SGO4403 – Political geographies of work

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

In this course you will learn about the political nature of work. Some of the most crucial issues of today – be they immigration, austerity reforms or climate change – can also be understood as politics of work. While labour has traditionally been a focus of economic geographers, the study of work can also benefit from perspectives and concepts drawn from political geography. Jobs and workers’ rights are central to processes of democratization and citizen-making around the world, and draw state actors, civil society actors and workers into interaction and contention.

Following from the labour geography tradition, this course will focus on the agency of labour, i.e. its ability to make a difference. Workers often make a difference through their movements. Movements in this respect can be understood in two ways, as mobilities and mobilizations. On the one hand, worker mobilities are transforming local and global labour markets, and are accompanied by new forms of politics. On the other hand, workers and their organizations continue to shape the agendas of social movements and political transformations. In this course we will pay attention to both these aspects, and lecturers will draw from their research experience in different countries across a variety of political domains in their teaching.

The course place particular focus on three analytical concepts – scale, representation and citizenship – which will enable you to understand the movements of workers as political geography. In addition, the course will use the concepts above to explore a series of themes, such as climate change, international campaigns, domestic work and tourism.

Learning outcome


You will learn

  • to understand the political nature of work, and the spatial nature of workers’ politics, both in specific applied circumstances and on a more abstract level.
  • to acknowledge the significance of workers’ own actions and strategies, individually and collectively, on institutions, markets and governance regimes.
  • to understand the complex relationships between work and democracy, within and beyond the realm of industrial relations.



You will be encouraged

  • to apply spatial concepts to your analysis, to better understand and explain the reach, unevenness, mobilities and place attachments of workers.
  • to assess the relevance and applicability of theories and concepts from human geography and other social sciences to explain the politics of work.
  • to actively engage in written, oral and conversational discussions on the politics of work through seminar activity.
  • to demonstrate your knowledge and skills by producing an independent academic text (course assignment).


General competences

This course will enable you

  • to understand and explain current challenges of work and employment in democratic, undemocratic and democratizing societies across the world, by making use of state-of-the-art research in the discipline.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

This course is a part of the Master's program in Human Geography.

Students in other master programs may apply to be accepted as guest students. Please note that the following special restrictions apply:

  • applicant must be admitted to a master program.
  • this course will be taken as a part of their Master's degree. A confirmation from the students student adviser must be attached to the application.
  • there are available places in this course.

If you already have completed our Master's programme in Human Geography and want to take additional master courses, you can find more information here.


Recommended previous knowledge

The introductory course in political geography SGO2400 – Politisk geografi, or a development-oriented course with a labour focus such as SGO2500 – North/South - development and SGO3300 – Sør i en globaliserende verden.


This course is taught at the University of Oslo, Blindern campus. Other locations in Oslo may be used.

Teaching is based on an introductory lecture, 3 concept seminars and 6 thematic seminars. In the seminars, students are expected to prepare by watching video lectures and reading texts from selected resource banks. The teaching is a combination of teacher presentations and student discussions and exercises. Students exercises are to be uploaded onto Fronter in advance of each seminar.

Preparing and presenting a group exercise for each of the three concept seminars is a compulsory requirement. Valid absence such as illness etc. must be documented by a medical certificate. Completed and approved compulsory course work is valid until the course is no longer offered. Students who have failed to complete the compulsory course work cannot take the exam.

Teaching takes place throughout each autumn semester, as outlined in the course plan.

Absence from compulsory tuition activities

If you are ill or have another valid reason for being absent from compulsory tuition activities, your absence may be approved or the compulsory activity may be postponed.

  • Report absence from or the need for a postponed deadline on a compulsory tuition activity


Rather than a specified curriculum list which forms the basis of a school exam evaluation, SGO4403 provides the students with a set of resource banks for each seminar. This resource bank forms the basis on which to prepare the student exercises. Taken together, the resource banks also define the thematic focus of the course.


Term paper.

Assessment is based on a term paper that students will work on throughout the semester.
The topic for the term paper is decided by each student in consultation with the course instructor(s), and must be within the thematic focus of the course (see Curriculum above). The maximum length of the term paper is 15 pages (plus references and notes), using 12 point letter size and a spacing of lines 1 1/2.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The students can choose whether they will write the paper in English, Norwegian, Swedish or Danish.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Ask for explanation of your grade in this course:

Resit an examination

If you are sick or have another valid reason for not attending the regular exam, we offer a postponed exam later in the same semester.

See also our information about resitting an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Spring 2017


Spring 2017

Teaching language