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Semester 1

Social life and climate change (SCAN08016)


Social Anthropology





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Course Summary

This course will introduce students to key concepts, ideas and examples of the social study of life on a changing planet, through accounts of human-environment relationships around the world, informed by knowledge and insight from across the Global North and South. We will explore how anthropological and allied approaches can help understand the causes, impacts, framings of and responses to climate change and related phenomena in the contemporary world. While it will be grounded in the anthropology of environment, ecology, energy/sustainability and climate, the course will also be accessible for students with no anthropology or climate change background.

Course Description

Climate change is widely recognized as one of the key challenges of our time, with far reaching effects on lives, livelihoods, and politics along with landscapes, waterscapes and atmospheres now and into the future. This course will equip students to understand causes, effects, framings of and responses to climate change and related phenomena around the world, from a critical social science perspective. Building on anthropology's long-standing engagement with social transformation and human-environment relations, and more recent environmental turns across social sciences and humanities, we will explore how recent identifications of climate crisis and debates around the Anthropocene are situated in longer histories of environmental change and social injustice, as well as their contemporary manifestations and politics. The course will be grounded in empirical, ethnographic work that explores what environmental and social changes mean and entail for people, communities, organisations and nations around the world - across Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Its approach to questions of climate and environment emerges from sustained attention to the afterlives of empire and ongoing colonial relations between Global North and South. Through a genuine engagement with decolonial and indigenous scholarship, as well as critical studies emerging from the Global South, the course will offer students a unique opportunity to engage with a diverse range of analyses and discussions pertaining to the environment and climate change. Students will be encouraged to connect these theories and approaches to contemporary challenges and strategies for life on a changing planet. Indicative themes include the social lives of oceans and islands, fire, forests, climate science, heating, extinction, extraction, ice, pollution, climate policy, plantations, disasters, adaptation, and activism; explored with reference to anthropologies of environment and economy, knowledge, risk, migration, health, technology, politics and law, and scholarship from allied disciplines. The course will be of interest and value to students across arts, humanities, social sciences and environmental sciences, as it engages questions of how climate and environment can be understood and addressed across domains such as the social, political, economic, legal, aesthetic, historical and linguistic. The course is recommended for second year students and will be delivered over the course of 10 weeks. Each week will include two lectures and one tutorial, there will also be two film viewings over the course of the semester. The course will be assessed through two essays.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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