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Anthony Di Fiore, Chair SAC 4.102, Mailcode C3200 78712 • 512-471-4206

Spring 2008

ANT 391 • Politics of Nature: New Approaches in Political Ecology

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
30596 T
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
EPS 4.104

Course Description

Environmental awareness already has a long history, with climate change as its most challenging issue and myriads of local conflicts, such as processes related to Austin's gentrification. While non-governmental-organizations, politicians and concerned scientists still alarm society in the name of nature, the conceptual divide between society and nature has long been challenged and deconstructed by many scholars, but also by the actual practice of environmentalists. This course starts where the concept of nature ends. Students will be introduced into innovative approaches to a new political ecology, mainly those by Science and Technology Studies and Actor-Network-Theory. "Political ecology has nothing whatsoever to do with nature, this jumble of Greek philosophy, French Cartesianism and American parks." According to Bruno Latour, nature is not an obvious domain of reality, but a way of assembling political order without due process. Thus, he proposes an end to the old dichotomy between nature and society. In its place, he puts a constitution, a collective, a community incorporating humans and nonhumans and building on the experiences of the sciences as they are actually practiced. In this course, students will be introduced into the challenging and often provoking readings of Bruno Latour and related authors like Michel Callon, John Law, and others; they will learn about the roots of political ecology in constructivism, pragmatism and (Heideggerian) "things," and we will follow these traces in various case studies and applications. At the same time, we will discuss current environmental conflicts from global climate change to the Austin based Barton Springs salamander, in order to practice, examine and apply these new approaches. We will explore how the issues addressed become public matters and political affairs, identify the actors involved and the different values, interests and ways of life that are at stake. In class discussions, students will compare the different ways in which ecological governance and its regulatory practices are established. These discussions will serve as a basis for a final essay on a topic of students own choice, written in the style of a research report. This essay might be based on own empirical fieldwork or findings, on literature or parts of ongoing dissertation projects. The main goal of this assignment is not only to reproduce or to sum up the course readings, but to apply approaches from this new political ecology.


Selected Readings: Callon, Michel (1986) Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation. Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St. Brieux Bay. In: Law, John (Hg.)Power, Action and Belief. A New Sociology of Knowledge? Keele: Sociological Review Monograph, pp. 196-229 Latour, Bruno (1986) Laboratory Life: the Construction of Scientific Facts. Woolgar, Steve, co-author. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press ______(1993) We have Never been Modern. Cambridge, Harvard University Press ______(1999) Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, Harvard University Press ______(2004) Politics of Nature. How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. Cambridge, Harvard University Press ______(2005) Reassembling the Social- An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory Oxford University Press, ______With Peter Weibel (2005) Making Things Public. Atmospheres of Democracy. Karlsruhe, ZMK Law, John (1986) On the Methods of Long-Distance Control Vessels Navigation and the Portuguese Route to India. In: Law, John (Hg.)Power, Action and Belief. A New Sociology of Knowledge? Keele: Sociological Review Monograph, pp.234-263 Law, John und John Hassard (eds.) Actor Network Theory and After. Oxford: Blackwell


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