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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2017-18. The current handbook year is 2020-21
No such Code for prog: L605
No such Code for prog: L606
No such Code for prog: L607

Department: Anthropology

ANTH4018: Energy, Environment and Development

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham
Tied to L605
Tied to L606
Tied to L607


  • ANTH2051 Political & Economic Organisation OR ANTH2081 International Health and Development OR ANTH2091 Culture & Classifications OR ANTH2101 Critical & Applied Medical Anthropology OR ANTH2041 Kinship 2015-16 ONLY - ANTH 2041 Kinship & Belief Systems OR ANTH 2051 - Political & Economic Organization OR HUSS 2351 - Critical & Applied Medical Anthropology OR HUSS 2191 - Cultures & Classifications


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to anthropological and other social science perspectives on the comparative and critical study of human-energy-environmental relationships as socio-technical systems.
  • To give students advanced subject-specific knowledge which is core to development anthropology. The course is seminar-based, giving students the opportunity to read, synthesise and present recent primary literature and major review within the full range of development anthropology. Thus, students are brought to contact with up-to-date research, are encouraged to evaluate it critically, and gain practice in presenting relevant material to others.


  • The module focuses on discourses and popular responses to the topical crises of energy security, climate change, and social, ecological and economic resilience in the 21st century
  • It addresses how energy transition, climate change, and related issues can be viewed as socio-cultural concerns, and explores their practical and political implications.
  • The course will challenge students to question the ways in which ideas such as anthropogenic global warming can perpetuate, or present alternatives to, industrial productionist relationships to the non-human world.
  • Topics covered include contrasting approaches between theories of reformist change such as ecological modernisation, and more radical programmes for social change
  • The course will assess existing social science concepts, and examine new directions for theoretical and practical research. It will explore issues such as autonomous energy systems, patterns of energy commodification, and comparative resilience and vulnerability among systems. It will investigate social traces of energy use through transport, food, buildings, domestic, gender and occupational patterns.
  • The module will also enable students to evaluate the capacity of diverse strategies for policy and action to deliver security, equity and sustainability in energy supply. Methods of participatory research, survey techniques, deliberative forums, discourse analysis, media and IT. A broad range of critical themes will be explored, including:
  • Trends in development theory and practice
  • Poverty
  • Neoliberalism and globalisation
  • Indigenous and local knowledge
  • Participatory development (opportunities and dangers)
  • NGOs and civil society
  • Governance
  • Anthropology’s contested relationship to/with development practice
  • Sustainability and post-development
  • Gender equity
  • Global health
  • Ethics and development

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Factual Material: Familiarity with the key concepts and theories of energy transition and climate change
  • Understand the technical vocabulary used in energy and environmental policy contexts
  • Advanced knowledge of the literature on indigenous and local environmental and technical knowledge, and common property resource management.
  • Critical understanding of the practice of energy development and the perception of socio-political constraints.
  • In-depth knowledge of key topics in environmental anthropology.
  • Knowledge of the contribution of anthropology to the understanding of sustainability and resilience of human livelihoods in comparative ecological contexts
  • Critical and comparative perspectives on consumption in general and issues of green technology consumption in particular
  • Applying methodological holism and progressive contextualisation in socio-technical analysis
  • Historical background and current literature in development and the anthropology of development
  • Theoretical underpinnings of development anthropology
  • Areas of debate and controversy in contemporary development anthropology
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Familiarity with methods employed in the analysis of social change
  • Understanding of resilience theory and its relevance to issues of social change, energy transition, and environmental sustainability
  • Ability to access sources of relevant knowledge (e.g. archives, web)
  • Basic principles and techniques of participatory vulnerability assessment, including gender dimensions
  • Awareness of cultural relativity and its relevance to policy and practice in energy and environment
  • Ability to appraise the importance of socio-cultural context to understanding and advising on issues of sustainability and resilience
  • Potential to apply anthropological skills in development contexts, including changes in energy infrastructure (e.g. methods for social impact analysis).
  • Practical and theoretical training to enable continuation to PhD level research in development anthropology, with appropriate support and facilities, or to carry out applied anthropological research in development contexts.
  • Ability to synthesise, critically evaluate and present complex anthropological material, including data, models and theoretical arguments.
Key Skills:
  • Practice at identifying, analysing, interpreting and solving problems creatively
  • Make critical judgments of the merits of arguments, and challenge received opinions on topics and controversies: students should be able to express themselves clearly and concisely on technical topics, and explain why particular issues are important and/or controversial.
  • Search information sources effectively (e.g. libraries, internet) and use data and literature effectively
  • Use information technology and relevant tools and packages
  • Ability to structure and communicate ideas effectively in written reports
  • Summarise and defend an interpretation of a controversy

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Seminars provide the opportunity to mix lecture styles with video presentations to enable discussion of ideas and literature. They allow students to discuss a series of topics with set readings, and make oral presentations. Difficult, sensitive and unresolved issues can all be approached successfully through discussion in seminars. Seminars will cover topics and key texts relevant to the content of the module. Contributing teaching staff set out the broad contexts and key issues. Seminars imply a higher degree of student involvement and teach the subject-specific and key skills listed above, and provide an opportunity for students to read, synthesize and present recent primary references and major reviews. Students prepare presentations individually and collaboratively. Thus students are brought into contact with up-to-date research are encouraged to evaluate it critically and gain practice in presenting relevant materials to others and in learning collaboratively.
  • Summative assessment includes an essay of 3,000 words in development. The essay topic will be chosen specifically to encourage students to draw on concepts from throughout the development part of the module, rather than being able to use material from only one or two sessions, demonstrating knowledge of technical expertise and controversy.
  • Summative assessment also includes an essay on theories and applications of environmental anthropology to test skills in understanding, analysis, and information collection from a variety of media, developed initially in group presentation, to enable mutual commentary among students.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars in environmental anthropology 6 fortnightly 2 hours 12
Seminars in developmental anthropology 8 every 1-2 weeks 1.5 hours 12
Preparation & reading 276
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Critical review Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Critical review in environmental anthropology 3000 words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay in development anthropology 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment in environmental anthropology will be a formative essay (2000 words) and an associated plan (400 words) as well as a plan (400 words) for the summative critical review. Formative assessment for development will be a book review (1,500 words), to encourage ‘close reading’ of a key text and ability to situate an argument within the context of a wider theoretical debate. Informal feedback on student presentations / discussions within seminars will also help students to hone their communication and critical evaluation skills.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University