Course Descriptions

16:450:518:01 Directed Study

Directed readings and individual study supplementary to formal courses. Prerequisite: Permission of graduate director.

16:450:508 Environment and Development

This course is designed as a critical introduction to key debates around the relation between social inequality and nature, broadly construed. The urgent matters located at this intersection cut across political scales and geographic borders, threatening local livelihoods as well as global economic systems. Attending to both historical legacies and contemporary challenges, we will explore the political philosophies, economic processes, and techno-scientific practices that make socio-environmental justice such an elusive goal today.

While grounded in political ecology, our approach in this course will be irreverent. By tracing political ecological themes through classic texts as well as recent permutations, we will incorporate knowledge derived from critical race and gender studies, environmental history, environmental anthropology, and Science and Technology Studies, all while remaining connected to political economic principles. Our aim is to renovate the key concepts of political ecology so that they travel better to our respective field sites. In particular, we will attend to the relationships between representation and production, discourse and materiality, in order to consider the multiple facets of socio-natural ‘development.’ Taught by Dr. Andrea Marston

Sample syllabus

16:450:511 Land Change Science

Changes in land-use (human use) and land-cover (biophysical condition) are persistent, and when aggregated at a global scale affect key aspects of the earth system functioning. Such changes also affect economies and human welfare and the vulnerability of places and people to climatic, economic and socio-political perturbations.  Land Change Science is an interdisciplinary field of study that seeks to observe and monitor land-cover and land-use change and explain this change as a coupled human-environment (or socio-ecological) system. Through a broad range of readings, this seminar examines the development of land change science and the theoretical and methodological challenges to linking biophysical, socio-economic, and remote sensing/GIS analysis. Taught by Dr. Laura Schneider

16:450:513 Economic Geography: Capitalism and its Others (Formerly: Rethinking Economy)

Economic theory does more than describe the economy, it constitutes and actively shapes it. The course will engage with a variety of research currents across several disciplines that are rethinking economy as a diverse and decentered field rather than a single entity or dominant force. For example, economic geographers and other scholars have recently turned their attention toward “alternative economic spaces” and practices, and have done so by drawing on feminist understandings of the economy, anthropological investigations into non-capitalist economies, sociological re-workings of “the market” as a site of contingency rather than law, and post-structural critiques of “development” which posit that “another production is possible.” These are all endeavors that are working to decenter the economy as a single form or identity, and thereby reveal economic spaces and landscapes as decidedly more diverse, differentiated, and open to intervention. The course will also integrate examples from the solidarity economy, fair trade, alternative food networks, cooperative production, cooperative and co-housing, reclaiming commons, and bartering and informal markets as cases of organizations, institutions, or movements that are enacting alternatives to the current economic “system.” It will read these cases for their economic difference, relationship to place, implications for community and environmental wellbeing, and transformative potential across spatial scales. Taught by Dr. Kevin St. Martin

Sample syllabus

16:450:514 Politics of Nature

The aim of this course is to imagine the contents and limits of a politically engaged “technoscientific geography.” Broadly speaking, critical human geographers and science studies scholars have not been in substantive conversation with one another, despite sharing many of the same empirical interests. Most notably, both disciplinary traditions share a set of concerns with the politics of nature and questions of environmental justice. Taught by Dr. Andrea Marston

2021 Syllabus

16:450:516 Urban Geography

Urban natures are variously described as decaying or fecund, moribund or overflowing, restricted or boundless, terminal or networked. As palimpsests and temporal assemblages of built form, communicative media, and ecological flow, cities are variously hailed as the solution to the global climate crisis or its deepest cause, the sites of concentrated ecological death or the wastelands from which new, even mutant, life can emerge. In the Anthropocene—the name given to our present era defined by a “great acceleration” of the production of waste combined with intensified human and non-human vulnerability to environmental change precipitated by that waste—cities evoke contrasting sentiments and political affinities. They also sit most exposed to the deepening uncertainties of environmental change, concentrating not just symbolic and economic functions—as “the urban” has been framed historically—but also vulnerabilities and violences. Cities place bodies in relations of collective dependence, but also expose them to heightened environmental and social risk, from extreme weather events to leaded water intake and industrial accidents. Taught by Dr. Asher Ghertner

16:450:601 Geographic Perspectives

This course is required of all geography graduate students and is meant to be an upper-level introduction to the field of geography, its history, and contemporary theoretical development. The course will also give students an opportunity to contextualize their own interests in terms of the topical and theoretical traditions of this discipline. This course is designed as the first of two sequential courses (601, 602); students will begin with a topical and theoretical contextualization of their interests in 601 and then proceed to the building of an individual research program in 602.

16:450:602:01 Research Design

This course provides a graduate-level introduction to research design in geography. Several research approaches and elements of research design will be reviewed through lectures, assigned readings, class discussions and workshops. Class discussions and workshops will focus on the identification of research problems, conceptualization of research questions, linking research problems and questions to appropriate literature and linking research questions to appropriate conceptual frameworks, methods and techniques. Class time will also be devoted to discussion of readings and to development and discussion of each student’s individual research proposal. Ultimately, the aim is for students to develop individual research projects and to present their projects in written (proposal/working document) and oral (presentation) formats. Taught by Dr. Kevon Rhiney

16:450:605:01 Climate and Society

This graduate seminar will explore current theory and research on societal impacts and responses to climate change. Major topic areas will include framing the issue of climate change, climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and resilience, adaptation planning and policy options, and transformation. While course readings will draw from a broad set of social science literatures, the course will emphasize socio-spatial dimensions of these issues, focusing on how processes of climate change and efforts to address these processes play out at local and regional levels. The course will be of interest to students who are new to this area of study and to those who are already engaged in research on the human dimensions of climate change. The course will follow a seminar format with emphasis on readings and discussion of assigned materials. Students will also complete a term paper on a topic related to climate change and society. Taught by Dr. Robin Leichenko

16:450:605:02 Exploring Climate Change Indicators (cross listed with 450:413)

This seminar explores changing climate by examining indicators that are used to express the rate and magnitude at which key aspects of the climate system are varying.  Indicators include a multitude of environmental variables across the globe, such as those put forth by the US Global Change Research Program and the US Environmental Protection Agency   Taught by Dr. David Robinson

16:450:605:04 Human Dimensions of Environmental Change: Nature/Society (Cross-listed 16:378:501:01; 16:920:575:01

This course is the key seminar for the Human Dimensions of Environmental Change graduate certificate program. The seminar is designed to provide students with a survey of theories and concepts in human-environment studies. We will examine how perspectives and arguments of oft-cited social theorists (e.g. Marx, Foucault, Latour, etc.) have been taken up in nature-society scholarship in geography, anthropology, development studies, environmental studies, and other disciplines. To do so, we will read selected writings from social theorists as well as empirical applications together, making sense of writing and concepts through collective discussion and debate.  Taught by Dr. Pamela McElwee

16:450:605:04: Critical Ethnographies of Power and Hegemony

  • Credits: 3

This course takes the ethnographic examination of social power as its central object. Our key concern is with the production of consent; the exercise of resistance, counter-conduct, and disagreement; and the institutional and cultural apparatuses that limit or facilitate transgressions of hegemonic norms. Why does the working class participate in forms of economy that reinforce their subordinate status? How do popular opinion, ideology, and doxa produce socialized norms for guiding behavior and thought? What are the mechanisms that lead subjects to “do as they ought,” even when it seems against their interest to do so? How are subjectivities fashioned so as to conform with social norms, even while retaining the capacity to exist otherwise? 

2014 Syllabus

Taught by Dr. Asher Ghertner

16:450:605:06: Black Geographies

  • Credits: 3

The course approaches Black geographies as an ever-unfolding spatial expression of Black studies by asking the following quesitons: What are black geographies? Who may see/produce a Black geography? What is the relationship between Black place-making and Black being/ontology? What is the future of Black geographies in and outside of academia?




16:450:606 Geography Seminar: Agrarian Transformations

The primary goal of this course is to explore key debates and critical perspectives on agrarian change and its relation to various imperial and capitalist formations. Materials will be drawn from a variety of academic subfields including peasant studies, food/resource geographies, critical agrarian studies, agroecology, cultural and political ecology and post/decolonial studies. We will examine the historical, political, economic and ecological contexts that have given rise to agrarian changes in different geographic settings, while considering the attendant implications for agrarian relations, subject formations, processes and actors. This includes paying close attention to the central issues that have long animated Marxian-inspired debates around the enduring agrarian question – how capitalism continually transforms agrarian systems and the degrees to which smallholders have been able to resist dispossession and the industrialization tendencies of modern agriculture – to more emergent and contemporary issues pertaining to food security, racial capitalism, food justice, land and labor struggles, climate change, and the ethical and ecological implications of an ever-expanding industrial capitalist agrifood system.Taught by Dr. Kevon Rhiney

Sample syllabus

16:450:606:05: Abolition Geographies & Transformative Justice (3)

  • Credits: 3

This course engages literature and activism by contemporary thinkers-organizers of the abolitionist movement in the US from the 1970s to today. Abolition envisions ways to build through collective thinking and collaborative work, "a world where we address harm without relying on the violent systems that increase it; where we have everything we need that is foundational for our personal and community safety," as abolitionist Mariame Kaba states it. We will center the pioneering voice, bold actions, and visionary callings of women of color in prefiguring present and future abolition worldling. Despite all odd and discrediting remarks, people of color, immigrants, LGBTTQI+, and communities of people with disabilities have been developing restorative justice, transformative justice, and community accountability frameworks and practical tools. They have been calling us to reimagine and enact through "a million experiments" a world where harm is not taken for granted nor normalized in relationships and institutions. We will examine questions such as: How to respond to violence without resorting to state­armed forces and stigmatizing social services? How has the contemporary abolitionist movement set the ground to create the conditions and possibilities for the Black Lives Matter Movement and increasingly loud cries for defunding the police and abolishing the prison-industrial-military complex? How to sustain communities and institutions through mutual aid/solidarity economy schemes? How to account for power differential within the communities and movements themselves? How to "change everything" while nurturing a politics of pleasure and joy? The course will investigate carceral geographies and abolition geographies from abolition feminism, abolition ecologies, and abolition economics perspectives.

 Taught by Dr. Priscilla Ferreira

16:450:607 Geography, Space, and Social Theory

focuses on social theories that both inform and have been informed by geography. It emphasizes the meanings and productions of space, its contextualization in society and science, its fixing and alignment with hegemonic social and economic structures, and the many potentials that exist for its disruption and reconstitution as a site of difference and alterity. The course will be of interest to students across the social sciences where theoretical understandings are increasingly intertwined with cartographic and spatial concerns, metaphors, and metrics. Taught by Dr. Kevin St. Martin

Sample Syllabus

16:450:620 Urban Theory

Surveys core theoretical propositions underlying the interdiscipilnary field of critical urban studies, while also interrogating recent innovations in the form and nature of urban claims making, spatial practice, and governance. Places special emphasis on postcolonial and "Southern" urbanism.

Fall 2019 Syllabus

Taught by Dr. Asher Ghertner

16:762:624:01 Planning, Public Policy, and Social Theory

(Fall semester)

This seminar has two goals: (1) to identify, deconstruct, and evaluate some of the major conceptual building-blocks deployed in theory, practice, and research in planning and public policy; and (2) to consider the power of theory in enabling, and constraining the production and application of knowledge in planning and public policy. Through intensive reading and class discussion, students reflect on the assumptions, presuppositions, and conceptual frameworks informing their research. Taught by Dr. Kathe Newman

16:970:501:01 History and Theory of Planning

(Fall or Spring semester)

Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy

Traces the evolution and development of the theory and practice of urban planning in historical context, examining how planning reflects the ambitions, contradictions, and challenges of the place and time in which it occurs. By examining changing approaches to the theory and practice of planning, students can clarify their own choices regarding the particular practice of planning with which they hope to engage. Taught by Dr. James DeFilippis

16:970:509:01 Urban Economy and Spatial Patterns

(Fall or Spring semester)

Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy

This course examines the urban as the domain or sphere of urban planning. What are the forces, dynamics, processes, performances, actions, and practices that create the economic, political, social, cultural, discursive, ideological, and experiential city as the subject and object of urban planning? How do contending urban theories and approaches constitute the city in different ways, implicating different kinds of planning and policy in response? Students complete a research paper examining an empirical example or case study of an urban process and the challenges it presents for planners. 

16:970:653:01 Social Justice in Planning and Public Policy

(Spring semester)

Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy

An in-depth exploration of the possibilities for, and barriers to, social justice in planning and public policy. Readings examine social justice as a normative principle, motivating ideal, guide to action, and evaluative standard in the practice of planning and public policy. The first half of the course surveys contending approaches to social justice variously understood as equality, fairness, legitimacy, integrity, inclusiveness, and usefulness, and considers the implications for practice of adopting one or another of these conceptions of justice. The second half of the course considers challenges to social justice posed by structural inequality, disempowerment, diversity and multiplicity, localism and globalization, and the inadequacy of democracy as a mode of collective decision-making in a post-political world. Taught by Dr. James DeFilippis