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Unit information: Conflicted Environments: Studying environmental social movements from the grassroots in 2021/22

Unit name Conflicted Environments: Studying environmental social movements from the grassroots
Unit code GEOGM0036
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Naomi Millner
Open unit status Not open



None, although GEOGM0028 recommended

School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines the relationships between violent conflict and natural resource landscapes, with particular attention to social justice concerns, gender and political ecology perspectives. Conceptually, the course functions to introduce students to the ideas that underpin political ecology and feminist political ecology – interdisciplinary areas of study that explore how political transformations and environmental transformations are critically connected. Contextually, we draw on contemporary work that interrogates how the machinery of development conservation move around the world and the effects they produce as they are woven into places already shaped by inequality, colonial histories, and power relation. In the cases we focus on we prioritise the experience of small-scale farmers (campesinos), indigenous groups, social and agricultural movements, and those dispossessed by war or politics – actors often overlooked in the history of social analysis. Cases we look at cover conflicts arising in relation to forestconservation, food security/sovereignty, indigenous rights and nature-knowledges, resource extractivism, anthropogenic climatic and biodiversity change, the rise of the military in conservation, and the ‘slow’ violence caused by toxic residues. Within seminars, practices and critiques will be drawn from contemporary work in areas including: concepts of indigeneity, environmental governance, agro-ecology, food security and food sovereignty, transnational social movements, anthropogenic climatic and bio-diversity change, and peace studies. Specific case-study analysis will include research in areas like: indigenous constitutional governance (ex. sumak kawsay and buen vivir); urban greening; transnational peasant movements; permaculture; seed sharing; indigenous mapping; decolonial and critical pedagogies; rural to urban transnational social movements; the rights of nature; political experiments in micro-geo-politics; indigenous methodologies; indigenous law; plant agencies; new approaches to the commons; etc.

Students completing the unit will have applied their theoretical and practical learning to the significant conceptual and concrete challenges of rethinking models of (neo-colonial) development in dialogue with new environmental challenges.

For teaching, the course is divided into two parts, (i) Political ecologies of conflicted environments in Latin America and (ii) Gender, environment and intersectional identities in the Global South.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this unit, students will able to:

  1. Identify and explain key concepts and theories in political ecology, feminist political ecology, intersectionality, decolonial and critical development studies, and critical political economy in geographical and cognate interdisciplinary scholarship;
  2. Analyse and problematise the political and economic forces that underpin violence and conflict within biodiverse environments, and how international conservation may mediate but also exacerbate tensions;
  3. Describe historical shifts in global conservation agendas and new tensions emerging within particular national contexts and in relation to particular resource challenges in relation to these shifts;
  4. Problematise the place of the modern state within international conservation and development practices, especially in relation to violent or post-conflict environments;
  5. Interpret development practices which emerged among different states and within trans-national organisations and movements in the ongoing political and epistemological struggles of decolonisation;
  6. Situate the practices and knowledge produced by social movements and rural communities as contributions to understanding the politics of conservation in the contemporary world;
  7. Understand and explain key differences internal to theorizations of development geographies, environmental politics, political ecology, and indigenous studies;
  8. Situate the debates and their cross-overs across different interdisciplinary contexts appreciating both shared conceptual genealogies and research applications.
  9. Develop a critical understanding of theories on the relationship between environment, development and gender – including ecofeminism, feminist environmentalisms and new feminist political ecology
  10. Explored specific axes of identities at the intersection with gender to understand socio-environmental exclusions and resistances
  11. Enhance writing and presentation skills on these topics, including through collaborative work.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a blended combination of online and, if possible, in-person teaching, including

  • online resources
  • synchronous group workshops, seminars, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous individual activities and guided reading for students to work through at their own pace

Assessment Information

Formative: Each student will present in one seminar on that seminar's assigned readings for about ten minutes. Each presentation summarizes central themes in the reading for that week and poses issues for discussion. Feedback will be given to the students within one week of their presentation.

Summative: Participation and presentation (10%): In the final week of teaching, students present a poster or display that captures one theme they have been focusing on through the taught part of the course. Each student speaks to their dsisplay for 5-10 minutes. Studets receive a mark and written feedback on this presentation, as well as their participation in class through the term [ILOs 1-11]. One 4000-word essay (90%). Students may choose to examine either: an object or text through which engage key topics and concepts within the unit via a creative/productive means; or, examine a self-chosen topic on a subject of their interest arising from the unit. Guidance will be provided on an individual basis for each student, and students will be supported in their development of ideas and design of the research papers [ILOs 1-11].


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. GEOGM0036).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.