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Study information

Geopolitical Cultures

Module titleGeopolitical Cultures
Module codeGEO3144
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Sean Carter (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The world of geopolitics has been vividly represented across all kinds of popular culture; from spy films depicting the suspicion and mistrust of the Cold War, to the photojournalism of humanitarian crises, and the immersive experience of ‘playing the war on terror’ in any number of video games. But how precisely are these forms of culture entangled with the world of geopolitics? Are these merely forms of entertainment, with no bearing on the ‘real’ world of geopolitics? Conversely, can they tell us significant things about the operation of geopolitical power? Or might they form a more fundamental part of how the geopolitical world works? Through the exploration of a wide range of cultural forms and historical and contemporary geopolitical events, this module will consider questions such as these. Through the assessments, you will then be provided with the opportunity to construct a geopolitical cultural analysis of your own choosing.

The module is open to non-geography students, and will be particularly suited to those that have completed at least 15 credits of Geography at level 4, or have completed level 4 modules in other relevant subjects (such as Politics, International Relations, Film Studies).

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to explore the world of geopolitics through the lens of culture. It does so by moving through two main sections:

  1. ‘Foundations’, which looks at different theoretical and conceptual traditions related to both Geopolitics and Cultural Studies, and
  2. ‘Geopolitical Cultures in Action’, which looks at a series of geopolitics issues, events and scenarios through the lens of culture. These events and issues range both historically (taking in, for example, European imperialism, Cold War geopolitics, and the War on Terror) and spatially (looking at Western geopolitical practice, global humanitiarian crises, and post-colonial Africa, for example).

In doing so the module has two key intellectual aims:

  1. to show the entanglement of ‘culture’ and ‘geopolitics’ – in particular to argue that culture does not merely reflect various forms of geopolitical power, but is central to how that power operates; and
  2. to develop a wide-ranging understanding of ‘geopolitical culture’ – this is not to be restricted to just visual representations of geopolitics, but also recognises the importance of both objects and institutional forms of culture in the shaping of the geopolitical world.

This module will help you to develop and extend your awareness of the importance of taught and learnt skills in strengthening employability potential, especially through the application of critical analytical skills to a range of historical and contemporary global issues.

The teaching on this module will draw substantially from research undertaken by the module convenor, on issues such as conceptual approaches to popular geopolitics, the politics of film, and geopolitical cultures of play. Moreover, you are encouraged to undertake your own research-based, enquiry-led learning, specifically through the second coursework assessment, in which you are asked to research and produce a critical geopolitical analysis of a chosen image/text/object.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Discuss in detail the core concepts in critical and popular geopolitics
  • 2. Outline the multiple sites and spaces within which geopolitical cultures are performed and produced
  • 3. Describe how particular geopolitical articulations of the world impinge on the practice of international politics, and ultimately on other places and societies
  • 4. Summarise how ‘other’ places are represented and imagined in geopolitical cultures
  • 5. Analyse a range of critical approaches in the social sciences and their application to particular contexts in local, national and global politics

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. Interpret and critically evaluate a range of geographic ‘texts’ (political speeches, foreign policies, cultural representations, television and print news media)
  • 7. Relate the reflexive nature of geographical analysis and inquiry
  • 8. Compare the political, moral and ethical issues bound up with geographical representations of the world
  • 9. Explain how geographical knowledge of the world is produced, maintained and circulated, both in academic and popular discourses

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 10. Provide an assessment of topics showing consistency of argument with adequate illustration from a range of sources
  • 11. Critically assess and evaluate aspects of contemporary geopolitical thought
  • 12. Apply social theory to specific debates and contexts
  • 13. Interpret a wide variety of texts and data sources, from academic papers to popular representations
  • 14. Develop independent/self-directed study/learning skills, including time management, working to deadlines, and searching for literature relevant to the module themes
  • 15. Communicate and present geographical ideas, theories and principles through both oral and written means
  • 16. Present material to support a reasoned and consistent argument, both verbally and in writing

Syllabus plan

(lecture titles are indicative and may be subject to variation)

Section A Foundations

  • What is Geopolitics? What is Culture?
  • Geopolitical Discourse: a world of talk
  • Geopolitical Visions: a world of images
  • Geopolitical Objects: a world of things

Section B Geopolitical Cultures in Action

  • Envisioning Empire: on imperial discourse
  • Cold War Cultures: on visualising a divided world
  • The Empire Strikes Back: on post-colonial Africa
  • Imaging Indifference: on humanitarian visualities
  • The Spectacle of Violence: on 9/11 and the War on Terror
  • The Future is Now: on imagining worlds to come

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 Teaching20Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching7Seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Film screenings and discussion
Guided Independent Study60Reading/preparation for lectures and discussions
Guided Independent Study59Preparing and writing coursework

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Participation in discussions in seminarsOngoing throughout module seminars1-16Group-based oral feedback

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
Essay 1502000 wordsAllIndividual written
Essay 2502000 wordsAllIndividual written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1EssayAllAugust Ref/Def
Essay 2EssayAllAugust 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 essay as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Bleiker, R. (ed) (2018) Visual Global Politics (London, Routledge)
  • Butler, J. (2016) Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (London, Verso)
  • Carter, S & Dodds K. (2014) Film and International Politics. (New York, University of Columbia Press)
  • Dittmer, J. (2017) Diplomatic Material: Affect, Assemblage & Foreign Policy (Durham NC, Duke University Press)
  • Gregory D. (2004) The Colonial Present. (Oxford, Blackwell)
  • Kuus, M. (2014) Geopolitics & Expertise: Knowledge and Authority in European Diplomacy (Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell)
  • Kuus, M & Dodds K (eds) (2013) Ashgate Research Companion to Critical Geopolitics (London, Ashgate)
  • Lisle, D. (2016) Holidays in the Danger Zone (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press)
  • MacDonald F, Hughes R & Dodds K. (eds) (2010) Observant States: Geopolitics and Visual Culture. (London, IB Tauris)
  • Mead, C. (2013) War Play: Video Games and the Future of Armed Conflict (Dublin, Houghton Mifflin)
  • O Tuathail G. (1996). Critical Geopolitics. (London, Routledge)
  • Shapiro, M. (2008) Cinematic Geopolitics (London, Routledge)
  • Shepherd, L. (2013) Gender, Violence and Popular Culture (London, Routledge)
  • Weber, C. (2005) Imagining America at War (London, Routledge)

Key words search

Geopolitics, culture, space, power, global

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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