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GEOG207 Political Geography: Borders, Migration and Conflict,

Unit rationale, description and aim

In the 21st century, the global geopolitical map is in a constant state of flux as nations shape and re-shape their border, security and migration policies in response to both the geography of the world, the actions of other states, and the availability of resources, climate shifts and other powerful externalities. In the last decade alone, Europe has erected nearly 20,000 km of new borders with Eurasian neighbours. Has Globalisation reached its peak? What local and global forces are driving the proliferation and changing nature of borders? The study of borders has implications for human rights and international relations, and for ideas of sovereignty that continue to shape them both.

This unit serves as an entry point to the study of political geography through the investigation of borders and the flux of human movement globally. This unit is a collaboration between the Politics and International Relations and Geography, Environment and Society majors, and students will engage in interdisciplinary learning and teaching on the geopolitics of borders and global human movement.

At a time when borders and changes to human movement are changing rapidly, the aim of this unit is to help students make sense of the forces driving geopolitical change in Australia and globally and develop students’ research skills and an ability to critically evaluate geopolitical issues from a variety of perspectives.  

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Compare and contrast the major changes that are shaping geopolitics and global borders in the 21st century, using appropriate technology (GA5, GA6) 

LO2 - Explain the importance of social justice values in geopolitics (GA1, GA2) 

LO3 - Apply research skills to any one or more of the themes of the unit and clearly report their findings (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10)  

LO4 - Appraise different approaches to understanding what is known about places and events (GA4, GA5)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


This unit will include topics from the following list: 

  • What is geopolitics? Global, state and cultural interrelations
  • Geographies of policy, institutions, and elections
  • Boundaries and Borders: a short history
  • International law and boundaries: air, land, sea and digital frontiers
  • Hard borders, soft borders, porous borders, and human movement across boundaries
  • Border economies and trade
  • Territorial feuds and geographic anomalies: contested state boundaries in the 21st century.
  • Closed borders: Brexit and border walls in the 21st century
  • The geopolitics of refugees, migration and diaspora
  • Territoriality, mobility, and identity within and across borders
  • First Nations territories and non-state borders and systems
  • Geographies of Youth and Migration
  • The geopolitics of Australia's borders (including maritime, EEZ and land claims)
  • Environmental change and border geopolitics: melting ice and border conflict in the Artic and Himalaya regions

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit uses both face-to-face and multi-media forms of instruction during class. The in-class lecture component is used to convey new material and offer students the chance to engage and ask questions in person. Tutorials are designed to provide students with a peer-to-peer learning environment where they can discuss and debate issues and problems raised in lectures, in set readings, and gain knowledge that can be applied in their unit assessments. Students consolidate their understanding, knowledge, analytical and communication skills through negotiation and interaction with both other students and staff. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass the unit, students are required to submit and participate in all assessment tasks. Students must obtain a pass mark or better overall from the combination of marks from the three assessment tasks in order to pass the unit. The tasks are linked in a developmentally progressive sequence with the final assessment tasks given more weighting than the first since students’ knowledge and understanding of the unit should increase over time and, therefore, their ability to perform better at the later tasks. The first task in this unit requires students to use reading skills to develop a group-based presentation in weekly tutorials that provides an overview of the assigned reading, provides context and relevance of the issue as well as critiques the reading both for its strengths and weaknesses. The second assessment task requires students to choose a local or international border conflict case study, and write an essay detailing the origins, contexts and the geopolitical theoretical connections and considerations of the border conflict. The final assessment in this unit builds on task 1 and 2, by asking students to demonstrate their understanding of material covered in their lecturers and tutorials.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Reading-related task: students will learn to read and critique readings for their strengths and weaknesses and present that information in class. 


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA6

Research task (written report or equivalent): students will research one border conflict case study and present their findings.


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Final examination: the final examination will test students understanding of the material covered and their ability to meet learning outcomes 1, 3 and 4 of the unit. 


LO1, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Agnew, J. A., Mamadouh, V., Secor, A. J. and Sharp, J. P., eds., 2015. Wiley-Blackwell companion to political geography. (Wiley-Blackwell companions to geography). Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford.

Brigato, F.F. and Gordon L.F. 2017 Geopolitics and Decolonization: Perspectives from the Global South. Rowman & Littlefield International: London

Burroughs, E. and Williams, K. eds., 2018. Contemporary Boat Migration: Data, Geopolitics, and Discourses. Rowman & Littlefield.

Burridge, A., Heller, C., Huemer, M., King, N., Lakhdar, M., Leuenberger, C., Loyd, J.M., Nail, T., Nevins, J., Mancina, P. and Morocco, N.B., 2019. Open borders: In defense of free movement (Vol. 41). University of Georgia Press.

Dalby, S., 2020. Anthropocene geopolitics: Globalization, security, sustainability. University of Ottawa Press.

Diener, A.C. and Hagen, J. 2012. Borders: a very short introduction. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Dittmer, J., Sharp, J., (eds.), 2014. Geopolitics: an introductory reader. Routledge: Abingdon.

Dittmer, J., Bos, Daniel. 2019. Popular culture, geopolitics, and identity. Rowman & Littlefield,

Dixon, D., 2015. Feminist Geopolitics: Material States. London: Routledge

Graziano, M. 2018. What is a border? Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Kinnvall, C. and Svensson, T. eds., 2014. Governing borders and security: The politics of connectivity and dispersal. Routledge.

Moisio, S., Koch, N., Jonas, A.E. and Lizotte, C. eds., 2020. Handbook on the Changing Geographies of the State: New Spaces of Geopolitics. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Nail, T., 2016. Theory of the Border. Oxford University Press, New York.

O'Carroll, J. and Hodge, B., 2020. Borderwork in multicultural Australia. Routledge.

O’Lear, S. 2019. Environmental Geopolitics. Rowman & Littlefield.

Smith, S., 2020. Political geography: A critical introduction. John Wiley & Sons.

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