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Joshua Hagen: professor, author and avid traveler

The Parthenon

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 00:12

Marshall University geography professor, Joshua Hagen, has recently made an international splash both physically and academically.  
Hagen joined Marshall in 2003 and in addition to his teaching, has found time to travel and produce various pieces of geographically based literature.  
“I have always been interested in traveling and going to different places trying to understand what makes them tick,” Hagen said.  “I’ve been noticing the differences from place to place but also the similarities and the connections between what is going on in one place and what is going on somewhere else.”

Hagen graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a double major in geography and political science and then went on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to receive his master’s and doctoral degrees.

Hagen said he has moved around quite a bit throughout his life, most recently spending a significant amount of time in Germany.  
After living in Germany off and on for nearly three years, Hagen said one of the biggest differences between he has noticed between Germany and the United States is the population and demographic structural variations.

“Germany and Europe in general have a much older population,” Hagen said.  “They have lower fertility rates than in the United States, similar to what we have with the aging of the baby boomer generation, but on a much larger scale.”

While in Germany, Hagen conducted his doctoral research and began prepping for upcoming book, “Building Nazi Germany: Place, Space, Architecture and Ideology.”  The book, under contract with Rowman & Littlefield, is being co-authored with University of Wisconsin-Madison geography professor, Robert Ostergren, and entails systematic examination of building programs implemented by the Nazi government.  
In the book, Hagen and Ostergren explore the motivations, means and results of the regimes wide-ranging plans to re-organize Germany’s cities in order to create a disciplined population and military-industrial infrastructure.

Hagen said his trips to Germany inspired him to write his forthcoming book.

“I was surprised as I traveled around and saw the amount of Nazi buildings that were still around,” Hagen said.  “Some were very prominent and had been transformed into museums or memorials but a lot of other buildings, like residential construction, had just blended into the overall landscape and looked like regular homes.”

In addition to his novel in progress, Hagen has also co-edited a mini book, “Borders: A Very Short Introduction,” with Alexander C. Diener, assistant professor of geography at Kansas University.

This specific book aims to challenge the perception of borders as passive lines on a map and instead counterpoint to the idea of an imminent borderless world, highlighting the influence boarders have on a range of issues.  
“Borders: A Very Short Introduction” is part of a series published by Oxford University Press designed to provide introductions to a variety of subjects ranging from business to religion, law to music, and history to philosophy.   
“They are designed and conceived to be accessible entry points into topics for people who either have very little time and need a quick introduction, for students, or for people who are curious readers,” Hagen said.  
Hagen said “Borders: A Very Short Introduction” is the most satisfying of his personal accomplishments.

Hagen was recently invited to share his thoughts on the relationship between geography and current events on the Oxford University Press’s blog.  
“It is interesting and rewarding to see that something you have invested three years of time on has been well-received and it is doing what you wanted it to do and finding its audience.”  
Hagen has also co-wrote another book with Alexander C. Diener titled, “Borderlines and Borderlands: Political Oddities at the Edge of the Nation-State,” which aims to generate interest in political geography and international relations.

Hagen said that his writing ability is, for the most part, a self-taught skill.

“I would not say it comes natural, but largely I have developed my writing skills from working on my own and through lots of revisions,” Hagen said.

Hagen said the flexibility of being able to teach while traveling and working on personal projects and research is what encouraged his decision to become a professor.  
“The more I thought about that interesting mix of activities and the flexibility to some extent set my own agenda, the more appealing teaching became,” Hagen said.

In addition to teaching and writing his third book, Hagen is currently under contract for a fourth upcoming book focused on the historical preservation of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

Katie Wise can be reached at

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