Department of Geography :: University of Washington


 Geog 230: Geographies of Global Inequality

One of the most pressing challenges facing us at the beginning of the 21st century is the world’s ability to address the increasing global inequalities. Extremes of wealth and poverty across the globe (in the global South and the North) underlie conditions of health and illness, educational opportunity and illiteracy, land ownership and forced migrations, employment protections or unregulated ‘flexible’ work. The World Bank’s 2000 report states that: “…2.8 Billion people – almost half the world’s population – live on less than $2/day” and that: “… the average income in the richest 20 countries is 37 times the average income in the poorest 20 – a gap that has doubled in the last 20 years”. The Human Development Report (1999) notes that: “The fifth of the world’s people living in high income countries has 86% of the world gross domestic product; 82% of export markets; 74% of world telephone lines; the bottom fifth in the poorest countries has about 1% of each”. According to the Multinational Monitor in 2003 (7/1/2003), “[T]he richest 10 percent of the world’s population’s income is roughly 117 times higher than the poorest 10 percent, according to calculations performed by economists at the Economics Policy Institute (data from the International Monetary Fund). This is a huge jump from the ratio in 1980, when the income of the richest 10 percent was about 79 times higher than the poorest 10 percent”. Paul Krugman (2002) notes that in the United States the 13,000 richest families have as much income as the 20 million poorest. This course examines the paradox of expanding and deepening levels of inequality after fifty years of ‘development’ in the post-war era.

Links to: Most recent Course Syllabus

Geog 331: Global Poverty and Care
This course explores causes and patterns of global poverty and links this with the urgent need for care and care ethics in our lives and in society broadly. We will begin with a critical approach to global poverty studies, focusing on the production of inequality across the globe (including the rich countries). We will look at how shifts in contemporary society suggest an urgent need for care (in many senses). Specifically, we will examine the context for care including: i) the extension of market relations into almost everything (health care, education, environmental protection, elder-care etc.; ii) the systematic devaluation of care-work; iii) pervasive discourses of personal responsibility (for poverty, inner city decline, unemployment, etc.); and iv) withdrawal of state supports in many crucial arenas. We will focus particularly on how care work is devalued and globalized through international flows of care that contribute to global inequality. Through our analysis of global interconnections we will think about our responsibilities to care for those who are near and those who are across the globe. Students will learn about the possibilities and challenges of caring across distance (geographical and social) and about how to respectfully engage with people in different places.

Most Recent Course Syllabus

Geog 432: Geographies and politics of poverty and privilege
This course introduces students to relational poverty knowledge and explores spatial,  material and discursive processes producing poverty and inequality.  The course draws on the Relational Poverty Network project led by Vicky Lawson and Sarah Elwood.  The course also investigates geographies of engagement and spaces through which poverty/inequality become politicized.  The course draws on feminist care ethics, postcolonial theory and research on contact and spaces of politics.  Topics include: relational poverty knowledge; grounded neoliberalisms and inequality across the Americas; spatially varied forms of poverty governance; theories of encounter and radical contact; and forms of poverty politics.  Students will be involved in grounded engagements with poverty and inequality both through service-learning and activities with actors involved in the production of poverty knowledge and politics from across the Americas.  Students will also learn about inclusive models of learning such as transformative pedagogy and South-North learning.  A goal of this class is to move beyond critique towards ethically engaged action (Req: 331 is strongly encouraged).

Geog 502: Writing for Publication
This seminar guides graduate students as they write a publishable paper.  It can easily be argued that no activity is as important to a graduate student’s success as the completion of excellent research and the refereed publications that emerge from that work.  However, the process of transforming ideas and research into publishable papers is not obvious, and it is quite difficult to maintain the motivation and discipline to carry through with a paper that deals with past research when the individual is deeply involved in a new intellectual project.  This seminar is devoted to ‘how’ publication is done; looking at the skill and commitment needed to successfully publish.  The seminar is organized around the creation of a published paper.  It is assumed that each student will come to the seminar with a document that has some promise for publication and we will proceed with a discussion of key issues in publishing and peer reviews of drafts of the article.  Substantial emphasis will be places on understanding the process of paper submission, review and rewriting.

Geog 533: Globalizing Care and Responsibility
This course explores the centrality of care work and care ethics to our lives and to society broadly.  We will look at how shifts in contemporary society (in the U.S. and across the globe) suggest an urgent need for care (in many senses).  Specifically, we will examine the context for care including:  i) the extension of market relations into almost everything (health care, education, environmental protection, elder-care etc.; ii) the systematic devaluation of care-work; iii) pervasive discourses of personal responsibility (for poverty, inner city decline, unemployment, etc.); and iv) withdrawal of state supports in many crucial arenas.  We will examine how care work is being intensified and simultaneously devalued, we will explore the ways in which care is a public rather than a private matter and we will think about our responsibilities to care for those who are near and those who are across the globe.

The first part of the course will examine the growing need to take care seriously in academic work, in public policy and in our own lives.  We will then think about the possibilities and challenges of really caring across distance and to respectfully engage with people in distant and different places.  Finally, we will explore the myriad theoretical and practical challenges of care ethics: how do we navigate the research/politics boundary; how do we understand ourselves in a global frame; what approaches to research enable a critical and yet analytical view; what do care ethics mean for our professional practices and involvements?  We will think through the challenges of producing innovative and caring knowledge under ethical and responsible relations to people with whom we work.

Most Recent Course Syllabus

Geog 542: Reframing Poverty
We will discuss poverty and inequality drawing on theoretical ideas developed in both Majority and Minority Worlds.  We will pose questions about how political-economic forces, cultural productions and discursive formations come to frame people and places as ‘poor’.  We will investigate how political-economic and cultural productions work to reproduce poverty through processes of exclusion, exception and arguments for the remaking of people and places.  We will explore the construction of geographical imaginaries and of spaces in which only certain things are possible in relation to poverty.  We also consider the co-production of poverty, attending to how people accommodate poverty, seeking to maintain dignity and civility rather than resisting either representations or material productions of poverty/inequality.  Finally, we will interrogate dominant theorization of ‘Economy’ as the only way to frame, and respond to, poverty.  We will draw on feminist theorizations of care to demonstrate the inseparability of care/uncare in all social relations that matter.  We will ask how poverty results from uncare — the separation of economy from the social.

The first part of the course will examine the contemporary context and histories of poverty knowledge across the Americas.  We then explore the theoretical and methodological challenges in constructing transnational approaches to rethinking poverty knowledge and practice.  We read a series of case studies that engage these innovative approaches to rethinking poverty in relation to middle classes, across race difference and in rural and urban places.  Finally, we turn to consider a feminist care ethics approach to reframing poverty knowledge.  In so doing, we will think through the challenges of producing innovative and caring knowledge under ethical and responsible relations to people with whom we work.

Most Recent Course Syllabus

Less often taught courses…
Geog 430: Contemporary Development Issues in Latin America
This course focuses on how we might understand intensifying inequality, across the Americas and across the globe?  What does a geographic approach contribute to understanding development processes?  Starting from development geography, we will pose the question “what’s missing in development theory?’ with a focus on the subjects, places and scales that have been excluded from particular theorizations of development.  We will also pose questions about which development and whose development?  Our focus will be on a critical reading of development theory, paying particular attention to Latin American theorizations, and empirical experiences with development.  However, this is not a course about Latin America so much as it is a course about critical development geography.  We will also think through the challenges of producing development knowledge under ethical and responsible relations to people with whom we work.

Geog 513: Proposal Writing
This seminar deals with methodology, the research process, and writing fundable research proposals.  The seminar has two objectives.  The first objective is to demystify the research process by examining in detail the processes of research formulation and execution.  We will discuss processes of identifying a topic and researchable questions and we will discuss how to connect these questions with an appropriate research design and methodology.  I require students to already have had training in social science methods since this course will not teach methods.  Rather, the focus is on linking research problems and methodologies — using the ongoing research of each student.  Course content addressing this first objective will focus on the practice and challenges of scientific discovery in the context of rigorous thinking about the student’s own research project.  The second objective of this course sequence is for each student to submit a research proposal to a funding institution such as the Social Science Research Council, National Science Foundation, Inter-American Foundation, Fulbright, etc.  Prerequisites: Geog 511 and 426 or equivalents.

Geog 531: Reworking Development
“As most of us are aware, development rarely seems to ‘work’ – or at least with the consequences intended or the outcomes predicted.  Why then, if it is so unworkable, does it not only persist but seem continuously to be expanding its reach and scope?” (Crush, 1995: 4)

“The notion and practice of development have been severely critiqued from both modernist and postmodern perspectives, yet the global development industry flourishes” (Blaikie, 2000: 1033)”

This seminar assesses recent intellectual trends within development geography and analyzes development theory and practice from a feminist political-economy perspective. Geography’s power in analyzing development stems from its enduring interest in the everyday, the mundane (Hanson, 1992).  This emphasis on the world not as we would like it to be but as it is, acts as a check on abstract theory and bears witness to the impacts of development in places.  Geographers have also insisted on the importance of relational analyses of place as the contexts within which power relations are constituted and in which identities take shape and salience.  And geographers have argued for the mutual interconnections of material and discursive processes.  In this way, geography challenges much development theory by pointing out that development does not exist as a thing, or an end point.  Rather, development is a series of relations between places, social groups, cultures, spheres of production and consumption.  Development is viewed as both a politically powerful discourse and as relentlessly material, entailing substantial transformations of society as a result of these power relations.  Livelihoods are transformed, people and communities are moved, social relations are reworked.  Contemporary development geography insists that these dimensions of development cannot be separated and has insisted on the centrality of spatiality, discourse and materiality in development debates.  We will analyze ‘development’ as polyvalent and contextual in terms of its intellectual and material foundations.  We will also attend to the formation and experiences of diverse subjects (people not topics) of development, analyzing the ways in which particular intellectual streams privilege or erase different subjects and actors.  We will also discuss the spatiality of development — the ways in which discourses and practices of development link places, move through scales and operate in relation to boundaries — in order to reveal and help explain the paradoxes of development.  In so doing, we will assess the ways in which analyzing the spatiality of development processes works towards democratizing development.

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