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Refugee and Asylum Geographies

Module titleRefugee and Asylum Geographies
Module codeGEO3141
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Jen Bagelman (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Globally, more than 65 million refugees and other displaced people have been forced from their homes due to violence, conflict and persecution. While not a new problem, this level of displacement is unprecedented and, as such, increasingly framed as a ‘crisis.’ This module offers geographical approaches and tools to help you understand this as a complex, and enduring set of global crises. Vitally, we will also pay particular attention to possible responses.

In this module you will learn from: lectures, course readings (which include relevant non-textual sources such as film, graphic novels, music), and directly from experts working in humanitarian organisations (such as UNHCR at the international scale, and Refugee Support Devon at the local). Importantly, you will also learn from displaced peoples who have an intimate knowledge of this topic.

This module is suitable for anyone fascinated and/or concerned about these issues.

Module aims - intentions of the module

In this course you will develop a deepened understanding of how refugee and asylum political geographies are i) produced ii) experienced and iii) governed at various scales. We will particularly examine how localities (such as Devon) are positively responding to the global problems of displacement.

This course enables you to apply your geographical knowledge in a practical manner in order critically engage with refugee and asylum support in your own city. In this course you will benefit from the networks with refugee support organisations established by your instructor.

Your main project will provide you with a unique opportunity to engage with local efforts of refugee support and welcome. The practical skills developed in this module (namely, ability to work with humanitarian organisations; assess visual and textual documentation; and prepare relevant research in an accessible manner) will prepare you for future academic work, as well as employment in governmental and non-governmental sectors.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe key theoretical concepts in political geography such as asylum, sovereignty, displacement, migration and citizenship
  • 2. Summarise international and local humanitarian responses to the problem of global displacement
  • 3. Analyse discursive framings (both visual and textual) of refugee and asylum geopolitics
  • 4. Connect case studies with wider social, cultural, economic, etc. processes
  • 5. Combine creative and academic writing (and visuals) to convey your work to diverse audiences

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding
  • 7. Describe the nature of explanation within human geography, allowing for the critical evaluation of arguments, assumptions and abstractions, to make correct judgments, to frame and successfully solve a problem

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently orally and in writing
  • 9. Formulate a sustained and reasoned argument
  • 10. Identify, acquire, evaluate and synthesise data from a range of sources
  • 11. Formulate and evaluate questions and identify and evaluate approaches to problem-solving
  • 12. Develop independent learning skills including: self-directed reading, literature searches, and time management
  • 13. Reflect on the process of learning and evaluate personal strengths and weaknesses

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

This module is separated into two main sections:

In the first section you will be introduced to key readings, theories and concepts relevant to the study of refugee and asylum geopolitics. In each class we will reflect on the key questions assigned for that week. Following this, you will also have the chance to hear from invited guest lecturers each of whom provides expert knowledge about the challenges and possibilities of humanitarian responses from a variety of perspectives. The indicative structure is;

  • Discursive Framings
  • Distancing Strategies
  • Humanitarian Responses (Global and Local)
  • Experiences of Displacement
  • Resistance and Resilience

The second section of this module offers more “hands-on” learning through in-class workshops. In this section you will have an opportunity to participate in an in-class workshop led by a local resettlement agency. During this section of the module you will also be given workshop time during scheduled lectures to prepare your final zine project. You will be taught the skills to develop your own zine (a zine is a short magazine that is self-published; for more information on the power of the zine as a tool for engaged research please read my co-authored article on the value of this form of research Zines: Repurposing the Neoliberal University). You will be encouraged to pursue a final project that you find genuinely important and interesting. Examples from previous years include a student zine entitled “U-Volunteer” identifying opportunities for volunteer work in refugee support on campus. I am always very excited and impressed with the creative ideas students come up with! To ensure the legacy of your work, you will have the (optional) opportunity to present your final zine on the website City of Sanctuary, and share hardcopies in the newly created ‘zine library’ in the Geography discipline.

This course is designed in such a way as to value a diversity of perspectives. Our classroom is a safe space for dissenting ideas to be debated. You are not expected to support one way of thinking; rather, you will be supported in your work to critically engage in the area of refugee and asylum geopolitics.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lectures (11 x 2 hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Film screenings (2 x 2 hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Employer speed-dating workshop
Guided Independent Study120Research, guided and advised via discussions, self-directed readings


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Zine proposal 5 slidesAllWritten and oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Zine (‘mini’ magazine)5010 page ‘mini’ magazineAllWritten
Essay502000 wordsAllWritten


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ZineZineAllAugust Ref/Def
EssayEssayAllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Andonea D. 2015. ‘Distancing Asylum Seekers from the State: Australia's evolving political geography of immigration and border control.’ Australian Geographer.  46(4): 437-454.
  • Arendt, H. 1996. ‘We Refugees.’ Altogether Elsewhere: Writers on Exile, ed. Marc Robinson, 110-119 Boston: Faber and Faber.
  • Bagelman, J. 2016. ‘Zines: Repurposing the Neoliberal University,’ ACME.15(2): 366-392.
  • Conlon D. 2011. ‘A fractured mosaic: Encounters with the everyday amongst refugee and asylum seeker women.’ Population, Space and Place.
  • Feldman, I. 2015. ‘What is a camp? Legitimate refugee lives in spaces of long-term displacement.’ Geoforum. 66: 244-252.
  • Hutchison, R. Bleiker, D. Campbell, X. Nicholson. 2013. ‘The visual dehumanisation of refugees’, Australian Journal of Political Science. 48(4): 398-416.
  • Hyndman, J. 2011. ‘A Refugee Camp Conundrum: Geopolitics, Liberal Democracy, and Protracted Refugee Situations,’ Refuge. 28(2): 60-80.
  • ·        Hyndman, J. and W. Giles. 2011. ‘Waiting for What? The Feminization of Asylum in Protracted Situations,’ Gender, Place, and Culture, 18(3): 361-379.
  • Mountz, A. 2013 ‘Shrinking spaces of asylum: vanishing points where geography is used to inhibit access to asylum’ Austl J HR. 19(3): 29-50
  • M’gonigle, M. 2006. Planet U: Sustaining the World Reinventing the University. New Society Publishers.
  • RosieÌ?re, S. 2012. ‘Techopolitics: Reconsidering Globalisation through the Role of Walls and Fences,’ Geopolitics, 17: 217 – 234.
  • Scott-Smith, T. 2014. Control and Biopower in Contemporary Humanitarian Aid: The Case of Supplementary Feeding. Journal of Refugee Studies. 28(1): 21-37.
  • White, A. ‘Geographies of Asylum’ 2002. Political Geography. 21(8): 2055-1073   
  • Zaiotti, R. ‘Mapping Remote Control’ in Zaiotti, Ruben, ed. 2016. Externalizing Migration Management: Europe, North America and the Spread of “Remote Control” Practices. Routledge Research in Place, Space and Politics Series. London; New York, NY: Routledge.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Asylum, displacement, migration, refugee, geopolitics, borders, change

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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