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Geographies of Material Culture

Module titleGeographies of Material Culture
Module codeGEO3123
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Ian Cook (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module encourages you to better appreciate the complexities of globalisation and trade justice through studying the travels of everyday things from factories and farms to shops and homes and, specifically, through studying the ways in which filmmakers and activists try to involve their audiences in stories of these travels.

The module is delivered through weekly blog-hosted mini-lecture recordings, film-watching, academic reading lists, learning tasks rooted in pages published on the spoof shopping website and online prompted discussion. The module assessment consists of two essay assignments.

You are not required to have any specific pre- or co-requisite modules. This module is suitable for anyone fascinated and/or concerned about these issues and keen to learn about them in this way.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module is designed to enable you to gain a rich understanding of theoretical and activist debates about commodity fetishism, labour, empathy, responsibility, class action, corporate response, union organising, labour activism and waste through movie-watching and guided writing and reading tasks. You should emerge from this module with a more detailed and nuanced appreciation of the making, discussion and impacts of ‘follow the thing’ film-making, of the trade justice issues raised by these films, and of the effects that these have on your own potential actions as a citizen and consumer.

This module is based on research into the geographies of material culture as showcased on the spoof shopping website The module uses this resource both as its textbook and as key resource to inform and inspire students’ work.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe the geographies in and of material culture flows
  • 2. Connect case studies with wider social, cultural, economic, etc. processes, including impact
  • 3. Illustrate how understandings cross disciplinary and sub-disciplinary boundaries
  • 4. Combine creative and academic writing to make sense of relationships and connections
  • 5. Analyse and evaluate your own involvements in the geographies of material culture

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
  • 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. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment
  • 13. Reflect on the process of learning and evaluate personal strengths and weaknesses
  • 14. Contribute effectively to the achievement of objectives
  • 15. Use C&IT effectively and appropriately to select, analyse and present information

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

  • Introduction
  • Commodity fetishism
  • Labour
  • Empathy
  • Responsibility
  • Class action
  • Corporate response
  • Union organising
  • Labour activism
  • Waste

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 Teaching11Breakout discussions on Zoom/Teams
Guided Independent Study139Watching films, writing, reading academic sources


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
A 'cinematrix'500 wordsAllWritten

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
Essay 1 381500 wordsAllWritten
Essay 2622500 wordsAllWritten


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1Essay 1AllReferral/deferral period
Essay 2Essay 2AllReferral/deferral period

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 essay 1 and/or essay 2 as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Ian Cook et al (2017) analysing relations between the making, reception & impact of commodity activism in a transmedia world. in Ola Söderström & Laure Kloetzer (eds)  Innovations Sociales.  MAPS: Université de Neuchâtel, 50-61
  • Kitty Hauser (2004) A garment in the dock: or how the FBI illuminated the prehistory of a pair of denim jeans.  Journal of material culture  9(3), 293–313
  • Kate Nash & John Corner (2016) Strategic impact documentary: contexts of production and social intervention.  European Journal of Communication  31(3), 227–242
  • Dietlind Stolle & Michele Micheletti (2013) Discursive political consumerism. in their Political consumerism: global responsibility in action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 170-203
  • Iris Marion Young (2003) From guilt to solidarity: sweatshops and political responsibility. Dissent  50(2), 39-44

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Geography, film, trade justice, commodity fetishism, activism

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date