Geopolitics and International Relations

Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Geopolitics and International Relations

  • Host University

    Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona

  • Location

    Barcelona, Spain

  • Area of Study

    International Relations, Political Science

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    In its conventional meaning, the notion of geopolitics conjures up images of complex, sometimes even tragic political games played by powerful states with the intention of maximizing their position in the international (geo)political arena. Although this is certainly one set of dynamics geopolitical models try to explain, the scope of this fascinating discipline is far wider and involves much more than states and their grand strategies. Geopolitics, in its modern understanding, is as much about the course of action that states pursue when they engage in international power politics as it is about the many ways in which each state justifies those actions before its domestic constituency. Geopolitics means exploring different perspectives about the interactive relations between human and physical geographies. Geopolitical codes and geopolitical imaginations constitute the fundamental immaterial basis on which states are legitimized to act and, increasingly, on which they are held accountable by their citizens and/or international organizations. Moreover, states have lost their monopoly over the creation and mobilization of geopolitical codes and power. The progressive erosion of the meaning of borders in the wake of the globalization of economic and political processes has meant that new actors, both above and below the state, have come to concur in the making of geopolitics.
    The objective of this course is to analyze the evolution over time of the discipline of geopolitics and its practical impacts in both global and domestic politics. It will also analyze a set of issues of critical importance for the present and future dynamics of interactions among states and, most importantly, the people that live within them.
    This course does not aim to give you the ability of predicting the future or making certain statements about what policies geopolitical actors should follow in any given situation as to maximize their benefits. It would be unrealistic and intellectually flawed if it attempted to do so. Conversely, this course is about providing a set of ideal categories and practical notions that will empower you to critically interpret the construction of geopolitical narratives and the ways in which they are acted upon.

    In the first part of the course you will be confronted with the account of how classical and critical geopolitics have developed over time and how they have dealt with the major questions regarding geopolitical thinking: structure and agency, territory, borders, the meaning and the role of states and state sovereignty. This first part will therefore establish the conceptual groundwork of the discipline of geopolitics. In turn, it will help you to analyze 2 and question many of the aspects of your relation with the different scales of territory in which you live (your city, your state, your country and the rest of the world), your national identity and, more in general, the way states manage their territory on the basis of their authoritative claim to sovereignty. We will finally ask if there is anything we can learn from the history of geopolitics in terms of hegemonic power and if we can infer some kind of underlying logic and tentatively sketch out future geopolitical scenarios. The second part of the course will build on your newly acquired analytical skills and guide you towards the exploration of a selected set of issues that define the current geopolitical landscape. It will take the form of seminars where different groups of students will lead a in class debate on the specific topic. You are expected to apply your conceptual toolkit in order to identify structure and agency relations in each of the topic and to analyze current state of affairs and make projections into the future


    Introduction to Geopolitics:
    What brings you to Geopolitics?
    A brief History of Geopolitics
    Classical and Critical Geopolitics

    Framework for Understanding Geopolitics:
    Key Concepts: place, scale, region, territory and network
    Structure and Agency
    What is Power?

    Visualizing Global Space / Turning Time into Space:
    Structuring the world as a structured whole
    Binary Geographies
    Spaces of Backwardness

    Geopolitical Agency: Geopolitical Codes & Their Justification:
    Geopolitical Codes: scales and usages
    Cultural Aspects
    Popular Culture and Foreign Policy
    Dynamic Geopolitical Codes

    Embedding Geopolitics within National Identity:
    Nation, State, Nation-State
    Nationalism and its manifestations
    Gender Roles, Nationalism and Geopolitical Codes
    Nationalism and Globalization

    The Three Ages of Geopolitics 3
    Boundary geopolitics:Shaky foundations of the world political map?
    The role of boundaries in geopolitics
    Boundaries, borders, borderlands, frontier
    Territorial constructions other than states
    Case studies: Palestine-Israel and the Korean Peninsula

    Network Geopolitics: Terrorism and Social Movements
    Meta- geography
    Geopolitics of Globalization
    Transnational Social Movements: Peace Movements
     Terrorism and Globalization
    Cyber warfare and Cyber security

    Globalization: already under threat?

    The Surge of Populism

    Geopolitical Structure: Predicting the Future?
    Exploring Structure: Modelsky's geopolitical model
    A valid Model? Imperial Overstretch?
    Testing the Model: the War on Terror, China, the EU
    Agnew: A New Age of Geopolitics? A New spatiality of power?

    China: Peaceful Rising or Quest for Hegemony?

    Emerging Countries: An early crisis?

    Weak, Failed and Collapsed States

    Africa: Between Hope and Despair

    The United Nations: Reform or Die?

    Regionalism and The European Union

    Environment, Security and Conflict

    Energy Security and the Geopolitics of Energy:
    Energy independence or energy interdependence?
    Energy Security: Strategies for action

    In-class Seminars 20%
    Mid-term exam 20%
    Final Paper 25%
    Class Participation 15%
    Final Exam 20%


Course Disclaimer

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits are converted to semester credits/quarter units differently among U.S. universities. Students should confirm the conversion scale used at their home university when determining credit transfer.

Please reference fall and spring course lists as not all courses are taught during both semesters.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations


This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work; others help us improve the user experience. By using the site, you consent to the placement of these cookies.

Read our Privacy Policy to learn more.