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MSc Critical Geographies

Critical Geographies: Power and Inequalities

When you hear anarchism, power relations or decoloniality, what thoughts spring to mind? Critical geography, at its heart, is about how we can create more liveable lives. 

Do you want to change the world but not sure how to do it? In order to change the world, you have to understand power relations where they are, and how they make the places that we live in. The ability to think, consider, discuss and debate in intellectual spaces where you are supported and guided to do so is the aim of the MSc in Critical Geographies: Power & Inequalities at UCD School of Geography. 

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Indicative Course Content

This module allows you to build your understanding of the spatialities of power and inequalities. With a focus on Critical Geographies, the module explores with students how, that is how power and inequalities are central to the creation of places, cities, rurals, regions, nations, transationalisms and scales and how these, in turn, are formed through power and recreate inequalities. Areas for discussion will vary annually and may include queer theory, feminism, intersectionality/critical race studies, postcolonialism/decoloniality, Marxism, radicalism, anarchism, and non-representational approaches.

Following expert introductions to key areas of critical geographies, students will work with the module coordinator to choose readings and scholarly and activist materials in their areas of interest. They will present these materials in class, developing discussions and everyone’s learning. Assessment will be developed with the module coordinator and led by the students. Options include in-depth theoretical essays, explorations of key activisms/movements using materials and scholarly literature, videos or performances.

Critical geopolitics is concerned with the geographical assumptions and designations that underlie the making of world politics. Critical geopolitics aims to elucidate and explain how political actors spatialize international politics and represent it as a “world” characterized by particular types of places. This module explores Critical Geopolitics as an approach to understanding political geographies. It begins by examining how Critical Geopolitics has emerged in Human Geography and the reaction and misuse of ‘Geopolitical’ thinking in Europe. The module will examine conceptually and analytically the nature of Critical Geopolitics. Much of the empirical context for the module will be the EU politico-economic project. The module examines the notions of space and place in European elite thinking, situated political practices in EU governance, and EU elites' construction and implementation of geopolitical narratives. The nature of political change in Europe is interpreted through these components.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) allow the acquisition, storage, analysis and visualisation of location-based data. This core module will introduce you to ArcGIS, the most widely used GIS software package. It will enable you to understand conceptual, theoretical and practical geographical considerations and, most importantly, gain practical GIS skills for their use and application. These skills will cover spatial data creation, sourcing, management, mapping and geoprocessing.

The module is delivered mainly through hands-on computer lab-based practicals, complemented with lectures covering theory and analytical themes that GIS are designed to handle. The practicals will focus on analysing, visualising and interpreting spatial data to support environmental and socio-economic assessments, using demonstrative examples and problem-solving exercises. A significant part of the learning will be self-directed, allowing you to develop your skills and spatial awareness by designing and delivering a spatial analysis project tailored to individual research and/or interests.

This interdisciplinary module critically examines the studies of masculinities and gender relations. It draws upon the assumption that masculinity is an organising principle of society, which shapes ideologies and practices and intersects with factors such as race, ethnicity, social class, age, and sexuality. Multiple versions of masculinities and forms of “being a man” are presented at different times, in different cultures, and within the same society. These versions of masculinity coexist within power relations, hierarchical positions in society, and within negotiations and intersections between femininities and masculinities.

This module interrogates topics such as the intersections of gender, race and social class; heterosexual, queer, gay and trans masculinities; non-western masculinities; health and wellbeing; ageing; violence and power; “new” masculinities; male friendship; fatherhood and caring masculinities; and popular culture and the “manosphere”. Particular attention will be devoted to studying men and masculinities in the context of international migration, globalisation, and inequality.

Cultural, sexual, and gender diversity are central to our conceptions of men, women, gender, and sexuality. This module looks at the cultural understanding of sexuality. It will introduce you to critical perspectives and cross-cultural analysis of the way people “negotiate” and exercise resistance to cultural and structural constraints towards sexuality imposed by institutions such as the State, religion, and society at large. We begin by understanding that there is no universal category of femininity or masculinity but the importance of meaning and context.

This interdisciplinary module will discuss the production of categories of analysis, such as sex, desire, identity, and gender. It posits sexualities as both a category of analysis and a field of study, throughout the 20th century and up to the present. Using “sexualities” in the plural reflects the myriad ways we can approach the field. The module offers theoretical and methodological tools to understand the diversity within sexuality studies. The primary goal of this module is to understand sexuality as a social organisation of society. Sexuality goes beyond the personal and subjective experience of desire and intimacy. It is not a private matter but a public, political and contested arena to analyse power relations. The module conceives sexual and gender oppression as structural factors and examines the role of social justice and human rights movements in advocating for a “sexual subject” and sexual citizenship.

This course draws on the conceptual and empirical wealth, and innovations of such scholarship to critically re/examine and re/analyse the discursive and material legacies of western European colonial and imperial projects and knowledge formations; the vast range of contemporary un- and barely livable circumstances of ever-increasing populations who are constructed as not or ‘less-than-human’, and their ever-evolving agencies and mobilisations of resistance; theoretical and methodological vocabularies, practices and imaginaries, arising in the experiences and contexts of those most affected by these legacies. 


The MSc in Critical Geographies: Power & Inequalities is designed for students who want to change the world. You will gain practical and transferrable skills that will enable you to use geography to find your own career path. You will gain the skills required to work in some of the following areas:

  • NGOs
  • International aid, development or humanitarian agencies
  • Global multilateral agencies such as theEUUnited NationsWorld BankUNICEF and UN-Habitat 
  • Private-sector research or corporate social responsibility divisions
  • Further research, academic or professional

Beyond this, Critical Geographies and the intellectual and practical skills developed are designed to enable graduates to understand the world in order to change it.

UCD School of Geography is ranked in the top 100 Geography schools in the world. Also, UCD Careers Network is a department dedicated to helping you get the best in your career search.  In addition to hosting a range of careers fairs, workshops and college-specific employment presentations, you can avail of one-to-one consultations with a career professional specialising in your area. All of this is free for UCD students. As of 2020, for the fourth year in a row, University College Dublin is proudly ranked number one in Ireland for graduate employability by QS World University Rankings and 78th in the world.

Morgane Rudaz image
This MA allowed me to deepen my understanding of topical social and spatial issues, acquire key analytical skills & broaden my research horizons
Morgane Rudaz, Doctoral assistant at the Institute of Governance of the Environment and Territorial Development (IGEDT) and the Institute of Gender Studies (IGEND) of the University of Geneva