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School of Environment, Education and Development

Two Geography students on field trip
BA Geography with International Study

Study a course tailored to you at the university ranked fourth in the UK for Geography (Guardian University Guide).

BA Geography with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Islands: Playful Human Geographies?

Unit code GEOG30502
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? No


Alcatraz, Krakatoa, Ibiza, and Treasure Island. Gauguin in Tahiti, Darwin in the Galapagos, Bob Marley in Jamaica, The US Military in Diego Garcia and Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. Islandness evokes often contradictory but always fascinating geographies. Islands are at once exotic and offshore, but also bounded places for islanders and visitors, serving as experimental and often ‘othered’ sites. This course introduces a human geography of islands, exploring how size, isolation, relations to the nation state and the colonial project, have lead to vulnerability, subjugation, and often contested relations to continental hegemony, but also to a love of the island as a refuge, to notions of islands as liminal places of escape, and pleasure, and also to powerful and contested imaginary geographies across human culture and history. Organised around a practical island-based field course, during which all of the course will be delivered, Islands offers a challenging exploration of an emerging sub-discipline, inviting students to engage with different conceptual framings and ways of encountering some of the more remote places in the world and showing the potential of playful methodologies in framing understandings of disciplinary and national differences.



  • ·         To introduce the contested worlds of island studies

    ·         To explore the impacts of isolation, peripherality and size

    ·         To appreciate the ambiguous and hybrid nature and practice of ‘islandness’

    ·         To explore interdisciplinary approaches to island knowledge construction

    ·         To investigate the potential of playful ways of approaching the island

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit, you should:

·         Appreciate contributions to the field of island studies from different disciplines

·         Be aware of the significance of geography for understanding islands

·         Recognize the links between culture, economy, society and nature in contexts of insularity

·         Have investigated different playful ways of approaching thematic aspects of islands 


The course explores a number of central themes, in particular:

Spatializing: the difference that geography makes

Grounding: nature, political economy, vulnerability and human ecology

Timing: the history and rhythms of isolation and connectivity

Governing: colonialism, subsidiarity, control and politics 

Monetizing: development discourse, infrastructure and the role of capital in MIRIAD economies

Moving: the experience and implications of migration

Visiting: tourist construction of islandness 

Culturing: the everyday geographies of paradise and prison

Imagining: the figure of the island in popular culture

These themes will be explored in lectures and seminars, and reinforced in student-led research projects. 

Teaching and learning methods

The course unit will be delivered via mix of lectures with associated seminar groups, drop in support sessions, student reading groups, presentations and playful investigative methods

1.  lectures will deliver central concepts of the course

2.  students will present formative thematic discussions in workshop projects

3.  student investigations will reinforce and apply core concepts in an active and playful everyday engagement with a particular island world.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

During this course unit, you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills:

·         information handling skills in researching thematic and individual evaluative essays

·         critical skills involved in understanding different conceptual frameworks

·         creative skills involved in setting up a practical game-based field investigation

·         problem solving skills

·         communication skills used to develop sustained logical arguments in written and oral forms

·         taking responsibility for active self-critical learning, including time management

·         team work and sharing of abilities amongst small self selected groups


Assessment methods

The course will be assessed according to the following breakdown:

50% from an individual piece of coursework, submitted as a 3 000 word essay linking a theoretical approach to a theme and a specific island case study


50% from a two-question examination

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

·                     feedback in relation to  literature reviews

·                     extensive verbal feedback through Q&A, discussion and interaction in lectures

·                     discussion of strategies for investigation

·                     verbal feedback on any course unit issue during drop ins

·                     ongoing peer feedback through study group discussion online

·                     detailed written feedback on the coursework assignment.

Recommended reading

Baldacchino, Godfrey 2007. A World of Islands : an Island Studies Reader. Charlottetown, P.E.I.: Institute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island.

Edmond, Rod., and Vanessa. Smith 2003. Islands in History and Representation. London: Routledge.

Fischer, Stephen 2012. Islands. London: Reaktion.

Playful Mapping Collective 2016. Playful Mapping. Amsterdam: Institute for Network Culture. Available at

Royle, Stephen A. 2001.  A Geography of Islands: Small Island Insularity. London New York: Routledge.

Royle, Stephen A. 2014. Islands: Nature and Culture. London: Reaktion Press.

Schalansky, Judith. 2009. Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will. London: Particular.

Shell, Marc. 2014. Islandology: Geography, Rhetoric, Politics. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press

 Urry, John 2014. Offshoring. Cambridge: Polity Press


Key journals

Shima: the International Journal of Research into Island Cultures available online at

Island Studies Journal available online at

Urban Island Studies available online at

In addition theme issues of mainstream geographical journals regularly focus upon island studies


Useful web sites

Island Directory

Global Islands Network

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 20
Project supervision 10
Supervised time in studio/wksp 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Christopher Perkins Unit coordinator

Additional notes

NB This free field based course scheduled for early May 2016, is delivered on the Island of Gozo and is in conjunction with the University of Warwick, Olomouc, Utrecht and Malta.

Manchester places are limited to 15 students: a competitive application process will take place.


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