FB 09 Human Geography

In research and teaching, we deal with human geographical topics at many disciplinary interfaces to other cultural and social scientific fields (ethnology, sociology, social ethics, philosophy, media science, et al.). We focus on specific everyday life and living world phenomena and contextualise those for emerging issues on wider societal, political and globalised scales. The objective of our research is to unveil inequalities between the poles of society and it’s spatialities. The spotlight of our regional research is on the Arabian Peninsula, especially Oman, Singapore, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Brazil and the North Sea Region.


Team & Topics

With our focal point area of geoethics, we are addressing the question of how current societal challenges can be met for the sake of an integrative concept of sustainable and responsible development. In this context, ethics refers to supra-individual norms and areas of responsibility, affecting immaterial dimensions (social, symbolic) as well as material dimensions (life, resources/assets, space et al.). Development is herein not understood as a linear process, but as a complex dynamic of experience, which, in today’s world, represents the search for fair alternatives in the first place.

Geoethics symbolises a philosophy for the topics and discussions on globalisation geography. Especially in our courses and with a view to applied research questions we understand geoethics as a critical, relational perspective on transnational justice.

Current empirical research projects further develop the concept of geoethics, in which different spheres and fields of topics, such as nationalism, race, climate justice, diversity, borders, etc., are analysed. Furthermore, specific empirical studies are about the question of how geoethical guidelines, for instance for maritime geoethics, can be created.

These aspects are particularly addressed in the lecture on “Globalisation Geograpy” and in the modules dealing with “Globalisation” in our MA-study programme.

In our globalised world, identity and sense of belonging are more and more associated with social groups, spaces and networks. In particular in respect to digitisation and transport facilities, we experience (and live) boundless mobility and availability of knowledge, information and insights worldwide. Still – or exactly because of this – physical spaces in the sense of spatial identity, and places, (origin, Heimat, home, nationality, etc.) become increasingly important again. In this field of tension, we discuss different processes of placemaking and study them in particular also in research-led teaching projects.

A regional focus lies on issues concerning nation-building processes of young national states.We examine these topics primarily in the Sultanate of Oman, in Singapore and in Mauritius.

Cosmopolitanism & Nation Building

In the relatively young nation state of Oman, we examine the challenges of an increasingly internationally oriented society. Firstly, there are the new opportunities of postmodern lifestyles (especially in the capital area of Muscat) owing to high retirement income from the oil and gas rent (as rentier states); however, the new opportunities clash with issues on economic diversification, which promise to be successfully negotiated and/or implemented, especially in the tourist sector. Opening the door to tourism brings about further challenges for the cultural life of the Omani society. It continues to live in strong family- and tribe-oriented social structures, challenged by its increasing internationalisation due to foreign labour and professional and educational mobility of young Omani. Finally, we also need to mention the political reordering and continuities which strike a balance between self-identification and cosmopolitanism, the nation-building process, the need for stability (to the inside and in the region), and, at the same time, further integration and worldwide economic entanglement.

Cultural diversity, identity and place(-making)

Particularly in culturally very diverse plural societies recognition issues are hidden behind subtle markers, often indirectly connected to placemaking processes. This can be clearly observed, for example, in the island state of Mauritius.


Especially in our research-led teaching projects, we examine various questions relating to the concept of “Heimat”, which in recent times has become quite political within European countries. Looking at this controversial notion we can clearly illustrate how complex this phenomenon is: a socially constructed space, which appears to be a, a locatable place. However, it only becomes significant and powerful through its individual and group-specific meaning and lived practice.

In our media geographic research, we analyse the interrelation of media, medial contents and everyday social phenomena. It is not only about understanding the relevance of media theoretical approaches for geographic perspectives at a theoretical level. It is also, first and foremost, about the questions as to how media and medial constructions of meaning shape our experience of space and place. We are intrigued by the question how new social spatial orders/spatial arrangements come into being via medial transformations, which can be approached from a human-geographic perspective.

Furthermore, we consider media, in the sense of a cutting-edge media geography, as a research method and output and integrate that perspective into our research and teaching projects. For our working group, studying media geographic perspectives and approaches permeates our projects, i.e. we always keep them in mind and include them in our research approaches and questions (e.g. in what way do medial discourses and stagings influence moralisations about migration).

In their social production and as an expression of society itself, urban spaces are primarily characterised by processes of social and spatial inclusion and exclusion. We take a closer look at the social and political practices and narratives of these physical and spatial orderings and their consequences for the residents affected. We place a regional focus on Brazil in our research into the urban grammar of unequal production of space, and on Sri Lanka in our study on current processes of spatial relocations and verticalisation of a poverty-stricken population.

Teaching - our philosophy