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

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
5 15 (7.5) DR MN Alexiades







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 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, human ecology and conservation. Some of the main areas covered in the module include: 1) introduction to the Anthropocene- approaching the Earth as a system 2) The stratigraphy of industrial development and debates about the onset of the Anthropocene 3) Rethinking the nature-culture divide 4) The Anthropocene dilemma: humans as agents or victims? 5) Thinking the planet: challenges for science and governance.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

This module will be taught by a combination of the following with a total of 24 contact hours over 12 weeks

The total study of hours for the module will be 150 hours, to include:

• Total contact hours (24 hours - lectures 12 hours, and seminars 12 hours)
• Seminar preparation (20 hours)
• Preparation for mid-term quiz (10 hours)
• Assimilation of materials presented in lectures and seminars (12 hours)
• Assignment tasks (84 hours – Project planning and research 34; Research report 40; Research Presentation: 10)

Seminars will build on and complement material presented in lectures. Students will have to prepare for seminars and actively engage in critical discussion of current topics.

Students will plan, carry out and write up, make a short oral presentation on a small research project which they can work on either individually or in pairs.

Students will be supported in their reading and preparation through extensive online resources provided via the Virtual Learning Environment (Moodle) for this module, and which will include not only readings but also audiovisual resources and links to films, websites, and blogs. Students will also be encouraged to use an online group forum as a medium through which to express opinions, share resources and ideas and ask questions.

Contact-based learning will be supplemented by resources collected on a Moodle site for the module, and the screening of excerpts from ethnographic films. The module thus combines structured lecture periods, semi-structured seminars, and ample scope for individual exploration of the module's subject matter, ensuring that achievement of the learning outcomes is a collaborative product of the content and facilitation supplied by the lecturer and the initiative of individual students.


Available as Wild. Optional module for BSc Anthropology; Biological Anthropology; Human Ecology Wildlife Conservation; BA: Social Anthropology; Joint Honours; with a Language; with a Year Abroad; Environmental Social Science.

Method of assessment

The module is assessed by 100% coursework.
50% for a 2000-word research project report, 20% for an audio-visual/verbal research presentation based on an individual research project; 20% for a mid-term quiz involving multiple-choice answers and factual knowledge; 10% for seminar participation.

Preliminary reading

Davis, H. and E. Turpin, eds. (2015). Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies. London: Open Humanities 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. (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World: on the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton 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.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will:
8.1 Become conversant with the key issues, debates, perspectives and authors surrounding the Anthropocene
8.2 Have developed an ability to critically engage with the evidence supporting competing interpretations of and approaches to the Anthropocene.
8.3 Have responded to the provocation that the Anthropocene not only heralds a new geological epoch, but, more significantly, a new epoch of thought.
8.4 Understand the importance and challenges of addressing the issue of temporal as well as spatial scale.
8.5 Understand the importance and challenges that emerge from the trans-disciplinarity required by such human-environment problems as the Anthropocene.
8.6 Have developed a coherent, albeit quite contained, research project about an aspect of the Anthropocene.

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