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Plastic: A cultural history


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Honours College Humanities Lab.
Students in the first year of their bachelor's programme who achieve good academic results and are very motivated, may apply for a place in Humanities Lab.


A wide range of man-made materials that we commonly refer to as ‘plastic’ have freed us from the confines of the natural world and were instrumental in the creation of a treasure trove of new products – from a car and computer to chewing gum and stockings. However, today plastic occupies an ambivalent position in our society; in public discourse it is considered one of the major environmental problems threatening the planet. This course will explore the history of plastics since the late nineteenth century, and the multiple ways in which they have transformed social practices around the world. The topics discussed will range from industrial design and fashion to the single-use packaging of food and drink that today constitute the largest category in the application of plastic materials.

Course objectives

The main objective of this course is to increase students awareness of the complex nature of mundane social phenomena, in particular those pertaining to the relationship between material objects and social life. In addition, students will be introduced to the key literature in the field of sociology of consumption.

Shared transferrable skills attained:

  • Oral communication

  • Written communication

  • Presenting

  • Societal awareness


The timetables are available through My Timetable.
Humanities Lab courses are scheduled on Friday afternoon from 13.30 to 17h.

Mode of instruction

A combination of lecture and seminar, plus excursions and practical assignments.

Assessment method


  1. Attendance, active participation, group presentation (35%)
  2. Object biography (65%)


As shown above.


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursions, etc.). If you are unable to attend, notify the lecturer (listed in the information bar on the right) in advance. Being absent may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.


There are no resits for attendance, presentations and assignments. For the final project, the possibility of a resit applies.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Reading material will be made available through University Library.


Students participating in this module will be enrolled in MyStudymap by the Education Administration Office of Humanities Lab. Students register for the Humanities Lab modules about two to three weeks before the start of the module through an online form. More information and the link to the form will be provided by Umail.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


This course is part of the Humanities Lab programme, visit the website for more information.
Visit the Honours Academy website for more information about the Honours College.