Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Governing Uncertain Futures
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 10x2 hours
Seminars / Tutorials Two seminars (weeks 2 and 4) will feature seminar-style discussions on governmentally and liberalism. Five seminars (weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9) will be scheduled group research sessions focusing on research topics (week 1), research design (week 3), research (week 5), analysis (week 7) and presentation preparation (week 8). Weeks 6 and 9 will be seminar sessions driven by student questions on the material and research process. Week 10 will be used for group presentations that overrun the two-hour time slot that week.


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Group research proposal  (500 words)  10%
Semester Assessment Individual reflection  on (250 words), and peer review of (250 words), individual's contribution to group research  10%
Semester Assessment 3,000 word written essay  on liberalism and anticipatory action  60%
Semester Assessment Group research presentation  (10-15 minutes, 2000 words in written length)  20%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmission of failed assessments. 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Explain the principles of anticipatory action (Lectures 1, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Discuss and critically evaluate the historical and geographic factors that contributed to the emergence of anticipatory action (Lectures 1, 2, 3, 4)

Analyze the different ways anticipatory action shapes contemporary practices in security, environmental management, finance, and psychology (Lectures 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Discuss and evaluate, using specific examples, the limitations of different forms of anticipatory action (Lectures 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

Demonstrate through their written essay, group presentations and peer review forms, and in-class discussions evidence of the development of transferable skills, including: critical analysis; giving and receiving peer reviews; research design; conducting empirical research; and interpretation, evaluation, and synthesis of a range of academic and empirical materials. (Lectures 1-10)

Brief description

How is uncertainty governed? How are contemporary geographies shaped by efforts to regulate an uncertain future? This module will explore the emergence and refinement of anticipatory actions that enable us to visualize, intervene in, and direct uncertain futures towards specific goals. It will introduce students to the intellectual debates surrounding liberalism, risk, and uncertainty, and analyze how anticipatory techniques such as preparedness, preemption, and resilience have shaped fields as varied as environmental management, state security, global finance, and psychology.


Unit 1: Key Concepts
1. Anticipatory Action -This session will introduce students to the core themes of the module, including anticipatory action, preparedness, preemption, resilience, liberalism, and governmentally. It will situate the rise of anticipatory action within the wider history of security, specifically the rise of new forms of insecurity associated with emergent and interconnected threats. This session will involve a 2-hour lecture.
2. Geographies of Governmentality -This session will introduce students to the concept of governmentality. Drawing on geographic research in the 1990s, we will define governmentality and illustrate the concept through examples of UK agricultural policy in the 1930s and colonial-era mining policies in British Columbia. In-class activities related to assigned readings will help students discuss the concept amongst themselves and in a wider group setting. This session will involve a 2-hour lecture and 1-hour seminar focusing on governmentality.
3. Liberalism and Governmentality -This session will define liberalism as a specific form of governmentality that operates through tensions of freedom and security. It will draw on historical and contemporary examples, particularly the work of Mitchell Dean, to demonstrate how liberalism involves a specific relation to the future as a source of danger. This session will involve a 2-hour lecture.
4. Risk and Uncertainty -This session will explore how different forms of liberalism - classical liberalism, social welfare, and neoliberalism - are characterised by specific relations between risk and uncertainty. It will then situate contemporary forms of anticipatory action within a neoliberal problematic of uncertainty, in order to emphasise how uncertainty is made governable today. This session will involve a 2-hour lecture and 1-hour seminar focusing on liberalism.

Unit 2: Forms of Anticipatory Action
5. Preparedness -This session will explore how preparedness emerged through cold war-era civil defence programs. It will define preparedness as a specific logic of anticipation, and examine how preparedness plays out in a number of policy areas, including US homeland security and response-oriented disaster management. This session will involve a 2-hour lecture.
6. Preemption -This session will analyse preemption as an anticipatory logic. It will focus on the US invasion of Iraq, US homeland security practices and financial instruments such as derivatives in order to demonstrate the similarities and differences between preparedness and preemption. This session will involve a 2-hour lecture and 1-hour seminar driven by student questions from the material covered in sessions 5 and 6.
7. Resilience -This session will trace the emergence of resilience from its twin roots in complexity science and human developmental psychology. It will explore how resilience has been taken up in environmental management, sustainable development, and UK security practices. This session will involve a 2-hour lecture.

Unit 3: Governing the Future
8. Disaster Management: Sustaining Development in an Uncertain Environment -This session will draw on a case study of disaster management in Jamaica to explore how a variety of techniques such as catastrophe insurance, simulations, scenarios, and education programming are deployed through logics of anticipatory action in different ways to produce disaster resilient communities. This session will involve a 2-hour lecture.
9. The 'War on Terror': Preempting the Threat of 'Unknown Unknowns' -This session will draw on a case study of the US war on terror - including the invasion of Iraq, the shift from emergency management to homeland security, and the rise of ethnographically-shaped "human terrain systems" counter-insurgency strategies - to explore how preparedness, preemption, and resilience intertwine in contemporary state security practices against unknown threats. This session will involve a 2-hour lecture and 1-hour seminar driven by student questions from the material covered in sessions 7-9.
10. Group Presentations -Students will provide 10 to 15-minute presentations (depending on enrolment numbers) on the group research topics of their choice. Each will be followed by a 5-minute Q&A session with questions from fellow students in the audience.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number
Communication The module will develop the students' skills of written communication in writing their assessed essays. It will also develop their group work capacities through regularly scheduled group research sessions. Students' contributions to the group will be assessed through peer assessments at the end of the term. Students will also be expected to contribute to group discussions in the lectures (although this will not be assessed).
Improving own Learning and Performance Student attendance and participation in the lectures, and their undertaking of an assessed essay, will help them to enhance a range of learning skills. The module requires students to undertake 70 hours of self-directed study. Group work and peer review of group participation will give students the opportunity to reflect on the academic skills and performance of peers in relation to their own performance.
Information Technology The assessed essay and group presentation requires students to undertake independent research using bibliographic search-engines and library catalogues. Writing essays and preparing and running powerpoint presentations will enable students to practice their IT skills.
Personal Development and Career planning The module will help students to develop a range of transferable skills. Students interested in pursuing advanced degrees will benefit from the theory-based discussions that strengthen critical analysis skills. All students will develop group work skills that will be valuable for their future employment. The practical issues discussed will also support students hoping to follow a career in environmental management, disaster management, or emergency management fields.
Problem solving The written assessment will require students to evaluate the applicability and limitations of different forms of anticipatory action to contemporary problems of uncertainty, as well as develop and demonstrate their critical thinking skills. In-class activities will periodically require students to complete small problem-solving exercises during the lectures. The group research project will require students to analyze and explain the effectiveness and limitations of a particular example of anticipatory action in contemporary security, environmental, or economic policy or practice.
Research skills Five seminar sessions deal explicitly with conducting research. Through the group research process, students will have the opportunity to plan and carry out research, discuss research methods, and prepare research presentations. Students are also expected to research and synthesize a range of academic source material in completing their written assignments.
Subject Specific Skills The module will enable students to undertake geographical case studies of specific anticipatory action policies and practices. It will also further develop and practice subject-specific skills they have developed in concurrent year and and year two modules such as 'Research skills in human geography'.
Team work Group research and peer review of individual contributions will give students multiple opportunities to develop their teamwork skills. Students will be expected to contribute to the setting of group goals and planning group activities through the research design, data collection, analysis, and presentation preparation stages. Each stage will also require negotiation and persuasion skills. These skills will be assessed through students' peer and self review of each group member's performance. The lectures will include in-class group activities designed to help student understanding of assigned readings, which will provide opportunities for students to develop team-working skills and discuss their thoughts with the class.

Reading List

Essential Reading
Aradau, C. and van Munster, R. (2012) Politics of Catastrophe: Genealogies of the Unknown London: Routledge Primo search Dean, M. (2004) Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society London: Sage Primo search Foucault, M. (2007) Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at the College de France, 1977-1978 New York: Palgrave Primo search Foucault, M. (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics. Lectures at the College de France, 1978-1979 New York: Palgrave Primo search O'Malley. P. (2004) Risk, Uncertainty and Government London: Glasshouse Primo search Anderson, B. (2010) Progress in Human Geography Preemption, Precaution, Preparedness: Anticipatory Action and Future Geographies 34 (6): 777-798 Primo search Lentzos, F. and Rose, N. (2009) Economy and Society Governing Insecurity: Contingency Planning, Protection, Resilience 38(2): 230-254 Primo search O'Malley, P. (2010) Economy and Society Resilient Subjects: Uncertainty, warfare, and liberalism 39(4): 488-509 Primo search Walker, J. and Cooper, M. (2011) Security Dialogue Genealogies of resilience: From systems ecology to the political economy of crisis adaptation 42(2): 143-160 Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6