The Ohio State University at Newark

Madsen Helps Organize International Conference on Border Walls and Fences

Newark, OH - July 7, 2016 - In light of the upcoming presidential election, The Ohio State University at Newark Associate Professor of Geography Kenneth Madsen knows his area of research is very important for Americans and people around the world to understand. Madsen studies borders and bordering from the perspective of political and cultural geography. He recently helped organize an international conference on the topic which was held at the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada.

“Not only have border walls and fences become a hot topic in the U.S. presidential election - and therefore it is incumbent upon all of us to more fully understand the reality as well as the rhetoric surrounding them - they are increasingly a means for countries to interact, and sometimes not interact, with their neighbors,” said Madsen. “Studying border fences helps us better understand how countries relate to each other, as well as how neoliberalism promises greater openness, but also often delivers many restrictive measures. Border walls and fences are usually framed in terms of security, yet economic protectionism dominates their actual construction and placement. Combining these two ideas, they are also very much about ‘security protectionism’--ensuring one's own domestic security without addressing larger root problems such as poverty and political tensions, which means problems get bandaged over rather than addressed.”

The conference was called Borders, Walls and Violence: Costs and Alternatives to Border Fencing and was held in June. Madsen was a member of the scientific organizing committee, as well as a presenter, a discussant and a session chair. Madsen’s presentation was titled Conflict and Cooperation over Border Barrier Construction along the Tohono O’odham Reservation.

“I spoke about how power dynamics between local communities and the central government plays out in south central Arizona in the current relationship between the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation with its desires for indigenous sovereignty and U.S. federal government strategies for tighter border security through the construction of border barriers and increased policing efforts,” said Madsen. “Which entity ultimately controls placement, design and supporting infrastructure are crucial issues that unfold differently on tribal land than elsewhere. The case of the Tohono O’odham and the quasi-sovereign nature of the federally-recognized Native American tribes highlights the extent to which many local border communities straddle the divergent priorities of local jurisdiction and national hegemony and the role that indigenous sovereignty plays in this context.”

Madsen teaches courses in World Regional Geography; The Geography of North America; and Space, Power and Political Geography. Madsen has a Ph.D. in Geography from Arizona State University.

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