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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Undergraduate Course: Social life and climate change (SCAN08016)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis 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.
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
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  200
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Short assignment 30% - 1500 words reflective journal. «br /»
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This will be submitted via ELMA as a mid-term written assignment, according to standard assignment administration. It will be based on a cumulative exercise, compiling weekly reflections on media stories/images, synergizing with the teaching and tutorial discussions of the first weeks of the semester: 3 x 500 word reflections on media stories (in any language) published between Week 1 and Week 5 that are linked by a key theme taken from the course. Submissions should include links/citations to the stories. Instructions/expectation and marking criteria will be made clear to students and markers. «br /»
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Long assignment 70% - 3000 words essay (choice of questions)
Feedback Essays will be returned with feedback within 15 working days of submission, in time for feedback on the first assignment to inform the second. Additional advice on how to approach the assignments will be provided in lectures, tutorials, and guidance and feedback hours.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate understanding of the scope of anthropological contributions to understanding human-environment relations and social dimensions of climate change
  2. Engage with a diverse range of insights and scholarship across the Global North and Global South to develop informed perspectives on social and environmental change across a range of historical and geographical settings
  3. Interpret, analyse and evaluate ethnographic evidence and theoretical arguments
  4. Convey complex ideas in a concise and comprehensible form
  5. Appreciate the interplay of local and global aspects of social and environmental change
Reading List
Baker, J. et al. 2020. The Snarled Lines of Justice. Orion.

Bessire, L. 2021. Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains. Princeton UP

Callison, C. 2014. How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts. Duke UP

Cruikshank, J. 2005. Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination. UBC Press

Danowski, D. & E. Vivieros de Castro. 2016. The Ends of the World. Polity

Kopenawa, D. & Albert, B. 2010. The Falling Sky. Harvard UP

Sheller, M. 2020. Island Futures: Caribbean Survival in the Anthropocene. Duke UP.

Shiva, V. 2019. Foreword, in Extinction Rebellion, This is Not a Drill. Pp5-8. Penguin

Whyte, KP. 2018. Indigenous science (fiction) for the Anthropocene: Ancestral dystopias and fantasies of climate change crises. Environment and Planning E: 1(1-2):224-242.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - curiosity for learning that makes a positive difference; thinking productively across diverse social and environmental settings
- motivation to engage locally and globally based on informed understanding of social and environmental change at different scales
- building on awareness of social and cultural differences and commonalities to develop creative approaches to problem solving
- reflecting on and questioning cultural assumptions
- ability to discuss complex and challenging ideas clearly with others
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Sophie Haines
Tel: (0131 6)51 1717
Course secretaryMiss Karen Leung
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