Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024


Department: Geography


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


  • Any Level 2 GEOG module.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To offer an examination of past and contemporary issues pertaining to East Asian political and political-economic geographies;
  • To provide students with an advanced level of knowledge of a region which is of growing international importance,
  • Equip students with the conceptual and analytical tools to make sense of the region’s political and economic transformations
  • Enhance student research skills through the collection and analysis of information from a wide range of secondary sources.


  • East Asian Political Geographies is designed to provide students with a conceptually robust and comparative introduction to key geographical issues in contemporary East Asia. East Asia here is defined here as the states of the Northeast Asia (particularly China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan), with two main external actors, the United States and Russia who play(ed) an instrumental role influencing the region’s political geography. East Asia presents fascinating case studies in the study of political and political-economic geography by bringing together two of the world’s largest economies (China and Japan), divided states (China/Taiwan and Korea) and various complicated territorial disputes (South China Sea, Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands).
  • The module comprises two parts. The first part introduces the historical political geography of the region including its postcolonial legacy, the aftermath of Japanese imperialism, the Cold War structuring of Asia, and the (re)emergence of post-reform China. The second part is organised around key contemporary geographic issues, those of nationalism, territory, and climate change. The course enables students to develop both area expertise and to apply disciplinary insights from political geography to the comparative study of political geography in East Asia. The course is taught in a lecture/seminar format in which each lecture is followed by a seminar to give students to engage with lecture and reading material

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:
  • Understand the major forces in the political geography of East Asia from the mid-19th century to the present;
  • Critically identify and evaluate the past, current and future challenges in the region.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:
  • Reflect critically about the complexity of Asia as a geographic construct
  • Think critically on the import of geographical concepts and ideas in historical and contemporary issues in East Asia
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate written communication skills;
  • Demonstrate a capacity to reflect critically and contextually on current political issues;
  • Demonstrate the ability to synthesize diverse information and develop an understanding of contemporary issues.

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

  • Part One: The first series of lectures will start by introducing students to the construction and postcolonial cartography of Asia. “What is ‘Asia’?” Students are asked to consider geographical, linguistic, religious, cultural, economic, and political definitions of Asia and its sub-regions and the usefulness of the term ‘Asia’. This opening lecture is followed by three further lectures that cover the postcolonial emergence of Korea, Japan, and China as sovereign national states.
  • Part Two: addresses four contemporary issues in contemporary Asia: nationalism and race, consumerism, territory, and the environment. These will be discussed primarily, but not exclusively, by using case studies from (mainland) China.
  • Formative assessment will be through discussion during the four seminars. An essay-plan workshop will provide students an opportunity to discuss and receive verbal feedback on practice essay plans.
  • Summative assessment comprises one five-page essay-based module material.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 Varies 1 hour 8
Seminars 4 Varies 1 hour 4
Essay Plan Workshop 1 2 hours 2
Preparation & Reading 86
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5 x sides of A4 100% None

Formative Assessment:

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