Fall 2016 - SA 326 D100

Ecology and Social Thought (S) (4)

Class Number: 6774

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2016: Fri, 9:30 a.m.–1:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Ataman Avdan
  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



An examination of recent social thought that is concerned with environmental and ecological themes. It will address a selection from the following themes: technology evaluation; technology and science as ideology; ecology and social inequality; the concepts of ecosystem, environment and wilderness; the self-world relationship; politics of environmental uses; environment and the economy.


“Nature is a language, can't you read?”
- Morrissey (1987) “Ask.”

What is nature? What is the environment? Is there a difference between the two? How do individuals, communities, and societies relate to and interact with nature and the environment across time and space? How are environmental issues constructed in various arenas and how do they get defined as social problems? What is ecological thinking? What can sociological theory offer to the understanding of the human-nature relationships? This course engages with classical and contemporary social thought that is concerned with environmental and ecological themes. It aims to demonstrate the importance of ecological thinking for social theory. We will explore the relevance of traditional sociological theories and research methodologies on nature and the origins of environmental crisis. We will also discuss the contributions of contemporary theoretical developments such as ecofeminism, ecological modernization, the treadmill of production, risk society, the social construction of nature, as well as the ecological dimensions of indigenous cosmologies. We will conclude with a discussion on environmental mobilizations. At the end of this course, students should be able to: 1) explain major approaches in the sociological understanding of nature, ecology, and the environment; 2) discuss the various epistemological positions (such as realism and constructivism) to conceptualize environmental issues; 3) think critically, analytically, and creatively about ecological processes and problems contemporary societies experience; 4) have detailed knowledge on a number of case studies.


  • Five annotations (300-400 words, 4% each): 20%
  • Presentation/Discussion leader: 10%
  • Participation: 10%
  • Exam 1 (in-class, October 14): 30%
  • Exam 2 (in-class, December 2): 30%


Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned an N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy:
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐ S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style. It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.



R. Dunlap, F. H. Buttel, P Dickens, A. Gijswij (eds) (2002). Sociological Theory and the Environment: Classical Foundations, Contemporary Insights, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Additional required readings are available through Canvas, the SFU Library, or online.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html