Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module GEOG30F7: Geographies of Life and Living

Department: Geography

GEOG30F7: Geographies of Life and Living

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


  • None


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Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The aim of this module is to introduce you to cutting edge work on the philosophies and spatial politics of life and living. The authors that we will read and discuss are driven by a curiosity about “life” as a social, political, and economic force. At issue is not only life as a concept, but also the material bodies and biological processes said to constitute it, both human and non. Throughout the course, we will address fundamental questions concerning the nature of “life” and its implications for human subjectivity and more-than-human society as well as politics and ethics. Alongside foundational philosophies that have shaped understandings of life, we will maintain an empirical focus on lives lived amid late capitalism. Students will encounter novel conceptual tools to help you reframe and rethink social, political and existential aspects of existence. How are life and living are being reshaped in the early decades of the twenty-first century? How have life’s key components been made to circulate as never before? What are the consequences of rethinking community, identity and difference through the lenses of materiality, performance and practice? What becomes of the social when we acknowledge that humans are by no means the only actors in the world? And what difference does it make to our understanding of social-spatial formations such as capitalism, or ways of organising the political sphere such as democracy, when we understand their primary battlegrounds as life and living?


  • The course will bring theory to bear on empirical examples and cases drawn from current research at Durham on the geographies of life and living. That research currently includes work on:
  • Changing geographies of racial politics in the twenty-first century.
  • Politics and ethics or related to new ways of organising biologic and economic life (e.g. biocapitalisms and biological circulation).
  • Emerging geographies of health, healthcare, and the biosciences including environmental health.
  • Matter and materiality, including new experimentations in material life (for example, biotechnology and synthetic biology)
  • Changing affects and politics around reproduction (social, biological, and ecological)
  • Changing geographies and temporalities of ecological destruction
  • The geographies of death, dying, and violence alongside contemporary biopolitics.
  • In examining these issues, the course will draw on a rich and diverse vain of theory from the discipline and beyond, including science and technology studies, post-humanism, phenomenology and new materialist paradigms in race, feminist and queer theory.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module, students will have:
  • Developed an understanding of foundational theoretical texts on the role of life in the constitution of social, political, and geographic milieus
  • Critically assessed how shifting understandings of life and living link to systems of governance, global capitalism, democracy, and scientific practice from a number of contexts
  • Critically engaged with questions surrounding the role of scientific and technology change in social, political, and everyday life
  • Practiced critically engaging with theoretical texts on geographies of life in developing analyses of an array of empirical phenomena
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module, students will have:
  • Evaluated and thought with key concepts linked to changes in contemporary life
  • Critically reflected on ontological, epistemic, and methodological approaches to the study of life
  • Critically evaluated the literature and theories discussed in the course through a writing assignment on a key theme of the student’s choosing.
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module, students will have:
  • Demonstrated a capacity to reflect critically and creatively on the relations between concepts and a range of real world problems and issues.
  • Demonstrated an ability to synthesize diverse information and develop an understanding of contemporary issues and problems.
  • Demonstrated written communication skills through a written essay.

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

  • • Seminar sessions will emphasize exposition, close reading, and discussion. Seminars will start with a short introductory discussion presented by the lecturer which will provide empirical and academic context for the readings.Students will then lead seminar discussions on the readings, elucidating concepts, and considering the implications of arguments.
  • Workshops provide opportunities for students to think through cultural objects and current events to consider changing theories of life as well as the opportunity to present and receive feedback on individual and group research. Students will be asked to engage with cultural objects (novels, films, etc.) about subject matter on their own in advance of workshop discussions.
  • Tutorials offer the opportunity for students to test ideas and receive feedback on independent projects.
  • Formative assessment in the form of a one-page essay summary and two page annotated bibliography will help students explore a specific theme and contextualize them within broader debates.
  • The summative assessment, a 5-page essay, will enable students to demonstrate their abilities to reflect critically on a theme related to geographies of life.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 6 Term 1 2 hours 12
Tutorials 2 Term 1 1 hour 2
Practical workshop 1 Term 1 3 hours 3
Feedback workshop 1 Term 1 3 hours 3
Preparation and reading 80
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5 pages A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative will be through oral feedback and discussion of an annotated plan of and bibliography for the summative essay in the end of module feedback workshop.

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