nl en

Economy and Ecology


Please note: this course description is not fully up-to-date for the academic year 2023-2024. Updates will be published shortly.

Admission Requirements

This course is open to students registered in the CADS bachelor’s specialisation SuSo.

Please note: Students that are registered in the CADS bachelor's specialisation DAE may only take this course (as an elective or extracurricular course) once they have successfully completed the two Key Issues courses specific to their own specialisation.

Only the following categories of non-CADS students may also register for this course:

  • Exchange students admitted for this specific course during their application procedure

  • Archaeology students from the bachelor’s programme Heritage and Society (5 ECTS variant).

N.B. Completing this course may be required to register for the third-year course Selected Bibliography and Bachelor Thesis.

Language of Instruction

Lectures are given in English.
Exams are in English.

Course Description

Economy and Ecology introduces students to anthropological perspectives on the relationship between political economy and the environment. Since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, attention to the deleterious ecological impacts of modern economies has grown significantly. Ethnographers, meanwhile, have increasingly argued that ‘environment’ and ‘society’—including the social products and systems we label ‘economic’—are not discrete spheres but tightly interwoven. This course explores dynamic interactions between political-economic systems, ecologies, and human bodies in order to question dualistic thinking about nature and culture. Topics include critiques of ‘natural’ disasters; the uneven distribution of environmental benefits and burdens along lines of gender, class, race and other categories; how political economies shape our relations with non-human life; and anthropological ways of understanding climate change. In thinking about these topics, we will explore how in many cases efforts to distinguish the natural and the cultural, particularly in advanced industrial economies, work to legitimate social and environmental inequalities.

The second part of the course will then shift attention to a single topic: water. Evolving systems of water management have played key roles in the development of contemporary societies. Today, growing scarcity of water and the threat of water-related disasters have created considerable debate about how to channel and sometimes prevent water flows. The second half of the course therefore examines the complex relationships between efforts to manage water and govern society. Themes we will cover include relationships between water, culture, and livelihoods; water infrastructures, identity formation, and class struggle; and water and security, including mitigation of individual disasters and climate change generally. By putting these issues into dialogue with the critiques of contemporary political economies and nature-culture dualism explored in the first half of the course, we will consider how to recognize, understand, and improve the social, economic and political channels water both flows through and shapes.

Learning Objectives

  • To acquire knowledge about environmental anthropology and its claims about the relationship between political economy and political ecology

  • To gain insight into how the above can illuminate current social and environmental problems through topical lectures bringing them into dialogue with ethnographic case studies

  • To apply anthropological perspectives on political economy and political ecology, nature-cultures, and infrastructure to contemporary water problems

Mode of Instruction

Total 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu):

Lectures: 12 x 2 = 24 hours * 1,5 = 36 sbu
Written assignments (total of 3,600 words): = 48 sbu
Literature ca. 1,350 pages = 196 sbu

Assessment Method

Mid-term examination (50% of final mark)
Final examination (50% of final mark).

Result of both exams must be graded as at least 6 to complete the course; if unsatisfactory each can be re-taken no more than once.
Written assignments: marked as ‘pass’ or ‘not pass’; a ‘pass’ gives access to the exams. If not passed each may be re-taken no more than once.

Registration in My Studymap

Registration for the lectures and the exam in My Studymap is mandatory for all students. Students also need to confirm the registration for their exams in My Studymap as described below. Registration closes 5 days before the start of the course. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Registration and confirmation of exams

It is mandatory for all students to register for each exam (this inclused re-sits) and to confirm registration for each exam in My Studymap. This is possible up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the examination. You cannot take an exam without a valid pre-registration and confirmation in My Studymap. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.


Brightspace is the digital learning environment of Leiden University. Brightspace gives access to course announcements and electronic study material. Assignments will also be submitted in Brightspace. Announcements about and changes to courses are given via Brightspace. Students are advised to check Brightspace daily to keep informed about rooms, schedules, deadlines, and all details of assignments. Lecturers assume that all students read information posted on Brightspace.

  • How to login

The homepage for Brightspace is: Brightspace

Please log in with your ULCN-account and personal password. On the left you will see an overview of My Courses.

For access to courses in Brightspace students must be registered for those courses in My Studymap.

Course Literature

Monographs and articles from electronic journals and encyclopedias are available through the digital university library (to be announced).


Dr. Andrew Littlejohn