Alexander Diener

Headshot of Alexander Diener
  • Professor

Contact Info

Office Phone:
Lindley Hall, room #413A


Alexander C. Diener is a Professor of Geography at the University of Kansas. After earning his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Alex was a Title VIII Research Fellow at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center. He then taught at Pepperdine University before becoming Senior Fellow in Eurasian Studies at George Washington University (2010-2011) and Regional Research Fulbright Scholar in Central Asia (2011-2012). In 2012 Alex joined the faculty of the Department of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Kansas, where he is also affiliated faculty with the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, Center for East Asian Studies, Center for Migration Research, and Environmental Studies.

Throughout his career Alex has worked at the nexus of political, social, economic, and cultural geography, engaging topics such as geopolitics and borders, identity and migration, citizenship, development and mobility, and urban landscape change. He possesses area studies expertise in Central Eurasia (the Central Asian states, Russian Borderlands, Islamic Borderlands) and Northeast Asia (Mongolia, Chinese and Russian Borderlands). He has authored or co-authored three books, co-edited four books, and published in a variety of disciplinary, thematic, and area-studies academic journals. Over the course of his career Alex has garnered a number of teaching accolades including the 2006 SSRC Teaching Fellowship. Alex founded the undergraduate research journal Global Tides at Pepperdine University and has served as a board member for several international academic organizations and granting agencies. In 2015, he held a Title VIII Short Term Fellowship at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and was named Senior Fellow in Eurasian Studies at the Davis Center of Harvard University (2015-2016).


Geography, University of Wisconsin, 2003, Madison, WI
International Relations and Comparative Politics, University of Chicago, 1994, Chicago, IL
Political Geography, University of South Carolina, 1995, Columbia, SC
International Studies, Pepperdine University, 1991, Malibu, CA


I characterize myself as a broadly trained human geographer with theoretical interests bridging the social sciences and humanities. At its core, my work explores the relationship between identity and place as foundational to the human condition. I engage with the people/place bond manifesting within processes of peace, conflict, and development. Possessing an area studies specialization in Central Eurasia and Northeast Asia, I have contributed to interdisciplinary scholarly discourses relating to geopolitics and borders, human mobility and immobility, environment/social justice, cultural hybridity, diaspora/transnationalism, and the impact of urban landscape change on community, self, and personhood. Since receiving my PhD, I have undertaken an ambitious research agenda that engages, applies, and critiques a range of social theory. Extensive fieldwork employing a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods in the Central Asian states, Mongolia, and both Russian and Islamic borderlands provides the empirical data for this work.

Research interests:

  • Processes and Consequences of Territorialization & Place Attachment
  • Geopolitics & Border Studies
  • Migration & Diaspora Studies
  • Geographies of Nationalism & Transnationalism
  • Justice, Ethics, & Geographies of Citizenship
  • Urban Landscape Change
  • Mongolia & Northeast Asia
  • Islamic & Russian Borderlands,
  • Central Eurasia/Greater Middle East


My teaching philosophy and research endeavors to embody an interdisciplinary approach, wherein I encourage students to explore questions from a variety of perspectives and compel their recognizing the interconnectedness of political, economic, social, cultural, and natural processes and phenomena. I want students to not only ask 'what' and 'where' something is occurring, but 'why', and then critically evaluate what they see, read, and hear. In many ways, I see myself less as a teacher and more as a facilitator. Clearly the communication of content is essential, as students must gain command of a canon of knowledge in order to effectively participate in discussions relating to specific topics. For that knowledge to be firmly set and readily usable, however, it must be applied during the learning process in a personalized field of inquiry. As such, my courses require active engagement with real world problems in a manner that is designed to lead students to their respective paths of purpose, service, and leadership. I became an academic in order to communicate to students the beauty of knowledge-seeking, and to inspire this pursuit amidst the world's infinite complexity. I want students to develop a passion for learning and to embrace the vibrancy of a 'life of the mind'. In essence, I want students to see that awareness is better than a lack of awareness. For this to be true, however, it is imperative that enlightened values influence the world in which we live. I encourage students to consider possibilities for progress and then call for them to challenge the very notion of 'progress' - not only in instrumental or functionalist terms but also in moral and ethical terms. Through this process, I hope to combat complacency and cultivate students' sense of responsibility for the world.