SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Issues in Anthropology and Climate Change

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2
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Issues in 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’ (as in you and I) 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.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Understanding of theoretical and ethical issues arising from anthropological approaches to Climate Change.
  • Assess and evaluate a range of material, from within and outside the discipline, exploring sensitively how particular theories and ethical considerations give shape to ethnographic accounts of Climate Change.
  • Articulate and respond critically to the relationships between engaged anthropologies of climate change and various social movements and forms of activism.
  • Awareness of the challenges of writing and debating Climate Change.
  • Develop strategies for making sense of emergent, future-oriented worlds and phenomena which may not be readily amenable to conventional approaches.


  • One hour lecture per week
  • One hour tutorial per week

Suggested reading

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


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules