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Unit information: Researching Society and Space: Hermeneutics, Genealogy and Critical Theory in 2015/16

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Unit name Researching Society and Space: Hermeneutics, Genealogy and Critical Theory
Unit code GEOGM0021
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Sherratt
Open unit status Not open



Other MSc Society & Space units

School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit introduces key qualitative methodologies, juxtaposing social scientific approaches and those from the humanities. The aim is both to teach the historical tradition of these methods and to raise broader notions about what constitutes “method” by different academic communities in humanistic geography. This unit focuses upon the three principal methodologies, those that are interpretative, those that are historical and those that are critical. The unit examines various methods of humanist interpretation by examining the tradition of hermeneutics. It depicts historical methodology through an analysis of genealogy and for methods of social or spatial analysis looks to critical theory.

Intended learning outcomes

1. To be able to compare and contrast qualitative methods in the social sciences and the humanities. 2. To have learned about the three humanist traditions of hermeneutics, genealogy and critical theory, including their background, their key texts and key thinkers. To have a grasp of the key concepts and theories of each methodological approach. 3. To be able to deploy one or more of these methods in human geography, to see how they are used to understand the spatiality and history of social relations.

Teaching details

Directed seminars

Assessment Details

Week 8 GEOGM0002 researching society and space 50% humanities research theory essay 2,000 word essay

Week 13 GEOGM0002 researching society and space 50% humanities research application essay 2,000 word essay

Essay 1 asks students to answer a question about the humanities/social science component of the course, the theoretical nature of the traditions of interpretation and historical or critical method, hereby assessing the learning outcomes (nos. 1-2) as depicted above. Essay 2 asks students to apply the humanities methods learned to a specific social or spatial example in human geography, thereby assessing the learning outcome of (no. 3) as depicted above.

Reading and References

1. Sherratt, Y. (2005). Continental Philosophy of Social Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2. Berg, B.L. (2007). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon,.

3. DeLyser, D. et al. (2009). Sage Handbook of Qualitative Geography. London, Sage.

4. Georgia Warnke, Gadamer: Hermeneutics, Tradition and Reason. Stanford, 1987

5. Raymond Guess, Morality, Culture and History: Essays in German Philosophy. Cambridge, 1999.

6. David Held, Introduction to Critical Theory. Berkeley, 1980.