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IM934 Ecological Futures: Science, Culture and Media

15/20/30 CATS (7.5/10/15 ECTS)

Term 1

The future will be ecological or will not be. To be ecological is to nurture our inevitable interdependencies with others and the non-human world. As the environmental crisis deepens, disciplines and practices respond by integrating ecological concepts, frameworks and methods into their ways of thinking and intervening in the world.

This module aims to develop postgraduate students’ theoretical, methodological and creative skills to respond to the pressing environmental challenges faced by contemporary technoscientific societies. It will help students develop an understanding of what ecology comes to mean in a range of fields: scientific, sociological, cultural, media and data studies and cultural fields including visual and artistic practices.

The module will provide a transdisciplinary conceptual framework, required to reflect critically on the diverse meanings taken by “ecology” in the earth and environmental sciences, the social sciences and humanities. It will introduce concepts and methods derived from: ecology science, science and technology studies, cultural and human geographies, animal studies, media studies, feminist studies, critical theory, political ecology, art and design.

MODULE CONVENOR - Professor Maria Puig de la Bellacasa


Projected lecture themes include:

  • Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Ecocene
  • Concepts of ecology: thinking relationally
  • Nature as service provider: the promise of ecological economics
  • Ecology as everyday life: sociologies of sustainable living
  • Infrastructures and mediations: (Un)sustainable Media
  • Mimicking nature: the eco-centric turn in design
  • Ecological aesthetics: the case of land and soil arts and performance
  • Fictional natures: the literature of ecological futures

Projected seminar topics include

  • Campus nature observation exercise
  • Extinctions: anthropocentrism and interdependency
  • Atmospheric pollution: citizens and care
  • Carry our own waste: ecological cycles and circular economies
  • Food: environmental more than human justice from soil to fork
  • Extractivism and indigenous struggles


Students will be encouraged and assisted in researching and developing their own reading list according to their interests and to support their essay.

Assigned readings in preparation for lectures and seminars will mostly consist of journal articles as well as chapters selected from the following:

  • Boehnert, J. (2018) Design, Ecology, Politics. Towards the Ecocene, Bloomsbury Academic
  • Chen, M. Y. (2012). Animacies. Biopolitics, Racial Mattering and Queer Affect, Duke University Press Durham and London.
  • Cohen J. J. and L. Duckert (eds.) (2015) Elemental Ecocriticism Thinking with Earth, Air, Water, and Fire, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
  • Davis H. & Turpin E. (eds.) (2015), Art in the Anthropocene Encounters A mong Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies, Open Humanities Press, London.
  • Demos T. J. (2017) Against the Anthropocene. Visual Culture and Environment, Sternberg Press , Berlin.
  • Durham Peters, J. (2015). The Marvellous Clouds. Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  • Golley, F. B. (1996). A History of the Ecosystem Concept in Ecology. More Than the Sum of the Parts, Yale University Press, New Haven and London
  • Folke, C. (2006) Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social-ecological systems analyses, Global Environmental Change, 16, 253-267.
  • Haraway, D.J. (2016) Staying with the Trouble. Making Kin in the Chtulucene, Duke University Press, Durham.
  • Harris, J.M. (ed) (2003) Rethinking Sustainability: Power, Knowledge and Institutions, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor MI.
  • Moore, J. (2015) Capitalism in the Web of Life. Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital, Verso, NY/London.
  • Morton, T. (2010) Ecological Thought. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, MA, USA.
  • Papadopoulos, D. (2018) Experimental Practice: Technoscience, Alterontologies, and More-Than-Social Movements, Duke University Press, Durham.
  • Parikka, J. (2015) A Geology of Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Plumwood, V. (1993) Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, Routledge, London/ NY.
  • Ricoveri, G (2013). Nature for Sale: The Commons versus Commodities, London, Pluto Press.
  • Starosielski, N. & J. Walker eds. (2016). Sustainable Media. Critical Approaches to Media and Environment, Routledge, NY/London.
  • Van Dooren, T. (2016) Flight Ways. Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction, Columbia University Press, NY.
  • Whitefield Patrick (2016) The Earth Care Manual: A Permaculture Handbook for Britain and Other Temperate Climates, Permanent Publications: Hampshire
  • Zalasiewicz, J., M. Williams, W. Steffen, and P. Crutzen. 2010. The new world of the Anthropocene. Environmental Science & Technology 44 (7): 2228-31.


By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Understand a diversity of theories and practices of ecological thinking
  • Critically appraise ecological responses to environmental issues
  • Apply theories of ecology to concrete social, disciplinary, and professional contexts
  • Identify innovation in ecological approaches and their significance for understanding emerging environmental challenges


  • Formative assessed short case study (700-800 words) and presentation midway through the term. This is assessed only insofar as it is compulsory for module completion. It will not contribute to the final grade.
  • The final assessment is an essay. Students will be given the choice of a range of approaches presented in the module to analyse a case study or a theoretical framework in a disciplinary or professional context of their interest (2500 words for 15 CATS; 3000 words for 20 CATS; 5000-6000 words for 30 CATS).

Important Registration Information:

CIM Students

  • You will need to make your optional module choices using the degree specific CIM module webform available in the CIM welcome page. All further instructions will be available to you on the webform.

  • The webform opens on Monday 12th September at 12:00 noon BST and closes on Monday 19th September at 12:00 noon BST

  • Gheerdhardhini (CIM PG Coordinator) will register you for your chosen modules, confirming your place in the module by 30th September, Friday.

  • If there are any queries, please get in touch with Gheerdhardhini via 

External Students

  • Computer Science – Please register your interest in the CIM module with the PG Administrator in your home department - 

  • Psychology - Your PG Administrator will be in touch before Term 1 about registering interest for CIM modules

  • All other external students - Please contact the CIM PG Coordinator (Gheerdhardhini) via email (, to request your optional module choice at the latest by Week 1 : Wednesday, 5th October, 17.00 BST.


  • Please be advised that you may be expected to have access to a laptop for some of these courses due to software requirements; the Centre is unable to provide a laptop for external students.

  • Please be advised that some modules may have restricted numbers and places are allocated according to availability and inter-departmental arrangements.

  • Please note that a request does NOT guarantee a place on the module and is subject to availability.

  • Gaining permission of a member of CIM teaching staff or a member of staff from your home department or filling in the eVision Module Registration (eMR) system with the desired module does NOT guarantee a place on that module.

  • Requests after the specified deadline will not be considered.

  • For external students - Only after confirmation of a place from CIM PG Coordinator can students’ or their home departments confirm their registration on eVision/MRM. Registrations by students who have not received confirmation of a place from CIM will be rejected via the system.

NOTE – The above-mentioned registration deadline also applies to the CIM optional modules running in Term 2. We will consider registrations again in the first week of Term 2, but only in relation to modules where there is availability.

We are normally unable to allow students (registered or auditing) to join/leave the module after the second week of it commencing.