The Anthropocene: Planetary Crises and the Age of Humans - SE558

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2020 to 2021.


This module seeks to engage directly with the central provocation of the Anthropocene: that the speed, scope and scale of human industrial activities are having unparalleled, unintended and poorly understood impacts on the earth as a system, thus contributing to and significantly expanding the scale and risks associated with the crisis of modernity and its multiple dimensions: environmental, social, political, and cultural. In response to this crisis, and especially in light of the fact that human activities are so profoundly entangled with biological, ecological, geographical and geological process, a number of academic disciplines are reconsidering many of their core categories, boundaries and approaches. The Anthropocene constitutes an important, novel and challenging problem and a unique case study to attempt a more careful and effective integration of the different intellectual traditions and methods as exemplified in SAC: social and biological anthropology, geography, human ecology and conservation. Some of the main areas covered in the module include: 1) A review of the key problems and issues signalled by the Anthropocene, including the evidence and the debates and areas of disagreement 2) The Anthropocene in relation to earth system science and the planetary, with a particular emphasis in the relationship between the history of the earth, the history of life and the history of humans 3) Some of implications of the incoming period of heightened risk, uncertainty and cascading crises 4) To consider the consequences of the changes and challenges signalled by the Anthropocene upon core categories and assumptions underlying the humanities and sciences, with particular attention to such key binaries as human-nature, living-non-living, and technology-biology 5) The need and challenge of simultaneously considering multiple and apparently incommensurable scales, both in time and space 6) The Anthropocene dilemma: humans as agents or victims? 7) Considering some of the challenges the Anthropocene raises for the practice of science, politics, law, governance, etc. 8) What do these problems, questions and debates mean in terms of our own individual and collective futures, both professionally and personally? An integral part of the module is research and practice-based, and focussed around a project that encourages students to work collaboratively and in a way that promotes practice-based learning, for example by working closely with the School's Sustainability Working Group and the University of Kent Sustainability Team and contributing to some aspect of the School and University Sustainability Strategy.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 24
Private study hours: 126
Total study hours: 150


BSc Anthropology and associated programmes
BSc Biological Anthropology and associated programmes
BSc Human Ecology
BSc Human Geography
BSc Wildlife Conservation
BA Social Anthropology and associated programmes
BA Environmental Social Sciences
Also available as a Wild Module

Method of assessment

Research report (3,000 words) (60%)
Audio-visual or verbal research presentation (30%)
Quiz (10%)

Indicative reading

Bonneuil, C. and J.-B. Fressoz (2016). The shock of the Anthropocene: The earth, history and us, Verso Books.
Demos, T. J. (2017). Against the anthropocene. Santa Monica, California, RAM Publications.
Ellis, E.C. (2018). The Anthropocene: A very short introduction. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Galaz, V. (2014). Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics: the Anthropocene Gap. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Hamilton, C. et al., eds. (2015). The Anthropocene and the Global Environmental Crisis. London: Routledge.
McNeill, J. and P. Engelke, P. (2016). The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene Since 1945. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Moore, J.W. (2015). Capitalism in the Web of life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. New York: Verso.
Tsing, A. L., et al. (2017). Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene.Zalasiewicz, J., & Williams, M. (2013). The Goldilocks planet: the four billion year story of earth's climate. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Selected readings from a wide range of relevant journals including: Anthropocene (Elsevier), Anthropocene Review (Sage), Global Environmental Change (Elsevier), Environmental Humanities (Duke), Environment and Society, Science, Nature, and others.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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