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GEOG 09 — Seduced by the Map: How the Nation-State Model Alters Our Thinking About the World

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 11—Mar 15
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Refund Deadline: Jan 13
Units: 2
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $485
Instructor(s): Martin Lewis
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm
Jan 11—Mar 15
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 13
2 Units
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Martin Lewis
Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
The world political map produced by the CIA is an indispensable document, one that shows the world as neatly divided among a collection of sovereign states. But its clarity and simplicity can seduce us into thinking that the global political structure is more orderly than it actually is. In this course, we will focus on what is absent from most maps: scores of geopolitical anomalies, including areas of state collapse, self-declared but unrecognized states, and violently contested borderlands.

Unfortunately, the world map is seductively simplistic because it reflects the standard geopolitical model. This happens because the CIA is tasked with depicting how the world would appear if it matched the official diplomatic vision of the US Department of State. According to this schema, all independent countries are automatically nation-states. The hyphen in that term signals the idea that the nation, a self-conscious political community, precisely aligns with the state, a sovereign government ruling a clearly demarcated territory. Many countries, however, fall well short of this ideal, and several have officially rejected it. Treating all independent countries as if they were well-consolidated nation-states can lead to serious misunderstandings as well as foreign-policy blunders.

By the end of this course, students will have a clearer, deeper view into the complexities of the global political architecture as shown in many world maps.

Senior Lecturer in International History, Stanford

Martin Lewis is the author or co-author of five books, including The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography and Globalization and Diversity: Geography of a Changing World. He received a PhD in geography from UC Berkeley.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.