Study Environmental Humanities

MSc Programmes

MSc Environment, Culture and Society (University of Edinburgh) What is nature? Why conserve nature? What are our ethical, aesthetic and spiritual relations to the environment? How do cultural and social practices shape the natural world? This exciting programme is designed for anyone interested in exploring these questions and gaining knowledge of contemporary theoretical and conceptual debates concerning relationships between environment, nature, culture and society. MLitt Environment, Culture & Communication (University of Glasgow) This programme is concerned with the relationships we hold with our ‘wild’ environments, and how these evolved. You will develop a knowledge of environmental debates from both cultural and scientific perspectives, and learn to communicate environmental issues using a variety of tools and strategies.



Individual Courses Postgraduate

Postgraduate (University of Edinburgh)
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PGGE11194 Animals and Society What is an animal? What do we know about animal consciousness and animal intelligence? Is it right to use animals for human ends, e.g. for food or entertainment? What are our responsibilities with respect to wild animals (e.g. conserving species) and animals that share human spaces (e.g., companion animals and feral animals)? How is animal life represented and expressed through the arts and media, and how does this shape human-nonhuman relations? Are we entering a posthuman age where nonhuman animals have attained a new status and significance in society? This course addresses contemporary issues concerning nonhuman animals (in particular, mammals), from multidisciplinary perspectives in the social sciences and humanities. It aims to provide a grasp of key issues in the new, burgeoning field of animal studies and to extend this knowledge to more specific topics through the use of films, guest lectures, student presentations, and a local field trip. The approach is largely conceptual and theoretical, but also intends to bring theory and practice together via topical case studies and other means. The course begins with foundational questions concerning the nature of animals and animal capacities before moving to ethical questions about the treatment of animals. It then addresses the range of animal-human relations, from interactions with wild animals to those much closer to home, such as farm animals and companion animals. It then looks at our creative interactions with animals through representations and other forms of engagement in the arts and media. PGSP11416 Anthropology and Environment Why do human cultures engage differently with their natural environments and how do they understand processes of environmental sustainability and climate change? This course examines anthropological approaches to diverse human understandings of and interactions with their changing environments, and it brings an anthropological approach to understanding the socio-cultural, socio-political, and socio-economic implications of environmental challenges and related development, conservation, and human rights issues. [NB not running in 2016/2017]  PGSP11299 Global Environmental Politics This course examines the key actors and political dynamics shaping global environmental politics. Environmental challenges are profoundly political and involve issues of power, sovereignty, justice and political action. The global dimension of environmental issues pose distinctive and powerful challenges. Who are the key actors shaping global environmental politics? What are the main challenges and why do they take the form they do? What makes agreement so difficult to achieve? In this course students will draw on scholarship from environmental politics and international relations to help understand the distinctive challenges and dynamics of global environmental politics. ENLI11193 Green Thoughts: Landscape, Environment and Literature This course is about how the environment is imagined and written in an era of ecological crises; in other words, how to think ‘the ecological thought.’ Focussing on post-war and twenty first-century British writing, including the so-called ‘new nature writing’ and ‘new nature poetry’, the course will ask students to consider how ideas of place, landscape, nature, and the non-human world have been shaped by awareness of man-made climate destabilisation and accelerated extinction. Much of this writing is motivated by a sense that a connection with the non-human has been a casualty of modernity, exacerbated by globalisation and the threats associated with climate change; other writing on the course expresses scepticism that a recovery is possible, or even desirable. All writing on the course exists in the shadow of the Anthropocene, the idea that humanity’s impact on global ecological systems has reached proportions previously only exhibited over geological time. This course asks students to read with a mind to responding to questions about the relationship between landscape and memory, the compatibility of regional and (inter)national identities, the possibility of interaction between human and non-human worlds of perception, and the value and validity (or otherwise) of the idea of wilderness. We will endeavour to trouble binaristic thinking about human and non-human, and the complex nature of time in the Anthropocene. The course will quire students to engage with contemporary literary eco-criticism, as well as a range of interdisciplinary environmental theory. It will also prioritise considerations of literary form and genre. The course will therefore ask students both to assess the capacity of these forms to engage a sense of ‘placedness’, and to assess the limits of formal boundaries. [NB Not running in 2016/17]  PGGE11130 Human dimensions of environmental change and sustainability The course will provide an introduction to a range of important environmental and sustainability topics, with a focus on their human dimensions. Human dimensions encompass the societal, political, economic, technological and cultural aspects of managing and responding to contemporary environmental change and sustainability problems. The course is organised around expert lectures on core topics. The topics covered are deliberately broad, including climate, food, energy, water and biodiversity. The topics provide the context for small group discussions and class debate exploring common features of environmental change and sustainability problems; assessing their societal origins and implications, and exploring cross-cutting issues of interdisciplinarity and the science-policy interface. LAWS11275 International Climate Change This course explores the problematic of global, anthropogenic climate change and the legal solutions that have sought to address it. This is an area of legal regulation that has developed most influentially in the realm of Public International Law in the form of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, and the ongoing negotiations in that forum. International Climate Change Law is avowedly inter-disciplinary, drawing on insights from economics, ethics, international relations theory and the physical sciences. These perspectives are essential if lawyers are to understand issues such as climate change negotiations and common but differentiated responsibilities. The goal is to give lawyers a detailed understanding of the legal mechanisms that seek to tackle climate change and a similarly familiarity with their broader context. To this end readings will regularly explore these approaches and some teaching may be shared with students from other schools. LAWS11244 EU and National Climate Change Law  Climate change is a global issue, which requires international cooperation in order to be tackled. However, the actions developed at local, national and regional levels are absolutely crucial. First, their study is indispensable to assess the effectiveness of the global climate policy. Second, while international negotiations have not been successful in the last years, concrete actions have been implemented at national and regional levels. The sub-international levels of governance are therefore becoming the most dynamic and influent power centres in the fight against climate change. EU climate and energy law offers a fascinating example of the dynamism of sub-international levels. It also reveals the intricate relations between international, regional and national levels when it comes to climate policy.  On one hand, the EU’s policy is influenced by its international commitments and by the international negotiations. On the other, the EU aims to become the leader of climate governance, by tailoring its internal law to achieve this objective. EU climate and energy law is meant to be ambitious and to influence third countries. Therefore, the class will be interesting for EU and non-EU students alike.



ARTX11039 Things New Materialisms This course examines some of the prominent emerging theories associated with the new materialisms in the fields of material culture studies, philosophy and science studies. It concerns developments in theoretical practice that call into question the binarism and anthropocentrism of critical theory and the cultural turn. The new materialisms, in their different ways, speculate on how things are material, singular and/or entangled. They have radically redefined post-human politics, agency, corporeality, criticality, representation, and time. [NB not offered in 2016/17]  ARCH11246 Topics in Environmental Humanities The Environmental Humanities is an inter-disciplinary field that explores the social, cultural and political aspects of environmental issues. Rather than assuming that problems such as climate change, species extinction and long-term pollutants are happening in a distant ‘nature’, they are seen as closely connected to everyday ways of living, understanding and creating. As a result, understanding and responding to environmental problems requires the kinds of critical and creative approaches that are strengths of the arts and humanities. This course will introduce students to this area using a specific theme that will draw on current trends within the field. This theme may vary year to year, and will draw on materials from areas such as environmental philosophy, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, animal studies, science and technology studies and feminist theory. We will use these materials to develop a critical understanding of the human dimensions of a range of environmental issues. PGGE11114 Values and the Environment This course examines issues related to two important modes of human valuing of nature, the ethical and the aesthetic. The course covers key concepts and theories in environmental ethics including (normally): anthropocentrism and nonanthropocentrism; animal ethics; Leopold’s land ethic; deep ecology; urban environmental ethics; and climate ethics. Aesthetic engagement with wild nature and cultural landscapes is explored, especially in relation to the role played by scientific knowledge in valuing environments. Students will also consider conflicts between aesthetic, ethical and other values as they arise in various environmental issues, such as ecological restoration, climate change, and geoengineering.
ARTX08069 Making Animal Studies  This elective offers a diverse structure of visits, workshops, reading sessions and practical instruction which will introduce students to contemporary thinking about animals. The intention is to stimulate dialogue and produce artworks which explore our complex relationship and dependency on animals. This will be achieved through direct observation, anatomy classes, taxidermy demonstrations and through discussions in response to written material from the expanding inter-disciplinary field of Animal Studies.
Planned visits may include access to the Edinburgh Zoo, Anatomical Museum, a cat café, National Museums of Scotland Store and Taxidermy lab, and The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.



Individual Courses Undergraduate

University of Edinburgh


SCAN10066 Anthropology and Environment See description above. HIAR10145 Radical Nature: Art & Ecology from Joseph Beuys to the Present Ecology, nature and the environment has paralleled and critiqued the development of the avant-garde in art, particularly since the 1960s. Significant art practices can be understood by looking through the lens of the ecological movement and by exploring the radical reconceptualisation of nature that has emerged over this time, across many cultures. Key artists relevant to the art historical tradition include: Joseph Beuys, Robert Smithson, Helen Chadwick, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Giuseppe Penone, Eduardo Kac, The Critical Art Ensemble, Christine Borland, Superflex, Simon Starling, Ursula Biemann and Johan Grimonprez. These artists can be jointly situated within art movements from Land Art, Eco-Aesthetics, Arte Povera, Genetic/Aesthetics and Post-Conceptualism, as well as within political and social movements, often with radical intent and in opposition to conventional neo-liberal and globalised economies. The intellectual content of the course is also supported by a burgeoning quantity of academic literature in this area, given the social, cultural and political need for radical responses to nature, from genetics research to climate change. HIST10400 Cultures of Disaster: History and the Environment, ca. 1400-1750 This course investigates how pre-modern societies understood unusual geophysical events and natural disasters. The first four seminars will lay the foundations for the course by exploring of the way in which nature and the earth were understood in classical antiquity and the Renaissance. The course will then move on to examine the ways in which natural disasters shaped Europe’s political, social, religious and intellectual history through more focused discussion around specific geophysical events and the analysis of a series key case studies.





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