Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Any Level 2 BA Geography module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To offer students a sustained and critical engagement with contemporary research on citizenship, migration politics and activism.
  • To develop an understanding of how issues of citizenship, migration and asylum interact in contemporary political geography
  • To consider the ways in which issues of citizenship, migration and asylum shape everyday migrant experiences and political claims.
  • To critically reflect upon how issues and activism in relation to citizenship, migration and asylum are represented, discussed and understood in public and policy arenas, and to explore the ways in which these issues affect the lives of us all.
  • To engage with key academic debates in citizenship studies, migration studies, and political geography in workshops and, in doing so, to enhance informed critical thinking and discussion skills.


  • Citizenship is a concept at the heart of political geography and at the centre of political challenges and contestations around migration, rights, and responsibilities. From the disciplinary construction of the ‘good’ citizen associated with economic productivity and political loyalty, to the containment and exclusion of non-citizens, the dividing lines of citizenship are at the forefront of contemporary geopolitics. This is the case most readily in discussions around migration and asylum, where distinctions of citizenship status, rights, and opportunities shape how migrants are understood, represented, and treated. This course will explore these connections between citizenship, migration and asylum, and how different groups seek to articulate political claims. In doing so, the course will foreground the political actions, experiences, and exclusions of those placed on the margins of citizenship, drawing attention to how unauthorised migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are categorised and controlled by regimes of citizenship. Moving beyond this governmental perspective, the course will ask how those on the margins of citizenship may contest and challenge such a position. Exploring the work of migrant activists and advocacy organisations, the course will consider how political claims are made, what these claims are for, and how nation-states have responded to the demands of unauthorised migrants. A range of examples will be explored through the course, including the biopolitics of embodied lip-sewing and ‘identity-stripping’, the incremental lobbying and advocacy work of migrants’ organisations and support networks, and forms of artistic spectacle and cinematic representation that draw attention to migrant deaths and questions of citizen responsibility. The course asks students to critically reflect on how issues of citizenship, rights, and an uneven access to mobility, impact upon their own lives and workshop sessions will focus on drawing connections between academic and popular accounts of migrant lives, experiences, and political claims-making.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge and understanding of how citizenship and migration are lived by different groups.
  • Critically evaluate the ways in which citizenship regimes are challenged and contested by various types of unauthorised migrants and through various political tactics and strategies.
  • Understand and employ a range of concepts for analysing the politics of citizenship, migration, and asylum.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Thinking critically and engage with political issues related to citizenship, migration, and asylum.
  • Evaluate the ways in which citizenship regimes are contested by unauthorised migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.
  • Apply key concepts in political geography and citizenship studies, to contemporary problems and issues.
Key Skills:
  • Demonstrate clear academic written communication skills.
  • Demonstrate the ability to critically reflect upon the relations between academic and non-academic sources of knowledge and forms of debate.
  • Demonstrate the ability to synthesise information and to relate academic concepts to contemporary issues and problems.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures will introduce students to the main module themes of citizenship, unauthorised migration, asylum, and political activism and advocacy. The lectures will consider how these themes intersect in the formation of citizenship regimes that seek to control and manage migration, and how such regimes are challenged through the political claims of those on the margins of citizenship. The consequences of these contestations, for both citizens and non-citizens will be explored and case study examples will be used throughout.
  • Workshops will offer students a chance to discuss module themes in a range of formats, including student-led discussions of short films, an advocacy debate, and critical discussion of pre-circulated readings. The workshops will involve independent and group work, thus enhancing student skills development in presentation skills, debate and discussion skills, and team-working.
  • Formative assessment (individual summary theme discussion): two writing and feedback workshops will provide guidance on producing a thematic summary. In the first, student are asked to bring up to three powerpoint slides for discussion, addressing a course theme of their choice, related to issues of citizenship, activism, and asylum. These should outline the key issues students plan to address in their thematic summary. Feedback will be provided in class, along with peer discussion of ideas and challenges. The second writing and feedback workshop will offer further group support on thematic summary writing through the use of reflective writing exercises and examples.
  • Summative assessment (thematic summary of a learning journal): students are required to provide a critical and self-reflexive evaluation of a key theme within the course, drawing on a journal they are asked to keep for the duration of the course. The 5 page thematic summary should offer a critical engagement with issues and activism in relation to citizenship, migration and asylum, and should reflect on how these themes relate to contemporary politics, drawing on both academic and non-academic sources in doing so, and offer a personal reflection on the development of these issues and concepts throughout the course.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 5 2 hours 10
Workshops 2 2 hours 4
Writing & Feedback Workshops 2 2 hours 4
Student Reading and Preparation 82
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Learning journal thematic summary Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Learning journal thematic summary Max 5xA4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Workshop discussion of journal themes: students are asked to prepare three PowerPoint slides on their chosen theme to discuss in groups during a writing and feedback workshop, reflecting on a theme from the module as read through their learning journal. Individual feedback will be given in class so as to help develop ideas for the summative thematic summary submission. Further feedback on thematic summary ideas will be offered via a second feedback and discussion workshop focused on reflective writing skills, past examples, and using sources from popular culture.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University