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Unit information: Environment and Society in 2015/16

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Unit name Environment and Society
Unit code SOCI30049
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Downer
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The unit explores the interaction between individuals/collectivities and environments, as these are mediated by culture/ideology. Via an historical consideration of social beliefs and attitudes to nature and people's place in it, the unit examines the way the way that environment has been conceptualised by social theorists, as a basis from which to explore some key aspects of the interconnection between society and nature, including issues of environmental justice, transport, gender, animals, food and bodies.


1. to critically examine societal attitudes to issues such as: the natural world; wild and domestic animals; environmental resources; and the cultivation of 'nature', including the human body

2. to articulate the complex interaction between people and nature, and the extent to which modes of social production and consumption are implicated in contemporary environmental crises

3. to outline the various ways in which historical and contemporary social theory has conceptualised 'environment'

4. to explore the development of environmentalism as political ideology

Intended learning outcomes

  1. critically evaluate societal attitudes and activities in relation to a variety of natural resources
  2. respond critically to a variety of uses of the concept of ‘environment’ in both general and specific contexts
  3. demonstrate an understanding of the extent to which social attitudes to nature and human nature are fundamentally political
  4. demonstrate a critical awareness of a variety of ways in which social theories have conceptualised the concept of environment(s)

Teaching details

1 hour of lecture and 2 hours of seminars.

Assessment Details

Summative: one 2000 word essay for 25% of the mark and one 2 hour examination (students to answer 2 questions) for 75% of the mark

  • 25% 2000 word essay or equivalent. The question will be designed to assess outcomes 1, 2, 3 and 4.
  • 75% 2 hour unseen examination. This will assess outcomes 1,2,3, and 4.

Reading and References

  • Dickens, P. (2004) Changing our environment: changing ourselves Cambridge: Polity press
  • Franklin, A. (2002) Nature and Social Theory London: Sage
  • Franklin, A. (1999) Animals and Modern Cultures London: Sage
  • Hannigan, J. ( 1995) Environmental Sociology: a social constructionist perspective
  • Milton, K. (1996) Environmentalism and cultural theory: exploring the role of anthropology in environmental discourse. London: Routledge.
  • Oakley, A. (2002) Gender on Planet Earth Cambridge: Polity