University of Wisconsin–Madison

Yi-Fu Tuan Lecture Archive

Yi-Fu Tuan in a classroom

The 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 left) 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 2019 Lectures

January 25 - Deep Marx: Politics between Geology and Astronomy
Frederic Neyrat
UW - Madison

The more we take the geological dimension into consideration, the more we are expelled into the stars, toward the origins of the Earth some 4.5 million years ago. How might we consider this vertiginous temporality without losing touch with politics? I call Deep Marx the encounter between the deep temporality of the Earth diving into the universe and the necessity of a politics able to respond, without delay, to environmental damages produced by capitalism. In my talk, I’ll show how outer space could be taken into consideration through a politicization of the geological level: what geographer Nigel Clark calls “politics of strata” could give a practical form to the junction between the universe and the Earth, between deep space-time and a politics aiming at identifying the forms of expropriation that characterize the Anthropocene.

February 1 - Changing the Culture of Science: Role of Institutions, Professional Societies and Individuals
Erika Marin-Spiotta
UW - Madison

Despite decades of research on strategies to diversify academia and “fix the leaky pipeline” into STEM, most fields fail to reflect the diversity of the US population and inaccurate metaphors fail to capture the realities of people studying and working in traditional disciplines. Scholars of color write about experiencing chilly to hostile climates and a recent National Academy of Sciences report revealed the prevalence of sexual harassment in academia. These behaviors persist due to historical structures of power, continued marginalization of underrepresented groups, and inadequate policies and actions against misconduct. Here I discuss recent initiatives by professional societies and funding agencies to address harassment and other discriminatory practices. I highlight the role of partnerships for creating cultural and institutional change through the example of ADVANCEGeo, a collaboration to transform workplace climate in the geosciences through bystander intervention and research ethics training.

February 8 - Participatory Complex Systems Modeling for Environmental Planning: Opportunities and Barriers to Learning and Policy Innovation
Moira Zellner
University of Illinois - Chicago

Since 2011, Zellner’s team has studied the use of visualization tools in collaborative water planning efforts in northeast Illinois. The team set out to understand how such tools allow people who are planning for future water sustainability to see the hidden aspects of water flow and the effects of land- and water-use decisions on water supply and flooding, and how such visualization contributes to collective deliberation and innovation. The team has evolved a collaborative complex systems modeling approach, where stakeholders worked in small groups around different types of models—from highly abstracted models to geographically detailed models of land use, water use, and water dynamics—to recognize and assess the interactive impacts of different planning strategies. This talk focuses on the modeling and facilitation strategies that supported stakeholders' planning with an understanding of complexity.

February 15 - Spatial Prediction based on the Third Law of Geography
A-Xing Zhu
UW - Madison

Spatial Prediction is one of the most important spatial analytical tasks for geographers and anyone who conducted analysis related to phenomena of spatial variation because it provides the needed information on spatial variation with a discrete set of field observations. However, existing theories (the first Law of Geography and statistical theories) for spatial prediction require the set of samples to be of certain size with special distribution as well as the relationships extracted from the samples to be spatially stable (stationary). These requirements render existing techniques unsuitable for spatial prediction over large and complex geographic areas at high spatial resolution which is a norm for geographic analysis in this digital era. This talk presents a new theory (the Third Law of Geography) which does not require samples and the relationship from these samples to meet the stated requirements. Case studies suggest that the new theory will transform spatial prediction to meet the need of this new digital era.

February 22 - Million Dollar Hoods: Mapping the Fiscal and Human Cost of Mass Incarceration in Los Angeles
Kelly Lytle Hernandez

Los Angeles County operates the largest jail system in the United States, which incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth. At a cost of nearly $1 billion annually, more than 20,000 people are caged every night in L.A.’s county jails and city lockups. But not every neighborhood is equally impacted by L.A.’s massive jail system. In fact, L.A.’s nearly billion-dollar jail budget is largely committed to incarcerating many people from just a few neighborhoods. In some communities, more than one-million dollars is spent annually on incarceration. These are L.A.’s Million Dollar Hoods. Led by Prof. Kelly Lytle Hernandez, the Million Dollar Hoods (MDH) research team maps and monitors how much local authorities spend on locking up residents in L.A.’s Million Dollar Hoods. Led by Black and Brown women and driven by formerly-incarcerated persons as well as residents of Million Dollar Hoods, the MDH team also provides the only full and public account of the leading causes of arrest in Los Angeles, revealing that drug possession and DUIs are the top booking charges in L.A.’s Million Dollar Hoods. Collectively, this data counters the popular misunderstanding that incarceration advances public safety by removing violent and serious offenders from the streets. In fact, local authorities are investing millions in locking up the County’s most economically vulnerable, geographically isolated, and racially marginalized populations for drug and alcohol-related crimes. This talk provides an introduction to the Million Dollar Hoods project, method, and impact.

March 1 - Surface Water Distribution and Change in Northern Hemisphere Permafrost
Erin Trochim
University of Alaska - Fairbanks

The fate of surface water in permafrost regions is highly variable. We examined the presence, distribution and changes of surface water in all permafrost areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Leveraging the cloud-based platform Google Earth Engine and multiple global datasets including the Global Surface Water product, we found surface water covered 6% of all permafrost areas from 1984-2015. Water gain as land to water transitions at 7% was higher than water lost as water to land transitions made up 5%. Our work explores these results in lakes, rivers and small water bodies in relationship to permafrost characteristics.

March 8 - No, We Don’t Make Maps: The State Cartographer’s Office and Our Role in GIScience at UW-Madison and Beyond
Jim Lacy
Wisconsin State Cartographer's Office

Established in 1974 thanks to the foresight and perseverance of the legendary Arthur H. Robinson, the Wisconsin State Cartographer's Office (SCO) is a unique organization unlike any other in the country. Among our many duties, the SCO promotes the transfer of technologies and ideas developed by faculty and staff of the University of Wisconsin system. As such, our office is a prime example of the “Wisconsin Idea” at work. Join me as we take a journey through the years and discuss our role within the Department of Geography, our impact on student learning, and the services we provide to the Wisconsin geospatial community. I hope you leave the presentation knowing a bit more about all the interesting things happening in our little wing of Science Hall!

March 15 - The Environment as Freedom: Decolonizing Urban Property, Reimagining Justice
Malini Ranganathan
American University

In this talk I argue that the making of landed property is a vital yet neglected process driving urban environmental injustices. While critical urban scholars have typically studied property regimes and environmental inequality separately, the contribution of this research is to connect and mutually reinforce these two arenas and literatures. In so doing, I put forth a more intersectional and spatial framework for environmental justice. Drawing on over a decade of ethnographic and archival research on the political ecologies of water and land in Bangalore, India, I show that environmental injustices—too often framed as resulting from overpopulation, resource scarcity, or state incompetence—should be understood as rooted in projects of liberal empire, property, and difference. In colonial and postcolonial Bangalore, well-serviced residential property was carved up for the economic and cultural elite, leaving Dalits, Muslims, and other laboring classes to negotiate “unauthorized" or informal settlement. This has yielded poor water and sanitation, flooding, climate change risk, and eviction, as well as the further dehumanization and criminalization of minorities. Yet, the city’s privileged also manipulate law and use violence to assert their own property claims, much to the detriment of the city’s precarious ecologies and residents. Seizing on this contradiction, activists have reimagined justice in fundamentally rehumanizing terms, working both within and against the modern liberal state to demand “freedom” and ethical approaches to property and personhood. I conclude by reflecting on how and why the analytics of freedom, property, and decoloniality are theoretically significant for environmental justice scholarship in both postcolonial South Asia and North America. This lecture is Spring 2019's Treacy Lecture

March 29 - The Contested Production of State Land and Plantation Property in Laos
Miles Kenney-Lazar
National University of Singapore

Over the past two decades, the government of Laos has pursued an ambitious policy of economic development referred to as “Turning Land into Capital”. Mirroring global trends of land grabbing, the policy includes various forms of land commodification but is epitomized by the granting of long-term, large-scale land concessions to foreign enterprises for agribusiness, mining, hydropower, and infrastructure projects. Having granted 1.1 million hectares, or five percent of the national territory, government land concessions hinge on the category of “state land” that can be leased to private capital. Far from being intrinsic to a socialist state popularly understood to own all land within national borders, state land must be produced through a range of socio-material practices in advance of resource extraction projects, such as community consultation, land surveying, mapping, and land clearing (not necessarily in that order). Such practices inevitably encounter various forms of contestation when attempts to carve out “state land” run up against decades-old forms of customary land and resource use, access, and management. Mobilizing ethnographic research conducted in Southern Laos between 2013 and 2015, this presentation will highlight contested processes of producing state land for foreign agribusiness plantations in the borderlands populated by ethnic minority groups. It reflects upon how the production of private property is dependent on public forms of power that must be relationally produced vis-à-vis multiple and contested claims to land.

April 12 - GeoAnimalities
William Lynn
Clark University

The interpretive and ethical turns in scholarship helped transform geography. They contested the imperatives of positivism and opened conceptual space for alternative paradigms of knowledge such as humanism, feminism, and political economy. A third “animal turn” is underway with the emergence of animal studies as a new discipline (tradition of scholarship) alongside vibrant sub disciplines like animal geography. What might the animal turn mean for geography? The answer has ethical, theoretical, and practical implications.

April 19 - Geography and GIScience: An Evolving Relationship
Michael Goodchild
UC - Santa Barbara

GISystems have strong and longstanding roots in Geography, stemming from early developments in the 1960s and 1970s. But as the uses and sophistication of geospatial technology have grown and spread across virtually all areas of the academy, reducing Geography’s claim to ownership, that relationship to Geography has evolved in new directions. The critiques of the early 1990s have led to research into the societal context of GISystems that remains largely centered in Geography; techniques for the analysis of data embedded in space and time remain strongly associated with Geography; and rigorous principles have been discovered under the umbrella of GIScience that are widely recognized in Geography. Today new opportunities are being created by the growth of data science, by new sensors, and by new areas of application, suggesting that the relationship between Geography and GIScience will continue to evolve in interesting and exciting ways.

April 26 - Cartography, Art, and Activism: Gunpowder Mapping for Public Engagement
Matt Dooley
UW River Falls

Tangible, physical maps continue to play an important role in geography and contemporary cartography. They provide a platform for investigation, an outlet for creative expression, and help break down barriers to access. Tangible maps can encourage interactions between users and maps, and provide the opportunity for mapmakers to engage with a larger audience, and in some cases, help create open public platforms where multiple voices can be heard. In this talk, I examine the relevance of tangible maps that intersect the boundary of geography and fine art, and suggest that they can be used as a powerful, yet subtle, form of environmental and social activism. As an example, gunpowder mapping, which involves the ignition of gunpowder over paper, is considered in the context of environmental activism within the St. Croix watershed of western Wisconsin. This speaker was chosen by the UW Geography Undergraduates and is the inaugural Miriam Kerndt Lecture.

May 3 - Rethinking Globalization, Neoliberalism and the ‘Borderless World’ in the Time of Trump
Matt Sparke
UC - Santa Cruz

This talk examines the ways in which theories of globalization need to be rethought to come to terms with the remaking of international relations in the contemporary moment. It highlights how President Trump and other right-wing populist critics of ‘globalism’ and ‘global elites’ have continued for the most part to pursue the pro-business neoliberal policy norms that previously played such an integral role in both the cultural imagination and the material integration of globalization. The main exceptions such as trade policy, border policy and global environmental policy nevertheless demand close attention in order to disentangle the cultural shifts towards xenophobic, border-building hyper-nationalism from more complex and crisis-bound developments in preexisting practices on the ground. These developments are nevertheless real, and the challenges they have created for neoliberal business as usual in supply chain logistics, in border regions and in environmental resilience planning therefore provide useful prisms through which to re-evaluate the futures for globalization more generally.