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Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, Chair 305 E. 23rd Street • CLA 3.306 • A3100 • Austin, Tx 78712 • 512-232-1595

Leo E. Zonn

Professor Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Leo E. Zonn
" ‘...nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people.’ Mark Twain, 1867 "

Contact

  • Phone: 512-232-1586
  • Office: CLA 3.706
  • Office Hours: Spring 2014: T/Th 3:30-4:30 or by appointment
  • Campus Mail Code: A3100

Biography

Leo Zonn received a B.A. in History from California State University, Northridge in 1969, an M.A. in Geography from the same university in 1972, and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1975 (Harold Rose, adviser). He has been on the faculty of Arizona State University (1975-1986), East Carolina University (1986-1997), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1997-2004) and the University of Texas at Austin (2004-present). He served 19 years as a department chair, with eleven years at ECU, five at UNC, and three at UT.

Zonn regularly teaches courses in social-cultural geography. His primary courses at UT are Frontiers in Geography (the senior capstone course), Cinematic Geographies, Contemporary Cultural Geography, and a first year seminar, “Re-presenting Los Angeles in the Media".

Zonn is interested in issues of geographic representation as they occur within a variety of sites, from landscapes to popular media, but his special interest is in terms of cinema. This curiosity has usually been within some of the more classic frames of textual analysis, although more recently he has also become especially interested in cinematic exhibition. As such he is concerned with the complex network that frames the integration of technology, production, audience, text, and the site of exposition into a place-based filmic experience. This means that the drive-in, home screening room, traveling film theater, portable DVD player, and the many standard forms of the movie theater, as examples, provide geographic experiences worthy of consideration. His overall research agenda is not informed by any one conceptual structure, but instead draws from a rich and varied set of mostly social-theoretical views, while even humanist influences can be found blended into the mix.

Selected Publications

Dick Winchell and L. Zonn. 2012. “Urban Spaces of American Indians in The Exiles”. Geographical Review, 102, 2, pp. 149-165.

Dixon, D., L. Zonn, and J. Bascom. 2008. “Post-ing the Cinema: Reassessing Analytical Stances Toward a Geography of Film”, in The Geography of Cinema: A Cinematic World, edited by C. Lukinbeal and S. Zimmermann. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, pp. 25-47.

Zonn, L. 2007. “Going to the Movies: The Filmic Site as Geographic Endeavor”, Aether: The Journal of Media Geography, Vol. 1, pp. 63-67.

Dixon, D., and L. Zonn. 2005. Confronting the Geopolitical Aesthetic: Frederic Jameson, The Perfumed Nightmare and the Perilous Place of Third Cinema, Geopolitics, Vol. 10, pp. 290-315. Reprinted 2007, in Cinema and Popular Geo-Politics , Edited by M. Power and A. Crampton, London and New York: Routledge, 95-120

Lukinbeal, C., and L. Zonn, Guest Editors. 2004. Cinematic Geographies, GeoJournal , Vol. 59. Holmes, G., Zonn, L., and A. Cravey. 2004. Placing Man in the West: Masculinities of The Last Picture Show, GeoJournal, Vol. 59, pp. 277- 288.

Dixon, D., and L. Zonn. 2004. Film Networks and the Place(s) of Technology, in Geography and Technology, edited by S. Brunn, S. Cutter, and J.W. Harrington. Dordrecht, Boston, London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 243-266.

Zonn, L. and D. Winchell. 2002. Smoke Signals: Locating Sherman Alexie's Narratives of American Indian Identity, in Engaging Film: Geographies of Mobility and Identity , edited by T. Cresswell and D. Dixon. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 140-158.

Aitken, S., and L. Zonn. Editors. 1994. Place, Power, Situation and Spectacle: A Geography of Film . Savage, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, Publishers.

Zonn, L ., and S. Aitken. 1994. Of Pelicans and Men: Symbolic Landscapes, Gender, and Australia's Storm Boy, in Place, Power, Situation, and Spectacle: A Geography of Film (see edited volume above), pp. 137-159.

Aitken, S., and L. Zonn. 1994. Re-Presenting the Place Pastiche, in Place, Power, Situation, and Spectacle (see edited volume above), pp. 3-25. Aitken, S., and L. Zonn. 1993. Weir(d) Sex: Representation of Gender- Environment Relations in Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock and Gallipoli , Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Vol. 11, pp. 191-212.

Zonn, L . Editor. 1990. Place Images in Media: Portrayal, Meaning, and Experience (ed.). Savage, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, Publishers.

Interests

Representation and Media, Especially Cinema, Geographies of Popular Culture

GRG 336 • Contemp Cultural Geography

37560 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CLA 2.606
(also listed as URB 354 )
show description

see syllabus

URB 354 • Contemp Cultural Geography

37915 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CLA 2.606
(also listed as GRG 336 )
show description

see syllabus

GRG 336 • Contemp Cultural Geography

37810 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CLA 1.102
(also listed as URB 354 )
show description

see syllabus

GRG 374 • Frontiers In Geography

37875 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm CLA 1.102
show description

see syllabus

URB 354 • Contemp Cultural Geography

38129 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CLA 1.102
(also listed as GRG 336 )
show description

see syllabus

GRG 374 • Frontiers In Geography

37930 • Fall 2013
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CLA 0.108
show description

Course Objective and Subjects

The primary objective of this course is to provide you a ‘working understanding’ of the contemporary nature of Geography, which means I am interested in considering Geography as it is practiced. My department expects this course, Frontiers in Geography, to be a ‘capstone’ experience, although none of us really knows what that means. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways and the faculty of our department have tried many of them while teaching this course, based to a great extent upon their own respective personal and academic histories, styles, personalities, and general sense of what is important and what is not. None of them are wrong.

The route I have chosen is a ‘working understanding’, which it is hoped, will complement and supplement what you have been studying for these last few years.

I begin with the simplest of questions—What is Geography?—and then provide a set of fundamentals that will help answer the question, thus providing a ‘working’ understanding:

 It is a set of concepts

 It is a frame for study

 It is a discipline

 It is a university subject

 It is a job

1)  Concepts. In this section we provide an overview of the nature of the discipline—“what are the fundamental precepts that define Geography?” To some extent this is a summary and gathering together of ideas that surround what you have been doing for the last few years as a Geography major. At the same time it is my opportunity to stress my favorite geo-concept: Place, perhaps along with space, its little stepsister.

2) Frame. We use these concepts to help frame our study of geographic processes, especially in terms of the patterns of human activity. Such a framing will help illuminate the essences of these processes.  For the purposes of this class we will focus primarily on ‘place’ in research focused on the example of tourism. The focus of your final capstone paper and most of your readings will be here, therefore, on the subject called “A Geography of Tourism”, framed within the concept of place.

3) Discipline. We will discuss Geography as a contemporary academic discipline in terms of its history, associations, journals, and departments.

4) University. The heart and history of a discipline begins with the university. Here we will talk about the contemporary nature of the American University, especially in this contentious political and economic era; issues of note at the national, state, and UT levels will be discussed.  We do so to understand the home of Geography, but we will spend time on issues that may not have immediate relevance to our discipline.

5) Job. Several of you will be disappointed that this course is not centered on getting you a job.  In fact, we won’t spend much time on the subject at all.  Why?  Because basically it is not within my purview; the truth be known, I don’t know much about that subject, which is true of most of my colleagues.  This goes back to our subject of the University (above); more on that later. But we will not ignore it.  We will work on your resumes, discuss ways you can aggressively engage the lousy market out there, consider issues of cover letters and interviewing, and we will bring people into the classroom who can help provide us some practicalities of the search.  We will also discuss graduate school.  Here I can help much more, although if the past is any predictor fewer than five or six of you will be immediately interested.  We’ll play that one by ear.

The discussion of these five issues will be linear in the most general sense, but because they are often so closely intertwined we will integrate them at times. Also, I cannot assign a specific amount of time for each subject—although the system often asks that I do—because we reserve the right to spend more or less time on individual subjects as we see fit, once we are there. No worries; it will work.

GRG 374 • Frontiers In Geography

37580 • Spring 2013
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm CLA 0.108
show description

Course Objective and Subjects

The primary objective of this course is to provide you a ‘working understanding’ of the contemporary nature of Geography, which means I am interested in considering Geography as it is practiced. My department expects this course, Frontiers in Geography, to be a ‘capstone’ experience, although none of us really knows what that means. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways and the faculty of our department have tried many of them while teaching this course, based to a great extent upon their own respective personal and academic histories, styles, personalities, and general sense of what is important and what is not. None of them are wrong.

The route I have chosen is a ‘working understanding’, which it is hoped, will complement and supplement what you have been studying for these last few years.

I begin with the simplest of questions—What is Geography?—and then provide a set of fundamentals that will help answer the question, thus providing a ‘working’ understanding:

 It is a set of concepts

 It is a frame for study

 It is a discipline

 It is a university subject

 It is a job

1)  Concepts. In this section we provide an overview of the nature of the discipline—“what are the fundamental precepts that define Geography?” To some extent this is a summary and gathering together of ideas that surround what you have been doing for the last few years as a Geography major. At the same time it is my opportunity to stress my favorite geo-concept: Place, perhaps along with space, its little stepsister.

2) Frame. We use these concepts to help frame our study of geographic processes, especially in terms of the patterns of human activity. Such a framing will help illuminate the essences of these processes.  For the purposes of this class we will focus primarily on ‘place’ in research focused on the example of tourism. The focus of your final capstone paper and most of your readings will be here, therefore, on the subject called “A Geography of Tourism”, framed within the concept of place.

3) Discipline. We will discuss Geography as a contemporary academic discipline in terms of its history, associations, journals, and departments.

4) University. The heart and history of a discipline begins with the university. Here we will talk about the contemporary nature of the American University, especially in this contentious political and economic era; issues of note at the national, state, and UT levels will be discussed.  We do so to understand the home of Geography, but we will spend time on issues that may not have immediate relevance to our discipline.

5) Job. Several of you will be disappointed that this course is not centered on getting you a job.  In fact, we won’t spend much time on the subject at all.  Why?  Because basically it is not within my purview; the truth be known, I don’t know much about that subject, which is true of most of my colleagues.  This goes back to our subject of the University (above); more on that later. But we will not ignore it.  We will work on your resumes, discuss ways you can aggressively engage the lousy market out there, consider issues of cover letters and interviewing, and we will bring people into the classroom who can help provide us some practicalities of the search.  We will also discuss graduate school.  Here I can help much more, although if the past is any predictor fewer than five or six of you will be immediately interested.  We’ll play that one by ear.

The discussion of these five issues will be linear in the most general sense, but because they are often so closely intertwined we will integrate them at times. Also, I cannot assign a specific amount of time for each subject—although the system often asks that I do—because we reserve the right to spend more or less time on individual subjects as we see fit, once we are there. No worries; it will work.

GRG 374 • Frontiers In Geography

37480 • Fall 2012
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm GRG 408
show description

GRG 374 • Frontiers In Geography

Zonn, Leo E.

 A.  Course Objective and Subjects

  The primary objective of this course is to provide you a ‘working understanding’ of the contemporary nature of Geography, which means I am interested in considering Geography as it is practiced. My department expects this course, Frontiers in Geography, to be a ‘capstone’ experience, although none of us really knows what that means. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways and the faculty of our department have tried many of them while teaching this course, based to a great extent upon their own respective personal and academic histories, styles, personalities, and general sense of what is important and what is not. None of them are wrong.

 The route I have chosen is a ‘working understanding’, which it is hoped, will complement and supplement what you have been studying for these last few years.

  I begin with the simplest of questions—What is Geography?—and then provide a set of fundamentals that will help answer the question, thus providing a ‘working’ understanding:

 It is a set of concepts

 It is a frame for study

 It is a discipline

 It is a university subject

 It is a job

  1)  Concepts. In this section we provide an overview of the nature of the discipline—“what are the fundamental precepts that define Geography?” To some extent this is a summary and gathering together of ideas that surround what you have been doing for the last few years as a Geography major. At the same time it is my opportunity to stress my favorite geo-concept: Place, perhaps along with space, its little stepsister.

  2) Frame. We use these concepts to help frame our study of geographic processes,

 especially in terms of the patterns of human activity. Such a framing will help illuminate the essences of these processes.  For the purposes of this class we will focus primarily on ‘place’ in research focused on the example of tourism. The focus of your final capstone paper and most of your readings will be here, therefore, on the subject called “A Geography of Tourism”, framed within the concept of place.

  3) Discipline. We will discuss Geography as a contemporary academic discipline in terms of its history, associations, journals, and departments.

  4) University. The heart and history of a discipline begins with the university. Here we will talk about the contemporary nature of the American University, especially in this contentious political and economic era; issues of note at the national, state, and UT levels will be discussed.  We do so to understand the home of Geography, but we will spend time on issues that may not have immediate relevance to our discipline.

  5) Job. Several of you will be disappointed that this course is not centered on getting you a job.  In fact, we won’t spend much time on the subject at all.  Why?  Because basically it is not within my purview; the truth be known, I don’t know much about that subject, which is true of most of my colleagues.  This goes back to our subject of the University (above); more on that later. But we will not ignore it.  We will work on your resumes, discuss ways you can aggressively engage the lousy market out there, consider issues of cover letters and interviewing, and we will bring people into the classroom who can help provide us some practicalities of the search.  We will also discuss graduate school.  Here I can help much more, although if the past is any predictor fewer than five or six of you will be immediately interested.  We’ll play that one by ear.

 The discussion of these five issues will be linear in the most general sense, but because they are often so closely intertwined we will integrate them at times. Also, I cannot assign a specific amount of time for each subject—although the system often asks that I do—because we reserve the right to spend more or less time on individual subjects as we see fit, once we are there. No worries; it will work.

GRG 336 • Contemp Cultural Geography

37346 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm GRG 408
(also listed as URB 354 )
show description

A.  Course Objective and Subjects

 This course is concerned with the places and spaces of culture that we find in our everyday lives.  I can also describe our interests here as being with conventional, or even commonplace geographies of the individual, but perhaps the most apt descriptor is the ‘experiences of place’. This notion is far more complex than may first meet the eye, at least partially because it overlaps with and draws from ‘cultural geography’, ‘popular culture’, ‘The Practices of Everyday Life’ (as used by de Certeau),  ‘identity politics’, ‘geometries of power’, and ‘theories of representation’ as major examples of ideas that help us understand everyday geographies.  We will not be concerned with the theoretical details of these perspectives, although they do inform what we study, and so we will draw ideas from them as we move along. At the same time, the list of subjects concerning the experiences of place is not especially systematic.  Quite simply, we will be studying the geographies that interest me; it is a smorgasbord of the experiences of place. The list may look different next year. But you should not minimize what I am doing here: the primary objective of this course is to provide you an eclectic lens through which you might consider geographies of those places and spaces that engage with who you are, what you do, and where you go, whereupon you can then begin to think about the same for your neighbors.

 

GRG 374 • Frontiers In Geography

37430 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm GRG 408
show description

A.  Course Objective and Subjects

 The primary objective of this course is to provide you a ‘working understanding’ of the contemporary nature of Geography, which means I am interested in considering Geography as it is practiced. My department expects this course, Frontiers in Geography, to be a ‘capstone’ experience, although none of us really knows what that means. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways and the faculty of our department have tried many of them while teaching this course, based to a great extent upon their own respective personal and academic histories, styles, personalities, and general sense of what is important and what is not. None of them are wrong.

The route I have chosen is a ‘working understanding’, which it is hoped, will complement and supplement what you have been studying for these last few years.

 I begin with the simplest of questions—What is Geography?—and then provide a set of fundamentals that will help answer the question, thus providing a ‘working’ understanding:

 It is a set of concepts

It is a frame for study

It is a discipline

It is a university subject

It is a job

 1)  Concepts. In this section we provide an overview of the nature of the discipline—“what are the fundamental precepts that define Geography?” To some extent this is a summary and gathering together of ideas that surround what you have been doing for the last few years as a Geography major. At the same time it is my opportunity to stress my favorite geo-concept: Place, perhaps along with space, its little stepsister.

 2) Frame. We use these concepts to help frame our study of geographic processes,

especially in terms of the patterns of human activity. Such a framing will help illuminate the essences of these processes.  For the purposes of this class we will focus primarily on ‘place’ in research focused on the example of tourism. The focus of your final capstone paper and most of your readings will be here, therefore, on the subject called “A Geography of Tourism”, framed within the concept of place.

 3) Discipline. We will discuss Geography as a contemporary academic discipline in terms of its history, associations, journals, and departments.

 4) University. The heart and history of a discipline begins with the university. Here we will talk about the contemporary nature of the American University, especially in this contentious political and economic era; issues of note at the national, state, and UT levels will be discussed.  We do so to understand the home of Geography, but we will spend time on issues that may not have immediate relevance to our discipline.

 5) Job. Several of you will be disappointed that this course is not centered on getting you a job.  In fact, we won’t spend much time on the subject at all.  Why?  Because basically it is not within my purview; the truth be known, I don’t know much about that subject, which is true of most of my colleagues.  This goes back to our subject of the University (above); more on that later. But we will not ignore it.  We will work on your resumes, discuss ways you can aggressively engage the lousy market out there, consider issues of cover letters and interviewing, and we will bring people into the classroom who can help provide us some practicalities of the search.  We will also discuss graduate school.  Here I can help much more, although if the past is any predictor fewer than five or six of you will be immediately interested.  We’ll play that one by ear.

 The discussion of these five issues will be linear in the most general sense, but because they are often so closely intertwined we will integrate them at times. Also, I cannot assign a specific amount of time for each subject—although the system often asks that I do—because we reserve the right to spend more or less time on individual subjects as we see fit, once we are there. No worries; it will work. 

URB 354 • Contemp Cultural Geography

37666 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm GRG 408
(also listed as GRG 336 )
show description

A.  Course Objective and Subjects

 This course is concerned with the places and spaces of culture that we find in our everyday lives.  I can also describe our interests here as being with conventional, or even commonplace geographies of the individual, but perhaps the most apt descriptor is the ‘experiences of place’. This notion is far more complex than may first meet the eye, at least partially because it overlaps with and draws from ‘cultural geography’, ‘popular culture’, ‘The Practices of Everyday Life’ (as used by de Certeau),  ‘identity politics’, ‘geometries of power’, and ‘theories of representation’ as major examples of ideas that help us understand everyday geographies.  We will not be concerned with the theoretical details of these perspectives, although they do inform what we study, and so we will draw ideas from them as we move along. At the same time, the list of subjects concerning the experiences of place is not especially systematic.  Quite simply, we will be studying the geographies that interest me; it is a smorgasbord of the experiences of place. The list may look different next year. But you should not minimize what I am doing here: the primary objective of this course is to provide you an eclectic lens through which you might consider geographies of those places and spaces that engage with who you are, what you do, and where you go, whereupon you can then begin to think about the same for your neighbors.

 

GRG 374 • Frontiers In Geography

37450 • Fall 2011
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm GRG 408
show description

The specific objectives of this course that are intended to contribute toward this broader practice are: 1) to use your experience in Geography to construct a substantive research project, which will be in written and presented forms (much more on this later); 2) to get a sense of the nature of the university as geography’s home, while including conversations of ethics, social justice, liberal arts, and other major issues facing the university community as it engages with the world at large; 3) to become familiar with Geography as a discipline; and 4) to talk about engagements of you, geography, and the job world.

GRG 374 • Frontiers In Geography-W

37475 • Spring 2010
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm GRG 408
show description

Course Objective and Subjects

The primary objective of this course is to provide you a ‘working understanding’ of the contemporary nature of Geography, which means I am interested in considering Geography as it is practiced. My department expects this course, Frontiers in Geography, to be a ‘capstone’ experience, although none of us really knows what that means. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways and the faculty of our department have tried many of them while teaching this course, based to a great extent upon their own respective personal and academic histories, styles, personalities, and general sense of what is important and what is not. None of them are wrong.

The route I have chosen is a ‘working understanding’, which it is hoped, will complement and supplement what you have been studying for these last few years.

I begin with the simplest of questions—What is Geography?—and then provide a set of fundamentals that will help answer the question, thus providing a ‘working’ understanding:

 It is a set of concepts

 It is a frame for study

 It is a discipline

 It is a university subject

 It is a job

1)  Concepts. In this section we provide an overview of the nature of the discipline—“what are the fundamental precepts that define Geography?” To some extent this is a summary and gathering together of ideas that surround what you have been doing for the last few years as a Geography major. At the same time it is my opportunity to stress my favorite geo-concept: Place, perhaps along with space, its little stepsister.

2) Frame. We use these concepts to help frame our study of geographic processes, especially in terms of the patterns of human activity. Such a framing will help illuminate the essences of these processes.  For the purposes of this class we will focus primarily on ‘place’ in research focused on the example of tourism. The focus of your final capstone paper and most of your readings will be here, therefore, on the subject called “A Geography of Tourism”, framed within the concept of place.

3) Discipline. We will discuss Geography as a contemporary academic discipline in terms of its history, associations, journals, and departments.

4) University. The heart and history of a discipline begins with the university. Here we will talk about the contemporary nature of the American University, especially in this contentious political and economic era; issues of note at the national, state, and UT levels will be discussed.  We do so to understand the home of Geography, but we will spend time on issues that may not have immediate relevance to our discipline.

5) Job. Several of you will be disappointed that this course is not centered on getting you a job.  In fact, we won’t spend much time on the subject at all.  Why?  Because basically it is not within my purview; the truth be known, I don’t know much about that subject, which is true of most of my colleagues.  This goes back to our subject of the University (above); more on that later. But we will not ignore it.  We will work on your resumes, discuss ways you can aggressively engage the lousy market out there, consider issues of cover letters and interviewing, and we will bring people into the classroom who can help provide us some practicalities of the search.  We will also discuss graduate school.  Here I can help much more, although if the past is any predictor fewer than five or six of you will be immediately interested.  We’ll play that one by ear.

The discussion of these five issues will be linear in the most general sense, but because they are often so closely intertwined we will integrate them at times. Also, I cannot assign a specific amount of time for each subject—although the system often asks that I do—because we reserve the right to spend more or less time on individual subjects as we see fit, once we are there. No worries; it will work.

GRG 390L • Research in Geography

37540 • Spring 2010
Meets 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm T
show description
This course is about research in Geography, more specifically research design in Geography.  This latter term refers to the overall formulation of a research project, from its inception to completion. The careful, thorough, ordered, and informed construction of this design is a prerequisite for a successful and valuable research outcome, be it in Geography, another discipline, or in interdisciplinary settings. An essential presumption of this process is that the structure of this design must always include several specific and essential components. The character of each of these components is likely to vary dramatically from one project to the next, but they must be present. Another (and closely related) presumption is that these components must be highly integrated, interactive, and symbiotic with one another.  The need for outlining these parts and the ways in which they are related is absolutely essential for quality research, regardless of its subject matter.  You must always remember, however, that there is never one and only one possible design combination for your subject at hand. It is your task to explore the many possible combinations and find the one that is right for you and your successful research project!

 

So, what are these components and what does it mean to formulate a research design?  How do you do it?  How do you do it for your subject at hand? These questions may seem particularly daunting because of the highly eclectic and inclusive nature of Geography.  We have available to us an array of conceptual and topical perspectives within a virtually infinite number of research settings, and yet we have to make decisions, we have to make choices, as to how we put together an approach, a design, as to how to conduct research. These questions are our task at hand; these questions are the source and heart of the purpose and objectives of this class.

 

A primary concern of this course, then, is with research design, with your research design, the one that constitutes the frame of your thesis, dissertation, or even a major publication.  We are interested in the structure of that frame, in the way you intend to conduct or are conducting your research, and with the ways and means you can justify those choices you are making.  But clearly and importantly, this course is not solely about design; there is a second part, which reflects the immortal words of David Byrne: “well, how did I get here?”  This second (and very closely related to the first) focus of this course is an exploration of those frames from which you drew your approach.  That is, what are the directions in geographic research that have influenced the way in which you are constructing your research? A related question to you is: are these the most appropriate and most contemporary possible approaches available to you? In sum, then, we are interested in the design of your research and with the realm of possibilities from which you have drawn your ideas.

 

We believe that it is a mistake to try and explore the discipline as a whole and within this frame in one semester, and so we will engage contemporary geography in the context of the research being conducted by you. Some issues will be left out. If nobody is working on post-colonial theory, Lefebvre and urban design, synoptic heavy rainfall events, nonequilibrium in ecosystems, or chaos theory in geomorphology, we may not get there, at least in any detail. Conversely, the areas in which you are engaged will become of interest to all.  This means that the individual who conducts research on intra-urban migration and neighborhood change will be learning about contemporary landscape ecological changes in Botswana emanating from government policy, and vice versa. Both will be learning about the subjects at hand, certainly, but more important, s/he will be learning about the ways in which the research design for the respective topic has been developed and will become familiar with the frameworks from which the choices have been made. We will be reading many examples so we know how others who are a step ahead of us are doing it.

 

As we will soon learn and detail, ad nauseam, the two major parts to the research design are the theoretical framework and methodology.  The first provides the set of assumptions, guidelines, and questions for the work to be done, while the second tells us how you are going to do it.  And, as noted above, the two must be meticulously linked.  Now, let us add yet another important presumption of this course, namely, that an essential path to discovering the combination of theory and methodology that is just right for you is to read, read, and then read some more! How can you know if you are choosing the best direction if you don’t know the alternatives? There is no substitute for knowing the literature of your subject.  What you choose and why you choose it is yet another challenge, but you must be aware of all the choices.   An important implication here is that you must be aware of alternatives to the direction you have chosen, which makes the justification for your work yet simpler. So, did I mention that you need to explore the literature of your field and that you do this by reading?

 

Well, how do we (as a class) get there? Over the course of the semester, you will be presenting to your colleagues the nature of your research design and the sources that help you construct it, that is, the nature of your field and the range of alternatives you considered when making your choice.  The product of your work will certainly be an outline of your research design, but as important, it will be a detailed description of the essence of your research area(s) and a justification for your choices. For some, this may mean an original outline for MA work to be done, for others, it may be Chapter One (or Two) of your dissertation.  Your work will be compared, then, with progress you have made on your project, and not necessarily with the final product vis a vis your colleagues. You will be reading works in your area and presenting them to the class, you will be writing justifications of your choices, you will be demonstrating the linkages between different components of your proposal (e.g., why this methodology, given that theoretical frame?), and you will be presenting your research directions to colleagues (Jenifer and Leo included) who may not know the nature of your area; that is, you have to make the whole process intelligible to a wider geographic audience.  We will do all this through some assigned readings, many readings of your choice, and, quite important, through the demonstration of the research process by faculty and advanced graduate students who “have been there and done that.”  These visitors will provide insight into the many ways research is designed, which will include the same basic themes we will be emphasizing over and over.

GRG 374 • Frontiers In Geography-W

36870 • Spring 2009
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm GRG 408
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Course Objective and Subjects

The primary objective of this course is to provide you a ‘working understanding’ of the contemporary nature of Geography, which means I am interested in considering Geography as it is practiced. My department expects this course, Frontiers in Geography, to be a ‘capstone’ experience, although none of us really knows what that means. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways and the faculty of our department have tried many of them while teaching this course, based to a great extent upon their own respective personal and academic histories, styles, personalities, and general sense of what is important and what is not. None of them are wrong.

The route I have chosen is a ‘working understanding’, which it is hoped, will complement and supplement what you have been studying for these last few years.

I begin with the simplest of questions—What is Geography?—and then provide a set of fundamentals that will help answer the question, thus providing a ‘working’ understanding:

 It is a set of concepts

 It is a frame for study

 It is a discipline

 It is a university subject

 It is a job

1)  Concepts. In this section we provide an overview of the nature of the discipline—“what are the fundamental precepts that define Geography?” To some extent this is a summary and gathering together of ideas that surround what you have been doing for the last few years as a Geography major. At the same time it is my opportunity to stress my favorite geo-concept: Place, perhaps along with space, its little stepsister.

2) Frame. We use these concepts to help frame our study of geographic processes, especially in terms of the patterns of human activity. Such a framing will help illuminate the essences of these processes.  For the purposes of this class we will focus primarily on ‘place’ in research focused on the example of tourism. The focus of your final capstone paper and most of your readings will be here, therefore, on the subject called “A Geography of Tourism”, framed within the concept of place.

3) Discipline. We will discuss Geography as a contemporary academic discipline in terms of its history, associations, journals, and departments.

4) University. The heart and history of a discipline begins with the university. Here we will talk about the contemporary nature of the American University, especially in this contentious political and economic era; issues of note at the national, state, and UT levels will be discussed.  We do so to understand the home of Geography, but we will spend time on issues that may not have immediate relevance to our discipline.

5) Job. Several of you will be disappointed that this course is not centered on getting you a job.  In fact, we won’t spend much time on the subject at all.  Why?  Because basically it is not within my purview; the truth be known, I don’t know much about that subject, which is true of most of my colleagues.  This goes back to our subject of the University (above); more on that later. But we will not ignore it.  We will work on your resumes, discuss ways you can aggressively engage the lousy market out there, consider issues of cover letters and interviewing, and we will bring people into the classroom who can help provide us some practicalities of the search.  We will also discuss graduate school.  Here I can help much more, although if the past is any predictor fewer than five or six of you will be immediately interested.  We’ll play that one by ear.

The discussion of these five issues will be linear in the most general sense, but because they are often so closely intertwined we will integrate them at times. Also, I cannot assign a specific amount of time for each subject—although the system often asks that I do—because we reserve the right to spend more or less time on individual subjects as we see fit, once we are there. No worries; it will work.

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