Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module ANTH44730: Energy Society and Energy Practices

Department: Anthropology

ANTH44730: Energy Society and Energy Practices

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap


  • None


  • ANTH 44630 and ANTH 44815

Excluded Combination of Modules


  • To introduce social analysis for energy from anthropology and sociology
  • To present theories of development and governance relevant for energy research
  • To situate energy research in a broader sociological and socio-technical context
  • To consider everyday energy practices and means of studying and analysing them
  • To explore well documented case studies of energy transitions


  • This module introduces social analysis drawn from anthropology and sociology, complemented by other social science approaches. It will introduce social theory and analysis for students from diverse backgrounds, including key theories and methodologies from anthropology such as the idea and practice of cross-cultural comparison, ethnographic methods, everyday practices, material cultures, organisational forms and social relations. The module will specialise for social science students in the relevance of these theories and approaches for energy research and practice, particularly in development contexts. The module will explore the study of everyday practices of energy (in relation to domestic life, transport, production, bureaucratic and organisational practices, government and resistance). Case studies of regions or areas where energy transitions have been particularly well documented will provide additional material and teaching focus in the module. Students will build on the learning from the core modules MES1 and MES3, assessing the relevance of diverse theoretical and methodological approaches for the energy histories and challenges outlined in MES1, and in relation to energy interventions examined in MES3 . Assessment is by Project Report, with project outline submitted prior to the study visit for formative feedback. Students will have to pay their own expenses for the study visit. Location of study visit to be decided depending on (a) risk assessment (b) security situation (c) staff availability. In the first instance, the study visit will be held in the UK, while the course team will explore the potential for an overseas visit in future years.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will have, by the end of the module:
  • an advanced understanding of the value of social science approaches to energy issues
  • an advanced understanding of the application of anthropological methods to energy issues
  • an advanced understanding of the application of a range of social science theoretical and methodological approaches to the role of energy in development contexts
  • up to date knowledge of contemporary debates in social studies of energy
  • in-depth knowledge of selected case studies of energy transitions
  • knowledge of sources for further information and routes to self-directed learning in this fiel
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able, by the end of the module:
  • to understand the significance of social analysis for investigating and assessing energy issues
  • to have detailed knowledge of a range of social science theories and methodologies and their application to energy research and practices
  • to understand how to evaluate social science aspects of energy debates, and understand energy debates from a social-science perspective
  • to understand how to apply anthropological and sociological approaches to energy case studies
  • to identify relevant themes and questions for research at Masters level
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able, by the end of the module:
  • to apply relevant theories and methodologies from anthropology and sociology for energy research
  • to find relevant sources for further research in energy and society
  • to apply relevant theories and approaches to energy and society
  • to demonstrate an independent approach to learning, critical thinking and creative problem-solving.
  • to use sophisticated techniques of information retrieval and management using an array of print and digital resources
  • to formulate complex arguments in articulate and structured English, within the discursive conventions and genres of academic writing and written to high academic standard

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Module delivery will employ a combination of preparatory directed reading, a 5 day intensive learning event and a period of further guided reading, reflection and essay writing. Introductory reading and teaching material will be made available through the online learning environment for student-led learning. Full-time attending students will also attend tutorials and seminars, and submit work for cumulative assessment. Students will be assessed through formative and summative assessment, including an annotated bibliography, essay outline, and an extended essay.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Preparation and reading Term 2 180
Seminars and tutorials 4 Term 2 2 hours 8
Intensive teaching and learning event 1 Term 2 5 days 30
Follow-up reading and essay preparation Term 2 82
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Detailed essay outline 2000 words 10% No
Extended essay 5000 words 90% Yes

Formative Assessment:

2,000 word annotated bibliography

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University