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Study information

Geographies of Material Culture

Module titleGeographies of Material Culture
Module codeGEO3123
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Ian Cook (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module encourages you to better appreciate the complexities of globalisation and trade justice through studying the travels of everyday things from factories and farms to shops and homes, through studying the ways in which artists, filmmakers, journalists, activists and academics try to involve their audiences in stories of these travels, and through making and modifying commodities so that the lives of those who make them can be more clearly seen in those things. The module has a small number of introductory lectures and then takes its shape through group work that relies on your research skills, teamwork and creativity. This group work is un-assessed, but is created for public audiences, and is the means through which you will learn. This module involves the use of, and potential contribution to, an online research database called You will be assessed through a series of first person journal-writing assignments.

You are not required to have any specific pre- or co-requisite modules. This module is suitable for anyone fascinated and/or concerned about these issues and keen to learn about them in this way.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module is designed to enable you to gain a rich understanding of theoretical and activist debates (via academic work on material culture, commodity relations, commodity fetishism, diverse economies, vital materialism, culture jamming and public pedagogy) through reading and practical / topical group work. You should emerge from this module with a more detailed and nuanced appreciation of ‘live’ trade justice campaigns, their geographies and our multiple and sometimes contradictory involvements in the inequalities and injustices that they bring to light.

This module is based on Ian Cook et al’s research into the geographies of material culture as showcased on the spoof shopping website The module uses this resource (including its blog and social media feeds) both as its textbook and as key resource to inform, inspire and sometimes publish its students’ work.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe the geographies in and of material culture flows
  • 2. Connect case studies with wider social, cultural, economic, etc. processes
  • 3. Illustrate how understandings cross disciplinary and sub-disciplinary boundaries
  • 4. Combine creative and academic writing to make sense of relationships and connections
  • 5. Analyse and evaluate your own involvements in the geographies of material culture

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding
  • 7. Describe the nature of explanation within human geography, allowing for the critical evaluation of arguments, assumptions and abstractions, to make correct judgments, to frame and successfully solve a problem

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently orally and in writing
  • 9. Formulate a sustained and reasoned argument
  • 10. Identify, acquire, evaluate and synthesise data from a range of sources
  • 11. Formulate and evaluate questions and identify and evaluate approaches to problem-solving
  • 12. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment
  • 13. Reflect on the process of learning and evaluate personal strengths and weaknesses
  • 14. Teach and learn as a participant in a group
  • 15. Contribute effectively to the achievement of objectives
  • 16. Use C&IT effectively and appropriately to select, analyse and present information

Syllabus plan

Section 1: ‘Base lines’: key theoretical arguments to set up the module.
Section 2: ‘Compilations’: group research and presentations on existing examples of material cultural geographies.
Section 3: ‘New work’: group research and presentations on new examples of material cultural geographies.
Section 4: ‘Endings’ reflections on what has been learned in the module.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5Introductory lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching28Discussions, workshops, drop-ins and presentations
Guided Independent Study117Group research and creative practice, guided and advised via discussions (above) and on the module blog

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group 'compilation' blogs in section 2No specified lengthAllWritten feedback in comments box on student blog
Group presentations in sections 2 and 35 minute 'show and tell'AllQuestions and feedback in class and general feedback on the module blog

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Journal entry 1 (due in week 4)251000 wordsAllStandard coursework feedback (returned before Journal 2a deadline)
Journal entry 2 (due in 3 parts in weeks 7, 11 and week 1 in Term 2: 1000 words each, but marked as 1 piece of work)753000 wordsAllStandard coursework feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Journal entry 1Journal entry 1AllAugust Ref/Def
Journal entry 2Journal entry 2AllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Ian Cook (ed.) (2011-date)
  • Ian Cook & Tara Woodyer (2012) Lives of things. in Eric Sheppard, Trevor Barnes & Jamie Peck (eds) The new companion to economic geography. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell
  • Ian Cook et al (2006) Geographies of food: following. Progress in human geography 30(5) 655-666
  • Philip Crang (2014) The geographies of material culture. In P. Cloke, P. Crang & M. Goodwin (eds) Introducing Human Geographies. (Third edition) London: Arnold, p.276-291
  • Mark Graham & Håvard Haarstad (2011) Transparency and Development: Ethical Consumption Through Web 2.0 and the Internet of Things. Information Technologies and International Development 7 (1) 1-18
  • Robert Foster (2007) Tracking globalization: commodities and values in motion. in C. Tilley, W. Keane, S. Kuechler, M. Rowlands & P. Spyer (eds) Handbook of material culture. London: Sage, 285-302.
  • David Harvey (2010) Commodities and exchange. in his A companion to Marx’s Capital.  London: Verso, p.15-53 
  • Tim Ingold (2010) The textility of making. Cambridge journal of economics 34, 91-102
  • Sigrid Baringhorst, Veronika Kneip & Johanna Niesyto (eds) Political campaigning on the web. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Geography, trade justice, new media, commodity fetishism, activism

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date