Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 1 or Level 2 Geography module


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provoke critical understandings of environmental politics
  • To stimulate understanding of the ways in which environmental politics relate to questions of culture, meaning and knowledge formation
  • To evaluate a range of theoretical approaches for making sense of the politics of nature and the environment


  • In the first term, the module involves a set of lectures on the history, theory, politics and culture of the environment. It will be shown that there is no singular ‘nature’ out there waiting to be saved. Rather, the course will elaborate on the many ways in which what we now recognize as ‘the environment’ has been produced from within particular social practices and processes which are discursively ordered, embodied, spaced, timed and which involve models of human agency, risk and trust. The course is premised on the idea that the relationship between human society and the biophysical environment is political, and will, thus, set out to explore what precisely this means
  • In the second term, we will explore conceptual resources for problematizing the ‘boundedness’ and taken-for-grantedness’ of nature as it appears in policy and academic debates. This will include interrogation of developments in ecological modernization, narrative and discourse theory, science and technology studies, poststructuralism, postcolonialism and posthumanism. These debates will be explored in the context of real world environmental case studies

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • After taking this module students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of how environmental issues and politics are shaped by social, historical and cultural factors
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of the political, cultural and ethical consequences of understanding nature in its various social contexts
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of different streams of geographical thought that problematise distinctions between nature and society
Subject-specific Skills:
  • After taking this module students should be able to:
  • Think reflexively on the environment and the political imaginary
  • Develop critical analysis of environmental politics using theory and case studies
Key Skills:
  • Develop reflexive thinking in discussion and in writing
  • Assess the merits of contrasting theories and methodologies

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

  • Lectures will be used to introduce students to key debates and literatures
  • Concepts introduced in lectures will be explored in more depth in seminars
  • Students will be expected to make weekly preparations for seminars in order to contribute to informal formative group assessments
  • Students will develop presentation skills in a small group workshop format that constitutes the formative assessment
  • The fieldwork will involve a day trip to a nearby location to undertake a case study relevant to the module
  • Students will discuss the fieldwork case study in a small-group workshop
  • Students’ ability to interpret and apply theoretical concepts will be tested through an examination and in an essay

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 14 Weekly 2 hours 28
Seminars 3 Terms 1 and 2 2 hours 6
Fieldwork 1 End of Term 2 1 day 8
Preparation and Reading 158
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Unseen Exam Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
End-of-module (unseen) 1.5 hour 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay (max. 5 pages A4 in accordance with Departmental policy on Coursework Length and Format) Max 5 pages A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

The formative assessment will consist of presentations, delivered towards the end of Term 1. Verbal feedback and subsequent detailed written comments will be provided to students.

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