3.9. – 19.10.2018

Contemporary Environmental Conflicts

Contemporary Environmental Conflicts

Photo credit: Sean O'Neill, 2015, on Flickr

Course dates: 03.09.2018 – 19.10.2018
Registration dates: 14.08.2018 - 27.08.2018
Coordinating University: University of Helsinki
Coordinator: Liina-Maija Quist (liina-maija.quist@helsinki.fi)
Credits: 5 ECTS
Course level: General

NOTE: Registration is limited to 40 entries, 30 of which will be admitted. The 40 entries will be filled on a first come - first served basis.

Course outline

This course examines contemporary environmental conflicts in the global south. At the course, environmental conflicts are conceptualized as phenomena that have both social and environmental dimensions, which usually can not be analytically separated from each other. The course provides insights into to the drivers, actors, dynamics and consequences of conflicts over the environment. The main focus is on peoples whose lives and livelihoods are marginalized in the processes of conflict.

The course draws on discussions in the fields of anthropology, development studies, political ecology and political geography. It is structured around disputes and conflicts interlinked with developments in the global political economy such as extractive booms, urbanization and technological development.
The focus of the course is on three broad analytical perspectives: political ecology, political ontology and power/knowledge. The course is also divided into three themes with case studies on conflicts around each of them:

  1. 1) land and water;
  2. 2) climate; and
  3. 3) the body.
The course consists of on-line lectures, supplementary readings, one group discussion and two essays that involve an intensive study schedule and are structured in chronological order, to be completed by October 19. Students are suggested to study 1-2 lectures, and the respective readings per week, and to reserve up to two more weeks for taking part in the group discussions and writing the two course essays.

Learning goals

After completing the course, students will be able to: a) identify and analyze causes, political and social dynamics, and consequences of environmental conflicts; b) to critically examine the politics of science and representation of environmental conflicts and c) the meanings that the conflicts have for people whose everyday lives are impacted by them; and d) to analyze future politics of environmental conflicts.


The grade for the course will be composed of the following parts, and completion of course requires a pass in all of them:
  1. 1) Group discussion: 20 % of the grade
  2. 2) Two course essays 1): 80 % of grade
  3. 3) Respect of time for completing assignments in time: Considerable delay in all three assignments will lower the grade by one.

Study materials

Obligatory materials

  • Auyero, J. and Swistun, D. 2011. Introduction and chapter 4). Flammable: Environmental Suffering in an Argentine Shantytown. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Blaser, M. 2013. Notes towards a political ecology of ‘environmental’ conflicts. In Green, L. (Ed.), Contested Ecologies: Dialogues in the South on Nature and Knowledge. Cape Town, HSRC Press.
  • Haraway, D. 1983. Introduction. Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science. New York, Routledge.
  • Le Billon, P. 2015. Environmental Conflict. In Perreault, T., Bridge, G., McCarthy, J. (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology. London, Routledge.
Essay materials: choose two of the following books

  • Taylor, M. 2015. The Political Ecology of Climate Change Adaptation: Livelihoods, Agrarian Change and the Conflicts of Development. Oxfordshire, Routledge.
  • de la Cadena, M. 2015. Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds. Durham, Duke University Press.
  • Langston, N. 2010. Toxic bodies: Hormone disruptors and the legacy of DES. New Haven, Yale University Press.
  • Some scientific and newspaper articles will also be assigned for reading during the course.

Registration for this course is closed.