Geography of the Pacific (Geog 365)
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Time & place: MTWϴ 11:00 am - 12:40 pm, Saunders 443B
Instructor: David Strauch
Office & Hours: after class or by appointment
Class Website:

This course explores the physical and cultural geography of the Pacific region, focusing on inhabited Oceania. How is this region variously circumscribed? Does the division of the Pacific Islands into Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia make sense? What challenges does the region currently face? Drawing work from numerous disciplines into a geographical perspective allows us to better understand the configurations and relationships of Oceanic places, and the circulations of energy, species, people and capital throughout the region. The course will include lectures, class discussions, student presentations, and some on-campus field trips.
(A pdf version of the syllabus is available from the CPIS or CSS syllabi collections.)

Goals & Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students should be able to:
  • identify and locate all of the major island groups of the region on a map
  • explain how Pacific landscapes have been shaped by geomorphological, climatic, biogeographical and cultural processes
  • delineate the major culture areas of Oceania and critically discuss the history of and potential problems with this division
  • discuss current social and environmental issues facing Pacific nations with reference to the historical, physical and cultural geography of the region
  • discern and analyze theoretical and cultural biases inscribed in scholarly and popular literature
  • know where to find resources for further research

Participant Responsibilities (for students and instructor)

  • Clear communication, including daily use of UH email
  • Regular class attendance, punctual and prepared
  • Courteous conduct and academic honesty
  • Readiness to investigate resources on other parts of campus

Note on summer classes

Because the summer session only gives us six weeks, we will be working rather intensively. Sometimes this means reading more than a chapter a day. A good strategy is to work ahead when possible; ideally by the end of a weekend you will have read the material for the following week.


Our primary text for this class will be The Pacific Islands: Environment & Society, edited by Moshe Rapaport (1999). Other readings will occasionally be assigned and posted on Laulima or made available at the reserve reading desk in Sinclair library. Students will also need to keep abreast of current news from the Pacific, through daily email headlines from the East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Report. Rapaport 1999

Grading & Assignments

Participation (30%)
Attendance (on time), preparation, participation in class discussions of course material and current events.
Journals (30%)
Students are expected to keep a daily journal to record activities & thoughts related to the class & subject, which should contain at least 5 entries/week. This journal should be submitted by email daily, on nights before classes and once before the weekend (i.e. by midnight SuMTuWF) — if you won’t be able to email it at the deadline, then send it before it is due, rather than afterwards. Some specific assignments will be given for journal writing.
Map quiz (5%)
While the emphasis in this class is on mastering concepts rather than learning information by rote, we need to quickly learn where things are so that discussions will make more sense. In the first week, learn the map locations of the major islands and island groups, and demonstrate the acquisition of this knowledge in a quiz given the beginning of the second week.
Short quizzes (5%)
Short quizzes given at the beginning of class (11:00 am sharp).
Presentation: Country review (or alternative) (20%)
Each student should prepare a short (15-20 minute) presentation for the class based on individual research. Along with the presentation, please turn in a formal outline and a short annotated bibliography of academic references you used. Students are expected to choose one Pacific country or island group (which you are not from) and describe its physical and cultural geography, including a summary of recent news stories — but, alternatively, may choose a theme, and discuss it in a wider Pacific context, or present an original work of art or film (with references).
Book and film reviews (10%)
Summer means reading novels! For class choose at least one novel & one film, and write a short (1000 word) review of each. Suggestions for books and films will be provided.

Geography of the Pacific (Geog 365)
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