Cultural Geography [CRN 27349]

Discipline: Geography
Instructor: Smith
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 15:10
End: 16:30
Field Work: Day 2 | February 21, 2017 | Myanmar (Burma)
Prerequisites: One (1) introductory geography course Download Syllabus

This course offers an introduction to the field of cultural geography, focusing on the key concepts of cultural production and cultural consumption, exploring the way these processes are important in the creation of cultural spaces, groups, and identities. We shall explore some of the rich diversity of cultural geographies, looking at geographical research in the realms of architecture, art, landscapes, texts, and performances. We shall also investigate geographical engagements with some of the key lines of social and cultural enquiry, investigating patterns of everyday behavior, the importance of materiality, and the regulation of emotion and affect. Cultural geography requires us to rethink the spaces within which people conduct their lives, and to examine how cultural practices intersect with the broader structures of social and political power in specific places. Using a combination of lectures, readings, maps, films and field work, the course will provide students with the tools to examine the places we shall be visiting as we travel through Asia and Africa on the SAS 2017 Spring voyage. The places we visit along the way can be used for specific case studies, and for comparisons with our own experiences of place. In this context we shall also examine the way a specific place, over time, develops a unique spirit or ethos, which some geographers refer to as a sense of place. The challenge in the contemporary era is that various external forces — such as globalization, transnational mobility, technological change, and armed conflict — are disrupting and in some cases eroding the relationship between people and the places they inhabit and belong to. The objectives of the course are as follows: to provide a broad overview of the key concepts and approaches to cultural geography; to examine the multiple methods involved in and some of the emerging contests associated with place-making as a social and cultural practice; to explore the relations between social identity and the production of geographical space; to analyze some of the many ways culture is used and consumed by different groups of people; and to bring a critical eye to contemporary scholarship in cultural geography.


By the end of the course students should be able to:

  • describe and interpret critically the theories and research practices of cultural geography;
  • document and evaluate the features of ordinary places and landscapes, and be sensitive to the many ways people become attached to such places;
  • critically assess the material and symbolic aspects of cultural landscapes and places;
  • identify the impacts on and threats to unique places (and people’s attachments to them) associated with globalization and other forces of change;
  • evaluate and critique some of the many ways “culture” is produced and consumed in the contemporary world;
  • interpret scholarly literature in cultural geography and enhance their research skills through field work and in-class projects.

Field Work

Country: Myanmar (Burma)
Day: 2
Date: February 21, 2017

The field class will start with visits to the metropolitan planning bureau or the economic development bureau, to assess the progress of (and the problems associated with) Myanmar’s recent re-entry into the regional and global economy. Students will also visit the spectacular Shwedagon Paya, the pagoda complex in the city, and (if possible) talk with local religious figures about their lives, and about their views on the new Myanmar and its future.

Learning objectives:
1.Appreciate and assess the impacts of Myanmar’s entry into the regional and global economy on religious lives and landscapes in Yangon.