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Oregon geographer to share new perspective on world issues

Geography is not just about learning the names of countries or states, but understanding how geographical arrangements, including geopolitical boundaries, affect our perspectives on ethnic, socioeconomic and environmental issues, according to geography professor Alexander B. Murphy of Oregon State University.

headshot of Alexander B. Murphy
Professor of geography Alexander B. Murphy of Oregon State University

Murphy will offer his insights on why geography is such an important discipline for understanding the world at 6 p.m. Monday in Bailey Rotunda D on the South Dakota State University campus. His presentation, “Coping with a Fast-changing World: Why Geography Matters,” is free and open to the public.  The event is part of the Virginia and J. Edward Holtry Distinguished Lecture series.

Murphy, who specializes in political, cultural and environmental geography with an emphasis on Europe and the Middle East, has traveled to more than 100 countries on six continents. He will ask the audience to think about world issues from a geographical perspective. “I will use lots of examples, richly illustrated with images, largely maps and photographs from my travels,” he said.

During his two-day visit to Brookings, Murphy will also give a lecture at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the South Dakota Art Museum Auditorium on “Territory’s Continuing Allure: Implications for the European Integration Project and Beyond.”

National Geographic describes Murphy as “at the forefront of the movement to combat geographical illiteracy in the United States.” He is senior vice-president of the American Geographical Society and a past-president of the Association of American Geographers, which honored him with a lifetime achievement award in 2014. His most recent book is “Geography: Why It Matters,” published in 2018.

“Geography helps us understand how the world is organized,” explained Murphy. “Political geographers, for example, ask about political patterns—how they came into being, what political patterns reflect and how political patterns shape how we think about the world and what we do.”

"We also need to understand that the political organization of space makes it difficult to confront important issues," he continued. "Dealing with environmental issues is not confined to geopolitical borders—air pollution, for instance, does not stay in one country.”

Furthermore, he said, “geographical study challenges the simplistic stereotypes we have about different people in different regions, such as the Middle East. Learning more about these places and people not only breaks down stereotypes, but also increases our understanding of the global society in which we live.”

For more information, contact the SDSU Department of Geography and Geospatial Sciences at 688-4511 or email Darrell Napton.