Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (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 2019/20 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce social analysis for energy from anthropology and sociology
  • To present theories from the social sciences and humanities 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


  • This module introduces social analysis drawn from the social sciences and humanities relevant to understanding energy. 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. 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. Assessment begins with an annotated bibliography as a formative assessment, then by Essay Plan, followed by Extended Essay for summative assessment.

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 social science methods to energy issues
  • up to date knowledge of contemporary debates in social studies of energy
  • in-depth knowledge of selected energy case studies
  • knowledge of sources for further information and routes to self-directed learning in this field
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
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able, by the end of the module:
  • to apply relevant theories and methodologies from social sciences and/or humaities for energy research
  • 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 seminars. Students will read from a module reading list in preparation for seminars, and will take turns to present key themes from the reading for discussion among the group, with guidance from the module tutor. These seminars will take place throughout the term, before and after a 5 day intensive learning event including ‘masterclass’ lectures from university experts. Teaching week may include a field-study element. An indicative reading list and teaching materials (updated annually) will be made available through the online learning environment for student-led learning, and students will be encouraged to read beyond the reading list according to their particular interests. Students will 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. Clear instructions on how to approach the assessments will be included in the online learning environment and discussed in seminars and tutorial meetings.
  • Students will devise their own essay title in consultation with the module tutor. The assessment builds towards this essay in 3 stages. First, students prepare an annotated bibliography (examples given in VLE) around a topic of their choice. Students thus practise library skills through literature review and documentary analysis. The bibliographies are to be submitted through turnitin and will receive feedback from the module tutor. Based on the bibliography, students then prepare an essay plan of max. 2000 words, to be submitted for 10% of the module mark. With feedback from this plan, they will be well prepared to prepare a full extended essay on the topic agreed with the module tutor and based on their original literature review combined with course reading.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Preparation and reading Term 2 180
Seminars and tutorials 4.5 Term 2 2 hours 9
Intensive teaching and learning event 1 Term 2 5 days 30
Follow-up reading and essay preparation Term 2 81
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