Postgraduate Course: Global Environment and Society (PGSP11359)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||The idea of separation of modern human kind from nature has become a trope of our times, and has come to be seen as a component of 'modernity' - in turn giving rise to protests and quests for 're'-unification with nature.
In this course we start from a different premise: that the relations between humans and nature are socially mediated, in other words that they cannot be conceived outside of social relations. We look at these relations through 3 main prisms: appropriation, rationalisation (the production of sameness), and livelihoods and communities - and in three domains: mining, agriculture and food, and forest 'management'.
The course examines relations between society and the 'environment' in terms of:
- Appropriation of/extraction from 'nature': here we investigate phenomena of 'primitive accumulation' and enclosure (as well as the associated processes of dispossession) especially in the context of the mining industry and its recent developments.
- Biopolitics and rationalisation of 'nature': According to the work of Michel Foucault, historically the "rationalisation" of government meant a new concern with the government of "life" (for a healthy working population) - which was crucially linked to the free circulation of grain (a new "political economy") and a "biopolitics" of seeds. We draw on Foucault's notion of biopolitics to explore issues of "scarcity" and "food security", and their implications particularly in the domain of seeds and biotechnology.
- Livelihoods and communities: the notion of community is interesting for its association with local economies involving specific modes of relation to the environment which differ from the dominant appropriation/rationalisation (although the notion of community is of course also mobilised by neoliberal programmes). We review key conceptions of the community and their implications for society/nature-environment relations especially through the prism of the forest, as communities have been more and more expected/tasked to 'manage' forests.
We also address the politics of 'socio-environmental futures' and what that entails. Building on the summary description, a more in-depth, academic description of the learning aims, nature and context of the course.
Nature and Society - Dualisms and beyond (Introduction)
Weeks 2 -4: Appropriation extraction and dispossession - mining.
Weeks 5-7: Science, technology and government - food security and the biopolitics of seeds
Weeks 8-9: Communities, livelihoods and the forest.
Week 10: Struggles, new horizons, and the possibility of transformation
The course takes the form of weekly two-hour seminars, for which students are required to read at least the core readings and the readings required for group work. The format of classes varies but generally will involve an introductory lecture, introducing the main authors and concepts and discussing them with students; seminar work facilitated by students, involving presentations and facilitation of class discussion; and a final discussion/recap.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Group work (25%): students will be divided into working groups of 3, each of which will be in charge of a class session of 45 on specific aspects of/perspectives on mining, agriculture or forestry. This will require some collective documentary work, preparation of the session, and exposition in the session and facilitation of debates or group work in the class.
Final Essay 4000 words (75%).
|| Feedback takes place through the assessment of groupwork. The criteria for assessment are discussed with students in the first class, but typically do not only involve criteria regarding an adequate presentation of the content but also the extent to which the group in charge of the session has facilitated learning by the rest of the group. The convener provides feed-back on both dimensions in the feed-back sheet.
This is formative feed-back in view of the long essay as the convener can pick up on the group's understanding of concepts and make suggestions for further understanding.
As for the long essay, the aim of the assessment is to allow you to develop your own ideas and topics, demonstrate your ability to analyse relevant issues and draw on and synthesise relevant evidence. Feed-back is provided on the structure and organisation of the essay, the extent of critical/conceptual analysis, the cohesion of the overall argument, how sources/evidence are used, the relevance of reading, and presentation.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate extensive, critical and detailed knowledge of fundamental concepts in social science, as they apply to current environmental debates
- Engage critically with key social theorists through the lens of environmental issues
- Define, argue and review their own stance with regard to environment/society relations
- Demonstrate an ability to present - in written and verbal form - coherent, well argued and theoretically informed analyses of contemporary global environmental issues
- Demonstrate substantial autonomy and initiative in the preparation and organisation of research and coursework
|Balibar, E. (1995). The philosophy of Marx. Verso.|
Bell, C., & Newby, H. (1976) 'Community, communion, class and community action: the social sources of the new urban politics'. Social areas in cities, 2, 189-207.
Godelier, M. (1986). The mental and the material: thought economy and society. London: Verso.
Guthman, J. (2004). Agrarian dreams: The paradox of organic farming in California Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hall, R. (2012). Diamond Mining in Canada's Northwest Territories: A Colonial Continuity. Antipode 45(2): 376-393.
Kloppenburg, J. R. Jr. (1988), First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology, 1492-2000, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
McCarthy, J. (2005) 'Devolution in the woods: community forestry as hybrid neoliberalism.' Environment and Planning A, 37(6): 995-1014.
Polanyi, K. (2001). The Great Transformation: The Political And Economic Origins Of Our Time Beacon Press.
Prudham, S. (2013). Men and things: Karl Polanyi, primitive accumulation, and their relevance to a radical green political economy. Environment and Planning A, 45, 1569-1587.
Swyngedouw, E. (2010) 'Apocalypse Forever? Post-political Populism and the Spectre of Climate Change.' Theory, Culture & Society, 27(2-3): 213-232
Tsing, A. L. (2011). Friction: An ethnography of global connection. Princeton University Press.
Weber, Max (1927) General Economic History. Translated from the German by Frank H. Knight. London: George Allen & Unwin. Chapter 27.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Dr Isabelle Darmon
Tel: (0131 6)51 1574
|Course secretary||Mrs Casey Behringer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2456