BSc Geography with International Study

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Critical Geographies of Difference

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG30621
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Critical geographies of difference is a multi-dimensional approach to understanding of difference as a factor of race, infrastructure, history and experience and how these are shaped across time, place and space. It draws on expertise from feminist geographies, black geographies, social and cultural geographies, post-colonial geographies, development geographies etc. The module will examine the construction and contestations of difference within geography using feminist theories, critical discourse theories and critical race theory. Through these theories, the module will explore the messiness of difference, its construction, lived experience and politics within a changing modern world; whilst recognising the connections and shape of social environments as well as how (de)coloniality, landscapes, popular culture and politics are all reproduced, represented, performed and resisted. Students will be introduced to a range of themes and debates through a series of lectures, seminars, debates and in-class discussions. Self-reflection and extra-curricular engagements will be encouraged.


Geographers use difference to unpack generalised assumptions of historical geographical work recognising the failures of early geographers in acknowledging diversity of experiences of individuals and groups.  In other words, difference highlights and fills in the silent spaces of geographical scholarship and allows us to understand the ‘other,’ its construction, contestations and exclusion/ oppression (See Pickerill, 2010). Recognising how difference is located within flows of movement and how place or sense of place is reproduced within fluid social systems and structures, key themes and ideas that will feature are: the construction and deconstruction of bodies and how these create difference in physical, social, economic and political spaces; global production systems and infrastructures of exclusion; inequality as a praxis for difference; race as determinant and ‘going beyond’ recognition of whiteness vs ‘other.’ Centred around alternative geographies, this module will use difference to understand the world around us and will help bridge this gap and support efforts towards inter/multi-disciplinarity of geography as well as decolonising the discipline. This unit will bring in postcolonial debates on difference and how they are interwoven with lived experiences of indigenous cultures, black/ race geographies, and alternative feminisms etc and how these ‘differences’ intersect, define and interact with geographical aspects of space, place and time.


1.           Introduce students to current themes and debates on difference and how these are inter-twined with everyday processes of identity creation, lived experience, performativity of the body, ‘Différance (difference within) and materiality etc.

2.           To explore how historical epistemologies of place and identity have impacted and continue to impact the lived experiences of everyday geographies and how these are crucial to existence and experience of difference in all areas of society.

3.           To upend and contextualise longstanding Eurocentric ideas on difference and introduce new and less discussed notions of space and place; whilst emphasizing the complexities of difference within and as experienced by ‘the other.’


The teaching contributions on this module involve elements of work undertaken by staff on feminist geographies, economic geographies, social and cultural geographies, black geographies and post-coloniality/ decoloniality.  Ultimately students are expected to gain new insight and apply a ‘differance’ lens to the world around them with an aim of reframing and analysing place and space as well as its construction, application and experience.


Proposed topics:

•            Difference: introduction and construction of the ‘other’

•            (Post)Colonial Encounters: understanding the roots/routes of difference

•            The politics of difference and ‘differance’

•            Difference: Resistance and activism. Finding place in the world around us

•            Difference and exclusion: Case studies to be delivered through weekly seminars e.g. of infrastructures like the toilet, the tube; Space, workplace, climate, housing, bricks etc.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures: The main lecture content will be delivered through weekly one hour lectures and topics will be clearly outlined in the module handbook. While this outline gives possible topics to be covered,  staff will have the flexibility to design the course content around their areas of expertise.

Weekly reflective material: Students will be given a paper or a case study every week. They will be expected to engage with the material and then write up 200words reflecting on what the article or case study is about and what conclusions they draw from the material. This will be peer-assessed. As such students will have the opportunity to participate in the feedback process through reviewing material produced by their peers every week. These weekly postings will form part of  a summative assessment where students will get to choose 4 of their best work, improve on them based on peer feedback and  then submit these via Turnitin as one essay for formal assessment. This exercise will seek to assess how students synthesise and break down and present information, how they incorporate feedback in their work as well as how they can cohesively put together different pieces of work into one essay/ piece. The writing style will be reflective.  A marking criteria will be provided to students to assist them in their peer marking. This assessment is not set in stone and will be adaptable for subsequent years to reflect feedback and learnings from the course.

Seminars: There will be 2 hour seminars where students will be able to explore case study material that relate to theoretical lecture content delivered during the lecture sessions. These seminars will be run with the help of a Teaching Assistant and will be aimed at supporting students to explore lecture material in depth and also look at how various aspects of difference play out in real-life situations, policies, etc. This will be done within small groups.

Debate: As part of the seminar series, students will participate in a debate touching on various issues in the study of difference. This will be completed in groups which will be assigned in the 1st week. While the debate itself is not graded and will be part of the weekly seminar content, students will be expected to submit a summative essay assessment drawing upon the material/ topics covered in the debate. Students will be required to write up a 2000 worded critical review essay (+/-10%) based on a topic or issue of interest arising from the debate as well as the contestations therein. The idea behind this is to allow students to engage in assess how students interpret, understand and experience difference as well as how they are able to relate these debate scenarios to existing research, policy and peer-reviewed literature. Concepts to be explored include but are not limited to feminism, race, inequality, space, place etc, all of which are fundamental to the understanding of difference. Students will be given topics to choose from and will be expected to contribute to the preparation and presentation of the debate. Feedback will be provided at the end of the session. Students will be expected to conduct mock sessions in their free time and seek assistance from the teaching team to aid in preparation.

Knowledge and understanding

Engage with recent debates in geographies of difference as seen through the lens of race, gender, class, sexuality, place and time.

Critically challenge the world around them from the perspective of ‘the other’

Evaluate how students use knowledge  and their positionality to (de)construct and resist/ limit difference and ‘Différance’

Intellectual skills

Reflect upon the legacies, and contemporary dynamics, of colonial histories in academia and their relevance in construction of difference

Think critically about social, political, racial, and environmental processes that shape difference geographies

Analyse the contribution of geography to difference and its role in shaping spatial difference/ ‘Différance’

Practical skills

Information handling skills, evaluation and analysis of academic and non-academic texts; 

An ability to relate theoretical arguments with empirical research and real-life examples.

Critically engage with original and diverse source material in analysing and constructing difference

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Understand the world from the perspective of ‘the other’ and use this knowledge to deconstruct infrastructure, knowledge and binaries that resist/ limit Difference and ‘Différance’

Assessment methods

Assessment task


How and when feedback is provided

Weighting within unit (if relevant)








Summative feedback Essay based on topics presented during the debate


Coursework surgeries available in week 12 during seminar hours or weekly staff office hours throughout the semester.





200*4; 800words

Summative feedback on best 4 blogs (revised from the formative task)


Feedback methods

Summative feedback Essay based on topics presented during the debate

Coursework surgeries available in week 12 during seminar hours or weekly staff office hours throughout the semester

Summative feedback on best 4 blogs (revised from the formative task)

Formative and Summative feedback

Recommended reading

Barker, A and Pickerill, J. 2020. Doings with the land and sea: Decolonising geographies, Indigeneity, and enacting place-agency. Progress in Human Geography., 44, 4: 640-662.

Derrida, J., 1989. Différance.

Fanon, F., 1970. Black skin, white masks (pp. 13-30). London: Paladin.

Hughes, C., 2002. Key concepts in feminist theory and research. Key Concepts in Feminist Theory and Research, pp.1-222.

McKittrick, K., 2006. Demonic grounds: Black women and the cartographies of struggle. U of Minnesota Press.

Pickerill, J., 2009. Finding common ground? Spaces of dialogue and the negotiation of Indigenous interests in environmental campaigns in Australia. Geoforum, 40(1), pp.66-79.

Wa Thiong'o, N., 1992. Decolonising the mind: The politics of language in African literature. East African Publishers

Yegen, C. and Abukan, M., 2014. Derrida and language: Deconstruction. International journal of Linguistics, 6(2), pp.48-61.

Young, I.M., 1990. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton University Press.

Young, I.M., 1990. Throwing like a girl and other essays in feminist philosophy and social theory.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nerea O'Kongo Unit coordinator

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