Political Geography and Social Movements


Geographers at SDSU conduct research on key topics in political geography. Many of us are inspired by political-economic perspectives that emphasize the intimate relationships between the state and the economy and their impacts on many geographic phenomena. Yet, we do so critically, with consideration of culture, affect, and difference. We have conducted research on state restructuring, including the withdrawal of the welfare state and its neoliberalization, and how it impacts the everyday lives of people in particular places. Our work also draws attention to the importance of space and place in enabling and sustaining collective action, affecting social change, and organizing resistance. It expands the definition of the political to include actors and activities that are typically not viewed as such.


Police patroling a square

Place, Space, Networks, and Collective Action

Fernando Bosco analyses the geographic dimensions of human rights social movements in Argentina, focusing on how symbolic places and networks across geographic scales help sustain collective action over time.

Policy Mobilities

Kate Swanson's work explores how policy mobilities can lead to surprising outcomes with far-reaching consequences. In particular, she traces the long-term impacts of zero tolerance policing across time and space to explore how it has shaped the lives of those at the margins.

Alternative Food Projects and Neoliberal Urbanism

Pascale Joassart-Marcelli and Fernando Bosco explore how the neoliberalization of urban governance has promoted an entrepreneurial approach to city management, which is illustrated by the promotion of projects that help brand and market neighborhoods for investors. Their research provide evidence of this trend in the so-called alternative and local food movement, raising questions about the movement’s ability to promote food justice.

State Devolution and the Nonprofit Sector

Pascale Joassart-Marcelli has critically examined the expansion of the nonprofit sector as the provider of last resort in a context of state devolution, highlighting geographic and social inequities associated with this trend.

Place and the Politics of Memory

Fernando Bosco examines the scaled performances through which the politics of memory unfold, emphasizing how social movements and activists often clash over how to appropriately place memory in the landscape.



Survey of the location, function and spread of cities; the spatial and functional arrangement of activities in cities, leading to an analysis of current urban problems: sprawl, city decline, metropolitan transportation. Field trips may be arranged.

Political and economic forces shaping the structure and organization of cities; physical and human consequences of urbanization; environmental, economic and social sustainability of cities. Housing, transportation, land use, urban services, employment, segregation, and social inequality.

Worldwide trends in urbanization. Case studies of selected cities from various culture areas with focus on international variations in city structure and urban problems.

Intensive study of a spatial aspect of human geography. May be repeated with new content. See Class Schedule for specific content.