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Department of Politics and International Studies

Geopolitics: Space and Power - Not Running 2014/15

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/16
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1

This half-unit course of 10 lectures introduces students to the contemporary study of geopolitics, locating recent developments in a longer history and charting the shift from positivist and empiricist understandings of geopolitics to contemporary work in critical geopolitics. Drawing on work in international relations, geography and elsewhere that traces the intimate links between space and power, the course begins with a general overview of the relations between space and power before focusing on geopolitics as a particular form of situated reasoning that emerges in tandem with the rise of the territorial state in Europe and the progressive European domination of world politics. It distinguishes between formal geopolitics (as manifested in academic settings), practical geopolitics (as practiced by state actors and policy makers), and popular geopolitics (as found in popular culture and mass publics), showing the intersections, overlaps and contrasts across these different sites and scales and illustrating their functioning with examples drawn from a variety of regional settings in colonial and postcolonial contexts. Students will then discuss contemporary applications at local/national and global/international scales.

The course is a complement and extension to the core course in the MSc International Politics, building on and extending thematic material from that course but with virtually no overlapping reading. It provides a conceptual and theoretical underpinning for courses in regional and international politics across the department’s MSc programmes. Further, it similarly complements MA programmes in the CISD on International Studies and Diplomacy and Corporations and Globalization, again without significant overlap in readings.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On completion of the course, a student should have the following:

  1. The ability critically to understand and apply major theories of geopolitics.
  2. Knowledge of the historical evolution of theories of geopolitics.
  3. The ability to distinguish and apply different conceptions of geopolitics; specifically, formal, practical and popular.
  4. Knowledge of the relations between power and space as manifested in geopolitical theories and practices.
  5. The ability critically to analyse political phenomena across diverse scales in terms of the relations between power and space.

Scope and syllabus

  1. Introduction and overview
  2. Space and power
  3. Classical theories of geopolitics
  4. Critical theories of geopolitics
  5. Formal geopolitics
  6. Practical geopolitics
  7. Popular geopolitics
  8. Applications: local/state spaces
  9. Applications: global/international spaces
  10. Conclusion

Method of assessment

Assessment is 30% coursework (comprising one 5000 word essay) and 70% unseen examination (two hours). All coursework is resubmissable.