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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Geography

Undergraduate Course: Frontiers in Human Geography: Geographies of Development and Socionature (GEGR10112)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course aims to enhance understanding of the multiple, multiscale interconnections between the process of development and socionatural (or socioecological) issues from a geographical perspective. It will examine different approaches to development, policy-making and contestation. Examples and case studies will be used to illustrate the contested basis of development, the plurality of alternatives and issues of culture, values and identity.
Course description Lecture #1 Introduction: The Landscape of Development
Lecture #2 Development, Socionature and Modernity
Lecture #3 Conventional Development and Socionature
Lecture #4 Neoliberal Development, Neoliberalising Socionature
Lecture #5 Critical Approach to Policy-Making
Lecture #6 Politics of Conservation and Development
Lecture #7 Scales, Cultures, Values
Lecture #8 Contesting Development and Socionatural Change
Lecture #9 Group Presentation: River Basin Development in a Northern and in a Southern Country
Lecture #10 Perspectives, Lessons Learned and the Post-MDG period
Lecture # 11 Review and Conclusions

Natural ecosystems provide numerous services that underpin human well-being but one consequence of the rapid changes and degradation of ecosystems occurring across the planet is an increase in poverty for vulnerable groups of people. In Amazonia, for example, the large tracts of intact forest that provides numerous, globally valued ecosystem services but the sustained provisioning of these services is at risk due to development policies that promote the conversion of forest to cattle ranching and soybean production and fail to protect forest from degradation due to inappropriate logging, hunting and wildfire. Poverty and resource conflict, key consequences of forest loss and degradation are felt most acutely by people living along the agricultural/forest frontier and in the slums of the urban centres. Agricultural expansion affects peasants who migrate seeking land and employment; many remain poor and landless and contribute directly to the further degradation of regional forest ecosystems. Development expansion also affects forest dwellers who seek wage labour.

Ethnically-diverse disadvantaged groups traditionally relied on ecosystem products for their subsistence and did not contribute substantially to deforestation or environmental degradation. But in the rapidly evolving development, these groups are entering the timber trade under unfavourable conditions, clearing land for agriculture and losing traditional knowledge. As a result, the major challenges for sustainable management of national and local development include not only tackling increasing deforestation, but also dealing with the continuing impoverishment of the rural poor. Environmental degradation and poverty continue to increase around the world despite large international investment in the development and implementation of new laws and regulations, and improvements in governance and management practice. While many initiatives have brought positive local change, as a whole, these investments failed to produce the desired results or to offer a holistic approach to improving ecosystem management and reducing poverty.

Exploring those tensions between development and environmental management, the course builds explicitly on the socio-political connections between society and the rest of socionature. The course includes an initial conceptualisation and review of the evolution of development and the socio-cultural meaning of the environment (highlighting the differences between northern and southern countries). It contextualises development as part of Western modernity and part of the expansion of capitalist relations of production and reproduction. It then analyses the experience of development and its environmental consequences in the Post-War period, which coincided with the reconstruction and decolonisation of many countries. The next part of the course is a discussion of the continuities and differences between the Post-War phase and the more recent neoliberal reform of state and economy. Special attention will be given to the various groups and organisations (local, national and multilateral) involved in promoting development and associated policies. The final part of the course will be an examination of the various forms of protest and contestation of development, as well as local and international alternatives to conventional and neoliberal forms of development. The final session will discuss the short- and long-term prospects of development and its interconnections with socionatural themes.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesSocial and Cultural or Economic and Political Geography
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  42
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 67 %, Coursework 33 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Degree essay (around 2,000 words, 33%)
Two exam questions (67%)
Feedback There will be plenty of opportunities for feedback and guidance, specifically: during class meetings and discussions dedicated to the degree essay, exam questions and other questions more generally.
Office hours will provide an opportunity for specific feedback and further discussions.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)Frontiers in Human Geography: Geographies of Development and Socionature2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. To understand the evolution of the theory and practice of development at the international, national and local contexts and its multiple connections with environmental (socionatural) issues;
  2. To develop geographical skills on the socionatural basis and repercussions of development, including issues of environmental justice, public participation, group identity and creativity;
  3. To examine the various ways that socionatural relations have shaped (and been shaped) by) social, political and economic processes;
  4. To apply critical thinking to case studies related to development in northern and southern countries;
  5. To practice wiring and comprehension of complex texts, linking up academic conversations with things happening in the contemporary world.
Reading List
Detailed reading list will be informed during the course; core reading includes:
- Castree, N. and Braun, B. 2001. Social Nature: Theory, Practice and Politics. John Wiley and Sons: Oxford. (especially Chapters 1, 5, 7, 8)

- Escobar, A. 2012. Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton, University Press. [electronic resource] (especially Chapters 2, 3 and 5)

- Payne, A. and Philips, N. 2010. Development. Cambridge, University Press.

- Peet, R. and Hartwick, E. 2009. Theories of Development: Contentions, Arguments, Alternatives. Guilford Press: New York. (especially chapters 1, 3 and 8)

- Peet, R. and Watts, M. (eds). 2004. Liberation Ecologies. 2nd Edition. Routledge: London. [electronic resource] (especially Chapters 1 and 2)

- Rist, G. 2008. The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith. 3rd edition. Zed Books: London. [electronic resource] (especially Chapters 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 13 and 14)

- Williams, G., Meth, P. and Willis, K. 2009. Geographies of Developing Areas. Routledge: London and New York. (see chapter 5: Social and cultural change in the South)

- Willis, K. 2011. Theories and Practices of Development. 2nd edition. Routledge: London and New York.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Critical thinking about the theory and practice of national and international development with particular emphasis on environmental issues
KeywordsDevelopment,environment,conflicts,socionature,political ecology,environmental justice,policy-m
Course organiserDr Antonio Ioris
Tel: (0131 6)51 9090
Course secretaryMiss Sarah Mcallister
Tel: (0131 6)50 4917
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