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Contemporary Challenges in Environment & Society



Please see the Registration procedure below.
Only the following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BA programme “CA-DS” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students (please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply for the exchange programme.)

  • Pre-master students who have completed their Admission procedure for the master CA-DS. and have been formally admitted to this course as part of the pre-master programme.


The course Environment and Society offers an introduction to the complex relationships between environment and human societies. It will deal with the ways human societies use and protect not only their own environment but also influence resources at distant locations through trade networks and conservation activities. How do humans interact with the various kinds of environments? What are the socio-political and economic structures that determine the exploitation of natural resources? Within what kinds of contexts are the important decisions taken? How do considerations of justice and sustainability influence resource? How are resources managed and who will benefit from the resources? Who is responsible for resource management?
The course will look into these questions from a theoretical perspective as well as from a more practical point of view. It will use important elements of the long tradition in ecological anthropology but it will also explore interdisciplinary approaches to human-environment interactions.
The course will consist of three parts. In the first part the theoretical foundations for the study of human-environment interactions will be explored. These will include ecological anthropology, common property resource management, environmental history and planning, and environmental economics.
In the second part of the course the focus will be on various types of environment and resources and how they are managed both by local communities as well as by outside agencies. Examples are rainforests, wetlands, savannah and grasslands, marine resources, islands, and water resources. The discourse on sustainability that dominates present day environmental discussions will be an integral part of the discussions in all examples.
In the third part of the course a number of extended case studies will be presented and discussed. They range from the management of protected rain forest areas by indigenous peoples, the exploitation of non-timber forest products and to wildlife conservation in an agricultural landscape. All cases will be illustrative of the relevance of theoretical knowledge and approaches for solving practical environmental problems. A full day excursion to a relevant site will be part of part of the programme.


  • Lectures: Mondays from September 8 – November 24, 10-13 h Room 5A23, Pieter de la Court Building, Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden

  • Written exam: Monday December 1, 2014, 13-16 h
    Room SB45, Pieter de la Court Building, Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden

  • Re-take will take the form of a take-home exam, due on January 20th (see Blackboard for details)

Mode of instruction

Total of 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu)

  • Lectures, Tutorials , Group discussions – 11× 3 hours

  • Students presentations

  • Literature

  • Papers

Assesment method

  • Presence and active participation at lectures and tutorials

  • Review article

  • Project proposal

  • Written exam

Re-take is only possible if the final grade is below 6, if student has actively participated in the course and submitted most of the assignments / papers / presentations.

Exam registration

Student must register for each exam through uSis. This is only possible until 10 calendar days before the exam. More information on exam registration

Registration in uSis

All participants must register in uSis for the lecture series and the exam of this course.
Without timely registration in uSis it is not possible to participate in the exam!


Blackboard module will be active.
Students who have been granted admission must register for this course on Blackboard.

Reading list

T.b.a. on Blackboard.

Contact Infromation

Dr. Jan van der Ploeg 071-527 3669,