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15995-01 - Seminar: Political Ecology and Societal Transformations from Anthropological Perspective 3 CP

Semester fall semester 2019
Course frequency Every fall sem.
Lecturers Piet Van Eeuwijk (, Assessor)
Content Substantial societal transformations in the Global South encompass, for instance, urbanisation (linked with mobility and migration movements), reconstruction of the physical environment ('landscaping'), economic structural conversions, demographic change and processes of social reconfiguration as well as further alterations such as change of lifestyle ('urbanity') and of leisure activities (linked with tourism). In reference to these comprehensive and big reconfigurations, political ecology postulates that ecological problems caused by these transformations have to be considered within their historical, political, economic and social context and also to be investigated against this multiple background. Thereby, the analysis of environmental complications focuses on the revealing, identification and visualisation of the (vested) interests, the power of control, the balance of power and the power relations of (directly and indirectly) involved actors and their discourses – with a commitment to a future-oriented justice, equity and sustainability.
The dynamic being inherent in these reconfigurations in societies in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania shows two meaningful characteristics: 1. The very high pace of these on-going transformations; and 2. the very big number of humans being affected by these processes. It is therefore not surprising that the sustainability of (until now) existing structures and initiated developments in these countries is not ensured anymore due to the velocity of the changes and the quantity of concerned people.
The social sciences gradually begin to study and analyse the causes and the effects of these transformations in the mentioned societies. In doing so, their research perspectives shed light (up to now) on these changes only within social and cultural agentic entities (e.g. community, household) and hardly on the impact on humans’ physical environment and its (mostly negative) repercussion on the societal contexts.
This course will address different actual topics in the light of sustainable development and the above-mentioned transformations as well as of political ecology, as for example: the urban space as future ‘hot spot’ with multiple life worlds and ways of utilization; logging, mining and oil drilling activities in sensible environments and communities: nature and culture versus the triangle ‘power, politics and money’ in the extraction world; water as important global resource and simultaneously of vital importance: whose water is it in the future?; ecotourism: its impact on natural resources and social/cultural environment – or is ‘eco-‘ really ‘eco-‘?; the marine space between hope and hazard, conservation and overexploitation; ‘ecohealth’: health/illness in the intersection of men-nature-anthropocene; global warming: are local answers enough?; ‘biofuel’ and the outcomes of food for energy production: how sustainable is ‘bio-‘?; food and nutrition in global competition: first culture, then nature?; sustainability under high scrutiny: adjusted environment and development programmes – but whose perspective do they represent?; national parks and the power and impotence of different stakeholders; eco-labelling: a current epidemy or rational qualification?; the fate of the ‘commons’ – or new stimuli for a more just and fairer model of sustainability and equity such as 'earth rights'?
The global flows and the debates about sustainability have revealed that many ecology-focused phenomena affect both Global South and Global North and cannot be ascribed anymore to one world region. We may think about climate change (e.g. climate change migrants), food consumption (e.g. meat production and its consumption; oil palm cultivation and food industry) or commodity trading (e.g. global commodity trading industry, its infrastructure and its financial business). Such dynamics involve more and more ourselves in very direct ways (e.g. as consumer, citizen, broker and/or producer).
With regard to the described transformations and general interactions ‘culture-nature’ this course poses four general questions:
1. Which impact do these above-stated societal transformations exert on the physical environment (man > nature)?
2. Which effects in reverse do these global or local environmental processes have on the stated societal transformations (nature > man)?
3. Which qualitative assessment and judgment is generated as well by political ecology (for instance, power structures, political economy, in/equity, historicity)?
4. Do new approaches or perspectives/viewpoints of sustainability emerge from these findings?
Learning objectives The participants know and understand:
- the fundamental contents of contemporary ‘political ecology';
- anthropological approaches, perspectives and interpretations with regard to ‘nature-culture’ relations and 'cultural ecology';
- potential effects of current societal transformations (with a main focus on Global South) on physical environment (based on actual examples);
- the quality of interdependency ‘social environment-physical environment’ against the backdrop of these changes (in Global South and Global North, based on actual examples);
- potential consequences of global environmental changes on societies who undergo these transformations (i.e. the intersection of global-local realities).
Bibliography Introductory Literature:
- Biersack, Aletta and Janus B. Greenberg (Eds.). 2006. Reimagining political ecology. Durham: Duke University Press.
- Bryant, Raymond L. (Ed.). 2015. The international handbook of political ecology. Cheltenham and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.
- Forsyth, Tim. 2003. Critical political ecology: The politics of environmental science. London: Routledge.
- Lockyer, Joshua and James R. Veteto (Eds.). 2015. Environmental anthropology engaging ecotopia: Bioregionalism, permaculture, and ecovillages. Oxford: Berghahn.
- Neumann, Roderick P. 2016. Making political ecology. New York: Routledge.
- Peet, Richard, Paul Robbins and Michael Watts (Eds.). 2011. Global political ecology. London: Routledge.
- Perreault, Tom, Gavin Bridge and James McCarthy (Eds.). 2015. The Routledge handbook of political ecology. London: Routledge.
- Robbins, Paul. 2012. Political ecology: A critical introduction. 2nd Ed. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
- Stott, Philip A. and Sean Sullivan (Eds.). 2000. Political ecology: Science, myth and power. London: Arnold.
- Zimmerer, Karl S. and Thomas J. Bassett (Eds.). 2003. Political ecology: An integrative approach to geography and environment-development studies. New York: The Guilford Press.
Comments Note: Special course application and entry requirements!

Anrechnung MSD 2010
Gemäss publizierten Modulen oder mittels LC für den Vertiefungsbereich Phil.-Hist.

Credit transfer MSD 2017
Credits may be transferred to the "Focal Areas in Sustainability Research" module (learning agreement).

This seminar is offered by MSD, PD Dr. P. van Eeuwijk holds a teaching assignment.


Admission requirements Special course application required for ALL (for details see 'course application' or 'Anmeldung'). Course application in a different way then explained ARE NOT taken into account.

Limited number of participants (25), Students of the MSD and those of the mentioned fields of study (see list of modules) have priority.
If you study something different you must do a master degree within the 'Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences'/Department of Social Sciences, and may attend the seminar in case of vacancies and former application as explained.

MSD 2017
Students who have chosen the Focus area in Natural Sciences or in Economics must have completed the module 'Complementary knowledge in Social Sciences'. No entry requirements for students with Focus area in Social Sciences.
Course application Mandatory application for ALL! Link open from 14.08.19y/noon - 04.09.19/midnight:

Login and application possible from 14.08.19/noon on. (Login button on top row right hand side of ADAM website)

NOTE: Be aware of special entry requirements. Course inscription via MOnA remains mandatory for all participants..

In case of vacancies the online application link remains open until the second week of teaching + 2 days.
Language of instruction English
Use of digital media Online, mandatory


Interval weekly
Date 18.09.2019 – 18.12.2019
Time Wednesday, 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Date Time Room
Wednesday 18.09.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 25.09.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 02.10.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 09.10.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 16.10.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 23.10.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 30.10.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 06.11.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 13.11.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 20.11.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 27.11.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 04.12.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 11.12.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Wednesday 18.12.2019 14.15-16.00 Vesalianum, Seminarraum (O2.02)
Modules Modul Kernbereich Gesellschaftswissenschaftliche Nachhaltigkeitsforschung (Master's Studies: Sustainable Development (Start of studies before 01.08.2017))
Modul: Fields: Environment and Development (Master's degree program African Studies)
Modul: Fields: Governance and Politics (Master's degree program African Studies)
Modul: Theory and General Anthropology (Master's degree subject Anthropology)
Modul: Ungleichheit, Konflikt, Kultur (Master's degree subject Sociology)
Module: Core Competences in Social Sciences (Master's Studies: Sustainable Development)
Module: Resources and Sustainability (Master's degree program Changing Societies: Migration – Conflicts – Resources)
Assessment format continuous assessment
Assessment details Regular attendance (mandatory), required readings, oral presentation, essay.
Assessment registration/deregistration Reg./dereg.: course registr./cancel registr. via MOnA
Repeat examination no repeat examination
Scale 1-6 0,1
Repeated registration as often as necessary
Responsible faculty University of Basel
Offered by Fachbereich Nachhaltigkeitsforschung