Robert J. Kaiser

Position title: Professor


Department of Geography
University of Wisconsin-Madison
430 Science Hall 550 North Park Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1404 USA


PhD (Geography), Columbia University, May 1988


Political events, identification and differentiation, performativity, borderlands, political and cultural geography, geopolitics


My research interests are primarily at the intersection of cultural and political geographies, and I’m especially interested in the articulation among power, place and identity.

Within this general area, I have developed research projects that explore the geographies of nationalism, the cultural politics of memory and memoryscapes, and borderlands as spaces of becoming.

More recently, I have become interested in performative approaches to understand how place-identities are stabilized and destabilized. As part of this research I have applied performativity to the politics of scale, and have also explored the ‘border effects’ that are discursively produced in the formation of place-identities.

Much of the empirical research that I have done has focused on post-socialist space.


Currently, I have taken up research into political events, using a Deleuzian approach to learning from events in the midst of their unfolding. I’ve applied this approach to ‘re-assembling’ a political event that happened in Estonia in 2007.

Beyond this, I’ve been continuing working with performativity in order to investigate statelessness (generally and in the context of Estonia’s stateless population), and to study how events of 2007 in Estonia have newly determined the conditions of this problem. I’m particularly interested in the stateless population that has rejected pathways to citizenship in favor of remaining or becoming stateless, and the implications of this fracture in the nation-state system.

Most recently, I have taken up a critical geopolitical study of the birth of cyberwar – another consequence of the 2007 events – and the role that the site and situation of cyberwar’s initial emergence have played on the ways in which it has been stabilized and institutionalized over the past 5 years.

In Fall 2012 I am just beginning to explore the Hong Kong – Shenzhen borderlands, and the ways in which transborder movements of people are affecting identity politics on both sides of the border.


Geography 101: Introduction to Human Geography: Global Patterns and Processes
Geography 318: Introduction to Geopolitics
Geography 353: Geographies of Transition in Post-Socialist Space.
Geography 518: Advanced Political Geography: Power, Place, Identity
Geography 553: Eastern Europe and the FSU: Problems in Human Geography.
Geography 918: Seminar in Political Geography


The Russians as the New Minority in the Soviet Successor States, co-authored with Jeff Chinn. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996.

The Geography of Nationalism in Russia and the USSR. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Refereed Articles, Book Chapters
“The Birth of Cyberwar,” Political Geography. 46 (2015) 11-20.

“Performativity, Events and Becoming-Stateless,” in R. Rose-Redwood and M. Glass (eds), Performativity, Politics and the Production of Social Space. New York and London: Routledge, forthcoming.

“Reassembling the Event: Estonia’s Bronze Night.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2012 (forthcoming).

“Performativity and the Eventfulness of Bordering Practices,” in T Wilson and H Donnan (eds), A Companion to Border Studies. Malden, MA and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

“Homeland/Motherland/Fatherland.” International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Elsevier (2009).

“The Performativity of Scale: The Social Construction of Scale Effects in Narva, Estonia.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, vol. 26 (2008): 537-562. Co-authored with E. Nikiforova.

“Borderland Spaces of Identification and Dis/location: Multiscalar Narratives and Enactments of Seto Identity and Place in the Estonian – Russian Borderlands,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 29, no. 5 (September 2006): 928-58. Co-authored with Elena Nikiforova.

“Homeland Making and the Territorialization of National Identity.” In Ethnonationalism in the Contemporary World, edited by Daniele Conversi. London and NY: Routledge, 2002.

“Geography,” The Encyclopedia of Nationalism, volume 1, pp. 315-33. San Diego: Academic Press, 2001.


Leon Epstein Faculty Fellow Award, College of Letters and Science, University of Wisconsin – Madison, July 2012-June 2015.

Estonia and the Birth of Cyberwar. Visiting Fellowship, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, September 2012-May 2013.

Political Events and Spaces of Affect (with Keith Woodward, J.D. Dewsbury, and M. Fannin), British Council Connect Award and WUN seed-grant, 2011-12. International Institute Faculty Contribution Award, UW-Madison, 2009.

The Eventfulness of Bordering Processes: The Case of the Bronze Soldier Statue in Estonia, NSF SGER Grant, August 15, 2007-August 15, 2008.

The Cultural Politics of Scale and the Rescaling of Place and Identity in the Estonian-Russian Borderlands. International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) Individual Advanced Research Opportunities (IARO) Program Fellowship, October 1-December 1, 2004.

The Politics of Scale and the Rescaling of Identity in the Estonian-Russian Borderlands. ACTR-ACCELS Research Scholarship, June 1-July 31, 2003 and May 15-July 15, 2004.

Building an International Collaborative Network of Geographers and Related Specialists: The US and the Southern Tier of Post-Socialist States. National Science Foundation grant, October 2002 to February 2005.

Cultural and Historical Representations of Homeland: Border Narratives, Border Identities and the Transnational Question in the Former USSR. Vilas Associates Research Fellowship, July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2002.


Ruth Trumble (PhD)
Allen Xiao (PhD)
Sarah Bennett (PhD)
Neslihan Atatimur (PhD)

Adam Moore. 2010. Ethno-Territoriality and Intervention In Two Bosnian Towns.
Reece Jones. 2008. The Margins of Modernity: Everyday Life in the Borderlands of India and Bangladesh.
Kimberly Coulter. 2007. Visions of “Unity in Diversity”: Territorial Appeals in Contemporary German Filmmaking.
Alexander Diener. 2003. One Homeland or Two?: Territorialization of Identity and the Repatriation Decision of the Mongolian-Kazakh Diaspora.

Sarah Bennett. 2011. Russia’s Past and Present in Animated Cartoons: A Sway Space Geography of Affect in Film-Watching. (Geog MS)
Marigold Norman. 2011. Decontaminating memory: governmentality, networks and relational enactment through policy development at the Badger Army Ammunitions Plant. (Geog MS)
Maarja Saar. 2010. Reconfiguring nation and diaspora: self-identifying Estonians in Estonia as diaspora. (Geog MS)
Cathrine Lehrer-Brey. 2007. Disaster, Recovery and the Voices of the Excluded: A Case-Study of New Orleans. (Geog MS).
Christopher Luebke. 2005. ASEAN and Displacement: The Politics of Scale across the Thai-Myanmar Border. (Geog MS).
Shonin Anacker. 2004. Star of the Steppe: Geographies of Power in Astana. (CREECA MA).
Reece Jones. 2004. Religion and Homeland in Bengal: A Territorial Interpretation of Religious Nationalism. (Geog MS).
Karie Pieczynski. 2003. The Voice of the Aul: Symbolic Sovereignty and National Consciousness at the Local Scale. (CREECA MA).
Matthew Springer. 2003. Geopolitical Representations of Iran in the United States since the Hostage Crisis: The Effect of Negative Imagery on America’s Caspian Basin Energy Policy. (Geog MS)
Paul Dziemela. 1999. The Census and the Institutionalization of Border Identities: A Reevaluation of “Local” Identity in Interwar Polish Censuses. (Geog MS)


Chair, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin – Madison (Fall 2009 – Summer 2012)
Director, Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia (CREECA), University of Wisconsin – Madison (Fall 2001 – Summer 2004)
Chair, Russia, Central Eurasia and Eastern Europe (RCEEE) Specialty Group, Assoc. of American Geographers (July 2000 – April 2003)