Masters in Environment, Society and Development

Module

Semester

ECTS

TI 701: Conceptualising Environment, Society and Development

1

10

TI 702: Geography and Geo-graphing

1

10

TI 703: Geopolitics and Security

1

10

TI 704: Environment and Risk

2

10

TI 705: Managing Development

2

10

TI 706: Field-Based Learning

2

10

TI 707: MA Dissertation

May-August

30

 

Back to top.


Module Descriptions

TI 701 Conceptualising Environment, Society and Development

Module rationale

Conceptualising Environment, Society and Development is designed as the core introductory module for the MA; its goal is to provide a broad basis for the many topics that inform, influence and structure the relationships between humankind, its actions and forms of organisation and what is customarily referred to as ’the environment’. In other words, we will aim to better understand the myriad of ways in which the environment is socially constructed while remaining materially present. The module is organised around a series of themes that are at once geographically resonant while brining into a sharper focus the historical legacies, political structures and discursive strategies that attach to different ways of conceptualising the key themes of the overall MA course.

Key learning outcomes
  • Develop an understanding of the history of environmental thought and action.
  • Appreciate and critically engage with the discursive nature of environmental debates.
  • Develop an ability to navigate complex constellations of interests, legacies and affects in the analysis of locally resonant environmental issues.
  • Analyse the many linkages that materialse locally between a globalising economy and sustainable social and environmental practices.
  • Becoming cognizant about ways to navigate national interests with global environmental concerns.
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
  • 2 x 3000-word term papers or equivalent
Assessment (10 ECTS)
Some key readings

Castree, N. and Braun, B. (eds) (2001) Social Nature: Theory, Practice and Politics. Oxford: Blackwell 
Cronon, W. (1991) Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. New York: Norton
Gandy, M. (2002) Concrete and Clay: Reworking Nature in New York City. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press
Peet, R. and Watts, M. (eds) (2004) Liberation Ecologies: Environment, Development, Social Movements (2nd edn). New York: Routledge
Pellow, D.N. (2004) Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Radkau, J. (2008) Nature and Power: A Global History of the Environment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Back to top.


TI 702 Geography and Geo-graphing

Module rationale

A critical examination of the multiple ways in which the world is mapped (or literally geo-graphed) enables a key entry point into thinking through the complexities of the contemporary world and the contested nature of space and place. This combined module, in conjunction with the MA in Rural Studies and MSc in Coastal and Marine Environments, outlines the principles of designing and implementing a research project in the discipline of geography, including: collecting representative data in the field; coding data and database construction; quantitative data analysis; mapping; and spatial data analysis within a Geographic Information System (GIS). The aim of the module is to instil in students an ability to collect primary and secondary data, analyse data, draw conclusions and present findings in a meaningful, professional manner. Students will be required to engage each methodology in a reflexive manner considering issues of representation associated with the production of geographical knowledge.

Key learning outcomes
  • Critically recognising the constructed and contested nature of all forms of geographical representation
  • Evaluating various methodological approaches in geography
  • Identifying measurable and representative data for a given research topic and developing a field-based data collection strategy and analytical framework
  • Reflecting on research findings and present a critical evaluation to an audience
Assessment (10 ECTS)

Continuous assessment (100%)

  • Weekly reflections (20%)
  • Group presentation on project outcomes (30%)
  • Individual essay (3000 words) reflecting on group project findings (50%)
Some key readings

Clifford, N., French, S. and Valentine, G. (2010) Getting started in geographical research. In: N. Clifford, S. French and G. Valentine (eds) Key Methods in Geography. London: Sage, pp. 6-14. 
Pickles, J. (2004) A History of Spaces. Cartographic Reason, Mapping, and the Geo-Coded World. New York: Routledge, chapters 1-4
Rose, G. (1997) Situating knowledges: positionality, reflexivities and other tactics. Progress in Human Geography 21: 305-320 
Wilson, M.W. and Poore, B.S. (2009) Theory, Practice and History in Critical GIS: Reports on an AAG Panel Session. Cartographica44(1): 5-16

Back to top.


TI 703 Geopolitics and Security

Module rationale

Geopolitics is once again the 'lingua franca' of global power. Intimately interwoven with its resurgence is an acute sense of vulnerability to international terrorism that has prompted not only renewed forms of Western interventionism 'overseas' but also new forms of governmentality at 'home'. Using a broad range of contexts at multiple scales, this module sets out to explore the interconnections between geopolitical discourse and practices of securitization in our modern world. A particular focus on the US-led war on terrorism aims to critique the abstracted discursive production of geopolitical knowledge by examining the ubiquitous scriptings of insecurity, war and geopolitics in our contemporary moment. A broader key concern is to explore how neoliberal practices of intervention, war and reconstruction have long been based on the mobilization of prioritized geopolitical and geoeconomic discourses. Building on recent work in critical geopolitics, the module seeks to not only interrogate the basis, legitimization and operation of contemporary geopolitics, but also to proffer more humane and nuanced counter-geographies that insist on the spatiality and materiality of global space.

Key learning outcomes
  • understanding the intimate links between geopolitical discourse and practices of securitization in our contemporary world
  • recognising the long-standing equation between 'security' interests and 'economic' interests at the heart of geopolitical calculation
  • seeing the so-called war on terror in the Middle East in its historic context of a much longer Western concern for the military-economic securitization of the Persian Gulf region
  • appreciating how neoliberal practices of intervention, war and reconstruction have long been based on the mobilization of prioritized geopolitical and geoeconomic discourses
  • Continuous assessment (100%)
  • 2 x 3000-word term papers or equivalent
Assessment (10 ECTS)
Some key readings

Gregory, D. (2004) The Colonial Present: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq. Oxford: Blackwell
Foucault, M. (2007) Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-1978 (trans. G. Burchell). London: Palgrave Macmillan
Harvey, D. (2003) The New Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Ó Tuathail, G. (1996) Critical Geopolitics: The Politics of Writing Global Space. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Said, E. (1994) Culture and Imperialism. London: Vintage
Smith, N. (2005) The Endgame of Globalization. New York: Routledge

Back to top.


TI 704 Environment and Risk

Module rationale

Environment and Risk provides a critical consideration of the geographical relationships between nature, risk, and resilience. The module will interrogate the natures of contemporary (capitalist) political economy and the logics through which they are managed and conceived through focus on the confluence of risk based strategies for managing and understanding environment- society relationships, destruction of the material and ecological basis of life, and mounting number of people living precariously in ecologically precarious places and contaminated environments.

A central aim of this module is to appreciate the connections between theory, research and policy in debates about environmental change. Though close readings and class discussion we will examine: (1) the ways in which environment and nature are folded into processes and practices of capital accumulation and the resulting environmental patterns; (2) the relationships between the specific environmental dynamics and patterns of capitalist production and the management of the environment through risk; (3) the connections between risk, resilience and social differentiation; and (4) the political implications for emerging debates around the geographies of adaptation and resilience.

Key learning outcomes

In addition to developing a critical understanding of nature, risk and resilience and developing familiarity with critical theoretical frameworks for understanding environmental management, this module aims to develop and improve reading and analytical skills. In particular, the module aims to develop and refine the ability to read closely and critically, to concisely synthesize and deconstruct arguments, to participate and lead in class discussion, and to learn through informed and respectful discussion with classmates. On completion of the module, students will have read widely and gained familiarity with relevant critical literatures about the production of nature, environmental management, political economy, risk and resilience.

Assessment (10 ECTs)
  • Continuous assessment (100%)
  • Weekly responses to readings (30%)
  • Article presentation and leadership of discussion (30%)
  • Annotated bibliography (40%)
Some key readings

Adgar, W. (2000) Social and ecological resilience: are they related? Progress in Human Geography 24: 347-364
Green, S. (2000) Negotiating with the future: the culture of modern risk in global financial markets. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18: 77-90
Wynne, B. (1996) May the Sheep Safely Graze? A Reflexive View of the Expert-Lay Knowledge Divide. In: S. Lash, B. Szerszynski & B. Wynne (eds) Risk, Environment and Modernity: Towards a New Ecology. London: Sage, pp. 27-43
Smith, N.  (2008)  Uneven Development:  Nature Capital and the Production of Space (3rd edn). Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press

Back to top.


TI 705 Managing Development

Module rationale

This module explores contemporary approaches to ’managing development’. The module has two principal aims. One, it investigates the ways in which development, as currently implemented, has or does not have the potential of improving livelihoods. Two, the module asks if development holds or does not hold possibilities for being re-appropriated, redefined, reconstituted, and re-implemented by people at local scales, who are most affected by the ways that development processes intend to arrange their daily lives. Building on the foundational material covered in Semester 1, this implies an understanding of how development, as a set of processes and strategies that seek to shape economic, social, political, and environmental policies and practices, is conceptualised and by whom. Development is necessarily multi-dimensional, as these processes inevitably involve a range of actors and institutions operating at the international, national, regional, and local scales. These development geographies constitute and are constituted by issues of shifting significance, depending on their articulation in place and how these processes are embraced (or not) by the various actors. Dominant, contemporary models for ’managing development’ are nascent in the Global North, as development is a concept invented by these countries as an initial stage of post-colonialism and as processes to aide countries in becoming more ’modern’. Thus, when these political economic processes are applied to the Global South, the potential of these processes resulting in sustainable and ’even’ development is highly suspect. This class highlights important inquiries around the roles of democracy and civil society.

The class will focus on various questions: What does it mean to ’manage development’? Is this possible? Whose interests are ultimately represented in development?  How is development ’operationalized’ in specific places? And how and under what conditions is development influenced and contested? If development is re-appropriated and redefined by local populations and citizens, who are most affected by development, is more economically, socially, and ecologically just development possible? Why or why not?

Key learning outcomes

The aims of the module are to

  • encourage students to gain a critical understanding of current development management issues and the interrelationships between society, environment and development.
  • present both conceptual and empirical information regarding the processes of managing development at a variety of spatial scales.
  • provide students with opportunities to link theoretical principles with practical, topical and accessible case studies as they consider the impact of developmental management policies on a number of sectors at a range of scales.
Assessment (10 ECTs)
  • Continuous Assessment      (100%)
  • 2 x 3000-word term papers or equivalent
Some key readings

Agyeman, J., Bullard, J.D. and Evans, B. (eds) (2003) Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World. Boston: MIT Press 
Carmody, P. (2007) Neoliberalism, Civil Society and Security in Africa. New York: Palgrave MacMillan
Deasi, V. and Potter, R.B. (eds) (2002) The Companion to Development Studies. London: Hodder Arnold 
Potter, B., Binns, T., Elliott, J.A. and Smith, D. (2008) Geographies of Development: An Introduction to Development Studies(3rd edn). Harlow, Essex: Pearson 
Rapley, J. (2002) Understanding Development: Theory and Practice in the Third World (2nd edn). London: Lynne Rienner 
Whitehead, M. (2007) Spaces of Sustainability. London: Routledge

Back to top.


TI 706 Field-Based Learning

Module rationale

This module is designed to enable students to synthesise both theoretical and practical concerns in bringing critical thinking to issues of environment, society and development in the field. In 2014-2015, the module will culminate in a fieldtrip to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where students will be intersecting with the development work of the European Union, UN agencies and various civil society organisations and NGOs. 'Field-Based Learning' does not only consider how to apply academic critical knowledge in the field, but also how to learn in the field by experience, through participation with both development practitioners and local communities. The module is also an excellent conceptual space to think through issues of post-development, cultures of dependency, stakeholder challenges, pragmatism and strategic essentialism. In connecting with work on the ground in Sarajevo of UN agencies like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a key challenge will involve thinking through the scalar nature of all forms of development, in which initiatives on the ground are framed by broader geopolitical, economic and institutional structures that both enable and hinder development in complex ways.

Key learning outcomes
  • to enable student’s abilities to apply critical thinking in field-based contexts by recognising and understanding the scalar nature of development initiatives, and by thinking through the broader geopolitical, economic and institutional structures through which development works
  • to extend the learning environment of students through direct transfer and application of a range of geographical theoretical and technical approaches to environment-society relations and development work
  • to develop students’ competences to undertake and manage self-directed research and learning, work productively in a team context, and present findings professionally and comprehensively in both written and oral forms
  • to encourage the practical skills of doing effective action research in collaboration with development practitioners and local populations on the ground
  • Continuous assessment (100%)
  • 5000-word development research proposal (group - 70%)
  • 1500-word reflective fieldwork journal (individual - 30%)
Assessment (10 ECTS)
Some key readings

Campbell, D. (1998) National Deconstruction: Violence, Identity and Justice in Bosnia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Chollet, D. (2005) The Road to the Dayton Accords: A Study of American Statecraft. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
Jeffrey, A. (2007) The Geopolitical Framing of Localized Struggles: NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Development and Change38(2): 251-274
Ó Tuathail, G. (1999) The Ethnic Cleansing of a "Safe Area": The Fall of Srebrenica and the Ethics of UN-Governmentality. In: J. Proctor and D. Smith (eds) Geography and Ethics : Journeys in a Moral Terrain. London: Routledge, pp. 120-131

Back to top.


TI 707 MA Dissertation

Module rationale

The dissertation is the final module in the MA programme. It aims to allow students critically to practice skills acquired through the first two semesters while organising and executing a research project designed in co-operation with a designated supervisor and possibly involving NUI Galway's dedicated CKI programme.

Through the provision of dedicated research support workshops and individual research supervision, the module aims to anchor a series of research competencies:

  • conceptualisation of a research problem
  • project design and execution
  • theoretical and methodological proficiency
  • time management
  • communicative abilities, especially concerning interaction with identified stakeholders
  • evidence collection
  • evidence deconstruction and analysis
  • evidence (re)presentation
  • Continuous assessment (100%)
  • Dissertation of 15000 to 20000 words
Assessment (30 ECTS)
Symposium in Environment, Society and Development

Each academic year, students have the opportunity to contribute in a conference-like environment to the MA programme's  Annual Symposium in Environment, Society and Development.

Back to top.