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Unit information: Geographies of the Anthropocene in 2020/21

Unit name Geographies of the Anthropocene
Unit code GEOG30012
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Franklin Ginn
Open unit status Not open

There are no pre-requisites. Students will find completion of More-than-Human Geographies GEOG20006 useful.


Available to year-three Geography and year-four Geography with Study Aboard/Continental Europe students only.

School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


We live on a planet profoundly altered by human activities. From mass extinction, to the transformation of land for agriculture, to climate change and the extraction of fossil fuels, to rising inequality, the Anthropocene names our current geological epoch – the age of humans. This course will introduce the concept of the Anthropocene, outlining its scientific and cultural origins, and explore current debates over its provenance and implications by examining competing planetary perspectives. These include the Capitalocene – based in eco-Marxist approaches – and the Chthulucene, based in posthumanism. The second part of the course is organised around key problematics of the Anthropocene: viral pandemics; novel forms of conservation; responding to extinction; apocalypse; visions of human life beyond Earth; fossil fuels and geopower. Each session is split between critical analysis and studies of ethical or political intervention. Sessions are split between lectures and more interactive activities.

Unit aims:

  • To enhance critical thinking in addressing grand planetary challenges
  • To explore the culture of the Anthropocene
  • To explore current real-world examples through different theoretical lenses
  • To enable students to develop their own voice and areas of expertise.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will have:

  1. Critical understanding of the key dimensions of the Anthropocene concept, its emergence and its politics;
  2. Critical understanding of the problems with mainstream environmentalism;
  3. Capacity to synthesise current theoretical debates with real-world examples;
  4. Understanding in-depth of one or more key debates;
  5. Ability to develop their own voice and way of thinking about the politics of the Anthropocene.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through a blended combination of online and, if possible, in-person teaching, including

  • online resources
  • synchronous group workshops, seminars, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous individual activities and guided reading for students to work through at their own pace

Assessment Details

One 2500 word essay (40%).

Two 1500-word essays, each worth 30% of the unit mark.

All assessments assess all of the ILOs.

Reading and References

Required, further and advanced readings will be set for each week. There is no course textbook. The following two special issues in geography journals provide useful insights into the course:

Futures: Imagining Socioecological Transformation, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Volume 105, Issue 2, 239-436, 2015.

Geographies of the Anthropocene, Geographical Research, Volume 53, Issue 3, 231-320, 2015.