Graduate Students

Portrait (head shot photo)
Ariel Otruba
Advisor: Richard Schroeder
Degree: Ph.D.
Research Interests: feminist geopolitics, critical geopolitics, violent geographies, border studies, Eastern Europe & Eurasia (post-Soviet space), conflict resolution, postcolonial/decolonial geographies



My research examines the "borderization" of the disputed territory, South Ossetia, by the Russian FSB following the August 2008 war, and its impact on the in/security of Georgian border dwellers. I use ethnographic methods to capture narratives, which exemplify the the embodied, lived geopolitics of borderization as a violent geography. I conceptualize borderization as an instrument of political leverage, constituted through the competition of sovereign imaginaries and revanchisms. The incremental and fragmented installation of border infrastructure has produced an uncertain and elastic border geography.

I focus on two dimensions of this issue. First, I analyze how the ambiguity of unmarked areas sows insecurity for residents, whose livelihoods depend on traversing the forests, dales, and orchards bisected by "borderization." An emphasis on the restricted freedom of movement reveals that men are disproportionately at risk of arbitrary detention for "illegally crossing the border." Bodies become extensions of the coercive politics of the border regime. Second, this supposed "creeping" border has created a dynamic of abandonment and enclosure, which has produced a neitherland, i.e. a type of zone of abandonment, for residents of adjacent "conflict affected communities." These conditions are transformed into an affective geopolitics, which is used to strengthen Georgia's position in international affairs.

Previous Degrees:

  • B.A., Peace and Conflict Studies, Juniata College
  • M.A., International Peace and Conflict Resolution, Arcadia University


  • Isaacs, J.R. & Otruba, A. (Under review). Guest Introduction: More-Than-Human Contact Zones. In Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.
  • Otruba, A. (Book Chapter in Preparation). No (Wo)man’s Land: Risking Detention Along the South Ossetian Administrative Boundary Line. In Diener, A.C. & Hagen, J. (Eds.), Invisible Borders in Very Bordered World: Geographies of Power, Mobility, and Belonging.


  • Instructor: Eastern Europe and Eurasia [Spring 2019, Spring 2018, Spring 2017, Spring 2016]
  • Instructor: Political Geography [Fall 2017]
  • Instructor: World Cultural Regions [Spring 2014 and Fall 2014]
  • Instructor: Human Geography: Space, Place, and Location [Winter 2018, Winter 2017, Winter 2016, Summer 2015, Summer 2013]
  • Writing Instructor: Engineers of the Future (EOF) [Summer 2015]
  • Teaching Assistant: Human Geography: Space, Place, and Location [2012–2013, Fall 2013]


  • Graduate Fellowship, “Feminist In/Security: Vulnerability, Securitization, and States of Crisis,” Institute for Research on Women (IRW), Rutgers University, 2016–2017
  • Graduate Fellowship, American Research Institute for the South Caucasus (ARISC), 2016
  • Field Research Travel Award, Eurasian Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), 2015
  • Excellence Fellowship, Department of Geography, Rutgers University, 2014–2016
  • Pre-Dissertation Travel Award, Graduate School of New Brunswick (School of Graduate Studies), Rutgers University, 2014
  • Graduate Teaching Excellence Award, Department of Geography, Rutgers University, 2014
  • International Peace and Conflict Resolution Scholarship, Arcadia University, 2010–2012


  • Speakers Bureau, Valley Against Sex Trafficking (VAST), 2017–present
  • Fellow, Rutgers Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (RASTL), Teaching Assistant Project (TAP), 2016–present
  • Co-President, Graduate Geographers Project (GGP), Rutgers University, 2013–2014
  • Paul Zimmerman Internship, The Peace Center, 2010–2012

Research Page