Alexander Diener

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Geography and Atmospheric Science
Associate Professor
Primary office:
Lindley Hall
Room 413A
University of Kansas
1475 Jayhawk Boulevard
Lawrence, KS 66045


Alexander C. Diener is an Associate 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 being named Senior Scholar 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, Asian Studies, and Environmental Studies.

Throughout his career Alex has worked at the nexus of political, social, and cultural geography, engaging topics such as geopolitics and borders, identity and migration, citizenship, and urban landscape change. He possesses area studies expertise in Central Eurasia (the Central Asian states, Russian Borderlands, Islamic Borderlands) and Northeast Asia (Mongolia and Russian Borderlands). He has authored or co-authored three books, co-edited three books, and published in a variety of disciplinary 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 is the founder of the student undergraduate journal Global Tides at Pepperdine University and has served a board member for several international academic organizations and granting agencies. He recently held a Title VIII Short Term Fellowship at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars (2015) and was named Senior Fellow in Eurasian Studies at the Davis Center of Harvard University (2015-2016).


My teaching philosophy works in conjunction with my research endeavors by embracing an interdisciplinary approach. I encourage students to explore questions from a variety of perspectives and compel them to recognize 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. 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 truth, and to inspire its 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' a sense of responsibility for the world.

Teaching Interests

  • Political geography
  • Cultural Geography
  • Social Geography
  • Urban Geography
  • Geopolitics
  • International Relations
  • Geographies of Islam
  • Social theory
  • Border Studies
  • Peace Studies
  • Transnationalism and Diaspora Studies
  • Central Asia
  • Mongolia
  • Russian Borderlands
  • Chinese Borderlands


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 an essential element of human ontology. I engage with the people/place bond as it manifests 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 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 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

  • Political Geography
  • Social Geography
  • Cultural Geography
  • International Relations
  • Geographic and Social Theory
  • Urban geography
  • Economic Geography
  • Geopolitics
  • Historical geography
  • Peace Studies
  • Development Studies
  • Area Studies Foci
  • Central Eurasia
  • Northeast Asia
  • Central Asian States
  • Mongolia
  • Islamic Borderlands
  • Russian Borderlands
  • Specific Interests
  • Border Studies
  • Geographies of Nationalism & Transnationalism
  • Mobilities and Immobilities
  • Migration
  • Citizenship
  • Geographies of Islam
  • Processes and Consequences of Territorialization
  • Urban Landscape Change
  • Justice, Ethics, and Geographies of Belonging
  • Religion and State Relations
  • Place Attachment


Affiliations with:

Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

Center for Asian Studies

Environmental Studies Program

Selected Publications

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2018). The Political Sociology and Geography of Borders. In W. Outhwaite & S. Turner (Eds.), Sage Handbook in Political Sociology (pp. 330-346). California: Sage Publishers.

Diener, A. C. (2017). Re-Scaling Citizenship: From Polis to Empire to State Formation and Beyond. In R. Bauböck, I. Bloemraad, & M. Vink (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Citizenship (pp. 36-59). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Diener, A. C. (2017). Parsing Mobilities in Central Eurasia: Border Management and New Silk Roads . In M. Laruelle (Ed.), The Central Asia-Afghanistan Relation from Soviet Intervention to the US Silk Road Initiative . Lexington Books.

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2017). Changing Modalities of Power in the 21st Century . In C. Günay & N. Witjes (Eds.), Borders: (Re)Defining Spaces of Power Relations (pp. 15-32). Springer Publishers.

Diener, A. C. (2016). Soviet Etchings on the Post-Soviet Parchment: The Past and Present of Mobility and Migration. In T. Holland & M. Derrick (Eds.), Questioning Post-Soviet (pp. 55-74). Washington DC: Wilson Center Press.

Diener, A. C. (2016). Kazakhs. In J. Stone, P. Rizova, A. Smith, D. Rutlege, & X. Huo (Eds.), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism. Wiley/Blackwell.

Diener, A. C. (2016). Imagining Kazakhstani-stan: Negotiations of Homeland and Titular Nationality. In M. Laruelle & . (Eds.), Kazakhstan in the Making: Legitimacy, Symbols, and Social Changes (pp. 131-154). London: M.E. Sharpe.

Diener, A. C. (2016). Landlocked States. In D. Richardson (Ed.), The Wiley-AAG International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology. . Wiley/Blackwell .

Charron, A. L., & Diener, A. C. (2016). Political Geography, New Regionalism, and Re-scaling Identity. SAIS Review, 35(2), 13-20.

Diener, A. C. (2015). Parsing Mobilities in Central Eurasia: Border Management and New Silk Roads. Eurasian Geography and Economics. DOI:10.1080/15387216.2015.1078736

Diener, A. C., & Artman, V. (2015). Religion and the State. In R. Segal & K. Von Stuckrad (Eds.), Vocabulary for the Study of Religion . Brill.

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2015). 境界から世界を見る――ボーダースタディーズ入門 Borders: A Very Short Introduction (F. Kawakubo, Ed.). Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten Publishers . 205.

Diener, A. C. (2015). Assessing Potential Russian Irredentism and Separatism in Kazakhstan’s Northern Oblasts. Eurasian Geography and Economics. DOI:10.1080/15387216.2015.1103660

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2015). Oxford University Press - Very Short Introductions . Preface for Japanese Language Version of Borders: Very Short Introduction, Borders: Very Short Introduction.

Diener, A. C. & Hagen, J. (Eds.). (2014). Taylor and Francis Special Issues as Books. From Socialist to Post Socialist Cities: Cultural Politics of Architecture, Urban Planning, and Identity in Eurasia. Routledge. Routledge.

Diener, A. C. (2014). Russian Repositioning: Mobilities and the Eurasian Regional Concept. In W. Susan & J. Corey (Eds.), Corridor of Interconnections: Eurasia from the South China to the Caspian Sea (pp. 72-109). London: Routledge.

Diener, A. C. (2014). [Review of Globalizing Central Asia: Geopolitics and the Challenges of Economic Development, Marlene Laruelle and Sebastien Peyrouse]. Geographical Review M.E. Shapre.

Diener, A. C. (2014). [Review of Central Asia in International Relations: The Legacies of Halford Mackinder, Eds. Nick Megoran and Sevara Sharapova London: Hurst and Co. Publishers 2013]. Central Asian Survey Taylor and Francis.

Diener, A. C. (2013). Borders Today: Interrogating their Strategic Fabrications and Asymmetries of Power [Review Essay Bordering and Ordering the Twenty-first Century , Gabriel Pepescu’s]. Dialogues in Human Geography, 1-3.

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2013). City of Concrete and Felt: Negotiating Cultural Hybridity in Mongolia's Capital of Ulaanbaatar. Nationalities Papers.

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2013). From Socialist to Post-Socialist Cities: Narrating the Nation through Urban Space. Nationalities Papers.

Diener, A. C. & Hagen, J. (Eds.). (2013). From Socialist to Post-Socialist Cities: Narrating the Nation through Urban Space . Nationalities Papers .

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2012). A Very Short Introduction to Borders , New York and London: Oxford University Press. 137.

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2012). Who Owns the Parcel, Spratley and Senkaku Islands?. Oxford University Press Blog

Diener, A. C. (2011). The Borderland Existence of Mongolia’s Kazakhs: Boundaries and the Construction of Territorial Belonging. In D. Wastl-Walter (Ed.), Research Companion to Border Studies (pp. 373-393). London: Ashgate.

Diener, A. C. (2011). Will New Mobilities Beget New (Im)Mobilities?: Prospects for Change Resulting from Mongolia’s Trans-State Highway. In S. Brunn (Ed.), Engineering Earth: The Impact of Mega Projects (pp. 627-642). Kluwer/Springer Press.

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2011). Kaliningrad's Past, Present, and Future: Russian and E.U. Perspectives on the Geopolitics of Exclave and Enclave. Eurasian Geography and Economics , 52(4), 567-592.

Diener, A. C. (2011). [Review of Seeking Asylum: Human Smuggling and Bureaucracy at the Border, Alison Mountz]. Professional Geographer University of Minnesota Press 2010.

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2010). Russia’s Kaliningrad Exclave: Discontinuity as Threat to Sovereignty. In A. C. Diener & J. Hagen (Eds.), Borderlines and Borderlands: Political Oddities at the Edge of the Nation State (pp. 121-136). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Diener, A. C. (2010). Borderlines and Borderlands: Political Oddities at the Edge of the Nation State (A. C. Diener & J. Hagen, Eds.). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers . 264.

Diener, A. C. (2009). One Homeland or Two?: Nationalization and Transnationalization of Mongolia’s Kazakhs, Palo Alto, CA and Washington DC: Stanford University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press . 405.

Diener, A. C. (2009). Diasporic Stances: Comparing the Historical Geographic Antecedents of German and Korean Migration Decisions in Kazakhstan. Geopolitics, 14(3), 462-487.

Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2009). Theorizing Borders in a Borderless World: Globalization, Mobility and Scale. Geography Compass , 3(3), 1196-1216.

Diener, A. C., & Crawford, T. (2008). Democracy, Civil Society and the Damage Limitation Component of Strategy. In P. R. Viotti, M. Opheim, & N. Bowen (Eds.), Terrorism and Homeland Security: Thinking Strategically About Policy (pp. 191-206). CRC Press .

Diener, A. C. (2008). Settlement of the Returning Kazakh Diaspora: Practicality, Choice, and the Nationalization of Social Space. In C. Buckley & B. Ruble (Eds.), Migration, Homeland, and Belonging in Eurasia (pp. 265-304). Woodrow Wilson Press.

Diener, A. C. (2008). Diasporic and Transnational Social Practices in Central Asia. Geography Compass, 2(2), 956-978.

Diener, A. C. (2007). Negotiating Territorial Belonging: A Transnational Field Approach to Mongolia’s Kazakhs. Geopolitics, 12(3), 459-487.

Diener, A. C. (2007). Transnationalism and Minority Territorialization in Kazakhstan. International Journal of Central Asian Studies, 11, 86-102.

Diener, A. C. (2007). [Review of Central Asia and the Caucasus: Transnationalism and Diaspora, eds. Touraj Atabaki and Sanjyot Mehendale 2005 ]. Central Asian Survey

Diener, A. C. (2007). Koreans and Germans of Kazakhstan: A Comparative Study of Belonging. Korean Studies , 4-16.

Diener, A. C. (2006). Homeland as Social Construct: Territorialization among Germans and Koreans in Kazakhstan. Nationalities Papers, 34(2), 201-236.

Diener, A. C. (2006). [Review of Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in Mongolia, Louisa Waugh, London: Abacus 2003 ]. Mongolian Studies

Diener, A. C. (2005). Mongols, Kazakhs, and Mongolian Territorial Identity: Trajectories of Nationalization. Central Eurasian Studies Review, 3-4(1), 18-25.

Diener, A. C. (2005). Problematic Integration of Mongolian-Kazakh Return-Migrants in Kazakhstan . Eurasian Geography and Economics, 6, 465-478.

Diener, A. C. (2005). [Review of The Mongols at China’s Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity, New York: Rowman and Littlefield 2002 , Uradyn Bulag]. H-Net

Diener, A. C. (2005). Kazakhstan’s Kin-State Diaspora: Settlement Planning and the Oralman Dilemma. Europe Asia Studies, 57(2), 327-348.

Diener, A. C. (2005). Research among Mongolia’s Kazakhs: Brief Reflections on Data Collection and Community Access. Mongol Survey , 15, 14-18.

Diener, A. C. (2004). Homeland Conceptions and Ethnic Integration among Kazakhstan's Germans and Koreans , Lampeter UK: Edwin Mellen Press. 180.

Diener, A. C. (2004). [Review of Central Asia: Aspects of Transition, Tom Everett-Heath, London: RoutledgeCurzon 2003 ]. Journal of Asian Studies

Diener, A. C. (2002). National Territory and the Reconstruction of History in Kazakhstan. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 8, 632-647.

Selected Presentations

Selected Grants

Department of Geography and Atmospheric Science Events
2019 GPRM-AAG Annual Meeting