Politics of Identity, Scale, and Nature

Spring 2021
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 25
12 Credits per quarter
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Is identity intrinsic and pre-determined, or is it fluid and contingent? What defines identity? Is it some combination of language, food, culture, religion, geography, history, or common experience? If identity is fluid and contingent, what are the extrinsic factors that shape how identities evolve or change? How are particular notions of identity socially constructed, and how are they contested and negotiated? In this program we will explore the ways in which identities are shaped in various times and places, or at particular moments.

We will also examine the phenomenon of ‘identity politics’ and how it intersects with the ‘politics of scale’. In this vein, we will seek to understand how certain identity categories can be reified, such as at the scale of nation-state, while others, such as race, caste, and gender can be a terrain of struggle; how identity can be imagined at multiple scales, how one can ‘jump scale’; and the implications of these practices in contemporary politics and discourses. Topics to be explored include the spatial imaginary of the ‘Global South’ in global climate politics; the politics of race in the United States and abroad; various forms of nationalism and practices of ‘othering’; the fluidity of identity categories in claims of cultural appropriation; and notions of purity or authenticity and hybridity in claims about identity.

Finally, we will critically examine identity construction in taken for granted environmental imaginaries including the anthropocene, overpopulation, invasive species, and pristine wilderness. We will examine how ideas of nature are socially constructed, yet have real material consequences for people, whether nature is set aside in national parks for preservation and recreation; or whether ecological boundaries are consolidated along mythical national boundaries, leading to fluid and contested yet reified ideas of who and what is native or invasive in particular geographical contexts.

To successfully participate in this program, students will need a computer with internet and online/installed software capability to do Word processing. Students should expect to participate in around 10 hours per week of scheduled synchronous sessions for remote learning, using Zoom/Canvas, and around 2 hours per week of asynchronous engagement.

Our approach will emphasize participation in synchronous (live) sessions; however, if students find themselves unable to participate due to technology, caregiving obligations, economic disruption, health risk, or illness, they can work with faculty to pursue alternate options to earn related credit.  

Students in this program will participate in the Annual Conference of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) scheduled for April 7-12, 2021 which will occur virtually.


Spring 2021 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (12): 30038

Academic details

Preparatory for studies and careers in

Political Ecology, Critical Geopolitics, Environmental Studies

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing

$40 for American Association of Geographers virtual conference registration


Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting



Date Revision
2020-12-17 $40 required fee added
2020-12-16 This program is now 12 credits (was 16)