Anthropology and the Environment:
Culture, Power and Politics
This course is an anthropological investigation of humans’ relation to the natural world. In particular, we will be using the tools of anthropology to investigate the cultural, political and social dimensions of environmental problems. Some of the questions that we will attempt to answer include: what are the institutional and political constraints on the management of natural resources? who has access to land? who benefits from environmental conservation? who loses? how can we best analyze the social dynamics of environmental change? what are the class, race, gender, or ethnic dimensions of such transformations? how do people organize themselves to address environmental problems? how are environmental problems constituted as problems in need of solutions? how do the ways that a problem is constructed influence the ways that individuals and groups attempt to address them?
While ANTH 415, Ecological Anthropology, seeks to investigate the ecological dynamics of human existence in the natural world, this course seeks to illuminate that relationship from an approach grounded in political economy, political ecology, and the cultural politics of the environment. Drawing on cases from around the world, we will discuss questions of access to, and the use, distribution and degradation of natural resources. We investigate forms and practices of environmental exclusion and explore social movements that seek to lessen environmental harms or improve the management of resources or the conservation of nature. Specific topics to be considered include international development, climate change, indigenous knowledge, and natural and unnatural disasters. The course will cover approaches to these issues grounded in political economy and post-structural social theory, and will engage with contemporary discussions of the epistemology of nature, political ecology, and the cultural politics of ecological science.
* Image credit: Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The Beekeepers. 1568. Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett.