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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

K. Sivaramakrishnan
ANTH 210
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Environmental Anthropology

Introduction to human/environment interactions from various anthropological perspectives. Intellectual history of anthropological approaches to environment, emphasizing the mutual interconnectedness of people and nature. Survey of evolutionary models; cultural ecology; systems approaches; indigenous knowledge; ethnoecology; nature and the state; political ecology; ecofeminism; and environmentalism.

Class description

This course will provide an introduction to the emerging field of environmental anthropology. It will draw on scholarship from historical archaeology, evolutionary ecology, ethnoecology, environmental history, political ecology and environmental justice. Humans have always lived in a close relationship to something they have come to all nature in a variety of cultures. But in the last few hundred years this relationship has undergone drastic changes under the influence of international trade, industrialization, agricultural revolutions, the rise of environmental movements, and the struggle of millions living in tropical countries for livelihoods and social justice in a war-torn, polluted, and densely connected world. Large-scale species extinctions and deadly new diseases threaten both human and non-human life on the planet. This course will introduce you to the ideas, concepts, and practical engagements through which anthropologists have dealt with these important issues. It will lead you to read, think, and talk about ideas of nature, histories of ecological change, the changing relevance of concepts like evolution, ecosystem, questions of heritage, and culture-specific knowledge. The earlier part of the course will be dedicated to learning the key concepts and paradigms for study of environmental anthropology, and the latter part will be devoted to the politics of conservation and natural resource management in modern times, which includes the major social upheavals caused by colonial encounters. The course will specifically discuss topics like historical ecology, evolution, small scale societies, indigenous knowledge, ideas of nature, colonialism, political ecology, environmental social movements, and environmental justice from anthropological perspectives.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The course is organized as a combination of lectures and discussion based on assigned readings. All students will be expected to prepare for the class by carefully reading the assigned material for each session. Lectures will be as interactive as possible. We will save most Fridays for a discussion of films.

Recommended preparation

On the days that you cannot complete readings, at least try to skim and garner the main points of the assigned reading. Engage the assigned material with your critical faculties. Ask yourself about what you understand and what remains unclear. Draw on the readings to evaluate your previous understandings of the salient issues, perhaps based on personal experience. You will also meet in sections on Tuesdays for further discussion of readings and your weekly electronic comments. The section meetings in the later weeks will be used mainly for preparing your group presentations for the last week of classes.

Class assignments and grading

Weekly discussion questions, and in-depth discussion in weekly sections are required. There will be a take-home mid-term and final examination. During this later half of the course you will also work in small groups, in your sections, to prepare and present a project report. These presentations will occur in the last week of classes and will involve studying a specific environmental problem and analyzing it in terms of concepts learned in class.

Grades will be assigned for participation in weekly discussions, the final group project, the mid-term and final examinations, and the individual note on the group project that each student will submit along with the final examination.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by K. Sivaramakrishnan
Date: 10/23/2002