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Unit information: Consumption, Environment, and Sustainable Development: A Global Sociology of Everyday Life in 2018/19

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Unit name Consumption, Environment, and Sustainable Development: A Global Sociology of Everyday Life
Unit code SOCIM0030
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Jessica Paddock
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit turns the sociological imagination to issues of consumption, environmental degradation, and rising inequalities experienced by those living on an everyday basis with environmental and social change in the Global North and South. Through a combination of lectures, discussion, and peer-led group work the unit will explore, understand and critically appraise how sociology as a discipline has engaged theoretically with debates about rising consumption and issues of (un)sustainability. We then turn to consider the co-evolution of feminist scholarly perspectives with those that theorise andadvance understanding and awareness of women’s relationship with the environment.

While ecofeminist perspectives are extraordinarily divided and contested, they have much to contribute to the analysis of global development processes that seek to ameliorate conditions of environmental degradation and address problems of inequality. Taking a global perspective, we then explore what the aims of feminism and sustainable development have in common. Empirical attention is paid to interconnected global environmental challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change, resource over- exploitation and the experience of food insecurity for differentiated communities. In this way, the course brings a sociological perspective to an interdisciplinary field of inquiry.


· To explore the relationship between consumption, inequality, environment and sustainable development.

· To critically evaluate how insecurities in access to natural resources are gendered, raced and classed at a global level.

· To apply critical perspectives across a range of empirical contexts, from the Global North to the Global South.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to demonstrate via the unit assessment:

1. Understanding of a wide range of social-theoretical perspectives concerned with consumption, environment and sustainable development.

2. Evaluation of those socio-theoretical perspectives in relation to debates around contemporary environmental challenges (e.g. food insecurity, biodiversity loss, climate change).

3. Consideration of the ways in which the experience of living with environmental change is globally differentiated.

4. Reflection upon the potential for sociological thinking to offer fresh insights for policy geared towards sustainable development across global, national, and local scales.

Teaching details

10 x 2-hour seminars

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: 1500 word essay

Summative assessment: 4000 word essay (100%)

All essay questions (formative and summative) will be designed to allow evaluation of student performance in relation to Intended Learning Outcomes 1-4 as detailed below.

The 1500 word formative essay will allow for provision of feedback from the unit owner on the extent to which students have demonstrated an ability to meet the aims and intended learning outcomes of the unit, with suggestions for further improvement. The summative essay will allow for assessment of students’ ability to meet the Intended Learning Outcomes 1-4, detailed below, by requiring students to develop an in-depth essay argument over a length of 4000 words that draws upon relevant readings, materials and debates covered in the unit.

Reading and References

  • Baker, S. (2016) Sustainable Development. London: Routledge
  • Dobson, A. (1998) Justice and the Environment: Conceptions of Environmental Sustainability and Dimensions of Social Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • MacGregor, S. (2017) Eds. Handbook of Gender and Environment. Routledge International Handbooks.
  • Marsden, T. and Morley, A. (2014) Sustainable Food Systems. London: Routledge Earthscan.
  • Paddock, J. and Smith, A. (2017) ‘What Role for Trade in Food Sovereignty? Insights from a Small Island Archipelago.’ Journal of Peasant Studies. Online first DOI: .1080/03066150.2016.1260553.
  • Phillips, M. and Rumens, N. (2017) Contemporary Perspectives on Ecofeminism. London: Routledge, Earthscan.
  • Smart, B. (2010) Consumer Society: Critical Issues and Environmental Consequences. London, SAGE.
  • Sturgeon, N. (1997) Ecofeminist Natures: Race, gender, feminist theory and political action. Oxon: Routledge.
  • Shiva, V. (2009) Soil not Oil: Climate Change, Peak Oil and Food Insecurity. London: Zed.
  • Warde, A. (2017) Consumption. Palgrave Macmillan.