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Unit information: Beyond the Battlefield: Environment and Conflict in 2020/21

Unit name Beyond the Battlefield: Environment and Conflict
Unit code HUMS30002
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Dudley
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Humanities
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Battlefields; the fight against disease; the destruction of ecosystems and livelihoods. Conflict, in and with our environments, frames the ways in which humans think, exist and interact with nature. This interdisciplinary unit explores the human-nature relationship by critically approaching conflict as a broadly defined concept of intense contestation, and investigating how and why environmental factors drive it.

The unit will examine environment and conflict in a variety of settings, from the contested oil fields of the Persian Gulf to the high seas of direct-action environmentalism. The battlefield, or militarized landscape, will be our starting point. But we will expand our understanding of conflict beyond battlefield scenarios to include community and subaltern struggles, inter-state contestation of natural resources, recreational conflict on British rivers, and the use of violence against people and animals through expansion and colonialism. In the process, we will uncover varied political and cultural responses to, and representations of, environmental conflict. In keeping with its wide scope, the unit’s source base will be broad. Source types might include novels, court documents, memoirs, newspapers, poetry, film and visual art.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

(1) demonstrate a broad understanding of the relationship between conflict and the natural environment;

(2) analyse and draw conclusions about historical and cultural trends in the field;

(3) select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments;

(4) identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

1 x two-hour interactive lecture per week

1 x one-hour workshop per week

Assessment Details

1 x 3000 word summative essay (50%) [ILOs 1-4]

1 x two hour exam (50%) [ILOs 1-4]

Reading and References

  • Peter Coates, Tim Cole, Marianna Dudley and Chris Pearson, ‘Defending nation, defending nature? Militarized landscapes and military environmentalism in Britain, France and the United States’, Environmental History 16:3 (2011), 456-491
  • Daniel Haines, Rivers Divided: Indus Basin Waters in the Making of India and Pakistan (2017)
  • Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil (2011)
  • Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (2011)
  • Vandana Shiva, Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit (2001)