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Non-degree options

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Who can attend

EHS courses are open to occasional students. Occasional students are individuals taking two (2) or fewer courses per semester for only one or two semesters for non-degree purposes.

EHS courses are open to:

  • practitioners in the fields of environment, humanities, science and law
  • activists and policy-makers
  • academics, scientists and researchers
  • UCT students from other programmes
  • journalists and communication professionals

Courses available

African Environmental History 

Course convenor: Assoc. Prof. L van Sittert | Course code: HST4016F

This course examines Africa within the discipline of environmental history. It reviews a series of linked themes covering the period from pre-colonial to contemporary African history. Themes covered include environment and pre-colonial state formation, the colonial environmental impact, hunting, conservation, the colonial history of environmental science, colonialism and environmental catastrophism, development and environment and history of environmental impact assessment.

Cultural Criticism, Non-Fiction and the Essay: Creative Writing Workshop 

Convenor: Assoc. Prof. H Twidle and Assoc. Prof. N Davids | Course code: ELL4076FS

This is a writing-intensive seminar for both ‘academic’ and ‘creative’ writers – a division that we will try to unravel in interesting ways as we explore how critical, academic and intellectual work can take shape in more creative forms and public voices. We will use contemporary essays, creative criticism and literary non-fiction to generate our own writing tasks. Students will also be required to write two stand-alone essays (on subjects of their own choice) and to keep a semester-long reading journal. Some writing exercises might include: reviewing imaginary books; using ‘found’ materials and tracing the lives of objects; working within artificial constraints; linking image, music and text; walking in the city and representing space; interviewing and telling the stories of others; researching biographical profiles and portraits; writing art and music journalism; exploring filmic, photo and documentary ‘essays’. The primary aim of the seminar is to prepare students to write for a wider audience than that of conventional academic writing, and to allow them the space to experiment with ‘voice’ in this sense. It aims to foster a public kind of criticism, and to train students to become reviewers, cultural commentators and arts journalists both within and beyond the 21st-century academy. 

Earth, Ecology, Humanities

Course convenor: Assoc. Prof. H Twidle | Course code: ELL5042F

The environmental humanities is the term for a dynamic and growing field in universities across the world, one promoting interdisciplinary scholarship that explores how we understand the relations between humans and the environment in all areas of cultural production. It ranges from social justice movements to the creative arts, from questions of scientific modelling to the language of government policy. In this course, we will ask how a critical, politically aware environmental consciousness of the South might be brought forth in the public sphere. What, after all, do we mean when we speak of the environment? This seminar considers the rich and difficult terrain where questions of ecological thought and environmental science interact with the humanities: with sociology, anthropology, history, imaginative writing, film, critical theory and the creative arts. This is a co-taught course, with modules including but not limited to: Environmentalism, public science writing and narrative non-fiction; Slow violence, development and the challenge of deep time; Imagining the deep ocean; The militarisation of conservation; The commons debate; Landscape and the gaze; Visual art from Arcadia to Apocalypse; Art and extinction; Capitalism in the web of life; Carbon democracy questions of infrastructure; The political economy of food in the global South; Petro-cultures and the oil encounter in West Africa; Extraction and the poetics of resistance; Film and environment in a new age; Environmental narrative and the media.

Environmental Documentary

Course convenor: Dr I Rijsdijk | Course code: FAM4015S

This course consists of an analytical and historical examination of environmental and ecological documentary and a fieldwork component. We will examine some of the major works of and trends in Environmental and Ecological Criticism, ranging from Thoreau, Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson through to David Guggenheim's An Inconvenient Truth and debates around climate change. The course will emphasise how the environmental movement has interacted with and influenced wildlife documentary, particularly in South African productions. Students will be expected to read widely in environmental literature and watch a wide range of film and television documentary. For the fieldwork project, students will prepare and present a project for approval. Ideally, the project should involve group work producing a trans-media project in collaboration with a UCT or local environmental group or students. Students will be able to work in various forms of documentary from print to photography to video or sound and should produce a project that draws on the strengths of various media. The final project should be a substantial piece of work that will be published online.

Film and Environment

Course convenor: Dr I Rijsdijk | Course code: FAM5046S

This course examines several debates concerning the representation of the natural environment in narrative fiction and documentary film. Taking the ecocritical debate that has grown in scope and intensity in literary criticism since the early 1980s as a departure point, the course will investigate the value of this discourse and its applicability to films that either explicitly or implicitly use the natural environment as a key component of the film narrative. Equally important is the analysis of the films in terms of film language, and the extent to which film produces original representations of environmental debates that characterise the current age. In this second aspect of the course lies the history of the natural environment in film (its place in well-established and popular genres like the Western, for example), as well as the representation of people in relation to the nonhuman environment in environmental documentary. The course includes a practical exercise in which students will produce a visual artefact that applies the idea of the course to local situations.

Researching the Anthropocene

Course convenors: Dr L Green | Course code: ANS5414S

The term “Anthropocene”, taken up by geologists to describe the era in which the effects of collective human action have become “significant on the scale of Earth history”, compels a rethinking of the divides between the human sciences and the natural sciences. The implication: not only are conceptual divisions between society and nature to be rethought, but that new approaches to research are needed to speak to the challenges of comprehending the interconnections of human life, earth systems, and species. This course offers an introduction to research methods that are needed in order to bring these interconnectivities and parts and wholes, into public life and decision-making. Building on current conversations across the south on the engagement of decolonial literatures and the post-humanities, this course explores the research methods proposed by leading scholars in these fields.

Society and Natural Resources

Course convenor: M Pressend | Course code: SOC5011S

This course examines the intersection of society, natural resources management and development practice from a social science perspective. The course links an academic training in developmental sociology to the needs of non-profit organisations within the environmental sector in Cape Town. As part of the course, students undertake a short-term review of NPOs, government agencies or private sector organisations located within the Cape Town metropolitan area as a means for them to develop an understanding of the ‘real world’ challenges in policy and practice.


For more information and details on the courses, see the Humanities Postgraduate Handbook, avaible on the page current handbooks of all UCT faculties.


  • UCT Students: TBC
  • Non-UCT academics and researchers: TBC
  • Practitioners: TBC