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Environment and Society


This course can be followed as part of the BA specialisation Development in Place
(onderdeel BA Culturele Antropologie en Ontwikkelingssociologie)

Admission requirements

Only the following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BA programme “Culturele antropologie en ontwikkelingssociologie” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students

Please see below a description of the registration procedure.


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 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, water resources and soils. Attention will also be paid to the urban issues. 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. All of these are based on first hand experience of the speakers. 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 into the Dutch polder landscape exploring the problems of nature management and agricultural production will be part of the programme.


Tuesdays 14-17 h, from September 7 to December 14, 2010
Room 5A37, Pieter de la Court Building (Faculty of Social Sciences)

Mode of instruction

Total of 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu)

  • Lectures

  • Tutorials / Group discussions

  • Students presentations

  • Literature

  • Papers

Assesment method

  • Presence and active participation at lectures and tutorials

  • Papers

  • Final essay


Blackboard module will be active from the 25 August.
Students who have been granted admission must register for this course on Blackboard.

Reading list

  • E. Ostrom (1990) Governing the commons. The evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (244 pp.)

  • B. Walters et al. (eds.) (2008) Against the grain. The Vayda tradition in human ecology and ecological anthropology. New York, Alta Mira Press (376 pp.)

  • G. Borrini-Feyerabend et al. (2007) Sharing power. A global guide to collaborative management of natural resources. London, Earthscan (431 pp.)

  • various articles

Registration / Contact information

  • Studenten CA-OS: inschrijving mogelijk via het secretariaat CA-OS, kamer 3A19, tel. 5273469, e-mail:, tussen 1 juli en 15 augustus 2010.

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