Geog 410/510

 

CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY

 

View from inside the shopping mall on the Kremlin in Moscow, looking out at Lenin’s tomb.
Ideology as tourism through the prism of capitalism in post-Soviet Russia.

 

Prof. Cohen

Spring 2012

T/Th 12:00-1:20

Location TBA

 

Office Hours Th 2:00-3:00, OBA
Condon 107G
tel. 346-4500
scohen@uoregon.edu

 

Goal:

Cultural Geography has a long genealogy in our discipline, and in recent years has become a significant forum for analyzing and critiquing popular culture in all its guises.  Today, cultural geography can be a key tool for understanding the cleavages in society that are referred to as “culture wars”.  Culture, as a human construction, is always dynamic, and always contested.  In this course we will develop the approaches and determine the questions that help us to understand where culture comes from, where it’s going, and how it is determined, shaped, represented, and challenged, from place to place, people to people, time to time.  Culture is power, culture is politics, how can we understand it, and influence it, as it unfolds around us? Beyond that, how do we "do" cultural geography as students of the world around us?  How do we understand ourselves, and others, in relation to cultural geography?  As we work through the course we are going to explore layers relating to place, space, landscape, identity, and power.  What are these things/processes, how do they work?

Method:

We will draw upon readings that will be available on blackboard, on the web, from literature, and from the New York Times.  As we study the perspectives offered by the contributors, we will develop cases that correspond to the points and interests they offer.  Our supplemental material will be from beyond the classroom:  landscapes, buildings, magazines, literature, music, dance, film, television, discourse, and so on.  Each week we will blend the theoretical/methodological reading with examples from the “real world.”

Requirements:

Your primary task is to read and participate in discussion, but you must also be looking for illustrations of our themes in the world around you.  Each student will be responsible for presenting and analyzing cultural “artifacts” in class, and creating a final project.  You will have one mid-term, a brief take-home essay that will serve as preparation for the final project, one book analysis, and there will be NO final exam.  You must also attend part of the Oakridge Tree Planting Festival in Oakridge, Oregon on Saturday, May 5th (and optional evening of May 4th) and a separate Friday on-campus fieldtrip to the Longhouse and the Natural History Museum.

Grading:

You will be accorded 30% of the final grade for mid-term, the book analysis exercise will be worth 30% , 30% will come from the final project, and the remaining 10% from class participation.  I will keep track of attendance, and make note of contributions to class discussion and the presentation of our "artifacts."

Reading Schedule: (subject to modification prior to week 2 of the term)
Please read the New York Times, at least Monday-Friday, looking for items that relate to our course issues.  You should read section A as well as the culture, arts and dining sections Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Place and Space
Weeks 1:  Read  and William Sewell's "The Concept(s) of Culture" and Assadourian's  "The Rise and Fall of Consumer Cultures" on Blackboard

Week 2 Read Cresswell's "Defining Place" pp. 1-12 and Doreen Massey's "A Global Sense of Place" also read James Kneale's "Secondary Worlds:  Reading novels as geographical research"

Landscapes
Week 3 Read Cresswell's "Geography, Ideology, and Transgression:  A Relational Ontology" and Don Mitchell's "California:  The Beautiful and the Damned"

Weeks 4:   Read Benjamin Forest's "West Hollywood as Symbol:  The Significance of Place in the Construction of Gay Identity" and Denis Cosgrove's "Geography is Everywhere:  Culture and Symbolism in Human Landscapes" 
 

Week 5 - Read Cresswell's "You Cannot Shake That Shimmie Here:  Producing Mobility on the Dance Floor"
Presentations and Book Reviews due Tuesday

Identity Spectacles
Test Tuesday week
6
Week 6 Read Cohen's "An Absence of Place"  and "Winning While Losing"

Material and Non-material Spaces of Cultural and Consumption
Week 7 Read Mike Crang's "On Display:  The poetics, politics and interpretation of exhibitions" and Mitchell's "From Values to Value and Back Again:  The Political Economy of Culture"
 

Weeks 8 Read McNamara's "Publicising Private Lives: Celebrities, Image Control, and the Reconfiguration of Public Space" scan (read as best you can) the article by Adorno and Horkheimer, "The Culture Industry:  Enlightenment as Mass Deception" which can be found online at http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/adorno.htm
 

Week 9 Read Bobrow-Strain's "White Bread Bio-politics:  Purity, Health, and the Triumph of Industrial Baking" and Collins' "Kimchi and Coffee:  Globalisation, Transnationalism and Familiarity in Culinary Consumption"

Week 10:  Tuesday - topic presentations, Thursday Where are we going with Cultural Geography?

Final Projects Due Thursday of Week 10 in class!

  Your final project is an analysis of culture "working" on us in the public sphere.  You can draw upon print, visual, or auditory imagery that is part of "popular" culture, e.g., newspapers, magazines, television, film, YouTube, art, etc.  Your task is to assess how your artifact creates a message that is intended to shape us, and how that effort fits in a broader cultural context.

  For the novel assignment you should be reading to determine the way in which Steinbeck uses the landscape and depictions of culture to create a commentary on power.  For the essay you should not concentrate on the plot line, but rather on those details of character and place development that guide the reader to the author's message.