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P.P. Karan


I was born in Gaya, India, a few miles away from the site where Buddha attained enlightenment over 2,500 years ago. My father worked for the Indian government. We were a working-class family where education was the key to moving ahead. I attended local public schools in Bihar state while India was part of the British Empire. I graduated with honors in Economics, and earned master's degree in geography at Banaras Hindu University, and Ph.D. from Indiana University. I have taught at several universities in the United States, Europe, Russia, Japan and India; and worked for international development agencies in the Himalaya. While teaching at the University of Kentucky, I was elected Distinguished Professor by the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences. In 2009 I received a special award for research from the Association of Japanese Geographers. In 2011 I was named University Research Professor. A researcher on the environment and sustainable development, I serve on the Asian Environmental Council – one of the largest environmental networks in the non-Western World.

 I have been involved in a range of initiatives aimed at understanding and utilizing the connections between economic development and the environment for more than 40 years. Over the last quarter of a century, I have initiated an array of schemes and local movements to promote development, environmental protection and cultural preservation in India, Japan, and Himalayan states. Focusing on research that blurs the boundaries between social science and humanities, I continue to seek fresh ways of preserving environment and local cultures. I am the co-editor and author of Local Environmental Movements: A Comparative Study of Japan and the United States (2009); and co-author and editor of the book The Indian Ocean Tsunami: Response and Challenge. I am, also, the author of several books on Asian countries including the Non Western World.  My current research includes planning for reconstruction and rebuilding after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011, transformation of the Himalayan landscape during the last half century, and changing nature-society relationships on Tibetan plateau.

I admire students who are super passionate about excellence and who get the biggest charge out of doing something extraordinary. You set high standard for yourself because you believe in yourself. You celebrate successes and you acknowledge where you fell short, but then you still show that you are very confident and have a lot of self-esteem. If you can model that, then I think people will respond to it very well.

I take periodic trips to Japan, China and India for research and speaking engagements. On my trips to India, I often visit the middle Ganges valley, the region my family is from.



Nature/Society relationships, Natural Hazards, Environmental Mangement in the non-Western World, Geography of Multinational Corporations. Regional Research focus on the Indian Subcontinent, Himalaya, Japan, and Tibet.

Research Projects in Progress


         This research project initiated in 2008 investigates environmental changes resulting from development projects completed under the Chinese administration since 1950.


 The countries of the Indian subcontinent are experiencing major economic, social and political   transformation of our times. But it is also a region struggling with enormous population, strained environment, and unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity. This research explores the geographic dimensions of this remarkable transition and then examines some of the challenges facing the region.


              This research deals with the cultural and economic geography of the world’s largest

             concentration of urban population. Funding is being sought to initiate field studies. 


     This research project explores the role of Ellen Semple Churchill in the development of American human geography, and investigates the turning points in the making of a great scientist. The manuscript is being considered for publication in a series on Women and Science by a University Press.


 Traces the evolution of field research in American geography, and examines the key trends and patterns in field research since 1900.   


1.Environment and Development Studies

Tibet, Special Issue FOCUS, American Geographical Society. Vol. 52 (2) Fall 2009.

Local Environmental Movements: A Comparative Study of Japan and the United States, University Press of Kentucky, 2008.

Japan in the 21st Century: Environment, Economy and Society, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 2005.

The Non-Western World: Environment, Development and Human Rights.  Routledge, 2004

Environmental Security and Regional Development, Regional Development Dialogue              Vol. 23, No. 1. Spring 2002 pp.1-6.

Japan in the Bluegrass.  (Editor and co-author) University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Environmental Impacts of Japanese Investments in Southeast Asia, Reitaku International Journal of Economic Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1. March 2000, pp. 13-30. 

Himalaya: Life on the Edge of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1999. (Co-author David Zurick).

The Japanese City. Editor and Author, University Press of Kentucky, 1997.

Preserving the Legacy: Concepts in Support of Sustainability. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 1999. Chapter on “Environmental Management in Development Planning: Some Paradigms and Global Comparisons.” pp.21-35.

Nepal: A Himalayan Kingdom in Transition. United Nations University Press, Tokyo, 1996

Environmental Movements in India, Geographical Review, Vol. 84, No. 1.January 1994 pp.32-41.

Nepal: Development and Change in a Landlocked Himalayan Kingdom. Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo, 1994

Across the Appalachians. New Brunswick: N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992.  Coauthor W.A. Bladen

Beyond the Great Divide. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992.

Bhutan: Environment, Culture and Development Strategy. New Delhi: Intellectual Publishing House, 1990.

 Environment and Development in Sikkim Himalaya: A Review, Human Ecology Vol. 17, No. 2. 1989, pp.257 271.

Mountains in Crisis: Man versus Nature, The Explorers Journal, Vol. 67, No. 4. 1989. pp.162168.

India in the Global Community, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Gateway Press, Inc. 1988.

Bhutan: Development Amid Environmental and Cultural Preservation. Tokyo: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 1987.                                                         

Environment and Development in Bhutan, Geografiska Annaler, Vol. 69B, 1987, pp. 1526.

 Development Issues in Sikkim and Bhutan, Mountain Research and Development, Vol.7, No. 3, 1987, pp.275 278.

Perception of Environmental Pollution in a Chinese City: A Case Study of Taipei, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Vol. 32, 1986, pp.6589.

Environmental Stress in the Himalaya, Geographical Review, Vol. 75, 1985, pp.7192.

 Tourism and Environment in the Mount Everest Region, Geographical Review, Vol. 75, 1985, pp. 9395.

Sikkim Himalaya: Development in Mountain Environment.  Tokyo: Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, 1984

  1.  Natural and Technological Hazard Studies

 The Indian Ocean Tsunami, University Press of Kentucky and Cambridge University Press 2011

Facing the Waves and Nuclear Radiation: Japan, book manuscript submitted to a University Press for peer review 2014

Technological Hazards in the Third World, Geographical Review, Vol. 76, 1986, pp. 195208.

             3. Disciplinary History

Leaders in American Geography. Vol. 1 Geographic  Education. Mesilla: New Mexico Geographical Society in association with Prestige Books, 1992. (Co-author Thomas F. Barton).     

Leaders in American Geography, Vol.II. Research. The Geographical Society, Mesilla, NM. 2000. (Co-author Cotton Mather)

Development of Geographic Thought in India, National Geographical Journal of India, Vol. 38, 1992. pp. 179193.

Evolution of Geographic Thought in America: A Kentucky Root. KendallHunt Publishing Company, Dubuque,   Iowa, 1983

The Past ThirdCentury of the Annals, Annals of the Association of American Geographers,Vol. 68, l978, pp. 59l595 (with C. Mather).

  1. Landscape Studies

The Japanese Landscape, with Cotton Mather and Shigeru Iijima. University Press of Kentucky, 1998.

International Boundaries of Saudi Arabia. Delhi: Galaxy Publications, 1990. (Coauthor Abu Dawood).

The Changing Face of Tibet:  The Impact of Ideology on Landscape. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1976

Etudes Tibetaines Paris:  L'Asiatheque, 1976.  Chapter on Ideology on the Landscape of Tibet, pp.  2328.

5. Cultural Geography: Folk Art

Landscape, Religion and Folk Art in Mithila: An Indian Cultural Region, Journal of Cultural Geography, Vol. 5, 1984, pp. 85101.

India: Cultural Patterns and Processes. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, l982.  Chapter on the Geography of Folk Art in India (with Cotton Mather), pp. l65l94.

Art and Geography:  Patterns in the Himalaya, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 66, l976, pp. 4875l5 (with C. Mather).

6. Kentucky Studies

 Atlas of Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, 1977 (with C. Mather).

 Kentucky: A Regional Geography, Kendall/Hunt  Publishing Company, Dubuque, Iowa, 1973.

7. Cartographic Publications

The Kingdom of Sikkim, Annals Map Supplement Number Ten, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 59, March, l969, pp. 2ll2l3.

The Kingdom of Bhutan, Map Supplement Number 5.  Annals of the Association of American Geographers,   Vol. 55, No. 4, December, l965, pp. 66l.  Reviewed    in Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 26 (l967), pp.  32425.

Kathmandu Patan:  The Twin Cities Urban System, The Himalayan Review, Vol. 6, l973, Map.  Reviewed in   the Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 34 (May, l975).






Graduate Training
Ph.D., Indiana University