SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

353 Anthropology and Climate Change

Module Code:
151802087
Credits:
15
FHEQ Level:
6
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2
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Anthropology and Climate Change

Climate Change is everywhere, in the words we read, the air we breathe and in our relations with others. The idea has been around for decades – but ‘we’ (as in all of us) have only ever seemed on the verge of action. Institutions and global conferences have emerged, in a global caravan of voices, lobbies and ‘fake news’. The science has variously been demonstrated, debated and denied. Climate Change thus draws attention to different points of view and experience: poor, young, right, left, rich – Global North, Global South; to the past, and the emergence of colonial economies built on combustion, extraction and race; and to the present, to a critique of everyday life as a form of denial – and then to engaged activism. Whose voices? Why?

This module is about Climate Change, not maths, nor the scientific modelling and policy, but about the assumptions, histories and cultures of Climate Change as competing forms of knowledge and politics. Taking an anthropological approach, we will look at language and representation, consider the view from other cities, islands and deltas, see what it is like to think like a glacier or climate – and read about humanitarian organisations pursuing policies of ‘emplacement’ out of the fear of a new global refugee crisis. We critically examine theories of ‘Anthropocene’ – a new era in which ‘humans’ are ‘geological agents’, look at the slaveries of machines in our everyday lives, extinction rebellions, and our impossible love affair with burning stuff.

This Module assumes that Climate Change is here and now and the future. It assumes you have experience of Climate Change through education, interest and from being attentive and alive. It is not about ‘climate change’ (that is now ongoing history), but about how to think, argue and act with others and Climate Change.

Prerequisites

Guided option for Year 3 students on:

  • BA Social Anthropology
  • BA Social Anthropology and...

Open option for Year 2 and Year 3 students on: 

  • BA Social Anthropology
  • BA Social Anthropology and...

This module is also a School-wide Open Option (Year 2 or Year 3). No prerequisites.

Suggested reading

Representative readings:

  • Ghosh, Amitav (2016). The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Malm, Andreas. (2021). How to Blow up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire. London: Verso.
  • Norgaard, Kari Marie. (2011). Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotion, and Everyday Life. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton; Princeton University Press.

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules