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

Undergraduate Course: Waste: Anthropologies of Pollution and Repair (SCAN10090)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryFrom contemporary economic and ecological wastelands of the anthropocene to cultural theories of waste and pollution, this course surveys anthropological approaches waste. Reading ethnographic case studies and social theory, It critically examines the production and designation of people, things, and places as waste, the concomitant diversity of social and institutional practices of waste management, and how these are entangled with the construction of social differences of race, class, and gender.
Course description Waste is all around us. A product of everyday life, of economic activity, of regimes of bodily care and hygiene, waste is an inescapable aspect of contemporary culture and a central element in the constitution of cultural difference. This course examines what the world looks like from the vantage point of its waste streams and the diverse efforts to repair a polluted world. Taking up classic and contemporary anthropological approaches to waste and pollution, the course asks: Where is "away" when we throw things away? How do people, things and places become disposable? And what socio-technical imaginaries shape contemporary waste management initiatives? Under what conditions might alternatives to disposability and possibilities for socio-ecological remediation flourish?

Indicative themes include: Cultural theories of waste and pollution; Comparative studies of waste regimes; Coloniality of waste and pollution; Toxicity and embodiment; 'Throw-Away culture'; Disposability as an economic system; Circular economies; Sanitary urbanism; Waste work & informal infrastructures.

Student Learning experience
The course is taught through weekly 2-hour sessions that combine lectures and seminars. Some weeks' lecture content may be pre-recorded to make extra time in-seminar for hands-on activities & flipped classroom engagement. In this case students will be expected to view lectures before course meetings. Assessments are a Short Essay (40%) and a Long Essay (60%).
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: ( Social Anthropology 2: Key Concepts (SCAN08011) OR Social life and climate change (SCAN08016) OR Empires (SCAN08010)) OR ( Sustainable Development 1a: Introducing Sustainable Development (SCIL08008) AND Sustainable Development 2a: Perspectives on Sustainable Development (SCIL08009))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesPrevious coursework in Anthropology or Sustainable Development equivalent to the prerequisite requirements.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  30
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 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Short Essay (40%): Based on the conceptualizing waste readings from the first half of the course, students will select from three set questions to write a 1,500-word essay.
Long Essay (60%): Selecting one of the waste streams discussed in the second half of the course, students will write a 3,000-word paper answering a self-defined research question.

Feedback Feedback on first assessment will be received before submission of final essay. An in-class session workshopping research questions will take place prior to the final assessment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. engage with ongoing academic and applied debates about waste.
  2. understand contemporary waste landscapes and the complex ecological, economic, political, and socio-cultural issues they entail.
  3. examine a range of anthropological approaches to waste, pollution and toxicity, from cultural studies and post-colonial theory to political ecology and science studies.
  4. apply anthropological theories to analyze relevant developmental, infrastructural, design, and behavioral interventions in waste and pollution.
  5. demonstrate their ability to communicate clearly and effectively on environmental issues.
Reading List
- Alexander, Catherine & Joshua Reno, eds. 2012. Economies of Recycling: The Global Transformation of Materials, Values and Social Relations. Zed.
- Ghertner, Ascher. 2015: World-Class City Making in Delhi. Rule by Aesthetics. Oxford.
- Gille, Zsuzsa & Josh Lepawsky, eds. 2021. The Routledge Handbook of Waste Studies. Routledge.
- Hoover, Elizabeth. 2017. The River is in US: Fighting Toxics in a Mohawk Community. Minnesota.
- Liboiron, Max. 2021. Pollution is Colonialism. Duke.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Communicative Skills: writing
Evaluation and critical analysis
Applying conceptual frameworks to empirical case studies

KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Jacob Doherty
Tel: (0131 6)51 3785
Course secretaryMiss Anna Hallam
Tel: (0131 6)51 1337
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