Architectural Detail of Old Cabell

Space, Knowledge, and Power

This forum examines the spatial dimensions of human experience, how spatial knowledge is produced, and the ways in which people and institutions represent space to realize visions of order. How do people interact with the spaces around them? How do they reach out to the wider world to shape it? How do their understandings of these spaces, in turn, shape them as individuals and as members of cultures and societies?

Here are just some of the ways we will explore how space shapes the production of knowledge and understandings of the world:

  • Throughout human history, states have claimed spaces, asserting sovereignty, taking possession of territory, and regulating land and water to proclaim and expand their power.
  • Race, class, gender, and sexuality are social categories that determine rules for mobility in and across spaces that range from the intimate and domestic to the regional and global.
  • The study of warfare, law and justice, political action, and social conflict is inherently spatial.
  • The map is a vital object through which we gain access to this process of conceptualizing, representing, and disseminating ideas about space.
  • Mathematics emerged as a method of enquiry to make it possible to perceive terrestrial space at scales beyond human sensory.
  • Every human culture explains its place in the universe through cosmology, and “space is our word for the vast dimensions of the universe beyond earth’s atmosphere.
  • To study the human territoriality describes the conscious as well as the subconscious ways in which people understand their relationships to the world around them.
  • The rise of instantaneous, low-cost interactions across “cyberspace” seem to challenge the distances that physical spaces once imposed and break down the hierarchies that once generated knowledge about places we could not easily see and experience for ourselves

The ramifications of space runs through the breadth of the Liberal Arts & Sciences. Energized by new computing tools for visualizing geospatial data, historians, anthropologists, psychologists, political scientists, sociologists, religious studies scholars, literary scholars, and historians of art, architecture, and landscape are undertaking pioneering new work. Astronomers, physicists, environmental scientists, geographers, and geologists have always conducted their research and expressed their findings in spatial terms. Whether examined through their material, ecological, political, or cultural aspects, the relationship between nature and society is fundamentally a spatial problem. The experience of travel, in all of its wonder and danger, is a bright thread that runs through literature, the visual arts, and music.


Max Edelson, Associate Professor of History

My research focuses on the history of empire and mapping in the North America, the Caribbean, and beyond.  My first book focused on the rise of plantation societies in colonial America.  To understand the spread of plantation slavery in early South Carolina and Georgia, I studied agriculture, environment, and economy across the landscapes of the Lowcountry region.  My new research explores how Great Britain mapped America in the generation before the American Revolution.  To visualize hundreds of maps of North America and the Caribbean, I helped design and develop MapScholar, an online platform for geospatial history.  I teach classes on early American history, digital humanities, and the history of maps and mapping, and I am developing a new courses on indigenous cartographies around the world.  

Our Forum will be a place in which to think deeply about how space structures culture, society, and everyday life.  We will explore how the mind grapples with navigation; how maps of all kinds connect individuals to households, communities, and nations; and, by doing so, hone a perspective on learning that begins from the idea of every individual is immersed in wider spaces that give life meaning.

Ricardo Padrón, Associate Professor of Spanish

As the child of an immigrant family (My mom, brother, and I are from Ecuador, and my dad was from Cuba), I grew up hearing stories about distant places and people, and learning to love them from afar. So as I got older, I developed a fascination with books (mostly fantasy and science fiction) that were good at creating convincing, immersive, alternative worlds. I became fascinated with the maps that often came with those books, and discovered that I could make my own stories by tracing their outlines and exploring the parts that did not figure much in the stories. It never occurred to me that maps could be something one could study seriously, but years later, I found myself in the library at Harvard University trying to figure out how to do just that. I had enrolled in the doctoral program in Romance Languages and Literatures determined to settle in to a particular intellectual discipline, something I had never been good at doing.  Both of the degrees I had already earned, a BA in Political and Social Thought from U.Va. and an MA in Religious Studies from Chicago,  were interdisciplinary in nature, and most people were telling me I would never get job as a professor if I continued to do interdisciplinary work.  Yet that was the way my mind worked, so I dove into the emerging field of cartography and literature, exploring the ways that storytelling helps make sense out of space, and the way mapping tells stories.

Since then, most of my academic work has involved figuring out how speakers of Spanish conceptualized the world during what we used to call the Age of Exploration, the period of aggressive European expansion into the non-European world that spanned the years 1450 through 1650, more or less. My research has taken me to archives on three continents, where I have had the privilege of studying rare and beautiful maps, as well as the books and manuscripts that went with them. Most recently, I’ve gotten interested in the ways that Spaniards mapped the Pacific Ocean as a small, navigable basin that served to integrate America with Asia, rather than separate the two. This work has taken me to China, Japan, and the Philippines, places I never expected to visit a scholar in Hispanic studies. I look forward to helping participants in the forum think critically and creatively about some things that seem completely innocuous, but are not, space, place, and the maps we build to make sense of them.

Navigating the Forum

In the first semester (Fall ’17) you will enroll in FORU 1500: Introduction to Space, Knowledge, and Power. Team-taught by Max Edelson and Ricardo Padrón, the introductory course will cover historical and theoretical readings chosen to help you think about your world in spatial terms. We hope that you will take this experience into your other courses, and use it to shape what you study, rather than to participate passively in a pre-determined agenda.

Outside of the introductory course and capstone, you will take courses across five categories:

  1. Local Spaces
  2. Regional, national, Cultural Spaces
  3. Global Spaces
  4. Space, Power, and Justice
  5. Space, Science, and Math

The primary distinction between these categories is not discipline, but scale. We want you to think about different kings of spaces, so we have chosen to distribute our attention among local spaces (architecture, cities, global spaces (the world, through somne disciplinary lenses), and “in-between” scales. We have also identified an additional category, not around scale, but around issues of power and justice, which is central to any consideration of space in the humanities and social sciences today.

Finally, in your fourth semester (Spring, ’19), we will gather again to consider space as part of the Forum’s 3-credit Capstone.


Core Required Courses (6 credits)

FORU 1500: Introduction to Space, Knowledge, and Power (Fall ’17)
FORU 2500: Capstone Seminar (Spring ’19)

Local Spaces (6 credits, 3 from each category)

Local Spaces (Category One)

AMST 3559     Indigenous Histories of Place
AMST 3559     Identity, Space, and Public Art
DRAM 1010     How Theatre Works
DRAM 2010     Theatre Art: Image to Form
HIEA 1559      Shanghai in Modern China
INST 1550      Housing and Urban Poverty
SOC 2950       The wire – Sociology through TV and Film
SOC 3470       Sociolgy of Development
SOC 3490       Cities and Cultures
ARTH 2372    Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century

Local spaces (Category Two)

ARCH 1010    Lessons of the Lawn
ARH 1010      History of Architecture I
ARH 1020      History of Architecture II
ARH 1700      Thomas Jefferson’s Architecture
ARH 2700      Thomas Jefferson adn American Architecture
ARH 2753      Arts & Cultures of the Slave South
ARH 3040      Metropolis
PLAN 1010    Introduction to Urban and Environmental Planning
PLAN 2020    Planning Design
PLAN 2110    Digital Visualization for Planners
PLAN 3860    Cities and Nature

Regions, Cultures, and Nations (6 credits, 3 from each category)

Regions, Cultures, and Nations (Category One)

AMST 3641    Native America
ANTH 1010    Introduction to Anthropology
ANTH 2120    The Concept of Culture
ANTH 2153    North American Indians
ANTH 2156    Peoples & Cultures of Africa
ANTH 2230    Fantasy & Social Values
ANTH 2410    Sociolinguistics
ANTH 2625    Imagining Africa
ANTH 2820    Emergence of States and Cities
ANTH 3340    Ecology and Society
ANTH 3370    Power and the Body
ARH 3802      Mondern Jpananese Architecture
HIAF 1501     Introductory Seminar in African History
HIAF 2002     Modern African History
HIAF 3112     African Environmental History
HIEA 1501     Introductory Seminar in East Asian history
HILA 1501     Introductory Seminar in Latin American History
HIME 1501    Introductory Seminar in Middle Eastern History
HISA 1501     Introductory Seminar in South Asia
HIUS 3011     Colonial Period in American History
HIUS 3651     Afro-American History since 1865
MDST 2660   The Internet is Another Country
RUTR 2470    Understanding Russia: Symbols, Myths, and Archetiyps of Identity

Regions, Cultures, and Nations (Category Two)

EAST 1010     East Asian Canons & Cultures
ENAM 3559   America and the Global South
ENMC 3559   Race and Ethnicity in Latinx Lit
ENLT 2514    The Western & The West
ENLT 2523    The Poetry of Exile
ENLT 2526    Migrant Fiction
ENLT 2530    The Universe of Black Fiction
ENLT 2555    Frontier Literature & Culture
GSGS 3115   Work, Women's Work and Womne Workers in South Asia
MDST 3405    New Latin American Cinema
MESA 1000    From Genghis Khan to Stalin: Invasions and Empires
MESA 2300    Crossing Borders: Middle East and South Asia
MESA 2700    Revolutions in the Islamic World
MESA 3110    Sustainable Enviornments Middle East and South Asia
MEST 2270    Culture and Society of the Contemporary Arab Middle East
MEST 2470    Reflections of Exile: Jewish Languages and the Communities
SAST 1300     Under the Colonized-Gaze
SAST 1600     India in Global Perspective
SAST 2010     Remembering India’s Partition through Literature and Poetry
SATR 2110     Cultural Translation: Travel Writing in South Asia

Global Spaces (3 Credits)

ANTH 1050    Anthropology of Globalization
ARCH 2150    Global Sustainability
ARTH 2851    World Art
ARH 3030      World Vernacular Architecture
ARH 3403     World Contemporary Architecture
MUSI 1070    Global Music
PLCP 1500     Global Development
EDLF 3470     Hip Hop History and Global Movements
ENGL 2559    Global Humanities
ENGL 3030    Global Cultural Studies
ENLT 2530    Globalization and World Literature
ENSP 2810    Women & media in the Global South
GDS 3030     Global Cultural Studies
GSVS 2150     Global Sustainability
HIAF 2031     The African Diaspora
HIST 1501     Gender in the Global South
HIST 2001     Many Worlds: A history of Humanity Before 1800
HIST 2002     The Modern World: Global History since 1760
HIST 2212     Maps in World History
HIST 2559     Hip-hop, History, Global Movement
GSVS 1559     Global Environments and Sustainability
MDST 3584    Global Cinema
PHS 2291       Global Culture and Public Health
RELC 2060     The Reform and Global Expansion of Christianity
RELG 2210     Religion, Ethics, and Global Development
RELC 2559     Global Evangelicalism
RELG 3820     Global Ethics and Climate Change
RELI 2080      Global Islam
SAST 2800     The World According to South Asia
SOC 2499       Globalization and Social Responsibility
SOC 3470      Sociology of Development

Space, Power, and Justice (3 Credits)

ANTH 2250     Nationlalism, Racism, Multiculturalism
GETR 3462     Neighbors and Enemies
GETR 3470     Literature of the Holocaust
GETR 3695     The Holocaust and the Law
MDST 3559     Screening Nature
PLAN 3811     Gender and the Built Environment
PLAP 2030     Politics, Science and Values: An introduction to Environmental Policy
RELC 2850     The Kingdom of God in America
RELG 2210     Religion, Ethics, and The Global Environment
RUTR 3340     Books Behind Bars: Life, Lit, and Community Leadership
SOC 2052       Sociology of the Family
SOC 2220       Social Problems
SOC 2230       Criminology
SOC 2320       Gender and Society
SOC 2442       Systems of Inequality

Space, Science, and Math (7 Credits – One course must have a lab)

Space, Science, and Math w/ Lab

CHEM 1420    Introductory College Chemistry II
EVSC 1010     Introduction to Environmental Science
EVSC 1020     Practical Concepts in Environmental Sciences
EVSC 2220     Conservation Ecology: Biodiversity and Beyond
EVSC 2221     Conservation Ecology Laboratory
EVSC 2800     Fundamentals of Geology
PHYS 1425    General Physics I: Mechanics, Thermodynamics
PHYS 2010    Principles of Physics
PHYS 2020    Principles of Physics II

Space, Science, and Math w/o Lab

ASTR 1210     Introduction to the Sky and Solar System
ASTR 2110     Introduction to Astrophysics I
ASTR 2120     Introduction to Astrophysics II
ASTR 3420     Live Beyond Earth
ASTR 3460     Development of Modern Astronomy
ASTR 3470     Science and Controversy in Astronomy
ASTR 3480     Introduction to Cosmology
EVSC 1010     Intro to Environmental Sciences
EVSC 1040     Virginia’s Environments
EVSC 1080     Resources and the Environment
EVSC 1200     Elements of Ecology
EVSC 1300     Earth’s Water and Climate
EVSC 1450     An Inconvenient Truce: Climate, You , and CO2
EVSC 1600     Water on Earth       
EVSC 2010     Materials that Shape Civilization
EVSC 2030     POLITICS, Science, and Values: An Introduction to Environmental Policy
EVSC 2070     Earth Systems Technology & Management
EVSC 2200     Plants, People, and Culture
EVSC 2900     Beaches, Coasts, and Rivers
EVSC 3020     GIS Methods
MATH 1150   The Shape of Space
MATH 1210   Applied Calculus I
MATH 1220   Applied Calculus II
MATH 1310   Calculus I
MATH 1320   Calculus II