SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Anthropology of Sustainability: Global Challenges and Alternative Futures

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

This module combines theory and anthropological case studies to help students develop a critical knowledge of approaches to address contemporary global challenges such as poverty and economic exclusion, migration/refugees, gender inequality, climate change, informality, child labour, health and illness, infrastructure and corporate expansion. It seeks to deepen students’ awareness and understanding of how people around the world apprehend and deal with the pressing social and environmental challenges they face, and the range of concepts and practices enacted to deliver sustainable futures, including international development, corporate social responsibility (CSR), financial inclusion, and social enterprise, entrepreneurship, and innovation. The module invites students to grapple with the contested and culturally-situated nature of these paradigms, and how they are underpinned by forms of economic and political power.      

Scope and syllabus

Topics to be covered in the course:

  • Sustainability: Discourse and Practice
  • Infrastructure: connectivity and exclusions
  • The Anthropocene and climate change
  • Anthropology of extraction
  • The politics of indigeneity
  • Common property and collective action
  • Sustainability and the food system
  • CSR and bottom billion capitalism
  • Finance, financial inclusion and digital innovations
  • Alternative economies and sustainable futures

Suggested reading

Anand, N., Gupta, A. and H. Appel. (eds). The Promise of Infrastructure. Durham, NC: Duke University.

Brightman, M. and J. Lewis (eds). 2017. The Anthropology of Sustainability: Beyond Development and Progress. London: Palgrave McMillan.

Dolan, C. and D. Rajak (eds). 2016. The Anthropology of CSR. Oxford, New York: Berghahn Books.

Lorimer, J. 2015. Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Zademach, H-M. and S. Hillebrand (eds). 2013. Alternative Economies and Spaces. Verlag: Transcript.

Maurer, B., Musaraj, S. and I. Small (eds). Money at the Margins: Global Perspectives on Technology, Financial Inclusion and Design. New York and Oxford: Berghahn, 2017.

Crate, S. and M. Nuttal. 2016. Anthropology and Climate Change: From Actions to Transformations, second edition. New York: Routledge.

Tsing, A. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

West, P. 2016. Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea. New York: Columbia University Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules