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ANTH/ENV/GEOG 365: Environmental Anthropology

Course Description

We live in a historical period marked by a series of environmental crises where humans are, more than ever before, a geological and climatological force, altering landscapes at a planetary scale. Debates on climate change and its related effects such as biodiversity loss are at the center of governmental policies, UN reports, academic scholarship, and initiatives of social movements and local communities. In this scenario, approaching the natural world as distinct from the social world is clearly untenable to maintain. To better educate the next generation of citizens and scholars, it is increasingly crucial to provide a critical perspective to students that enables them to overcome the nature/culture divide and understand a world that is simultaneously social, natural, political and technical.

One of the specific tasks of anthropology is to move across different socio-cultural contexts and scales, exploring the singularity of local relationships between human beings and the environment, while taking into account the mutual influence of political, economic and socio-cultural processes. Through the exploration of ethnographic case-studies from different geographical locations with a special focus on the Italian peninsula, this course aims to analyze how people’s relationships to the environment and the living world are constructed, experienced, and contested.

Course Objectives
By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • identify socio-cultural factors affecting human relationships to the environment, and the implications of ecology for studies of culture and society in a diverse range of contexts;
  • apply anthropological approaches and theoretical concepts to the study of global environmental change and the contemporary debate about ecology, environment and non-human animals;
  • articulate critical arguments to discuss theses, rework problems, and make judgments in relation to the issues addressed in Environmental Anthropology;
  • evaluate existing research on the living world and the environment from an anthropological perspective;
  • integrate experiential learning activities with classroom knowledge to practice systematic, public-facing, and ethical scholarship using twenty-first-century research and communication tools.

Course Materials

A course reader, including all the indicated readings, will be available. The course’s Moodle site is the primary location for readings and assignments.