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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Global Environment and Society (PGSP11359)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn this course, we examine relations between humans, non-humans and the planet through the prism of contemporary dynamics of capitalism, the subjective logics that underwrite them and resistances and struggles against these. Why capitalism? Because it is through capitalist relations (of appropriation, extraction, commodification, exploitation, etc.) that many other forms of domination are reproduced ¿ for example, colonial, gender, racial, and of course class domination, as well as forms of extraction and exploitation of non-humans. The course unpacks various forms of privatisation and dispossession (i.e. not only material but also subjective) at play in contemporary capitalism, and how these impact environmental governance and politics. Conversely we also identify what comes up against such dynamics ¿ how can collectives uphold a non-exploitative relationship with the non-human world: can a new sense of the ¿public¿ be re-built and on what bases?

We examines these questions through 3 main prisms: 1) extracting nature; 2) governing nature and technologies of green governance; 3) ambivalent communities - and into various domains: mining, seeds and biodiversity offsets; and forest conservation and disaster management.
Course description We look into relations between ¿society¿ and ¿nature¿ in terms of:

1. Extracting ¿nature¿ (carbon, minerals): we explore mechanisms of land dispossession and their legitimation, mechanisms for ¿extracting consent¿, myth making and building actual support, the Indigenous struggles that arose and the resources they draw upon, and the questions they pose for alliances with workers in struggles for just transitions. Most of the cases examined in that part of the course will draw on Canada but we look into the prolongations of extraction politics in green energy development in Latin America as well.

2. Governing ¿nature¿ ¿ We will first focus on technologies governing seeds and their patenting/appropriation/circulation, the rise of philanthrocapitalism and farmer resistances around farmer seeds systems in the context of food security (with a focus on Southern Africa and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation¿s role in it). We will then turn to the making of ¿offsets¿, the attendant construction of corporate ¿stewardship¿ of nature and its conditions for ¿economies of repair¿. We will particularly look into ¿biodiversity offsets¿ in Europe, with partnerships for offsets in some cases in other parts of the world and the construction of corporate ¿virtue¿ and the challenges they received over the last years.

3. Ambivalent communities and mutualities: here we turn to other configurations of nature/society relations, which are seeking to maintain non-capitalist frameworks on the edge of/ or explicitly resisting neoliberal relations today. But we also address the question of the mobilisation of ¿community¿ by neoliberal policies and the erasure of the labour of social reproduction and ecological protection under capitalism. We look into mobilisations of the community in forest conservation initiatives in India as well as in disaster management (especially in the US) under such lenses. Ultimately we discuss the question of the construction of a global public realm ¿ as a domain that belongs to all, is protected and is defended.

Outline Content

Week 1: Key concepts ¿ working together

Weeks 2 -4: Extracting nature.

Weeks 5-7: Governing nature and technologies of green governance

Weeks 8-10: Ambivalent communities and mutualities.

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)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate extensive, critical and detailed knowledge of fundamental concepts in social science, as they apply to current environmental debates
  2. Engage critically with key social theorists through the lens of environmental issues
  3. Define, argue and review their own stance with regard to environment/society relations
  4. Demonstrate an ability to present - in written and verbal form - coherent, well argued and theoretically informed analyses of contemporary global environmental issues
  5. Demonstrate substantial autonomy and initiative in the preparation and organisation of research and coursework
Reading List
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.

Starting reading list

Harvey, D. (2009). The 'new' imperialism: accumulation by dispossession. Socialist register, 40(40)

Christophers, B. (2020). Rentier Capitalism Who Owns the Economy, and Who Pays for It?, London: Verso. Especially Preface, Introduction and Chapter 2 (Carbon Neoliberalism: Natural-Resource Rents)

Frederiksen, T., & Himley, M. (2020). Tactics of dispossession: Access, power, and subjectivity at the extractive frontier. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 45(1), 50-64.

Nally, D. (2011). The biopolitics of food provisioning. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36(1): 37-53.

Thompson, C. B. (2014). Philanthrocapitalism: Appropriation of Africa's genetic wealth. Review of African Political Economy, 41(141), 389-405.

Brock, A. (2020). Securing accumulation by restoration¿Exploring spectacular corporate conservation, coal mining and biodiversity compensation in the German Rhineland. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.

Apostolopoulou, E., Greco, E., & Adams, W. (2019). Biodiversity Offsetting and the Production of 'Equivalent Natures': A Marxist Critique. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies.

Toennies, F. (1974) ¿Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft¿, pp. 7-12 in Elias, N. (ed.) The Sociology of Community. London: Frank Cass and Co.

Müller, F. (2020). Can the subaltern protect forests? REDD+ compliance, depoliticization and indigenous subjectivities. Journal of Political Ecology, 27(1), 419-435.

McCarthy, J. (2005) ¿Devolution in the woods: community forestry as hybrid neoliberalism.¿ Environment and Planning A, 37(6): 995-1014.

Taylor Aiken, G., Middlemiss, L., Sallu, S., & Hauxwell¿Baldwin, R. (2017). Researching climate change and community in neoliberal contexts: an emerging critical approach. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 8(4), e463.

Li, T. M. (2007). Practices of assemblage and community forest management. Economy and society, 36(2), 263-293.

Illner, P. (2020). Disasters and Social Reproduction: Crisis Response between the State and Community (Pluto Press) [chapters 2 and 3]

Reid, J. (2019). ¿We the resilient¿: colonizing indigeneity in the era of Trump. Resilience, 7(3), 255-270.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Isabelle Darmon
Tel: (0131 6)51 1574
Course secretaryMrs Casey Behringer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2456
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