the American Indian Studies Program.