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GEOG210 Social Geography

Semester 2, 18 points

Lectures: Tuesday and Wednesday: 2:00–2:50pm
Tutorials: one 50 minute tutorial as scheduled

Course Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Christina Ergler –

Image by J Mozolaa-the-occupy-movement-and-sacred-spaceThis course explores how inequalities are reproduced in societies, and how they are contested by groups and individuals. Inequalities between people and groups are growing from the global to the individual scale in many societies across the globe. In Aotearoa New Zealand in particular, the OECD recently reported that the gap between rich and poor is increasing at one of the highest rates, and has a significant effect on growth and wellbeing (OECD 2014). It is vital to understand how inequality is reproduced in societies in order to inform effective policy-making to create change toward a more equal world. Understanding inequalities also enables groups to challenge dominant ways of thinking that perpetuate inequalities. This course will equip you with analytical skills to explore and understand inequalities with a view to creating more equal futures.

Creative Commons - Picture by Brian SimsThis paper explores ideas of social difference, identity and action in contemporary western societies. Although sharing a common political and economic framework (capitalism), contemporary western societies are clearly distinguished by a politics of difference across axes such as class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality. This paper traces the ways we can study and explain such social differences. We will find that social difference can be experienced and expressed in many ways – ways that draw on more than one of these categories or altogether different categories. Such expressions and experiences of difference are embedded in power relations and are related to how identity is created and performed. But individuals and groups also seek change to address inequalities through a variety of forms of individual and collective social action.

The first half of the course focuses on how categorisations of social difference (e.g., class, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, age etc.) and power relations shape how inequalities are produced and perpetuated. The second half of the course explores how groups and individuals seek ways to change inequalities to create alternative, more just futures.

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Geographical aspects of major social issues facing modern Western society.

This paper explores how inequalities are reproduced in societies and how they are experienced by groups and individuals. It is vital to understand how inequalities are reproduced in societies in order to inform effective policy-making to create change toward a more equal world.

This paper will equip you with analytical skills to explore and understand inequalities with a view to creating more equal futures.

Paper title Social Geography
Paper code GEOG210
Subject Geography
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,141.35
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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GEOG 102 or 108 points
GEOG 381
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science
The content of the paper assumes that students have undertaken at least one introductory paper in human geography or a related subject.
Teaching staff

Course Co-ordinator: Dr Christina Ergler

Paper Structure

GEOG 210 has three interconnected parts:

  • Part I situates social geography within the discipline of geography
  • Part II explores axes of difference as intersecting categories of inequality (class, gender, sexuality and ethnicity, age and abilities)
  • Part III explores how individuals and groups negotiate identity and power, digitalisation, mobilities and care

Assessment is 60% internal (on-going during the semester) and 40% external (final examination).

Teaching Arrangements

Two lectures per week and ten 50-minute tutorials scheduled over the 13 weeks of semester.


Panelli, R. (2004) Social Geographies: From Difference to Action. London: Sage.

Note: The first few weeks of the paper draws extensively on this text. You do not have to purchase it, but if you wish to, it is available at the University Bookshop. An eBook and hard copies of the book are available on reserve at Central Library.

Additional readings from a range of sources will also be prescribed and made available on eReserve.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

This paper is organised to achieve two objectives, namely:

  • To identify key theory and debates in social geography
  • To critically review geographies of difference, identity formation and unequal power relations

Students who successfully complete the paper will:

  • Gain an appreciation of the nature of geography as a social science
  • Become familiar with the theoretical traditions of social geographic thought
  • Gain an understanding of the major debates and concepts in contemporary social geography
  • Demonstrate how social geography intersects with everyday life and in particular how social processes as well as individual experiences shape people's wellbeing within and across different scales, spaces and places

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system