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Culture, Politics & Place

The various research interests of the human geographers in the department coalesce around issues of politics, culture, political-economy and space. Individually and collaboratively, this cohort of researchers brings together a diverse set of interests, including ethno-territorial conflict, transnational citizenship and belonging, tourism, rural development, urban politics, and human-environment interaction. Emphasizing a critical and historical approach, faculty in this area draw on a range of theoretical and methodological debates in political and cultural geography, political ecology, critical development studies, and urban studies.

Specific lines of research in this area include:

  • Tourism, place and identity in China and Asia (Su)
  • Diverse economies and splintered urbanism in Mexico and the global South (Meehan)
  • Shifting territorial arrangements and understandings in response to changing economic and political circumstances (Murphy)
  • The material and ideological spaces of peace and conflict (Cohen)
  • Land use and natural resource politics in the western United States and southern Africa (Walker)
  • Political economy of development and foodways in China and Asia (Buck)
  • Politics of climate change risk governance (Johnson)

    L. McLees

    L. McLees

I. Klock

I. Klock

What kinds of jobs might a focus in Culture, Politics & Place prepare you for?

These courses focus on developing skills in understanding the diverse social, political, and economic processes that influence people and places. A spatial perspective will allow you to understand how these processes play out in different places, and specifically how policies, economies and social systems influence people, power, and landscapes. Further, a spatial perspective focuses on understanding how global processes, actors, and networks can influence particular places, and vice-versa.

More specifically, people with a focus in culture, politics and place might look for jobs that look at how people interact and understand their socieites, including:

  • Research suitability of locations for businesses or real estate developers;
  • Assist people in travel plans;
  • Provide expertise in place-specific cultural practices and how to preserve them with dignity;
  • Work with community stakeholders to envision their futures;
  • Work with communities impacted or displaced by disasters or conflicts;
  • Provide cultural awareness training to businesses and government offices;
  • And more!

Some jobs titles include:

Marketing Director
Travel Agent
Real Estate Agent
Cultural or Historical Preservationist
Research Consultant
Regional Analyst
Foreign Affairs Officer
Community Development Specialist
Human Capital Analyst
Disaster Program Manager
Extension Coordinator
School Garden Coordinator
Housing Coordinator
Refugee Settlement Coordinator

Check out the Jobs for Geographers page for a few examples of current jobs and resources to search for many more!

If you have more questions about what you can do with a focus in Culture, Politics & Place, contact Dr Leslie McLees, the Undergraduate Coordinator & Advisor at


Note: Occasionally GEOG 410 is also offered as a course that would count towards the Culture, Politics and Place Concentration. Check the Course Offerings (the “pink sheet”) or email the Undergraduate Advisor at to clarify. 

GEOG 341. Population and Environment. 4 Credits.
Patterns of population growth over history and place, current policies and programs, and impacts and trends in United States and international contexts. Includes method and theory. Cohen.

GEOG 342. Geography of Globalization. 4 Credits.
Historical and geographical dimensions of globalization; emphasizes economic and social factors. Topics include multinationals, trade agreements, sustainability, global inequalities, and racial and gender divisions of labor. Buck.

GEOG 343. Society, Culture, and Place. 4 Credits.
Examines ways in which geographical context reflects and shapes cultural and social processes. Importance of place and territory in human affairs. Su.

441/541 Political Geography. 4 Credits. Spatial perspectives on global political patterns and processes. Relationship of political territories to resources, ethnic patterns, and ideological communities. Impact of political arrangements on landscapes. Junior standing required. Murphy.

442/542 Urban Geography. 4 Credits. Urbanization throughout the world, the structure of urban settlements; cities as regional centers, physical places, and homes for people; geographic problems in major urban environments. Special fee. Junior standing required. Cohen, Meehan.

443/543 Global Migration. 4 Credits. Explores political, economic, and sociocultural dimensions of labor migration. Topics include capitalism and colonialism; state territoriality; urbanization; globalization; race, gender, and citizenship. Junior standing required.

444/544 Cultural Geography. 4 Credits. Patterns of culture as a force in human affairs; dynamics of identity, place, and power; the creation of culture at different scales. Junior standing required. Cohen.

448/548 Tourism and Development. 4 Credits. Tourism-related concepts and practices associated with tourism planning, development, marketing, and impacts in different geographic contexts. Su.

461/561 Environmental Alteration. 4 Credits. Human alterations of the earth’s major ecosystems. Consequences of human activity at different times and places with respect to soils, atmosphere, vegetation, landforms, and water. Junior standing required. Kohler.

463/563 Geography, Law, and the Environment. 4 Credits. Values underlying American legal approaches to environmental issues; the role of laws in reflecting and shaping human understanding and use of the environment. Special fee. Junior standing required. Murphy.

465/565 Environment and Development. 4 Credits. Critical analysis of development concepts. Economic activity and environmental impacts. Sustainable development. Development projects and landscapes in the industrializing world. Junior standing required. Johnson.

466/566 Gender and Environment. 4 Credits. How gender shapes understandings of and interactions with nature. Gender, science, and nature in Western thought; global environmental justice; population debates; feminist political ecology. Junior standing required.

467/567 International Water Policy. 4 Credits. Examines problems in water policy and governance in a global context. Draws on interdisciplinary perspectives, compares case studies, and analyzes institutions. Prereq: GEOG 360. Meehan.

GEOG 468. Contemporary Food Systems. 4 Credits.
Explores contemporary food systems at local, national, and global scales. Emphasis on the political economy and sociocultural dynamics linking agriculture, food industries, and consumption. Buck.

471/571 North American Historical Landscapes. 4 Credits. Examines the origin and evolution of cultural landscapes in North America through historical and contemporary sources, and draws upon the local region for student projects. Junior standing required. Holtgrieve.

GEOG 475. Advanced Geography of Non-European-American Regions: [Topic]. 4 Credits.
Repeatable. Examination of the settlement patterns, regional economies, political organization, and character of the landscapes of selected major regions of the non-European and American world. Repeatable when region changes.

ENVS 450. Political Ecology (4) Examines how social relations and economic, social, and cultural control of natural resources shape human interactions with the environment. Theory and case studies. Prereq: ENVS 201. Course only counts for Geography concentration elective if it is taught by Peter Walker.

ENVS 455. Sustainability. 4 Credits.
Examines the evolution of the concept of sustainability and its complex and sometimes problematic uses among scholars, policymakers, environmentalists, and businesses. Pre- or coreq: ENVS 201; junior or senior standing. Course only counts for Geography concentration elective if it is taught by Peter Walker.