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Study information

Geographies of Life

Module titleGeographies of Life
Module codeGEOM131
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Gail Davies (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module explores the geographies and politics of living and material systems, and interrogates the theoretical and empirical dimensions of the human/nonhuman/technology interface. Ranging from work on nature-society relations, animal geographies, the politics of biosecurity, the practices of laboratory science, and the links between geography, life and health, this module offers you an opportunity to interrogate cutting-edge research on the more-than-human dimensions of our world.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module provides a research-led environment in which you can develop understandings of both theoretical and applied disciplinary debates in the following topics:

  • Geographies of life, which includes work on the histories and philosophies of approaches to nature, materiality and the spatial practices of science and technology.
  • Animal geographies, which includes work on diverse human-animal interactions in contexts such as agriculture, wildlife conservation, urban ecology and laboratories.
  • Biopolitics and biosecurity, which includes work on the geographies of disease and zoonoses, the geographical dimensions of biopolitical power, as well as debates on the histories of life and the life sciences.
  • Geographies of science and embodiment, which includes work on locations of experimental practices and subjects, spaces of molecularisation and medicalisation, and corporeal enhancement and treatment.
  • Geographies of urban and rural life, which includes work on the evolving politics and policies surrounding both urban and rural forms of living and liveliness, through transformations to the practices for mapping and managing food and health.

Interdisciplinary engagement between the life and social sciences is a challenge in addressing many contemporary issues across environmental issues, animal welfare, and health. The theoretical resources, policy knowledge and practical skills acquired by taking this module are relevant to many areas of employment, notably in the development of policy and creative interventions within environmental conservation, animal welfare, and science and health policy. By taking part in the discussion sessions and developing your reading and research you will learn skills of critical thinking, reading across disciplines, framing interventions and policy evaluation, which are key to careers involving interdisciplinary social scientific contributions across consultancy, government policy, NGO and academic research.  

The module content is updated every year to explore topical research areas, drawing on active research within the department, and incorporating innovative perspectives from international visitors and completing research students. These case studies demonstrate how academics use the theoretical tools supplied by more philosophical approaches to the geography of life to make interventions across science policy and practice.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Discuss the range and significance of work on the geographies of life
  • 2. Explain and discuss the contemporary debates surrounding nature, materiality, health and biopolitics
  • 3. Assess the implications of geographical research on the more-than-human for policy
  • 4. Practice critical readings of diverse matters and materialities of nonhuman life
  • 5. Account for the intellectual diversity of approaches to the more-than-human life and health within human geography

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. Apply geographical concepts to the interpretation and analysis of scientific practices and technologies
  • 7. Identify, evaluate and synthesise diverse perspectives on materiality and the politics of life, health, science and technology
  • 8. Draw upon relevant debates concerning methodological approaches to the nonhuman
  • 9. Undertake original research on the more-than-human through a self?directed research question

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 10. Identify, acquire, evaluate and synthesise data from a range of sources
  • 11. Evaluate contrasting theories in order to critically explore particular topics
  • 12. Evaluate and assess topics, showing consistency of argument and depth of analysis
  • 13. Evaluate research-based articles within the wider context of the module as a whole
  • 14. Develop independent learning skills including: self-directed reading, literature searches, and time management

Syllabus plan

  • Geographies of life: an introduction
  • Animal life
  • Guest seminar
  • Modern life
  • Biopolitical life
  • Molecular life
  • Student coursework presentations
  • Experimental life
  • Dystopias of life
  • Mapping life
  • Lively excess in research practice

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 Teaching22Seminar sessions – run by members of the Geographies of Nature, Materialities and Biopolitics Research Group and other colleagues
Guided Independent Study128Self-directed readings and assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar presentation30 minutesAllOral
Contributions to seminar discussions2 hours each weekAllOral

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
Essay753000 wordsAllWritten
Research blog251000 wordsAllWritten

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssayAllAugust Ref/Def
Research blogResearch blogAllAugust 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 50%) you will be required to resubmit the essay or the blog post. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Haraway D 2008 When species meet. (Minnesota university press)
  • Hinchliffe, S., Bingham, N., Allen, J., & Carter, S. (2016). Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Latour B 2007 Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, (Oxford University Press)
  • Lemke, T. (2011) Biopolitics: an advanced introduction. NYU Press
  • Rose N 2006 The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty First Century (Princeton Press)
  • Stengers I 2000 The Invention of Modern Science (University of Minnesota Press)
  • Tsing A 2011 Friction: An ethnography of global connection (Princeton University Press)
  • Whatmore S 2002 Hybrid Natures: natures, cultures, spaces (SAGE)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Life, nature, nature-society, environment, health, nonhuman, politics, science studies, animals, materiality, modernity

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


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Last revision date