Course syllabus — undergraduate seminar
Taught in 2010 at Barnard College as ANTH V3895y
This course addresses the ways that we can understand the variety of issues and challenges facing individuals, organizations, and nations as we come to understand and combat anthropogenic climate change. Drawing on work in anthropology, sociology, geography, and other disciplines, this course will examine concepts of risk and vulnerability, the role of science and local knowledge, and the social contexts of policies and actions, as well as how climate change is affecting and will continue to affect communities worldwide.
Beginning with early studies of climate variability, adaptation, and mitigation, we explore the foundations of current climate change responses. From there, we examine ideas about risk and uncertainty at the center of debates about climate change, from perspectives in the social sciences, local experiences, and climate science communities. We will also examine the politics of inequality, vulnerability, migration, gender, and consumption through cases in carbon markets, agriculture, sea level rise, water scarcity, and energy use. We will then use the ideas developed in the rest of the course to attend to issues in national and global policy-making.
This course requires substantial reading and analysis of different kinds of research. Given the amount of recent work on the topic, most of our readings will be papers, some of which are quite short. For this reason, each week includes several readings, and students are expected to examine the connections between these readings, using the theoretical frame provided by one to explore the others.
This course also uses a class blog to share ideas, links, and other resources. This is restricted to class members (and thus is private); students will be able to post entries and comment on other posts throughout the course.
Students who complete this course will learn how to:
- · Conduct close readings of ethnographic and other social science texts, synthesizing their content and posing critical questions.
- · Gain exposure to the theories and methods of anthropologists and other social scientists studying climate change.
- · Appreciate the potential roles of culture, politics, economics, and social relationships in environmental issues like climate change.
- · Understand the role of interdisciplinary research in approaching environmental issues.
- · Synthesize materials collected through their own research to write a short academic paper, which will increase their discursive and critical thinking skills.
Grades will be based on participation in class discussions (10%), participation in the class blog (assigned reading response 30%, comments 10%), and a final paper (50%).
Participation in class discussions includes having read the readings for the day and contributing to the discussion of the material in a thoughtful, respectful manner. Students will also be expected to incorporate current events into the discussion, reading a variety of news sources and blogs that discuss social aspects of climate change.
Participation in the class blog has two components:
- Assigned reading response (30%): Students will be assigned to posting a reading response for one week of reading. This will be posted to the blog on the Saturday before Monday’s class, and will include the following elements:
- A discussion of the key points of the readings, focusing on the relevance for climate change and current events.
- Connections between this topic and previous readings
The grade for this element will be based on the quality of the post and comments, including thoughtfulness and NOT presenting a summary, but discussing the points as ways to understand climate change impacts.
- Comments on other posts (10%): Students are expected to comment on reading responses by other students by bringing up new points or by posting relevant links to other media resources (including a brief comment on why the link is useful). Comments should be made within a week of the class session.
Grades for this element will be based on the quality of the comment (including relevance, thoughtfulness, and ability to tie together various ideas from the course). Students are required to post at least once per week.
Blog posts and comments must be respectful and professional, and exhibit the same level of communication and consideration that you would use in class discussions or face-to-face communications. Disagreements are fine, but you should frame them as professional disagreements rather than as personal attacks. Inappropriate behavior will negatively affect the course grade.
The final paper (20 pages) will focus on a problem or dilemma facing individuals or groups as they confront anthropogenic climate change. Topics can be from class or other relevant issues, and should consider the human aspects of experiencing, mitigating, or adapting to climate change, and the role of government, global, and local discourses. Students will submit a five-page description of their topic and a brief reference list to me before the 11th week of classes. Papers will be due during exam week.
- Crate, Susan A. (Editor); Mark Nuttall (Editor). 2008. Anthropology and Climate Change: From Encounters to Actions. Left Coast Press. (ACC in schedule of readings)
- Davis, Mike. 2001. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World. Verso.
- Douglas M, Wildavsky A. 1983. Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press.
- Fine, GA. 2007. Authors of the Storm: Meteorologists and the Culture of Prediction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Eakin, H. 2006. Weathering Risk in Rural Mexico: Climatic, Institutional, and Economic Change. University of Arizona Press.
Other articles will be available online through Courseworks.
Jan 25: Introduction to course themes and responsibilities.
Feb 1: Learning from our mistakes? The political economy of climate disasters
- Mike Davis. 2001. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World. Verso. (selections, focusing on one case; 75pp total)
- Oliver-Smith A. 2009. Anthropology and the political economy of disasters. In The political economy of hazards and disasters, ed. Eric C. Jones, Arthur D. Murphy, pp. 11-30. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. (25pp)
- Hassan (ACC) Human Agency, Climate Change and Culture: An Archaeological Perspective (30pp)
Feb 8: Studying risk and uncertainty
- Beck, Ulrich. 1999. World Risk Society. Chs 3 and 7. (44pp.)
- Douglas M, Wildavsky A. 1983. Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press. Introduction and chapters 1-3 (66pp.)
- Boholm Å. 2003. The Cultural Nature of Risk: Can there be an Anthropology of Uncertainty? Ethnos 68: 159-78 (19pp)
Feb 15: Responding to the weather: local knowledge in the Arctic and glacial regions
- Roncoli et al (ACC) Fielding Climate Change: The Role of Anthropology, (30pp)
- Cruikshank J. 2001. Glaciers and Climate Change: Perspectives from Oral Tradition. Arctic 54: 377-93 (16pp)
- Ingold T, Kurttila T. 2000. Perceiving the Environment in Finnish Lapland. Body & Society 6: 183-96 (13pp)
- Strauss S. 2003. Weather Wise: Speaking Folklore to Science in Leukerbad. In Weather, Climate, Culture, ed. S Strauss, B Orlove, pp. 39-60. New York: Berg (20pp)
- Henshaw, Anne (ACC) Sea Ice: The Socio-cultural Dimensions of a Melting Environment (13pp)
- Marino, Elizabeth and Peter Schweitzer (ACC) Talking and Not Talking about Climate Change in Northwestern Alaska (9pp)
Feb 22: Scientific knowledge and policy
- Fine GA. 2007. Authors of the Storm: Meteorologists and the Culture of Prediction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (Chs 1, 6, 7; 100pgs)
- Finan TJ. 2003. Climate Science and the Policy of Drought Mitigation in Ceará, Northeast Brazil. In Weather, Climate, Culture, ed. S Strauss, B Orlove, pp. 203-16. New York: Berg (13pp)
- Lahsen M. 2005. Seductive Simulations? Uncertainty Distribution Around Climate Models. Social Studies of Science 35: 895-922 (25pgs)
- Finan, Timothy (ACC) Storm Warnings: The Role of Anthropology in Adapting to Sea-Level Rise in Southwestern Bangladesh (10pp)
March 1: Inequalities and carbon sequestration
- Parks, Bradley C., and J. Timmons Roberts. 2006. Globalization, Vulnerability to Climate Change, and Perceived Injustice. Society & Natural Resources 19:337-355. (21pp)
- Bäckstrand, Karin, and Eva Lövbrand. 2006. Planting Trees to Mitigate Climate Change: Contested Discourses of Ecological Modernization, Green Governmentality and Civic Environmentalism. Global Environmental Politics. Vol. 6, No. 1, Pages 50-75 (24pp)
- Checker, Melissa. 2002. “It’s in the Air”: Redefining the Environment as a New Metaphor for Old Social Justice Struggles.” Human Organization. 61(1): 94-105. (10pp)
- Newell, Peter. 2005. “Race, Class and the Global Politics of Environmental Inequality.” Global Environmental Politics 5(3): 70-94. (24pp)
March 8: Vulnerability and adaptation to change in agriculture
- Eakin, H. 2006. Weathering Risk in Rural Mexico: Climatic, Institutional, and Economic Change. University of Arizona Press.
*Spring break – No class March 15*
March 22: Displacement, migration, and island communities
- Carrier, J. 1998 Property and social relations in Melanesian Anthropology. In Property Relations: Renewing the Anthropological Tradition. Hann, C.M., ed. Cambridge University Press. (18pp.)
- Oliver-Smith, Anthony. (ACC) Disasters and Diasporas: Global Climate Change and Population Displacement in the 21st Century. (22pp)
- Jacka (ACC) Climate Change and El Niños in the West Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea: Indigenous Perceptions and Responses to Environmental Change and Deforestation. (8pp)
- Barnett, Jon 2001 Adapting to Climate Change in Pacific Island Countries: The Problem of Uncertainty. World Development. Volume 29, Issue 6, Pages 977-993 (16pp)
Film: Sun Come Up
March 29: Water scarcity and gender
- Denton, F. 2002. Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptation: Why Does Gender Matter? Gender and Development, Vol. 10, No. 2, Climate Change (Jul., 2002), pp. 10-20 (11pp)
- Harris, L. (2006). Irrigation, Gender, and the Social Geographies of the Changing Waterscape in Southeastern Anatolia. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24: 187-213. (26pp)
- O’Reilly, K. (2006). Traditional women, modern water: Linking gender and commodification in Rajasthan, India. Geoforum 37(6): 958-972. (14pp)
- Crow, B. and Sultana, F. 2002. “Gender, class and access to water: Three cases in a poor and crowded delta” Society and Natural Resources 15(8): 709-724. (14pp)
- Nash, J. 2007 Consuming Interests: Water, Rum, and Coca-Cola from Ritual Propitiation to Corporate Expropriation in Highland Chiapas. Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 22, Issue 4, pp. 621–639 (18pp)
- Mehta, Lyla. 2007. Whose scarcity? Whose property? The case of water in western India, Land Use Policy, Volume 24, Issue 4, October 2007, Pages 654-663. (9pp)
- Vörösmarty, Charles J., Pamela Green, Joseph Salisbury and Richard B. Lammers 2000 Global Water Resources: Vulnerability from Climate Change and Population Growth. Science 14 July 2000: Vol. 289. no. 5477, pp. 284 – 288 (4pp)
April 5: Climate change and health
- Hainesa, A., R.S. Kovatsa, D. Campbell-Lendrumb and C. Corvalan 2006. Climate change and human health: Impacts, vulnerability and public health. Public Health. Volume 120, Issue 7, Pages 585-596. (11pp)
- Singer, Merrill 2009. Beyond Global Warming: Interacting Ecocrises and the Critical Anthropology of Health. Anthropological Quarterly, Volume 82, Number 3, pp. 795-819 (24pp)
- Farmer, Paul. 2005 Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. University of California Press. Selections. (75 pp)
April 12: National policies and politics
- Jasanoff, S, B Wynne 1998 Science and decisionmaking. in S. Rayner and E.L. Malone, eds., Human Choice and Climate Change (Washington, DC: Battelle Press, 1998), pp. 1-87. (86pp)
- Fiske, Shirley J. (ACC) Global Change Policymaking from Inside the Beltway: Engaging Anthropology (15pp)
- Button, Gregory V. and Kristina Peterson (ACC) The Efforts of One Gulf Coast Community to Deal with the Challenges of Climate Change (14pp)
*Paper description and bibliography due*
April 19: Global governance issues
- Roberts, JT, and BC Parks. 2007 A Climate of Injustice: Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy. MIT press. Chapters 1, 2, and 5 (118 pp)
- Broadbent, Noel D. and Patrik Lantto (ACC) Terms of Engagement: an Arctic perspective on the narratives and politics of global climate change. (15pp)
April 26: Mitigation in consumption choices and energy use?
- Henning A. 2005. Climate change and energy use: the role for anthropological research. Anthropology today 21: 8-12 (5pp)
- Bohren, Lenora (ACC) Global Climate Change: Car Culture & Emissions. (9pp)
- Wilk, Richard (ACC) Consuming Ourselves to Death (11pp)
- Moisander, Johanna 2007 Motivational complexity of green consumerism. International Journal of Consumer Studies Vol 31 (4): 404-409 (6pp)
- Crate, Susan A. (ACC) Gone the Bull of Winter? (14pp)
- Puntenney, P.J. (ACC) Global Responsibilities, Local Realities: Negotiating the Cultural Dimensions. (10pp)
May 3: Course wrap-up
*Final paper due during exam week*