CRD 20    —    CRD 142    —    CRD 244    —    GEO 200C


GEO 200C: Theory and Practice of


What is geography?  Is geography a science?  How can one get a Ph.D. in a discipline that most people in the U.S. understand to be a body of knowledge that involves only map memorization?  What are the unifying concerns, theories, and practices of geography?  How do understandings and explanations of physical and human geographers differ, and how might they be similar?  How will geography fare in the future in both the academy and society?  Should geography aim to become more socially and politically relevant, and if so, how?

As a modern academic discipline, geography began in the late 1800s as an experiment to combine understandings of the natural and social sciences in a single discipline.  Geography maintains enormous diversity in terms of its research topics and paradigms, ranging, for example, from field studies of river geomorphology to theoretical debates about scale.  Today geography, like all disciplines, is faced with increasing specialization as knowledge production expands.  Some argue that with this specialization the “two halves” of geography, physical geography and human geography, might go their separate ways.  Others maintain that the very core of the discipline is a spatial understanding and the study of society-environment interactions, and that knowledge and theoretically-informed practice that synthesizes across the nature/society divide is needed now more than ever.

In addition to familiarizing students with geography’s intellectual history and evolution, the objectives of this course are to: (1) introduce students to major theoretical developments and debates in the discipline, (2) encourage each student to pursue an in-depth understanding of at least one area within the discipline, and (3) develop and refine students’ ability to read and write critically.  The course is structured around four primary areas within the discipline: physical geography, human geography, nature and society geography (a.k.a. environmental geography), and cartography and geographic information sciences (GIS).

The course is meant for geography graduate students and graduate students in related fields who want to learn more about integrating understandings from the natural and social sciences and the humanities.

Course Materials

winter 2009