Course Info and Syllabus

Download the complete syllabus here.

Course Description

In this course, we will focus on questions of space and power by considering the interconnections of geography and politics. Political actions have geographical impacts as they affect places at a variety of geographical scales (from the international to the local) while geographical factors also impact political actions. We’ll examine the formal institutions and practices of politics as well as the informal politics of everyday life within places. In short, we’ll explore how political power makes geographies and how, in turn, geography may be said to make politics.

Course Objectives

The main objectives for this course are for you to:

  • Become familiar with key concepts in contemporary political geography, including the state, nations, territory, boundaries, power, and scale
  • Use geographic concepts and perspectives to think analytically about the processes which shape and reshape politics and political geographic outcomes
  • Think critically about the operation of human agency and the production of geographical knowledge as they pertain to politics
  • Engage with quality information and perform research about important political issues

Required Texts and Readings

The required textbook is: Political Geography, Second Edition by Joe Painter and Alex Jeffery, published by Sage in 2009 with a reprint in 2012 (ISBN 978-1-4129-0138-3). The textbook serves as a guide for this class and is a necessary resource; we’ll use it every week and you should bring it to all of our meetings. Other required reading material will be used throughout the course. These will be provided in class or made available online.

Developing an awareness of politics means you must also stay informed about key issues and debates, both within the US and abroad. I suggest reading the BBC’s website daily ( as well as at least one other reputable online news organization or newspaper, such as the international edition of The New York Times (, The Guardian (, The Economist (, and so on. Please see me if you’re unsure if your favorite news site suffices. Often students report that the only ‘news’ they view is the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, etc. However, watching news satire only makes sense if you actually know something about the issues being satired! To do that, you must routinely engage quality news sources.

Course Websites

We’ll use two main websites for the course. The main course site is at We’ll use this site often for the blogging exercise (see below for more info) and other announcements. You can also use this site to access the syllabus, or to keep with the reading schedule and course announcements. If you don’t already have a WordPress account, you’ll need to sign up for one to post comments. More information about this will be provided later. The second site for the course is our campus Blackboard site. I won’t use this for announcements but will use the gradebook feature.

Your Responsibilities

This course is discussion-based, not lecture-based. This means our meetings will not consist of me simply reviewing the material in the book with powerpoints, etc. Instead, our time together will be largely driven through group discussion, activities, and examples that explore the concepts and ideas in the textbook. Preparation is crucial and you are responsible for knowing all the course material including the assigned readings before coming to class. Our meetings will supplement and build upon the assigned readings, not simply summarize them.

The nature of this class also means that consistent attendance is necessary to succeed. For every three unapproved absences, you will receive a 10% deduction to your final grade. Coming to class means the following: Arriving on time, staying for the duration, and being attentive. I have no patience for texting, tweeting, facebooking, live blogging, or snoring during class meetings, and will not accept these or other kinds of disruptive behaviors. As such, I do not allow the use of laptops, tablets, iPads, etc. in the classroom and ask that you please silence your cell phones.

You must also actively participate in the course beyond simply turning up on time. Participating means: being engaged, asking questions, offering examples, and responding to my questions and activities. Many students are initially reluctant to raise their voice in class for a variety of reasons. However making your voice heard in a public setting is a critically important career skill and I expect to hear from you frequently in class. With that in mind, please be respectful of your classmates and the instructors, even if you disagree with their opinions and views on certain topics.

No late assignments will be accepted. None. I’m not kidding. Exceptions to this strictly enforced policy are made for students that are representing the university at some sanctioned function or for a documented medical or family emergency. An emergency is something sudden, drastic, and unforeseen. If you know you have a schedule conflict, plan ahead and hand in the assignment early!

No cheating or plagiarism in the exams or writing assignments! Your written work must be independently produced and must not display direct similarity with the work of a classmate or other author. Any cheating or plagiarism will result in a zero for the assignment and maybe even the course. See or talk with me if you’re unsure about what constitutes cheating or plagiarism. Seriously, if you turn in something that’s not your own writing, you’ll get a zero on it.

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please inform me as soon as possible.

Course Assignments

Your performance in this course will be assessed through the following activities. More information about the assignments and exams will be offered during the semester.

Reflection blogs: You will write twelve posts to the WordPress site throughout the semester. Each post will discuss and reflect on the reading assignments. Your post is due by 9:00 am on the Monday before we begin discussing the reading assignment. In other words, you will post about the readings before we discuss them in class. Each post should be 450-600 words long (the equivalent to 1½-2 pages of double-spaced text); your work will be graded based on your level of engagement with and application of the concepts from the readings. You can also earn extra points by posting a substantive comment on another student’s blog each week.

Exams: There will be two exams each covering approximately ½ of the course material. The best preparation for the exams will be to complete all assigned readings, attend all meetings, and engage in all class discussions.

Political analysis paper: There is no comprehensive final exam for the course. Instead, you will perform an assignment designed to relate the concepts of the course to a real-world example by thinking, reflecting and making evidence-based opinions in a concise, written format. To do this, you will submit a letter for publication to the editor of a national, regional or local newspaper that responds to an article or editorial previously published in that newspaper that in some way relates to the content of the class. You will also write a 3-4 page commentary (1,500-1,800 words, double-spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman font, and 1” margins) that identifies and defends the choice of topic and usage of concepts in the letter. The letter (along with proof of submission to a newspaper) and commentary will be due at the beginning of class on the day of our final meeting of the semester. More information about this assignment will be provided during class.

Participation: Your active participation in class is essential to your success in the course. During our meetings, you will have the chance to expand your understanding of the course material through in-class discussions and activities. You are expected to contribute with questions and thoughtful and informed reactions. Your overall contributions and participation will comprise a significant portion of your overall grade.

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