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Political Ecology: Human-Environment Relations and Caring


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



Are you interested in how environmental crises are experienced across the world, and especially within non-institutionalised contexts like maritime settings, homes, cities, and a drop of water? Are you curious about the historical context of today's environmental degradation and its inherent inequalities? Do you wonder about the ecological basis of revolts and crises? Have you always wanted to study the environment from a humanities and social sciences perspective? Political Ecology is a thriving field of studies and research, with presence in most universities across the globe. This highly interdisciplinary course offers an introduction to the field: its theory, practice, ethics, methods, and positionality. At the same time, it does not seek to be contextualised within rigid categorisations of (inter) disciplinary identity, knowledge and/or analysis. Instead, it opens up to a variety of, both academic and non-academic, perspectives and approaches to the study and analysis of contemporary socioenvironmental issues, in conversation with a variety of regions. This course goes beyond nature and society as variables of analysis, disparate and opposed, to suggest that nature and society can no longer be instituionalised, conceptualised and communicated as disparate and clearly delineated realms but rather as mutually constitutive notions and experiences. In this course, lecturer and students will discuss a variety of topics such as pandemics, migration, crises, revolution, warfare, waste, racism, and sustainability by critically approaching their socio-ecological basis and impact. A strong component of this course is the relevance of native theory across the world, but the diversity of indigenous environmental theory will not be presented in opposition and/ or in contrast to so-called ‘Western environmental knowledge’. As mentioned earlier, this course challenges conceptual, theoretical, and practical binaries that situate environmental epistemic diversity in decontextualised analyses. No prior knowledge is required for this course. However, openness to new angles and perspectives which can help us confront our own biases is required.

Course Objectives

After successful completion of this course, students are able to:


  • Depart from existing knowledges and allow new perspectives and approaches to critically inform opinions.

  • Describe, discuss, and think critically about key debates and perspectives concerning the political ecology of variety of topics: crisis, migration, activism, environmental theory, etc.

  • Assess the interrelatedness and mutually constitutive nature of politics and ecology in a variety of contexts across the world.

  • Construct and develop their own arguments as a response to urgent socioenvironmental matters in the world.

  • Critically situate scholarship and deconstruct biases (both personal and professional) and power relations that have also played an important role in defining and developing fields like environmental studies, ecology, geography, and anthropology.

  • Broaden knowledge of ‘the environment’ by bringing perspectives and paradigms from the social sciences and humanities into existing knowledge stemming from the natural sciences.

  • Academically engage with the environmental theory of non-academic contexts and contribute to the advancement of epistemic diversity.


  • Analise academic literature pertaining to the themes discussed in the weekly seminars.

  • Formulate original arguments, in discussion and in writing, question and write an academic essay on a subject of choosing related to the course content.

  • Communicating opinions in an academic manner and with the assistance of existing relevant literature.

  • Assess the validity and reliability of research and literary sources beyond the politics of institutionalising knowledge.

  • Critically approach contemporary issues and the constitutive biases of primary and secondary sources, as well as media sources.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is conducted in seminar-style meetings, which will take place twice a week. This requires thorough preparation through the study of the compulsory readings and active engagement on the part of the students. Every week, students will need to complete compulsory readings and complete these with suggested further readings. In addition, they will have to show critical engagement with the readings by bringing a short summary of the readings to class. Class meetings will include short lectures, moderated plenary, and group discussions led and moderated by students. The attendance of classes is compulsory. For those missing more than 2 sessions: half a mark per extra absence will be discounted from the final grade. Those missing more than 50% of the course will have to submit reflective commentary on the readings from the sessions they had missed. Arrangements will be made in communication with the instructor.

Assessment Method

  • Understanding: every week, students will introduce and moderate A DEBATE (during the first or second half of our session). Two students per session, four students per week. They will liaise to introduce the main ideas of the day’s readings and connect these to daily life during the subsequent discussion. The debate will start with a brief introduction of no more than 10 minutes (the use of supporting visual material is requested: e.g., one or two slides, posters, photos, videos) to, then, open the floor to the class with discussion questions prepared beforehand. Presentations will be organised with the course convener during the first week of the course (25%). Students must demonstrate that they have worked together rather than merely dividing content, when this is not evident students will be marked down.

  • Increasing awareness, in groups of 4 or 5, students will plan, design, and record a CHALLENGES PODCAST (of no more than 30 minutes) focusing on a socioenvironmental topic of interest, as approached from the perspectives of critical Political Ecology (35%). How can critical Political Ecology help discuss and critically approach current environmental challenges? These podcasts will speak to the themes of the week the four students involved in it have led.

  • Speaking up, students are required to write a final REFLECTIVE MANIFESTO of 3000 words (excluding references/bibliography) further developing any of the topics and/or queries from the debate they had moderated in class (or, after consultation, a different topic) (40%). This piece of writing will develop the topics covered in the podcast: the author will situate themselves within what has been discussed so far, current environmental issues of interest, and draw a manifesto (including sources from the course and other relevant extra sources) as an action plan. This action plan will outline the issue at hand (understanding), discuss its problematic from different perspectives within political ecology and beyond (awareness) and propose alternatives that respond to ‘thinking globally acting locally’.

Reading list



Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr Elena Burgos Martinez,