Sample Graduate Courses

 

TOPICAL COURSES AND SEMINARS
 
Topical courses at the 700 level are offered under standard course numbers (which reference a sub-field within Geography) but with different titles chosen by the professors.  Students can take multiple versions of the same course number (e.g., GEO 714) as long as the subtitle and focus of the course is different.
 
GEO 509: Geographic Information System Workshop (taught by Wilson)
Geographic information technologies continue to drive the representation and management of complex as well as everyday spatial information.  As a result, increasing numbers of for-profit and non-profit organizations have recognized the need to transform their information into a spatial format.  The demand for collaborative and participatory skills in the use of these mapping tools has, of course, been furthered by this general trend.  Therefore, the goal for this course is that each student will become an independent and effective GIS user while developing their collaborative skills in the use of GIS for spatial analysis and representation.  To meet this goal, this course follows a participatory workshop model, drawing on Elwood (2009) -- an intensive, hands-on experience in which student teams use GIS in collaboration with community partners.  These partnerships will involve students in a full range of collaborative GIS: working with team members and project partners to identify project goals, acquiring and preparing spatial data for GIS analyses, communicating with clients to assess progress, managing spatial data, and producing necessary maps and analyses.  The lecture, reading, and seminar discussion components of the course will focus on topics important to collaborative development -- to be prepared to implement, manage, and apply in a variety of research and applications areas, and in multiple geographical and institutional contexts.
 
GEO 530: Biogeography and Conservation (taught by Stallins)
An introduction to the geographic patterning of biological diversity, exploring its origins, dynamics, and present trends. Examines the interplay among physical conditions, ecological interactions, evolutionary processes, and the historical movements of organisms and as they have combined to affect the distribution of species, with particular attention to the application of geographic thought to current problems of species loss and conservation.  We also survey a range of topics relevant to geographic inquiry, including the history of ideas about ecological structure and function; vegetation dynamics; scale theory and how ideas from  geography inform the practice of scale; complexity theory and adaptive management; fire ecology and managing forests for fire; conceptions of wilderness; and invasive species.  This class is taught so that it is informative as well as useful for a range of students, from those with more traditional biogeographic interests, to political ecologists seeking to make stronger linkages to non-human forms and processes, as well as students of geospatial techniques who want a better understanding of the dynamics of the surface phenomena they interpret and visualize.
 
GEO 655: Fluvial Forms and Processes (taught by J. Phillips)
This course is an introduction to fluvial geomorphology and fluvial landforms. Geomorphology is the study of earth surface processes and landforms; fluvial refers to flowing water. Therefore we will be studying processes such as the generation of runoff, surface and channel flow, erosion, sediment transport, and deposition. We will also examine the landforms created by rivers, streams, and overland flow.  Roughly a third of the course will be devoted to mastering the basic concepts and terminology of fluvial geomorphology via traditional classroom lectures, demonstrations, and textbook readings. The other two-thirds of the course will focus on further explorations of specific topics in fluvial geomorphology via case study presentations, fieldwork, laboratory and in-class exercises, and other hands-on activities.
 
GEO 655: Publications Workshop (taught by Secor)
This seminar guides graduate students through the process of writing, revising, and submitting a journal article.  Publication is the main way in which scholars communicate their ideas and findings and engage others in conversations.  In geography, journal articles are the main form of publication (though many scholars do also write books).  Becoming part of scholarly conversation in geography means learning how to write and publish journal articles. Furthermore, hiring and tenure decisions are very often based on publication in peer-reviewed journals. The purpose of this course is to help students prepare a journal article for submission and in the process lay the groundwork for a writing career. This seminar is organized around the creation of a publishable paper. Each student should enter the class with the germ of a publishable paper – perhaps a seminar paper from another class that garnered attention, a dissertation chapter, or a Master’s thesis. 
 
GEO 655: Markets and Nature (taught by Robertson)
This course is an advanced interdisciplinary seminar that examines the current round of the commodification of ecosystem services from a range of theoretical approaches, and incorporates the policy literature as well for critical evaluation.  The course readings will focus on the way that nature is quantified and accounted-for in late capitalist society, specifically for exchange on markets. One emphasis will be on how nature has been theorized by mainstream economists, critical political economists, liberal environmental movements, and from the vantage of poststructural social theory.  A second emphasis is to examine actually-existing policy initiatives and engage with the on-the-ground practicalities of elaborating new markets in ecosystem service commodities, carbon credits, and biodiversity. 
 
GEO 711: Land and Landscape (taught by Schein)
This seminar is designed to allow us: to briefly explore the concept of the cultural landscape, especially as it has been employed within geographic literatures; to read a number of "thematic" empirically grounded essays which explore particular landscapes as either a direct object of study or for their implication in general social processes (or both); to explore the manner in which a specific, local landscape might be interrogated in light of knowledge gained from the other two objectives above. We will begin with the proposition that "the cultural landscape is our unwitting autobiography..." (as Peirce Lewis has written), and move toward a more processual conception of the landscape where "it" is implicated in the ongoing formulations of social and cultural (re)production.
 
GEO 712: Work, the body, and alienation (ethnographic imagination and political economy) (taught by Mutersbaugh)
Political economy and social theory have taken the working body – producing, affective, performing, consuming – as a worthy site for social analysis. This course will tour contemporary literatures regarding: Work – recent studies, particularly under the rubrics of 'labor process' and 'society and technology' have reworked classical concerns, including novel work relations that are emotional, affective, and cooperative; The Body – gendered, racialized, sexualized, virtual, classed, our lived experiences shape and are shaped in and through a body that produces, reproduces, consumes, and constitutes our worldly experience; Alienation – doubly expresses both our sense of loss and abstraction from the world, and also the power-laden, cultural and economic processes through which value produced by the body is removed as 'surplus'.
 
GEO 712: Theories of Development and Anti-Development (taught by Roberts)
The aims of this course are to introduce students to the contours of development theories and to the basic features of the related history of development practices, as well as the variety of critiques of development theories --  internal and external.  The course begins a survey of the predominant twentieth and twenty first century theories of (economic) development. Full consideration is given to the political economy of key organizations (such as the IMF and World Bank, critiques of development (such as the Debt Crisis) and movements in opposition to it. Recent scholarly work analyzing development as a set of practices is also read as well as strategies which promote some “alternative” path or which call for “anti-development” theories and praxis.
 
GEO 713: Virtual Geography (taught by Zook)
This seminar focuses on the diffusion of information technologies and their associated practices throughout the economy and society.  While this provides the opportunity for revamping politics, culture, creativity and the economy the outcome is far from fixed.  While the example of WikiLeaks illustrates the ability of individuals to sidestep traditional controls, the recent proposal of Google and Verizon regarding net neutrality issues highlights the continued power of entrenched actors.  Geography runs throughout these debates and the rise of Neogeography/Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) are particularly compelling topics for inquiry.
 
GEO 714: Geographies of Power (taught by Secor)
What is power? How is it constituted and maintained? How does it work in and through space? What roles do violence, hegemony, resistance and desire play in the constitution of relations of power?  This seminar centers on questions of power and space. We will work through texts by major theorists (Althusser, Foucault, Deleuze, Agamben, Butler and others) with an eye to understanding their implications for geographical work.  The objectives of the seminar are 1) to develop a theoretical basis for political-geographic studies; 2) to hone reading and analytical skills; and 3) to advance individual research programs through tailored writing assignments.
 
GEO 714: Political Ecology 
This course is designed as a pro-seminar introducing graduate students to the breadth and depth of the subdiscipline of political ecology within geography.  The age-old task of analyzing the relationships between human society and the natural environment was reframed for Geographers by Blaikie and Brookfield’s 1987 definition of political ecology as an approach that “merges the concerns of ecology with a broadly-conceived political economy.”  With antecedents in cultural ecology, environmental anthropology, developmentalist economics, and more recently poststructural theorizations of nature, political ecology has come to cover a broad spectrum of intellectual endeavor.  As a pro-seminar, it covers the diversity of topics in a relatively brief manner, rather than going deeply into any one area within political ecology.  Students are invited to explore one area more deeply in a research paper to be presented at the end of the semester.
 
GEO 715: Geography and Social Theory (taught by Secor)
The overall goal of this course is to substantiate the idea that social theory comprises a set of ontological and epistemological issues about human coexistence which are interdisciplinary. The course will (1) examine what different social fields take as their central theoretical issues and concerns, and (2) conduct multidisciplinary explorations of key problem areas in contemporary social thought such as the nature of objectivity, the construction of gender, the role of space and time in social life, and modernity and postmodernity.
 
GEO 717: Mobile Urbanism (taught by Wood)
Academic work on cities and urban policy has recently undergone a substantial shift. From a long-standing focus on the city as a bounded unit and the various ‘urban’ interests that generate urban politics and urban policy, contemporary geographical work has adopted a more ‘relational’ view in which cities and urban policy are seen as assembled together from ideas, practices and policies that have their origins in a variety of different places and contexts. This course is designed to examine the recent literature on cities and urban policy making, paying particular attention to its geographies. The course encourages the development of a critical perspective on urban policy as a set of practices of policy making as well as the policies themselves. It also examines the analytical weight of mobile urbanism or, in short, the strengths and limits of urban policy mobility as an analytical device.
 
GEO 717: Global Urban Futures (taught by Samers)
This course explores the intersection between cities and social life. Rather than an advanced, systematic introduction to the intellectual history of urban geography, the course adopts an inter-disciplinary thematic and socio-theoretical approach to the transformation of cities in the twenty-first century. Drawing on literatures principally from anthropology, geography, and sociology, we will address issues which are, and will likely to continue to be significant issues associated with urban areas in the twenty-first century. The course will explore such themes as new diasporic urban communities, new forms of urban citizenship and governance, collective urban violence such as riots, alternative/‘grassroots’ social movements for affordable housing and ‘living wage’ employment, informal working and squatting communities, urban ‘green’ initiatives (related to energy use, transportation, and housing), the role of digital technologies (‘smartphones’, etc.) in producing new urban consumers, navigators, and ‘neo-flaneurs’, as well as the implications for  the reinvention of cities through the pervasive discourse of ‘creativity’ and ‘diversity’. However, it is the bubbling DIY extension of urban ‘social movements’ and ‘contentious politics’ that will serve as the guiding leitmotif of this course – a diverse collection of urban actions that address the above themes to uncertain ends. The course focuses on North American and European cities, but with some attention to issues in African, Asian, and Latin American cities.
 
GEO 721: Biogeomorphology (taught by J. Phillips)
This seminar is designed to provide advanced students with substantive research experience in biogeomorphology, focused on a specific problem. The course is not intended to be a comprehensive general geomorphology or biogeography course. Students should have had at least one geomorphology course (e.g., GEO 351) and one biogeography or ecology course (e.g., GEO/BIO 530, 531). The course will require extensive out-of-class fieldwork in rough terrain in remote locations. Students who have physical limitations that may influence their ability to safely participate should consult with the professor about possible alternatives or accommodations. The specific problem focuses on tree uprooting, the resultant landforms and soil mixing, and the effects of trees on regolith evolution. The field area is in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.
 
GEO 722: Immigration (taught by Ehrkamp)
This seminar is intended to provide students with a broad introduction to the conceptualization of contemporary immigration, immigration policies and immigration law, immigrant incorporation, and immigrants’ experiences in the North America and Europe.  We will read works from across the social sciences, focusing mostly on recent scholarship and research areas.  The seminar begins with a brief consideration of ‘classic’ concepts of immigrant incorporation before moving on to thinking through social differentiation and the ways that such social differentiation is achieved and/or mediated by laws and policies.  Throughout the course, the question of difference plays an important role as we consider how sexuality, race, and gender (to mention but a few) are implicated in discourses about immigration, citizenship, and in immigration policy and enforcement.  (The seminar is cross-listed with Social Theory and counts towards the Certificate in Social Theory.)
 
GEO 722: Crowdsourcing, the Geoweb and Augmented Realities (taught by Zook)
This seminar focuses upon the geographies of digital space and the complex ways it intersects with the material world. The course draws upon work from Geography, Sociology, Planning, Visual Studies and Information Science to think through the array of ways this ongoing process can be conceptualized and theorized.  Of particular interest is the ability to map and analyze “big data” sources that are increasing available (Twitter, social networks, mobile phone tracks, etc.) to researchers, governments and companies.  Ranging from digitized collections of texts and other cultural artifacts to the transactional records of day-to-day life captured by social media to the ubiquity of environmental sensors, scholars are just beginning to understand the possibilities and challenges (particularly relating to privacy and surveillance) of these rich sources of data on the time and location of the social and natural processes of everyday life.  This course includes sections on capturing and using these data and students are encouraged to develop individual research projects.
 
COURSES IN METHODOLOGY
 
GEO 565: Remote Sensing Fundamentals (taught by Liang)
This course provides an introduction to remote sensing technologies and their applications in environmental observation and study. This course provides essential knowledge and skills that are needed to utilize remote sensing for various applications related to land use/land cover analysis, environmental monitoring, natural resources management, and urban planning. This course includes coverage of the fundamental remote sensing principles, overview of space/air borne sensors/data, essential techniques for digital image processing, and applications particular related to diverse land surfaces such as vegetation, water, urban, and soil/bedrocks. Theoretical training and lab exercises are integrated components in this course.
 
GEO 600: Introduction to Methods in Geography (taught by Mutersbaugh)
This course is designed to familiarize the beginning graduate student with the practical and theoretical challenges of approaching research with an appropriate, rigorous and defensible methodology.  Questions of method are often seen as secondary to theoretical ambition or the practicalities and logistics of research, and perhaps Geography is particularly guilty of this tendency.  A range of quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches have been elaborated over the past 40 years.  And yet, as quantitative methodologies have been laid aside in some post-positivist human geography, the rigor expected in qualitative traditions has given way to earnest but vague notions of a theory-driven praxis.  In this course qualitative and quantitative approaches are considered equally valuable, and may even be combined in multi-method work; questions of rigor remain no matter which approach is chosen.  Human geographers must be able to convincingly operationalize theory in the mundane activities of daily research, and be able to structure an extended study in such a way as to produce convincing results.  Both effective scholarly communication and effective grant-writing depend on a critical mastery of methodological questions.
 
GEO 705: Doing Qualitative Research (taught by Ehrkamp, Schein)
This course is meant to be an in-depth study and application of one or more research methods/techniques (e.g., qualitative methods, ethnography, textual analysis, visual analysis, GIS). Intended to offer M.A. and Ph.D. students advanced methodological specialization in geography. In this iteration, we will discuss students’ previous “training” and current methodological “needs” the first day in order to respond to those particularities. In any event, the course will focus on several “units” after an introductory section; each unit will begin with readings on and discussion of a particular research method (its foundations, its issues and problems, its prosecution in the abstract) before requiring a “hands-on” exercise designed to gain practical experience in data collection and analysis. Units will be (potentially) organized around archival research, interviews, focus groups, participant observation, and data analysis.
 
GEO 705: Applications of Geospatial Techniques (taught by Kim)
The primary goal of this course is to help students get familiar with not only recent concepts and theories, but also various quantitative techniques in geospatial science. Although there are numerous geographic data, useful methods, and (free) software packages available, many are unaware of their existence and how the methods should be used correctly. Moreover, it is often relatively fast and easy to get outputs without knowing basic assumptions and procedures associated with the analysis. Throughout this semester, students will study these statistical basics continuously using a step-by-step approach, and enjoy a variety of hands-on experiences of analyzing real-world data using different software packages.
 
CORE CURRICULUM 
 
GEO 702: Concepts in Geography (taught by Roberts, Wood, Secor, Stallins)
The formal aims of this seminar are two-fold: (1) To introduce students to selected recent and contemporary themes and debates in geographic thought; and (2) To encourage critical and informed engagement with key texts in the discipline.  Less formally, what I want you get out of this course is an appreciation for the importance of key concepts in geography and the centrality to the discipline of debates over the meaning and significance of those concepts. A number of points will be clear from the outset. First, what counts as a concept and especially a ‘key’ concept is a matter of debate that often touches on the very identify of the discipline itself. Second, the meanings attached to concepts continue to be things that are struggled over. Third, by understanding such arguments and debates – through a careful and theoretically-informed critical reading – we can begin to assess what was and/or is at stake in the discipline’s struggles over concepts and their meanings.
 
GEO 707: Development of Geographic Thought (taught by Samers, Crampton)
The history of the development of Anglophone (human) geographic thought is considerably less rehearsed than the well-tread historiography of the post-WWII discipline, except among a small coterie of historical geographers and those with cognate environmental and spatial interests. Yet the stories that this history tells have had far reaching consequences for the writing of history itself, and the practice of cartography, colonialism, imperialism, and human geography since the late 1960s. This seminar-based course is designed to explore the development of geographic thought mainly, but not exclusively before WWII (surely an arbitrary, but convenient ending point), and mainly but not exclusively from the point of view of ‘white’, Anglophone men (surely a limited perspective). Nevertheless, the emphasis is on reading both a small set of critical (and less critical) synoptic texts as well as the original pre-1945 texts themselves that have charted this sometimes unfortunate history. The course concludes with the writings on the Arab thinker Ibn Khaldun, as well as exploring a history of physical geography, and geomorphology in particular. Ultimately, the purpose is not necessarily to develop a one-size-fits-all critique of ‘enlightenment geographies’ or a fixed historiography of early geographic thought (feel free to write your own) but to foster a critical appreciation of a certain history of spatial thought, in such a way that we are not doomed to repeat it, or a great deal of it anyway. At the very least, we do not want to reinvent the colonial wheel.  
 
GEO 721: Concepts in Physical Geography (taught by Turkington)
There are three objectives to this course: 1) to introduce students to selected recent and present-day currents in geographic thought; 2) to assist students practice critical and informed engagement of key texts; and 3) to familiarize students with wider issues surrounding debates over concepts in physical geography. To this end, the course is divided into two parts. In Part I, “Concepts in Physical Geography,” we work through some key themes in geography, regularly partnering with the GEO 702 class, in order to examine some key texts within the themes of ‘environment and landscape’, ‘time’ and ‘space’.  In Part II, “Current trends in geomorphology and biogeography,” we will turn our attention to some key studies in geomorphology, biogeomorphology and biogeography to examine current debates in the literature.  
Less formally, what this course will hopefully offer is an appreciation for the importance of key concepts in physical geography and the centrality to the discipline of debates over the meaning and significance of those concepts. A number of points will be clear from the outset. First, what counts as a concept and especially a ‘key’ concept is a matter of debate that often touches on the very identify of the discipline itself. Second, the meanings attached to concepts continue to be things that are struggled over. Third, by understanding such arguments and debates – through a careful and theoretically-informed critical reading – we can begin to assess what was and/or is at stake in the discipline’s struggles over concepts and their meanings.
 
COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL THEORY CLASSES WITH GEOGRAPHY FACULTY
 
ST 600: Law, Sex, Family (co-taught by Ehrkamp) 
This seminar is broadly conceived as a study of law as a set of norms constitutive of culture and society, in which our entry into questions of “law” occurs through the topics of sexuality and family. We examine how practices come into being as ‘law’ and are treated as ‘law,’ as well how ‘sex’ and ‘family’ come into being through such ‘legal’ and cultural forms of governance and discourse. Topics include: constructions of family, marriage and kinship in law; colonial and customary law; psychoanalysis and the family; migration, race and nationhood; queering law.
 
ST 600: Security (co-taught by Roberts) 
Concerns over security permeate our globalizing world. From the food we eat, the water we drink, the body we live in, and money we save, to the “homeland” where we reside, the war and violence in which we are implicated, and cyberspace we explore, it is indeed difficult to think of facets of social life that are not touched by the questions of security. How has all this happened? Whose security, exactly, are we talking about? Where is our society headed – the dream of gated communities, or the nightmare of surveillance society? Where are the points of intervention, if there are any, for politics, democracy, freedom, and equality in the midst of security concerns? How do we theorize security? We will explore these and related questions as they have been manifested in diverse historical and geographical contexts.
 
ST 690: Feminism and Post-Colonialism (co-taught by Ehrkamp; cross-listed with GWS 616) 
This course is designed to expose students to a range of theories and debates centering on or pertinent to women, gender, and sexuality in the field of postcolonial studies. Here, the field is understood in its widest and most interdisciplinary sense, inclusive of studies of Empire, subaltern studies, and diasporas. Topics for study will include classical texts in the field, current postcolonial readings on gender and sexuality in empire, geopolitics, representation, immigration, trans/nationalism, and diasporas. We will, in particular, unpack Western understandings of ‘culture’ and ‘liberal democracy,’ and philosophical concepts such as ‘hospitality’ and ‘cosmopolitanism’.
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