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University of Oklahoma

[GEOG 6220] Seminar in Human Geography - 103

Laurel Smith

Course Description

Seminar in Human Geography - Critical Geopolitics

This course aims to introduce you to the scholarly practices and political potential of an intellectual current called critical geopolitics. Arising out of the intersections of critical and political geography in the mid- to late-1980s, the (sub)field of critical geopolitics doesn’t just map out the diplomatic relations distinguishing the international engagements of state actors, as the more classical, realist geopolitics is wont to do. Rather it studies the language and theoretical framework (or epistemologies) with which political geographies are mobilized by a far wider range of social actors. To get a handle on critical geopolitics, we’ll consider both written and visual texts that provide insights into the (sub)field’s historical emergence, current status, and central themes. In particular, we’ll explore what is known as popular geopolitics.

Class Dates, Format, Location and Hours

DatesJune 3-5 and June 10-12, 2022
Location for on-site coursesTruman Education Center; 3281 Sheridan Rd, Fort Sill, OK
HoursFriday 5:30-9pm, Saturday 9am-5pm, and Sunday noon-4pm
Last day to enroll or drop without penaltyMay 5, 2022

Site Director

NameAnita Bailey
Office address/location3281 Sheridan, Rd., Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Office hoursFriday 5:30-9pm, Saturday 9am-5pm, and Sunday noon-4pm
DSN and CIV phone508-355-1974

Professor Contact Information

Course ProfessorLaurel Smith, Ph.D.
Mailing AddressDepartment of Geography & Environmental Sustainability, 100 East Boyd St., SEC 538, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019
Telephone Number(405) 325-5325
Professor availabilityThe professor will be available via email to students before and after the class sessions. On-site office hours are half an hour before and after each class session, by appointment.

Textbook(s) and Instructional Materials

Student materials are available at the OU Bookstore Website at The website has book selling, renting, buying, returning, and order tracking capabilities. If you need help with an order, or if you have any questions contact the toll-free phone at 1-(855)-790-6637, agents are available from 9a – 5p (EST) Monday – Friday. Text prices are available online. 

Popular Culture and GeopoliticsPopular Culture, Geopolitics, and Identity
Popular Culture and GeopoliticsPopular Culture, Geopolitics, and Identity
by Jason Dittmer
Published by Rowman & Littlefield Pub Inc
ISBN: 9780742556348

Course Objectives

  1. Distinguish between critical geopolitics and realist (or classical) geopolitics.
  2. Facilitate your understanding of the political geographies characterizing our world today, as well as the ways in which key actors politicize some geographical relationships more than others.
  3. Demonstrate the importance of including environmental and cultural matters on political maps.
  4. Emphasize the political power exercised (or not) by individuals and non-state actors, as illustrated in class materials and through one another’s experiences.

Course Outline

BEFORE first day of class:  

Read & view as much of the assigned materials as possible, and participate in Canvas discussion board where everyone introduces themselves


Day One (Friday June 3): Distinguishing Critical Geopolitics from Geopolitics

  • Dodds, Klaus and Chih Yuan Woon. 2018. Classical Geopolitics Revisited. In Oxford Research Encyclopedias.
  • Dodds, Klaus and Chih Yuan Woon. 2015. Geopolitics. In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, pp. 91-96
  • Sharp, Joanne. 2020. Critical Geopolitics. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (2nd Edition), pp. 45-49.
  • Evered, Kyle. 2017. Beyond Mahan and Mackinder: Situating Geography and Critical Geopolitics in Middle East Studies. International Journal of Middle East Studies 49(2): 335-339.
  • Levinson, Barry. 1997. Wag the Dog. 77-min film


Day Two (Saturday June 4): For example: Representing Latin America (using Feminist Geopolitics)

  • Enloe, Cynthia. 2014. Going Bananas! Where are Women in the International Politics of Bananas? Chapter 6 in Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. University of California Press, pp. 211-249.
  • Koopman, Sara. 2019. Feminist Geopolitics. Translation of an entry in a Japanese Encyclopedia.
  • Massaro, Vanessa and Jill Williams. 2013. Feminist Geopolitics. Geography Compass 7: 567-577.
  • Ríos Sierra, Jerónimo and Heriberto Cairo. 2020. Imagining the ‘outside’ danger inside: The critical geopolitics of security and the armed forces in Latin America (1960-2018). In Handbook on the Changing Geographies of the State: New Spaces of Geopolitics, Edited by Sami Moisio et al., Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 291-301.
  • Lansing, David. 2014. Discourse and the production of territorial hegemony: Indigenous peoples, and the United Fruit Company and the capitalist state in Costa Rica. Journal of Historical Geography 45: 38-49.
  • Halleck, Dee Dee. 1995. The Gringo in Mañanaland. 60-min documentary
  • 2003. Eso viene sucediendo (This Has Been Happening) 12-min documentary
  • Benz, Obie. (1982) Americas in Transition. 30-minute documentary (see also: and


Day Three (Sunday June 5): Another example (still focused on Latin America), this time using Indigenous Geopolitics and Environmental Geopolitics

  • O’Lear, Shannon. 2020. Environmental Geopolitics. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (2nd Edition), pp. 193-200.
  • Himley, Matthew. 2020. Underground geopolitics: science, race, and territory during the late nineteenth century. In A Research Agenda for Environmental Geopolitics, edited by Shannon O’Lear. Elgar Research Agendas, pp. 74-87.
  • Gibson, Chris. 2013. Indigenous Geopolitics. In The Ashgate Research Companion to Critical Geopolitics, pp. 421-438.
  • Curely, Andrew and Majerle Lister. 2020. Already existing dystopias: tribal sovereignty, extraction, and decolonizing the Anthropocene. In Handbook on the Changing Geographies of the State: New Spaces of Geopolitics, Edited by Sami Moisio et al., Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 251-262.
  • Brandenberg, Heidi and Mathew Orzel. 2016. When Two Worlds Collide. 103-min documentary
  • Fox, Josh, Floris Ptesan Hunka, and Floris White Bull. 2017. Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock. 90-min documentary
  • Kring, Shannon. 2021. End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock. 90-min documentary, although we may not be able to access the entire film (yet)


Day Four (Friday June 10): Let’s talk about how YOU can research an empirical example of critical geopolitics

  • We’ll spend time with
  • Dittmer, Jason and Daniel Bos. 2019. Popular Culture, Geopolitics, and Identity (Second Edition). Rowman & Littlefild Publishers.


Day Five (Saturday June 11): Continuing to discuss and prepare your empirical example of critical geopolitics presentation


Day Six (Sunday June 12): Presentations of your empirical examples of critical geopolitics

Assignments, Grading and Due Dates

Participation: 25% of your grade

This class will operate as a seminar and so the quantity and quality of your participation will comprise 25% of your grade for the course. So that our class meetings (synchronous as well as virtual) are as engaging as possible, all seminar colleagues are expected to complete all reading & viewing assignments and prepare rich responses to discussion prompts. This will help to assure enough ammunition for a quality discussion in which everyone participates. Should contributing to class conversations make you uncomfortable, you will need to let me know from the get-go so that I may coordinate alternative arenas for your contributions to discussion. Kindly respect all participants’ perspectives and note that discriminatory behavior of any sort will not be tolerated.


Paper: 25% of your grade

After completing all course reading, please draw on course materials and compose a 10-12-page (double- spaced) paper focused on the 35-min video Eyes on What’s Inside: The Militarization of Guerrero, a digital copy of which will be made available to you. Your paper should provide an analysis that resembles the scholarly practice of critical geopolitics. Consider how this this documentary differs from the film clips that Halleck weaves together represent the part of the world now commonly called Latin America. Kindly utilize in-text citations that follow this style guide to reference the course materials you utilize to analyze the film. Be sure to insert page numbers AND put your name in your paper's header or in a title page that doesn't get a page number. Also, do your best to craft an engaging title for your paper. This paper is due on June 12.


Presentation of empirical example: 25% of your grade

During our final class meetings: present an empirical example of a situation – historical, contemporary, or future – that you believe closely relates to the key theme(s) running through course materials. The exact length of your presentation depends on the size of our class, but it should be about 15-20 minutes long and feature images (moving or still), sound and/or text. Please aim for presenting an example that will foster discussion of not only the situation, but also the assigned texts associated with the topic/theme you selected. For instance, if you really dig propaganda maps, then find one or two examples, share them on screen (using ppt slides or pulling up the particular webpage where you found it or them), and then, using the language that Pickles mobilizes in his 1992 chapter (and/or other theories you encounter in class readings), tell the class about the examples and why/how they embody the themes characterizing a particular day's readings (perhaps Day 2 if you draw on Pickles). Another example might be a situation/process that resembles those discussed in sources addressing on environmental security. Or maybe you're intrigued by the notion of anti-geopolitics and wish you tell us about a past, present or future manifestation of such phenomena? Your choice! Students present their empirical example on Sunday June 10.


Final Exam: 25% of your grade.

Please compose a 15-page (double-spaced) research paper that is clearly and richly informed by critical geopolitics. You’re welcome to use the “present an empirical example” exercise to get rolling on your paper. In other words, this assignment is a whole easier and more fun if you take what you learned in class, examine a past, present or potential (as in future) situation/ process/topic/film/social movement/comic book and tell me all about it (in a polished paper). Feel free to write in first person. Just be sure to insert page numbers! And do your best to compose a snappy title. In addition to drawing on appropriate course materials – thoroughly and thoughtfully, please incorporate at least THREE scholarly sources not found on the course syllabus, and as many non-scholarly sources as you wish – including visual and/or audio materials! -- into your research paper. And as always, use in-text citations that clearly identify the specific pages where the ideas and/or information you're drawing from are located. Please utilize this style guide for both your reference list and in-text citations. Your “final exam” is due June 25, 2022.


Grading: This is a letter-graded course: A, B, C, D, or F.

Assignment Due Date Percent of Grade
Class participation N/A 25%
Paper June 12, 2022 25%
Presentation of empirical ex. June 10, 2022 25%
Final Exam June 25, 2022 25%

Incomplete Grade Policy

Notice: Failure to meet assignment due dates could result in a grade of I (Incomplete) and may adversely impact Tuition Assistance and/or Financial Aid.


Attendance/Grade Policy

Attendance and participation in interaction, individual assignments, group exercises, simulations, role playing, etc. are valuable aspects of any course because much of the learning comes from discussions in class with other students. It is expected that you attend all classes and be on time except for excused emergencies.

Excused absences are given for professor mandated activities or legally required activities such as emergencies or military assignments. It is the policy of the University to excuse absences of students that result from religious observances and to provide without penalty for the rescheduling of examinations and additional required class work that may fall on religious holidays. Unavoidable personal emergencies, including (but not limited to) serious illness; delays in getting to class because of accidents, etc.; deaths and funerals, and hazardous road conditions will be excused.

If you are obtaining financial assistance (TA, STAP, FA, VA, Scholarship, etc.) to pay all or part of your tuition cost, you must follow your funding agency/institution’s policy regarding “I” (Incomplete) grades unless the timeline is longer than what the University policy allows then you must adhere to the University policy. Students who receive Financial Aid must resolve/complete any “I” (Incomplete) grades by the end of the term or he/she may be placed on “financial aid probation.” If the “I” grade is not resolved/completed by the end of the following term, the student’s Financial Aid may be suspended make the student ineligible for further Financial Aid.

Students are responsible for meeting the guidelines of Tuition Assistance and Veterans Assistance. See the education counselor at your local education center for a complete description of your TA or VA requirements.

OU faculty will submit grades online through ONE not later than 30 days after the course end date. Course end dates are approximately one calendar month after the final seminar date on this syllabus and are provided on the official scheduling website for reference.

Academic Integrity and Student Conduct 

Academic integrity means honesty and responsibility in scholarship. Academic assignments exist to help students learn; grades exist to show how fully this goal is attained. Therefore all work and all grades should result from the student's own understanding and effort.

Academic misconduct is any act which improperly affects the evaluation of a student’s academic performance or achievement. Misconduct occurs when the student either knows or reasonably should know that the act constitutes misconduct. Academic misconduct includes: cheating and using unauthorized materials on examinations and other assignments; improper collaboration, submitting the same assignment for different classes (self-plagiarism); fabrication, forgery, alteration of documents, lying, etc…in order to obtain an academic advantage; assisting others in academic misconduct; attempting to commit academic misconduct; destruction of property, hacking, etc…; intimidation and interference with integrity process; and plagiarism. All students should review the Student’s Guide to Academic Integrity at 

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. All students should review policies regarding student conduct at 

Accommodation Statement

The University of Oklahoma is committed to making its activities as accessible as possible. For accommodations on the basis of disability, please contact your local OU Site Director.

Adjustment for Pregnancy/Childbirth-Related Issues

Should you need modifications or adjustments to your course requirements because of documented pregnancy-related or childbirth-related issues, please contact the professor as soon as possible to discuss. Generally, modifications will be made where medically necessary and similar in scope to accommodations based on temporary disability. Please see

Title IX Resources

For any concerns regarding gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, stalking, or intimate partner violence, the University offers a variety of resources, including advocates on-call 24/7, counseling services, mutual no-contact orders, scheduling adjustments, and disciplinary sanctions against the perpetrator. Please contact the Sexual Misconduct Office at or (405) 325-2215 (8-5), or the Sexual Assault Response Team at (405) 615 -0013 (24/7) to report an incident. To learn more about Title IX, please visit the Institutional Equity Office’s website at 

Course Policies

Extended Campus (also and formerly known as Advanced Programs) policy is to order books in paperback if available. Courses, dates, and professors are subject to change. Please check with your OU Site Director. Students should retain a copy of any assignments that are e/mailed to the professor for the course. Neither duplicating services nor office supplies are provided.

Any and all course materials, syllabus, lessons, lectures, etc. are the property of professor teaching the course and the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma and are protected under applicable copyright.

For more information about OU Extended Campus, visit our website at:

Statement on Respect

The classroom should provide a safe learning environment where students can express their views without fear of reprisal. That freedom of expression must be balanced by demonstrated respect for other’s viewpoints and appropriate and reasonable sensitivity, especially within the context of scholarly disagreement.  Disrespectful or uncivil dialogue (including, but not limited to, personal attacks, insults, or harassment) will not be tolerated.

Recording Devices/Phones/Computers

It is important for students to be fully present during class to fully benefit from lectures, discussions, and experiential assignments. Class sessions may not be tape-recorded. All telephones and pagers should be turned off or placed on silent mode. Computers may not be used during class. Students who require an exception to this policy should discuss exceptional circumstances with the professor.


Laurel C. Smith, Ph.D.


  • D. Geography, University of Kentucky
  • A. History of Science, University of Oklahoma
  • A. History, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee


Current Positions

  • Advanced Programs Professor since 2009
  • Associate Professor in Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, University of Oklahoma (2007-present)
  • Affiliate Faculty Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Oklahoma
  • Affiliate Faculty Film and Video Studies, University of Oklahoma


Frequently Taught Advanced Programs Courses

  • GEOG 6220: Seminar in Human Geography: Critical Geopolitics
  • GEOG 6240: Seminar in Resource and Environmental Geography: Indigenous Development in Latin America


Major Areas of Teaching and Research Interest

  • Teaching interests: political, cultural, and urban geography; studies of technoscience; critical theory (especially contemporary geographic thought); and qualitative research methodologies
  • Research interests: geopolitics of representation, indigenous geographies and the cultural geographies of technoscience, the identity politics of development, postcolonial and feminist theory
    • Regional focus in North America, especially Mexico and the United States


Representative Publications and Presentations


  • Algunas geografías de videos indígenas hechos en Oaxaca, México. In Miradas propias: Pueblos indígenas, comunicación y medios en la sociedad global, Edited by Claudia Magallanes Blanco and José Manuel Ramos Rodríguez. Puebla, México: Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla and Quito, Ecuador: CIESPAL, pp. 111-131.
  • Indigenous media and postcolonial pedagogy. In Mediated Geographies and Geographies of Media, Edited by Susan Mains, Julie Cupples, and Chris Lukinbeal. New York: Springer, pp. 417-432.
  • Visualizing Indigenous women in Oaxaca: Mexico at the end of the twentieth century. AND Visualización de mujeres indígenas en Oaxaca: México a finales del siglo veinte Historical Geography Special Issue “Digital Historical Geography: Representation, Archive and Access. 40: 61-83 and 85-109.
  • Decolonizing hybridity: Indigenous video, knowledge, and diffraction. cultural geographies 19 (3): 329-348.
  • Locating post-colonial technoscience: through the lens of Indigenous video. History and Technology 16 (3): 249-77.
  • The Search for Well Being: Placing Development with Indigenous Identity. pp. 183-196, In Global Indigenous Media: Cultures, Practices, and Politics, eds., Pamela Wilson and Michelle Stewart. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Mobilizing indigenous video: The Mexican Case. The Journal of Latin American Geography vol. 5(1): 113-128.
  • The “cultural turn” in the classroom: Two examples of pedagogy and the politics of representation. The Journal of Geography vol. 101: 240-249 (2002).
  • Chips off the old ice block: Nanook of the North and the relocation of cultural identity. pp. 94-122, In Engaging Film: Geographies of Mobility and Identity, eds., Tim Cresswell and Deborah Dixon. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield (2002).



  • Introducing (some) geographies of Indigenous videos produced in Oaxaca, Mexico. For International Symposium on Media and Indigenous Peoples: Appropriations, Negotiations and Resistances, Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla, Puebla, Mexico (November 2013)
  • Mediating Indigenous Geographies. For the Oklahoma State University Geography Department’s Colloquium Series, Stillwater, Oklahoma (March 2013)
  • Produciendo saberes híbridos acerca de un video indígena. For the Encuentro Internacional “Saberes Híbridos” at the Centro Peninsular en Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales, UNAM and Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán, Mérida (September 2011)
  • Mediating Indigenous geopolitics: a feminist inquiry into activism, advocacy, and access in Oaxaca, Mexico. For the ‘Género, Etnicidad y Migración’ workshop organized for the Colegio Internacional de Graduados: Entre Espacios at the Instituto de Estudios Latinoamericanos Freie Universität Berlin (February 2011)


Representative Honors and Awards Received

  • University of Oklahoma Research Council Funding – Faculty Investment Program (FIP) Award for “Video Portraits of Tribal Environmental Professionals,” $14,888 (2018)
  • Humanities Forum Fellowship for “Visualizing Cleaner Water,” $5,000 (2016)
  • South Central Climate Science Center Research Grant (Lead-PI) for “Intertribal Workshops on Climate Variability and Change,” $55,407 (2012-2013)
  • University of Oklahoma Research Council Funding -- Faculty Investment Program (FIP) Award for “Publishing in Spanish,” $2,420 (2012)
  • Junior Faculty Research Award from University of Oklahoma Vice President for Research for “Visualizing Indigenous Women: Target Audience Reception of Indigenous Media in Oaxaca, Mexico,” $6,000 (2009)
  • Ed Cline Faculty Development Awards from OU Faculty Senate, $2,500 for enriching collection of Indigenous videos (2009), and $1,892 for computer to use for intertribal workshops (2013)
  • Presidential Travel Fellowship from OU, $1,200 to attend the Institute of British Geographers Annual Meeting in Manchester, England (2008)
  • Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, National Science Foundation Science and Technology Program, Mediating Indigenous Identity: Video, Advocacy, and Knowledge in Oaxaca, Mexico, $12,000 (2002)