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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Postgraduate Course: Topics in Environmental Humanities (ARCH11246)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe Environmental Humanities is an exciting new area of research that argues for the importance of arts and humanities scholars engaging with environmental debates. In particularly it explores what kinds of contributions the arts and humanities can make to efforts to respond to key environmental issues.

A good introduction to the goals of this research area can be found in the editorial article for the first issue of the Environmental Humanities journal. In it, Deborah Bird Rose and her colleagues suggest that the non-human world has often been excluded from study in the humanities. However they argue that the environmental humanities are important in two ways. First because they can bring more complex accounts of meaning, value, ethics and politics to our understandings of environmental problems. And second because many of the concepts that have been fundamental to Western culture have been developed on the basis that humans are fundamentally separate from nature. As a result the environmental humanities also challenge these fundamental concepts and take better account of the ways that humans are always entangled in more-than-human worlds.

The aim of our course is to explore these two aspects of the environmental humanities by developing complex accounts of environmental problems and challenging the fundamental anthropocentrism of much of humanities thinking. Each year we will do this through a focus on a topic that is at the forefront of the area.
Course description In 2019 we will be looking at the theme of 'Living in the Ruins'.

We will develop an understanding of environmental issues such as climate change, resource depletion, long-term pollutants, extinctions, food and water security and more. In particular we will look at recent work that explores the potential for developing ethical responses to the irreparable damage that has already occured across all Earth's environments and ecosystems.

The ubiquity of plastics and other chemical pollutants, as well as species loss and environmental degradation, suggest that there can no longer be recourse to notions of a separate nature or 'untouched wilderness'. Instead writers such as Anna Tsing, Donna Haraway, Mel Chen and Maria Puig de la Bellacasa have offered ways of rethinking the relationship between culture and nature in the hopes of finding ways to respond to the environmental crisis that does not depend on returning to the imagined purity of the past.

With the release of the most recent IPCC report on climage change, there have been renewed questions about what individuals can and should do. We will attempt to develop our own response to these questions, guided by current literatures in the Environmental Humanities.

The course will be seminar based. This means that each week we will focus on a set of key readings, in order to discuss their key points, their strengths and weaknesses, and what they add to our understandings of the Environmental Humanities.

We will also tie these readings to case studies that we will develop throughout the course. This will allow us to explore how the issues we cover arise in real-life situations. Each student will pick their own case study at the beginning of the course and will build up a portfolio of independent research that fleshes out how their case might be related to the topics we cover. The components of the portfolio will provide a clear step-by-step method for building up the case study and will help students to develop a wide-ranging interdisciplinary knowledge of environmental issues.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  20
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The assessment plan for this course consists of a portfolio of work that explores key themes via a particular case study or 'figure' and will draw on approaches such as 'follow the thing', 'follow the actors' or 'figuration'.

The aim is to understand how broader issues manifest themselves in particular times, places and contexts.

The specific components of assessment will include:
- An annotated bibliography of the case study (min. of 12 references) (15%)
- A concept map that traces the connections between the case study, issues raised in the course readings and your independent reading (15%)
- A short piece written from the perspective of the central case study figure (min. 1000 words) (20%)
- A 3,000 word essay (50%)
Feedback You will have an opportunity to submit drafts of the first three items of assessment for formative feedback at set times during the course. We will also arrange 1-to-1 sessions to discuss your progress in the course at the midway point and prior to the final submission dates. You will be expected to incorporate this feedback into your coursework and submit a final version of each component as a portfolio at the end of the course. You will then receive written summative feedback along with your grades/marks.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. A critical understanding of the ways that theory can be used to understand the human implications of environmental issues. In particular you will demonstrate an understanding of the ways environment is theorised and how these theories contribute to key contemporary environmental issues.
  2. A practical understanding of how and why to apply theories and methods from multiple disciplines in order to understand complex issues that form the focus of environmental research.
  3. An ability to develop complex and effective responses to environmental issues that demonstrate a critical approach and an ability to engage with cutting edge research.
Reading List
Our reading list will vary, depending on the topic covered. An indicative list for 2019 includes:
Chen, Mel. 2012. Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Connolly, William E. 2017. Facing the Planetary: Entangled humanism and the politics of swarming. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Helmreich, Stefan. 2009. Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas. Berkley: University of California Press.
Puig de la Bellacasa, Maria. 2017. Matters of Care: Speculative ethics in more than human worlds. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Rose, Deborah Bird, Thom van Dooren, and Matthew Chrulew, eds. 2017. Extinction Studies: Stories of time, death and generations. New York: Columbia University Press.
Rose, Deborah Bird, Thom van Dooren, Matthew Chrulew, Stuart Cooke, Matthew Kearnes, and Emily O'Gorman. 2012. Thinking through the environment, unsettling the humanities. Environmental Humanities 1 (1):1-5.
Shotwell, Alexis. 2016. Against Purity: Living ethically in compromised times. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The mushroom at the end of the world: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, eds. 2017. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
van Dooren, Thom. 2014. Flight Ways: Life and loss at the edge of extinction. New York: Columbia University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills In this course, we will be learning to:
- deal with complex issues and make informed judgements in situations where it is not always possible to have complete or consistent information.
- apply critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis to issues that are informed by developments at the forefront of the area.
- develop a range of routine and specialised skills to communicate with peers, more senior colleagues and specialists
- exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in developing an approach to the materials
- respond to complex ethical issues that may not be addressed by the current professional and/or ethical codes or practices in our home disciplines.
Study Abroad None
Keywordsenvironment,theory,philosophy,cultural studies,science and technology studies
Course organiserDr Michelle Bastian
Tel: (0131 6)51 5779
Course secretaryMiss Jennifer Watson
Tel: (0131 6)51 5743
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