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Contemporary Challenges in Environment & Society


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

  • Students who have been admitted to this course as part of their pre-master programme for the MA in CA-DS

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 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:
    Wednesdays September 11th – November 27th 2013, 10-13 h (except the class on 20-Nov: 10-15 h)
    Room 0A33, Pieter de la Court Building, Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden

  • Written exam:
    Wednesday 4 December 2013, 10-13 h
    Room t.b.a., Pieter de la Court Building

  • Project Proposal due on December 11th, 2013.

  • Re-take will consist of a take-home exam to be submitted in the laast week of January 2014 (see Blackboard for the exact deadline).

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


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.


  • Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply for the exchange programme.
    Only those exchange students whose admission to this particular course has already been approved, need to register for this course in Usis and on Blackboard.

  • BA studenten CA-OS van Universiteit Leiden:
    Inschrijving geschiedt via Usis, alleen voor “hoorcollege HC” en “tentamen TEN”. Bij problemen met Usis-inschrijving, raadpleeg de Usis-helpdesk van de FSW .
    Bij aanhoudende problemen, stuur een mailtje naar met het verzoek om je op de deelnemerslijst van de themamodule te zetten.

  • Pre-master students need to have completed their Admission procedure for the master CA-DS. and to be formally admitted to the pre-master programme.

Contact Infromation

Dr. Jan van der Ploeg 071-527 3669,