• Offered by Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Middle Eastern & Central Asian Studies
  • Areas of interest Arab and Islamic Studies
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Kirill Nourzhanov
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2016
    See Future Offerings


Geopolitics, or the study of international relations from a geographical perspective, has a venerable tradition as an academic discipline going back to the late-19th century. It has also informed strategic thinking of great powers seeking territorial expansion or global influence. The Eurasian heartland, and especially its southern fringe comprising Central Asia, has continuously been at the centre of the interpretation of the whole world situation from a spatial viewpoint.


This course will discuss the roots of contemporary geopolitical thought, focusing on the British, continental European, American, and Russian contributions. It will examine practical manifestations of geopolitics during World War II and the Cold War before moving to an analysis of contemporary conflicts in Eurasia's southern Muslim belt through the prism of great power rivalry involving China, Russia, the USA, and other regional actors.


The course will conclude with a survey of modern critical approaches within the discipline of geopolitics, which go beyond the Realist paradigm in explaining conflictual and associative patterns of behaviour of territorial states in the region.

Seminar guide:

Seminar 1

Introduction: What is geopolitics? The centrality of Central Asia in geographic and historical terms.

Seminar 2

Classics of continental and British geopolitics: Ratzel, Mackinder, Haushofer and French geopolitique. Geographical pivot of history. Heartland. Lebensraum.

Seminar 3

Alternative conceptualizations of Eurasian geopolitics: sea power, Rimlands, shatterbelts, ‘clash of civilisations' theory.

Seminar 4

Russian geopolitical thinking: from Slavophiles to Eurasianists.

Seminar 5

Cold War through the prism of geopolitics. What did Kennan actually say? Containment as a modification of the Rimland thesis. The importance of the Southern Tier to the US geopolitical objectives.

Seminar 6

Zbigniew Brzezinski and the Neo-Cons: Re-Emergence of the Southern Tier in the US foreign policy. Containment of Russia, China, and Iran in Central Asia. Geopolitics of hydrocarbon resources.

Seminar 7

Modern Russian Eurasianism: imperialism, defensive Realpolitik, and civilizing mission.

Seminar 8

China, Turkey, and Iran: competing visions of Central Asia.

Seminar 9

The ‘Eurasian Balkans' and a new ‘Great Game'.

Seminar 10

Traditional modalities of geopolitical competition: alliance-making, proxy wars, and secessionism.

Seminar 11

Soft power in Eurasia's soft underbelly: politics of aid, export of democracy, and the role of Islam.

Seminar 12

Post-modern geopolitics? Did Mackinder get it wrong, after all?

Seminar 13

Towards a cooperative security environment in Central Asia: latest trends and developments.

Indicative Assessment

One 5,000 word essay (60%)

One 3 hour exam (40%)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


one 2-hour seminar a week over 13 weeks.

Preliminary Reading

Geoffrey Parker. Geopolitics: Past, Present and Future. London: 1998.



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

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Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $3054
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2016 $4368
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
9728 18 Jul 2016 29 Jul 2016 31 Aug 2016 28 Oct 2016 In Person N/A

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