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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Anthropology

ANTH44515: Society, Energy, Environment and Resilience

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2021/22


  • None


  • 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.


  • 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 course material will 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.

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 enviromental 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
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).
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
  • 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. Seminars imply a higher degree of student involvement and teach the subject-specific and key skills listed above.
  • The summative critical review tests the ability to delineate an issue for detailed anthropological scrutiny and analysis, using knowledge and understanding assimilated from the grounding in theories and applications of environmental anthropology.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 6 fortnightly 2 hours 12
Preparation and Reading 138
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Critical Review 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Essay plan for formative essay 400 words Essay 2000 words Plan for critical review 400 words

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