Human Geography

Human Geography is a broad-ranging social science that is concerned with the spatial patterns of human activity and the character of regions and places. It is well placed to explore the complex relationships between society and the natural environment as well as the social and economic problems of human land use and settlement.
Geographers are developing innovative ways to explore multi-faceted connections in everyday life, the importance of place to global movements of people and ideas, new patterns of uneven economic development and new social concerns around the environment, human health and mega-cities.
Geography complements other UTSC programs such as City Studies, Environmental Science, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, Economics for Management Studies and Development Studies. Geography courses are also listed as options in several UTSC programs including the Co-op Program in International Development.

Program Options

The educational mission of the Department of Human Geography is to prepare students to be thoughtful and knowledgeable local and global citizens and, at the same time, to support them in developing important career skills in research, writing, and evidence-based examination of many of the pressing issues facing communities and the world today. Human Geography and City Studies graduates are well prepared for a wide range of careers, and our alumni have found successful careers in government, business, the non-profit sector, publishing, urban planning and development, community development, teaching, real estate, and policy analysis, among many others.
The department offers SpecialistMajor, and Minor programs in Human Geography. The distinction between the three program levels are as follows: the Minor encourages students to focus on one area of concentration but does not require methods; Majors are encouraged to select their courses within two concentrations with a solid foundation in GIS or Qualitative research methods; and the Specialist programs will encourage students to gain experience in all three concentrations and will require both GIS and qualitative methods.

Areas of Concentration

Our courses are organized into three areas of concentration that focus on a particular set of issues and concepts, of which students majoring in Human Geography are encouraged to focus on two:

Areas of Concentration: Human Geography

Introducing students to some of the most pressing issues relating to the environment, this area of concentration will:

  • Challenge students to think critically about how environmental governance takes place
  • Envision how to foster sustainable and equitable development
  • Expose students to the many different ways of defining “nature"
  • Investigate how key economic, cultural and political transformations of our time are re-engineering our relationship with the earth.

In the broadest sense, this area of concentration explores how politics, the economy, history and culture give meaning to, shape, and are shaped by, interactions with the physical environment. Research and teaching in environmental geography seek to move beyond the roles of government and interest groups in shaping environmental policies, to expand our understanding of “politics” in environmental discourses and knowledge, economic systems, regimes of natural resource ownership and use, and everyday struggles within and between communities and interest groups as they shape human-nature relationships. Students in the Environmental Geography concentration will take courses that include:

  • GGRA02H3 The Geography of Global Processes
  • GGRA03H3 Cities and Environments
  • GGRB21H3 Political Ecology: Nature, Society and Environmental Change
  • GGRC21H3 Current Topics in Environmental Geography
  • GGRC24H3 Socio-Natures and the Cultural Politics of 'The Environment'
  • GGRC25H3 Land Reform and Development
  • GGRC26H3 Geographies of Environmental Governance
  • GGRC28H3 Indigenous Environmental Knowledges
  • GGRC44H3 Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development
  • GGRD08H3 Research Seminar in Environmental Geography

Social / cultural geographers view the world as inherently social, spatial, and political and they examine issues relating to the spatiality of identities, inequalities, and power across multiple scales. Questions asked include:

  • How does colonialism pattern differences between the global North and South and within both?
  • What difference does it make to society that women tend to have been associated more with ‘home’ than men?
  • Why has the education system largely failed to reduce class inequalities in societies?

Cultural geographers approach culture including religion, tourism, language, arts, and consumption as a spatial process of change and contestation in which people are actively engaged. It exposes students to the ways that cultural practices shape and are shaped by space and place. It challenges students to think about how social difference is spatialized, and engages students in innovative thinking using surveys, ethnographies, archives, interviews, films, literature, music and pop culture. Social/cultural geographers at UTSC teach courses that address issues of globalization, multiraciality, health inequalities, mobility, religion, and gender. Students enrolled in the Social and Cultural Geography concentration will take courses that include:

  • GGRA02H3 The Geography of Global Processes
  • GGRB13H3 Social Geography
  • GGRB28H3 Geographies of Disease
  • GGRB55H3 Cultural Geography
  • GGRC02H3 Population Geography
  • GGRC09H3 Current Topics in Social Geography
  • GGRC24H3 Socio-Natures and the Cultural Politics of 'The Environment'
  • GGRC31H3 Qualitative Geographical Methods: Place and Ethnography
  • GGRC45H3 Local Geographies of Globalization
  • GGRC56H3 Spaces of Travel: Unsettling Migration, Tourism, and Everyday Mobilities
  • GGRD09H3 Feminist Geographies
  • GGRD10H3 Health and Sexuality
  • GGRD19H3 Spaces of Multiraciality: Critical Mixed Race Theory

Urban geographers are interested both in how human behaviour shapes urban regions and spaces and how urban regions and spaces in turn shape human behaviour and the human condition. Urban regions and spaces are consequential for residents:

  • Shaping everyday life
  • Enabling and constraining social, political, cultural, and economic opportunities
  • Impacting health and wellness

In this area of concentration, students explore the urban dimensions of many of today’s most pressing questions relating to environmental sustainability, economic stability, and social justice. From the global to the neighbourhood scale, students debate urban growth and decline, the challenges faced and posed by the world’s megacities, and how globalization is reshaping urban life. Principal research topics in urban geography today include active living, cities and the creative class, crime and disorder, economic growth, energy use, gentrification, governance, health, institutions, land values and real estate, mobility, neighbourhood inequality, neoliberalism, pace of life, physical environment, schooling, social distance and integration, social networks; sustainability, transit; travel behaviour, and trust. Students enrolled in the Urban Geography concentration will take courses that include: