Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 Hours. 10 x 2 hour lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Coursework Essay  3000 words  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Written Seen Examination  50%
Supplementary Assessment Coursework Essay  Resit for a condoned (medical grounds) non-completion of examination or coursework involves the completion of the missing component(s) for the full-range of marks on dates set in the Supplementary Examination period. Resit due to aggregate failure or non-completion of part of the assessment requires re-examination of each component if marks of <40% in both were obtained, or re-examination or re-submission of the failed component (examination of assignment(s) to obtain a maximum mark of 40% for the module). For the examination this will take the form of a 2 hour unseen examination. For the coursework essay it will involve the resubmission of the essay (with revisions if appropriate).  3000 words.  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Written Unseen Examination  50%

Learning Outcomes

On succesful completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. Identify, refer to, and critically evaluate a range of interdisciplinary literature on the social construction of risk

2. Demonstrate an awareness of the key research questions and methods utilized by Geographers in regard to risk

3. Develop their own case studies illustrating key theoretical concepts used in class

4. Further develop their critical thought, writing and presentation skills

Brief description

In this module we take a look at the origins and current concerns of social constructivism, paying particular attention to the contributions of Thomas Kuhn and Bruno Latour, as well as their critics, and the input of Marxist and feminist writers. Next, we turn to the hazards and risk literature within human geography, noting how this approach has developed a very specific research literature within human geography, noting how this approach has developed a very specific research agenda and associated methods (please note that there is no expectation or requirement that students have an in-depth knowledge of physical processes in order to take this class, although reference to broad-scale ideas and theories will be made). With this grounding in place, we can assess how research into 'natural' and 'human' hazards, including disease and ill health, has traditionally been carried out, and how it is currently being impacted by social constructivism. In doing so we will utilize a wide range of topical case studies within the environmental risk literature (see list of lecture topics below).


Week 1. Introduction to the module: the expanding field of inquiry.

Section One: Theoretical Overview - The Emergence of Social Constructivism
Week 2. Kuhn's history of science; sociology of scientific knowledge; constructivist accounts of science and society; and the defense of science.

Week 3. Alternative theories: Marxist critique of science; Feminist critique of science; current debates.

Week 4. Understanding retoric, ideology and discourse.

Section Two: What is a Hazard, What is a Risk?
Week 5. The hazards and risk sub-field: neoclassical school; Chicago resource school; and vulnerability and dependence.

Week 6. Social constructivism and the idea of risk.

Section Three: Case Studies
Week 7. The construction of 'natural' hazards: nature as sublime aesthetic; nature as external force; and 'third nature.'

Week 8. The construction of 'human' hazards: neomalthusianism; Faustian bargains; and the emergence of 'postmodern' biotechnologies.

Week 9. 'Hybrids' and their associated risks: simulations, cyborgs and postmodern ethics.

Week 10. Medical geography: mesmerism; germ theory; body as a machine; and the Genome project.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication *Read in different contexts and for different purposes *Discuss key concepts and ideas in class *Listen effectively
Improving own Learning and Performance *Show awareness of own learning styles, personal preferences and needs, and barriers to learning *Devise and apply realistic learning and self management strategies *Review and monitor progress, to improve overall performance
Information Technology *Practical textual analysis on the web *Use email/internet appropriately and effectively
Research skills *Understand a range of research methods *Plan and carry out research *Produce academically appropriate reports *Evaluate research methods, design and procedures
Team work *Understand the concept of group dynamics *Contribute to the setting of group goals *Contribute effectively to the planning of group activities *Play an active part in group activities *Exercise negotiation and persuasion skills


This module is at CQFW Level 6