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Elective Courses




  • AXL5408F: Science, Nature, Democracy
    Convenor: A/Prof L Green

    This course replaces the former ‘Tradition, Science, Environment’, focusing on questions of science and governance. It reflects the gradual evolving of ‘Tradition, Science, Environment’ away from questions of ‘traditional’ knowledge, with a greater emphasis on questions about science and governance. While it does not exclude political debate on indigenous knowledge, the emphasis is on negotiations on knowledge in democracies, and the problem of how to resolve intractable differences, in a democracy, on sciences, and how to produce “the facts”. In the revised form, it introduces science and technology studies and should be compatible with a wide range of Masters programmes.      

  • HST4016F African Environmental History 
    Convenor: A/ Prof L van Sittert
    This course examines Africa within international disciplines 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 in environmental impact assessment.


  • SOC5011S: Society and Natural Resources
    Convenor: Dr Frank 
    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 Southern Africa. 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.
  • FAM4036S: Film and the Environment
    Convenor: Dr Ian Rijsdijk

    This course examines several debates concerning the representation of the natural environment in film, particularly narrative 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 characterize 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 and Science Fiction, for example), as well as the representation of people in relation to the nonhuman environment.
  • FAM4015S: Environmental Documentary
    Convenor: Dr Ian Rijsdijk

    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 posted on the Internet
  • HST5005S: Environmental Conflicts
    New course. Convenor: A/Prof L van Sittert

    This course introduces the theme of environmental conflict as a field of study, then focuses in-depth from multiple disciplinary perspectives on one particular local environmental conflict annually. Such an approach will ground graduates in the debates attending historical and sociological literatures on environmental conflict, and enable scholars in all faculties to bring concentrated focus to bear on a single particular environmental contestation each year. Taking a different theme each year, the goal of the course is to stimulate transdisciplinary debates, research and discussion in a particular field, while providing a space in which to host a range of actors including activists, stakeholders, scholars and researchers.



AXL4206S: Decolonial Theory
Convenor: A/Prof Nick Shepherd
This course is intended to give an introduction to the growing body of thought coming out of Latin America under the heading of decolonial theory, exemplified in the work of scholars like Walter Mignolo, Arturo Escobar, Enrique Dussel, Santiago Castro-Gomez, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Anibal Quijano, and others. This work has been significant in framing an approach to questions of knowledge, coloniality and globalization. At its most ambitious, it attempts to re-write the script of modernity (as colonial modernity). In a more immediate way, it provides a rich set of conceptual resources through which to re-think a familiar set of issues.

PHI4018S: Philosophy of Science
Convenor: Dr Jack Ritchie

This course will explore some core issues in contemporary philosophy of science. Topics covered will include some of the following: contemporary theories of confirmation; the realism-anti-realism controversy; models, theories and representation in science; naturalised philosophy of science; reductionism, physicalism and the unity of the sciences and issues in the philosophy of physics including the interpretation of quantum theory.

SOC5010F: Advanced Development Theories
Convenor: A/Prof Xolela Mangcu 

The course examines some of the most important and influential theories of development in the contemporary period, particularly the post-Cold War era which is characterised by the triumph of global capitalism. The first weeks of the course provide the historical context, focusing on the origin and development of capitalism across the globe


BIO5003Z: Biodiversity and Climate Change
Convenor: Dr Lucy Gilson

This course module provides an overview of long-term climactic change over geological, glacial-interglacial and millennial timescales.  It will consider the interactions between climate change, evolution and plant distribution up to the present day, and consider species responses to climate change, including effects on physiology and distribution.  Niche modelling and its application in the conservation of birds will be discussed.  Dynamic Global Vegetation Models will be explored, as will the interactions between climate, disturbance and land use change.  The impacts of climate change on ecosystem services for example water availability, food security, energy and coastal resources will be discussed.

EGS5031F: Introduction to Climate Change and Sustainable Development
Convenor: Dr Bradley Rink

This course provides a broad, intergrated, knowledge on key issues in climate change and sustainable development, making students conversant across the spectrum of climate change issues and history. Topics covered include: sustainable development; the climate system, anthropogenic forcing and climate system response; African climate variability and change; international climate change legal frameworks, negotiations, and politics; the economics of climate change and climate change financing; the concept of climate compatible development. The course is lecture, seminar and group-work based. Each section of the course will involve basic framing lectures, supported by either an essay exercise or a group work exercise and seminar.

EGS4016S: Capital, Politics and Nature
Convenor: A/Prof Maano Ramutsindela

In this course we analyse how nature has been used as a source of informal and formal power (politics). Profound changes in such power structures led to the quest for property regimes and institutions that are more appropriate for the defence of nature. Against this background, we discuss how capitalist interests, as encoded in private property regimes and attendant ecotourism ventures, have gained an upper hand in nature conservation. Furthermore, those interests have expanded beyond narrow property regimes to embrace bioregionalism, hence the revival of transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) as a model for conservation in the 21st century. All these are captured in the various topics covered in this course.

EGS4048S: Alternative Economies
Convenor: Dr Shari Daya

EGS4048S introduces students to geographical debates about alternative economies, especially in light of the ‘cultural turn’ in economic geography. We consider the social values that underpin various economic activities, paying particular attention to questions of inclusion, morality, solidarity and wellbeing. Through theories and case studies of alternative economies, including cooperatives, social enterprises, and ‘green’ businesses, we develop an understanding of the values that drive different economies, and think about possibilities for economic intervention and transformation. The course has a strong emphasis on theory, which is complemented by fieldtrips and an independent research project.

EGS4033F: Geography of Development and the Environment
Convenor: A/Prof Sophie Oldfield

This course explores theoretical and empirical work on development and environment in the third world. First, the course aims to provide students with a sense of the evolution of development studies as a discipline, enabling students to link particular development debates with different theoretical bases. Second, the course aims to make sense of the major debates that lie at the heart of development and environment studies and policy in geography, examining in particular: political economy, post-structuralism, and post-colonialism. The course emphasises critical reading, writing and discussant skills. The course can accommodate 10 students.


PBL5045S: Environmental Law for Non-Lawyers
Convenor: Prof Alexander Paterson

The inclusion of an environmental right in South Africa's Constitution has led to the emergence of many environmental laws and court decisions in the past 15 years. These developments are of key relevance to those working in the environmental sector including developers, consultants, biologists, zoologists, planners, sociologists and anthropologists. This course provides students undertaking postgraduate studies relevant to the environment with an insight into relevant principles of international and domestic environmental law. Key content covered in the course includes: an introduction to basic legal principles and resources; constitutional aspects (environmental rights, access to information, administrative justice and access to courts); framework environmental laws; land-use planning laws (planning law, environmental impact assessment and protected areas); natural resource laws (biodiversity, water and marine living resources); and pollution laws (fresh water, land and air pollution).

PBL5046S: Climate Law and Governance
Convenor: Prof Jan Glazewski

The phenomenon of climate change poses major challenges to the international community of nations, the African continent, and the South African body politic. Meeting these challenges requires among other things an inter-disciplinary approach and finding interconnectedness between the natural and social sciences. This course will provide postgraduate students with an insight into principles of international law, regional law and South African national law of relevance to climate change. Key content covered in the course includes: an introduction to basic international and domestic legal principles and institutions; environmental governance systems and theories; and an introduction to various branches of the law relevant to climate change such as energy law, planning and environmental impact assessment law; natural resource law (biodiversity, protected areas, water and marine living resources), pollution laws (marine, fresh water, land and air pollution) and fiscal law (in the context of climate financing).