Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module ANTH30L7: Energy and Environmental Politics

Department: Anthropology

ANTH30L7: Energy and Environmental Politics

Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • ANTH2051 Politics and Economics OR ANTH2161 Kinship and Religion OR ANTH2241 Environment, Climate and the Anthropocene


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to the anthropology of energy and contemporary issues of environmental politics in the age of the Anthropocene
  • To explore how energy shapes social worlds and contributes to our understanding of key anthropological topics such as temporality, technology, power, politics, identity, materiality, markets, landscapes, religion, gender, urban life and development.
  • To apply an anthropological approach to issues of energy and environmental questions through a set of key concepts and methods (see below)


  • Themes relating to contemporary issues in energy and environmental politics including: Energy in the Anthropocene, carbon modernity, fossil fuel histories; Energy Cultures and moral economies; Oil worlds, pollution, petrocultures; Material politics, techno-politics, vital infrastructures; Nuclearity, energy temporalities and future-thinking; Waste, environmental justice and slow violence; Renewables, green extractivism and sustainability; Resistance, climate action, energy justice; Representation, eco-media and petrofiction; Energy transitions, energy futures, post-carbon worlds.
  • Key theories and concepts in social research on energy, including: energopower, slow violence, energy cultures, technopolitics, resource curse, green extractivism, solarities, energy justice, Anthropocene, infrastructural violence
  • Learning content will make use of a wide range of ethnographic case-studies, e.g. nuclear energy in Eastern Europe, solar power in India, lithium extraction in Bolivia, oil pollution in Nigeria, post-oil urban planning in the Middle East
  • Learning material includes multimedia sources – academic literature, films, photography, novels

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Advanced knowledge of energy research and environmental politics in anthropology
  • Broad understanding of the global dynamics of energy systems, and their local manifestations in cross-cultural comparison
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Analytical capacity to apply an anthropological lens to contemporary questions of energy production, use, consumption and waste;
  • Ability to synthesize and access specialised literature on the social study of energy and sustainability
  • Critical application of theoretical concepts in the anthropology of energy and sustainability
Key Skills:
  • Critical Thinking and analytical skills: interpretation of primary and secondary data and critical discussion of arguments, theory, data, methods
  • Written and oral communication (through assignments and tutorials)
  • Problem solving skills (short interactive exercises to provide practical application of theory to simulated or contemporary case-studies)
  • Presentation skills (through tutorial presentations)
  • Independent research and literature review (written assignment)
  • Teamwork (through small group work exercises)

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

  • Classes include lectures, tutorials, reading and preparation, and group work
  • Lectures will provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in energy and environmental anthropology; they will introduce key concepts and authors, include a range of case studies (across regions and time periods), and provide an overview of the relevant literature and further resources for learning
  • Tutorials will feature students’ presentations (formative) of topics / readings introduced in the lectures, and group discussion and analysis of case-studies and relevant theory. The tutorials’ discussions will deepen understanding and critical reflection on the material seen in the lecture, and prepare students for their summative assignment.
  • Interactive elements will feature in lectures and/or seminars each week to provide practical applications of theory to contemporary case-studies and/or encourage problem-solving through simulated case-studies and learning applications (e.g. carbon calculator, net-zero climate game)
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow informed engagement with the material in advance of tutorials and lectures, and are essential to attend lectures/seminars and to prepare students for the written assignment.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Seminars 5 Fortnightly 1 hour 5
Preparation and Reading 58
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

500 word plan of the written assignment. Tutorial presentations.

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