University of Wisconsin–Madison

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 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 2019 Lectures

September 13 - Land Reform and the Green New Deal
Levi Van Sant
Georgia Southern University

Proponents of the Green New Deal in the US argue that the government could simultaneously reduce inequality and the dangers of climate change with a range of measures aimed at shifting towards renewable energy sources. But at present very few of these proposals include significant attention to land reform or rural places in general, despite the fact that the politics of rural land was central to the original New Deal. This talk uses the little-known and short-lived case of the 1970s National Coalition for Land Reform, an effort to revive the radical potential of the original New Deal, to examine the possibilities for a national land reform movement today. Ultimately, I argue that land reform is not only necessary for a “just transition” but that it has the potential to connect, at least partially, the interests and desires of urban and rural communities, as well as indigenous peoples, white settlers, African diaspora communities, and (im)migrants. Such a task would not be simple or smooth, of course. Yet, as the neoliberalism originally forged in the 1970s faces its defining crisis in the present, looking back to the national land reform movement of that decade offers important lessons for efforts to build a Green New Deal today.

September 27 - Twenty-five Years of Forest Dynamics in Nepal
Jefferson Fox
East West Center

Since the 1980s, Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, has gained worldwide recognition for its successful community forestry program. Researchers, however, have not previously documented the spatially explicit impacts of this forest transition because topographic effects, e.g., shading, clouds, snow, and ice, have hindered remote-sensing imagery analysis. This multi-disciplinary research project built a comprehensive database of forest cover in Nepal between1992 and 2016, identified the biophysical and socioeconomic variables associated with change and quantified their respective influences, and assessed how community forestry and foreign labor migration and remittances affect forest cover change across the country.

October 4 - Spatial Social Network Analysis in GIS: A Case Study of the U.S. Mafia
Clio Andris
Georgia Tech University

Social network analysis is a powerful tool for learning about the dynamics of partnerships, relationships and interpersonal systems. Given that all social networks have an associated geography it follows that these networks should be modeled in geographic space as a spatial social network (SSN). If so, we can test for correlations between geographic features and social ties to examine how one affects the other, and describe new statistics for comparing networks over space and time. Here, I will discuss best practices for collecting and modeling SSN data, as well as new research questions for geographers. I use a case study of a geolocated social network of 680 members of the U.S. mafia. Connections between members represent ‘known associates’ found through a federal crime investigation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics in the 1960s. Each member is geolocated to a known household address across 15 major U.S.cities, and concentrated in New York City. Putting these data in a GIS environment uncovers new findings about the strategies of the members and families. While this case study is mostly descriptive, it also presents a number of research techniques that can be generalized to other types of spatially-embedded social networks.

October 11 - On the Origin of Sediment: Controls on Erosion and Weathering in Steep Mountains
Ken Ferrier
UW - Madison

The chemical and physical erosion of mountains help sustain life by creating soil, shaping topography, and modulating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Quantifying how chemical and physical erosion rates depend on climatic and tectonic forcings is thus vital for understanding Earth’s topographic and climatic evolution. Here I show that chemical erosion rate measurements reveal a stronger dependence on tectonic drivers than climatic drivers. I also discuss new model results showing distinct responses of chemical and physical erosion rates to climatic and tectonic perturbations, and describe their implications for feedbacks between climate, tectonics, and topography.

October 18 - Furrows Beneath the Forest: Ancestral Menominee Agriculture and the Future of MITW Food Sovereignty Initiative.
Bill Gartner
UW - Madison

Most academics and government agencies characterize ancestral Menominee peoples as hunter-gatherer-fishers. Archaeological excavations and soil analyses of relic raised fields on the Menominee Reservation, which are part of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s (MITW) Culture Camp initiative, indicate that ancestral Menominee peoples also planted fields maize, squash, and sunflowers by ca 850 AD. Ancestral Menominee peoples developed a sophisticated agroecological system centered on raised field agriculture and rotational agroforestry over the next millennium. Moreover, they did so through several periods of environmental change. The fur trade, settler colonialism, and the post-reservation political economy largely obliterated traditional food production by the 20th century. Today, the MITW seeks to produce local, healthy, and culturally appropriate foods by reviving and modernizing their traditional food production methods. The MITW hope to address selected tribal health issues, provide economic opportunity, enhance cultural revitalization efforts, and strengthen tribal sovereignty by reclaiming local control over the means and relations of food production.

November 1 - Trading Toxics in North America: Addressing Methodological and Conceptual Shortcomings in Current Explanation
Sarah Moore
UW - Madison

More than one million tons of hazardous waste are traded among Canada, Mexico, and the United States each year. In addition to managing a significant proportion of their own waste, all three North American countries are now net hazardous waste importers. In this paper, I present data and analysis that address a major methodological issue that hampers current explanation of this significant and potentially harmful trade: methodological nationalism. Data collection and analysis at the scale of the nation-state obscures the complex local dynamics of the trade, and its place-specific. I detail the work of a collaborative multi-year research project to overcome methodological challenges and provide novel understandings of the transnational hazardous waste trade and its implications for the localities involved.

November 8 - Residential Income Segregation and Commuting in a Latin American City
Monica Haddad
Iowa State University

In this case study I examine the relationship between residential income segregation and individual commuting time to work to understand spatial inequality in access to jobs in the Global South, and propose policy actions for enabling the urban poor to move out of poverty. Using a sub-region of the Belo Horizonte Metropolitan Region (BHMR), in Brazil as the study area, I address three main research objectives, covering the period from 2000 to 2010: 1) examining residential income segregation in the BHMR; 2) describing the spatial dynamics of changes in commuting pattern over time (2000 to 2010); and 3) understanding the relationship between commuting time to work, residential segregation, and other urban characteristics. My findings lead to pro-poor recommendations: expansion of the area devoted to a zoning category ‘Special Zone of Social Interest,’ and allocation of Transfer of Development Rights revenues to social housing.

November 15 - Understanding Landscape Response to Environmental Change at the Grassroots Level
Joe Mason
UW - Madison

To understand geomorphic response to changing climate, vegetation, or land use, we need to consider processes in the soil—literally at the grass roots in many of the landscapes I work in—and we need to look beyond short-term changes in water or nutrient supply to the effects of longer-term soil development. I will discuss two projects providing insight on the connections from environmental change through soils to landscape response. One project investigated change in soils as forest replaced tallgrass prairie over the past few thousand years in northwestern Minnesota. This vegetation change (largely driven by climate) has resulted in dramatic changes in soil morphology, which are near-complete even close to the 19th century vegetation boundary. We sought to estimate the timescale of this transformation using stable C isotope and radiocarbon analysis, with some interesting and enigmatic results. A new method for assessing microaggregate stability showed that it is much lower in soils under forest than in the grassland soils, which can help explain the morphological transformation after vegetation change, but also has significant implications for potential erosion if agriculture expands onto the forest soils as the present climate warms. The second project, in its early stages though informed by work over the past 20 years, also deals in part with effects of soil genesis under grassland on subsequent susceptibility to erosion, in this case in the loess tablelands and dune fields of the central Great Plains. We hypothesize that shallowly buried soils, formed during periods of relatively wet climate and limited aeolian activity, contribute to the persistence of loess tablelands in a semiarid region with intense rainfall, and to the relative stability of certain dunes that have apparently escaped episodes of widespread activation in the late Holocene.

November 22 - Programming a Carceral City
Brian J. Jefferson
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign

While US media has placed China’s digital surveillance apparatus under increasing scrutiny, its US origins of this apparatus remain virtually absent from these accounts. In addressing this deficiency, my talk explores the rise and expansion of real time crime datacenters in US cities over the past two decades. Focusing on New York City and Chicago, the talk highlights how these datacenters fuse logics of computer networking, security, and carceral governance into a distinct apparatus designed to manage devalued populations in cities. I also explore the limitations implicit to city efforts to program carceral urban spaces, and how these efforts constitute a unique terrain for resisting racial criminalization.

December 6 - How Maps Can Help Save the World: Visualizing SDG Indicators
Menno-Jan Kraak
University of Twente

The United Nations identified seventeen Sustainable Development Goals to collectively address the most pressing problems facing our world in relation to social, economic and environmental challenges. Each SDG has a set of targets and indicators to assess progress across countries. To achieve the goals, we need to understand each challenge and be able to monitor progress towards alleviating it. Well-designed maps and diagrams can assist in this process because they effectively reveal spatio-temporal patterns, such as deforestation, and the environmental and social challenges resulting from it. Maps can support decision-making by local and national authorities as well as promote public awareness of global issues to encourage these authorities to act. However, many of the maps and diagrams about the SDG indicators are produced without awareness of established cartographic design guidelines. Flawed and misleading designs often result. Problems also regularly originate from inappropriate data-handling, distracting base maps, inappropriate map elements, and the (mis)use of software defaults. In the presentation we will demonstrate these problems and discuss the challenges we face to avoid them.