Royal Military College of Canada / Collège militaire royale du Canada



World Regional Geography:

Africa and Asia




Instructor:                       Dr. Walter Dorn, Girouard 433

  Tel: 613-541-6000 x 6742

  E-mail:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Office hours:                 To be determined in consultation with students.


Calendar Description

An introduction to the geography of Asia and/or Africa involving an examination of the "geographic personalities" of Asia and Africa's nation-states and of emerging geopolitical interactions both within these regions and with other major world regions.


Detailed Description

This course presents the political geography of tropical Africa and Asia (i.e., Sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and South Eastern Asia) with a focus on issues of development, governance, peace and conflict.  It begins, however, with an overview of the basic physical geography of the regions and a brief review of their history, culture, economics, forms of governments, militaries and religious affairs. Some of the great issues, such as the effects of colonialism, development assistance and systems of governance will be discussed.  The relevant regional and subregional international organizations and their relation to the UN will be examined.  The present state of peace and conflict will form the bulk of the course, with detailed case studies from each subregion and an exploration of the tools for conflict management and resolution. Finally, the future of peace and conflict in these continents will be discussed.  Lectures will be enhanced by  the use of multimedia resources and many types of maps, geographic information systems, Internet resources and other computer-aided tools. 


Seminar, one 3 hour period per week (Fall Term)



20%     Presentation (15 minutes)

20%     Map quiz

30%     Essay (3,000-5,000 words)

30%     Final Exam


Presentations will start in week 3.  The essay is due in the second-to-last week of the course.



Salter, Christopher, Joseph Hobbs, Jesse Wheeler and Trenton Kostbade, Essentials of World Regional Geography, second edition, Saunders College Publishing, Fort Worth, 1998.

Levett, James W., Places of the World: Saunders Map-Pak & Place-Name Workbook, Saunders College Publishing, Fort Worth, 1998.


This course is designed to stimulate discussions on current issues in tropical Africa and Asia.  Therefore, students are requested to read articles relating to these regions that appear in one or more daily Canadian national newspapers (the Globe & Mail or the National Post).  These may be read in paper form or on-line ( and Some additional current newspaper and journal articles will be sent to students by e-mail, including articles from indigenous media. In addition to the daily newspaper readings and readings to be assigned in class, the following are required reading:

Part I (Geography Basics)

Salter et al.,  Essentials of World Regional Geography, Chapters 1 ("The Geographer's Field of Vision") and 2 ("Physical and Human Processes that Shape the Regions"), pp. 2-54.

Part II (Development and Governance)

Salter et al.,  World Regional Geography, Chapters 17 and 18 (Part 6, "Africa South of the Sahara) and Chapters 10 and 11 (in Part 4, "Monsoon Asia"), pp.395-454, p. 257-274.

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 1994: New Dimensions of Human Security, Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford, 1994. p.1-116. Available on the Labs drive and at (by chapter, large pdf files).

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2002: Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World, Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford, 1994. pp.1-122. (Also gain familiarity with the human development indices listed on pp. 149-272).  The report is available on the Labs drive and also at

Part III (Peace and Conflict)

The Responsibility to Protect: Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, 2001. available at and on the LABS drive.

Wherever possible, readings assigned in class will be made available electronically (e.g., on the Internet) and some materials will be placed on the LABS drive (L:\polecon\GOE307).


"While we differ widely in the various little pieces that we know, we are all alike in our infinite ignorance."

— Bertrand Russell 


Course Overview

Part I. Geography Basics

1.  Introduction to World Regional Geography

       - Defining the scope of the course, geographically and thematically.

- Examine stereotypes and popular conceptions of Africa and parts of Asia.

- Overview of Tropical Africa and Asia.


2. Physical Geography and the Tools of the Trade

      - Locations of and on the earth.  Causes of seasonal variations and climate of the tropics.

      - Maps and geographical information systems.

      - Pros and cons of various map types for 3D to 2D projections (e.g., the standard Mercator projection and the controversial Peters projection).

      - Modern Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in commercial and governmental use, and free-ware available on the Internet, that can be invaluable in the study of these regions.

- Interactive maps and creative imagery, including satellite imagery showing environmental challenges to the regions.

      - Location and description of the relevant regions and subregions, the country names, the capitals and major cities, the major waterways, mountain ranges, and agricultural/industrial regions.  Major ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious groups and the changing demographics.  


3.   Human Geography of the Regions

- Historical events and developments: important dates, developments and persons in the history of these regions

- Show the trade and conquest routes of the colonial powers, using historical maps.  

- Colonization and decolonization: the role of mandates/trusteeship in non-self-governing territories.

      - Origins, expansion and understanding of various religions in these two continents.

- The evolution of identity (tribal, ethnic, national, regional and world).

      - The United Nations, regional organizations and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

      - The debate over the universality of human rights.

      - Evolution of the human security concept.

      - Case study: Indian independence. 

Part II - The Developing world
4.   Human Development and Democracy

      - Types of government, historical cases; tropical African and Asian experience.

      - Indicators and trends in governance and human development (Human Development Report 2002). Changes in wealth/poverty, health/disease and other HDR indicators.  Trends in democracy (voting in multiparty elections, press freedom, human rights and civil liberties) and progress on Millennium Goals.

      - Comparative regional and sub-regional analyses.

      - What is the impact of globalization?  Have parts of Africa and Asia been left behind?


5.   Case Studies in Africa

      - Several cases will be considered using statistics (selected development and democracy indicators), chronologies of governance (historical background) and a description of current affairs.  Possible cases: Sierra Leone, Nigeria, S. Africa.

      Guest speakers with extensive experience and knowledge on the countries will be invited.      


6.   Case Studies in Asia

      - Several cases will be considered using statistics (selected development and democracy indicators), chronologies of governance (historical background) and a description of current affairs.  Possibilities: India and Indonesia.

      Guest speakers with extensive experience and knowledge on the countries will be invited.


Part III. Peace and Conflict


7.   Causes of Conflict and International Intervention

      - Possible causes of conflict as applied to these continents (e.g., power struggles, ethnic animosities, poverty, ill-conceived borders, colonial heritage, current trade imbalances, etc.).

      - Explore the "democratic peace" theory as it applies to these regions.

      - Survey the cases of armed conflict in Africa and Asia.

      - Introduction to the United Nations.

      - Explore the reasons and the results of international interventions in modern times. Compare actions by regional organizations and the United Nations.  How effective is early warning and outside intervention in preventing, managing and resolving conflict?

- The human security concept.


8.   Peacekeeping as a Conflict Management Tool in Africa

      - Examine the role of the "international" soldier in keeping peace in various parts of Africa.

      - Understand Asian attitudes towards peacekeeping.

      - Possibility of peacekeeping by regional or subregional organizations.

      - African case studies: Congo 1960-64, Namibia 1989-90, Somalia 1993, Liberia 1993-, Sierra Leone 1994-.


9.   Peacekeeping as a Conflict Management Tool in Asia

      - Asian attitudes towards peacekeeping.

      - Possibility of peacekeeping by regional or subregional organizations.

      - Asian case studies: Kashmir (1948-), Cambodia (1992-93)

      - Slide presentation on "Experiences of a UN Electoral Office in East Timor (1999)"


10. Case Study in Africa:  Rwanda

      - Geography of Rwanda.  Political and historical background to the genocide. 

- The actual and potential role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR). 

- Could the genocide have been predicted and prevented?

      A guest speaker with extensive experience and knowledge on the Rwandan Genocide and the UN operation will be invited.


11. Case Study in Asia: Indo-Pakistani Conflicts and Kashmir

      - Slide show on the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests 1998.

      - Description of the history and current status of the conflict over Kashmir (using historical and current maps)

      - Consideration of the steps to a peace agreement.


Part IV. The Future of Development and Peace


12. Problems and prospects for human development and human security

- The meaning of human development and human security in a future Africa and Asia

- The AIDs epidemic and other obstacles.

- Official Development Assistance (ODA) practice and goals.

- The work of the UNDP, World Bank and IMF.

- The future of war and peace in Africa and Asia (comparison between genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia).

- The role of foreign aid (needs and donor targets) and conflict management tools.

- Millennium goals: progress and setbacks.


13. Seeds of Peace: An Optimistic Forecast

- Human development and stable peace: the hope.

- Does humanity learn? The lessons of conflict.

- A vision for peace in the new millennium. 

- Our changing world views and Canada's contribution to peace and development. 



Each class will include a period of time to review and discuss recent events (picked up from the media, e.g., newspaper articles) in tropical Africa and Asia in areas relating to development, democracy, peace and conflict.


For the enjoyment and learning experience of students, it is recommended that they view the following classic films:  The Killing Fields (1984, re. Cambodian Genocide), Gandhi (re. Indian Independence), The Year of Living Dangerously (re. Indonesian coup).  A CBC documentary on the Rwanda genocide (Autopsy of a Genocide) is also recommended.  Special movie nights might be arranged, along with class discussions and critical evaluations of the content and accuracy of these films.