Geography 272,  Advanced Topics in Space, Power & Identity – Decolonial Feminist Political Ecology – Spring 2017

This advanced seminar on space, power and identity examines decolonial practices and theory. We begin with feminist writings from the ‘Andean’ region, where much of decolonial theory has its roots and connects with eco-social and indigenous movements further afield in Central and South America. How well do decolonial theories and practices ‘travel’ from their roots in the Andes to other places? What challenges do the unique naturecultures encountered in the worlds beyond, pose for feminist decolonial perspectives? This course will examine these questions in three highly contested spaces: i) hostess bars in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, ii) mosques in Cairo, Egypt and iii) cancer treatment clinics in California, USA. These spaces are sites of remaking power relations, identities and knowledge. Three ethnographies will help us carefully unpack common gendered and racialized figures or tropes of sex workers, pious Muslim women, and breast cancer survivors in ways that radically rethink ideas of modernity, agency, freedom and other concepts. These texts also ask what it means to do embodied, intersectional ethnography. One of the major silences in these three ethnographies concerns ecology and narratives about nature. Throughout the course we will work together to locate the more-than-human relations in these cases through an approach known as feminist political ecology. This course is writing-intensive and will provide students with skills for doing critical analysis and research. Students should be prepared for engaging, thoughtful and challenging discussions throughout the course.

Geography 150,  Geography of Africa – Spring 2017

The spring syllabus will be posted soon.

In this course we will explore James Ferguson’s provocative book, Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution (2015), in which he argues for an emerging politics of distribution in our contemporary contexts of labor over-supply, climate change and inaccurate declarations of the death of the welfare state in southern Africa. Ferguson examines existing programs in which some African states give cash payments to their citizens in the form of a so-called basic income. As we draw from a geographical textbook resource to learn about the diverse socio-environmental geographies of the African continent, we will evaluate Ferguson’s arguments and claims regarding where and why certain kinds of relations of dependency and certain distribution practices might be seen by some as desirable and by others as problematic. We will also read a novel by Mozambican author Paulina Chiziane in order to explore some of the intimate and everyday spaces of social relation that come to bear on the politics of distribution. Students will work individually and in groups to research specific African themes and places in order to test the merits and limits of a politics of distribution. This course will provide students with skills for doing critical analysis and research.

Geography 273,  Advanced Topics in Political Economy and Ecology: Making Southern Africa – Fall 2015

Syllabus – GEOG 273 Fall 2015

In the spirit of the popular geopolitical admonition “Africa is not a country,” many university courses focus on historical and contemporary issues in “sub-Saharan Africa,” in part as a way to question broader stereotypes about “Africa.” This course treats sub-Saharan Africa as a contested world region by introducing students to key debates in critical regional geography (CRG) through the lens of southern Africa. Rather than determining an “essence” of southern Africa as a region, we will analyze a combination of in-depth physical and human geography themes to explore the multiple geopolitical and environmental narratives and imaginaries that influence the ways that diverse actors come to know, define and make regions. This is also an advanced political ecology course in which we examine the politics that shape our understandings of and interactions with various forms and ideas of nature in geographically diverse contexts. ‘Nature’ is a historically and culturally contingent concept, deployed unevenly for the benefit of some and to the detriment of others. Through writing-intensive, research-based and creative mapping assignments, this course offers a unique approach to southern African political ecologies and critical regional geography through six key lenses, including:

  1. Excavating origin stories
  2. Being nuclear and locating nuclearity
  3. Transforming frontiers through conservation
  4. Performing embodied politics of race, place and resistance
  5. Engaging trans-boundary river basins and modeling a changing climate
  6. Crossing boundaries of sexuality, gender and landscape via the ‘invisible realm’

Geography 081,  Geospatial Concepts and Visualization (formerly Geotechniques) – Spring 2017, Fall 2015 and Spring 2014

Syllabus – GEOG 081 Fall 2015

The Spring 2017 syllabus will be posted soon.

This course introduces students to core geospatial concepts and techniques used by geographers and practitioners from other disciplines interested in exploring spatial patterns and processes. The course is required for all Geography majors at UVM and serves as an introductory elective in the Geospatial Technologies minor, and thus provides essential knowledge and skills for all geographical interests. As we learn how to read maps, analyze data, interpret images and use mapping software, we will also work to approach mapping and geovisualization with a critical eye, asking what messages maps portray and how map makers shape perception through their choices of visualization strategies. This course prepares students with the fundamental concepts necessary for beginning to work through geospatial problems and with a basic understanding of map reading, map making, and both quantitative and qualitative analysis methods relevant to those interested in spatial problems. By the end of the semester, students will be prepared to pursue more advanced collegiate studies that utilize geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and cartographic techniques.


Environmental Studies 002,  International Environmental Studies – Spring 2015 & 2016

Syllabus – International Environmental Studies, Spring 2016

The instructor for 2017 will be Katlyn Morris.

This course offers an introduction to six key international environmental issues: biodiversity, fresh water, agriculture and food, energy, waste and climate change. We explore each of these inter-connected issues through introductions to different analytical approaches that are commonly practiced in environmental studies (protected areas, ecosystem services, agroecology, environmental justice, political ecology and environmental governance). We root each issue and approach to a grounded case study and its local, national and global connections. The course reviews key concepts that are likely familiar to students at this stage of learning, but that we reexamine from critical and diverse perspectives. Students of all interest areas and majors are welcome in this course, which is a foundational course for the Environmental Studies Major and fulfills the University of Vermont’s D2 (Human and Societal Diversity) requirement.

Environmental Studies 284,  Teaching Assistantship – Spring 2015 & 2016

Please contact me for a copy of the syllabus. The instructor for 2017 will be Katlyn Morris.

Geography 173 / Environmental Studies 195,  Political Ecology – Fall 2013, 2014 & 2017

Syllabus – Political Ecology, Fall 2014

Political ecology is a community of practice best realized in conversation with others. Through a writing-intensive and research-based approach, this course examines how politics shape our understandings of and interactions with various forms and ideas of nature in geographically diverse contexts. ‘Nature’ is a historically and culturally contingent concept, deployed unevenly for the benefit of some and to the detriment of others. Through researching compelling topics, the course offers a unique lens on discourses and analytical assumptions about human-environment relationships in five major areas including:  i) degradation and marginalization, ii) conservation (including its origins, neoliberal practices and related use of social media and technology), iii) environmental conflicts related to extraction, war and militarism, iv) environmental subjects and identities and v) political objects and actors. Specific topics include “forest islands” in Guinea, critical histories of “Smokey Bear,” drones in conservation areas in Mozambique, sex panic in pollution narratives, the politics of “fresh” milk in Vermont and the military uses of avatars and honeybees. Pre/co-requisites: GEOG 050, 060 or 070 AND GEOG 040. ENVS Majors without the geography pre-requisites should have completed ENVS 001 AND ENVS 002 before taking this class as well as one introductory physical sciences course.

Environmental Studies 151, Intermediate Environmental Studies – Fall 2013

This course is no longer offered at UVM as it has been transformed into ENVS 195 Academic Planning Workshop. Contact Elizabeth Wright for a copy of the current syllabus.

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