MIT OpenCourseWare



This graduate-level class addresses the complex interrelationships among humans and natural environments as well as conflict over access to, uses of, and ideas about the environment in various parts of the world. In particular, this class will use environmental conflict over land rights, hunting and fishing practices, environmental regulations, scientific versus popular knowledge, biotechnology and hazardous waste as a means to explore the social, economic, political and environmental stakes of such struggles for both human actors and for the environments in which they live. Alternately focusing on forest, agricultural, marine and urban environments, this class considers the social, cultural, political, economic and historical dimensions of environmental conflicts and how such struggles are imbedded in power relationships at local, national and international levels. This class begins with a brief exploration of ideas of "nature" within European thought, considers a range of theoretical paradigms useful in understanding environmental issues, and then focuses on a series of ethnographic and historical cases of environmental conflict in East Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and North America among other places.

Class Requirements

Students are responsible for writing a 1-2 page reaction paper based on the readings for each week's class. Papers are due in the class for which the reading is assigned. Students are also responsible for a 20-25 pg. research paper exploring an environmental issue in which they are interested and which will be due in the final class. Each student will also give a 15 minute oral presentation based on their research paper during the last two class sessions. (For those sessions, no readings or reaction papers are assigned). Tentative paper topics are due on the day of Ses #5.


Reaction Papers 40%
Research Paper 40%
Oral Presentation and Class Participation 20%