SUS 7700S: Environmental Justice: Anthropological Perspectives

City College of New York

Department of Anthropology, Gender Studies, and International Studies

Course Syllabus





    1. NAME: Environmental Justice: Anthropological Perspectives


    1. LOCATION: BlackBoard and Zoom

*Since this is a virtual class, you must use your computers or phones during our virtual session.


    1. SCHEDULE: Tuesdays and Thursdays 3-5:45 pm


    1. TERM: Winter.2021 - January 4-January 25


    1. PROFESSOR: Bernardo Spaulonci Chiachia Matos de Oliveira




We will explore the dynamic relationships between people and places in order to understand how our behavior and practices shape our territory and how, in turn, our surroundings affect us as one global society. The course will emphasize the impact of anthropos on the different environments humans interact with and within. We will focus on addressing the intertwined social and environmental issues and the role of anthropology in understanding social spaces. Emphasis will be placed upon social and spatial inequalities, local and global relations, and intersections of race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, and power. Particular attention will be paid to the “nature v. culture” debate, critically examining the idea of unlimited progress through readings, film, and visual exercises.




- This course provides an introduction to the field of Environmental Justice & Anthropology.

- We will explore the complex relation of “unlimited progress” and the environmental crisis in our everyday lives.

- The course will help students develop an awareness of anthropological dimensions of space, including the intersection of markers of social difference and environmental issues.

- Students will gain insights into the ways we produce, create, and transform space, and in turn, their impact upon us.

- Students will apply key anthropological concepts to develop an environmental justice analytical toolkit throughout their coursework.




I expect all of you to read or view all required material, attend at all online classes, and actively participate in discussion boards, in-class breakout sessions, and in-class debates. In addition, we may have short quizzes about the reading and lecture during or after each online class. There will also be one final project – see details below.


1.8.1 Course Assignments


Written assignments (double-spaced, 12-pt Times New Roman font, 1-in margins, Word Documents) must be submitted via BlackBoard unless otherwise noted.


Attendance/Participation/Critical Question - 15%

What will you contribute to the class? It is critical that you come to class prepared to discuss the readings and other course materials, to raise questions related to your concerns, and to add your insights on the topics. Any additional activities on the syllabus are included in your participation grade. Please bring your critical question to each class. You are expected to write one blog/journal post for each class. The post must contain a critical question. You are expected to write one question based on the course readings and/or focus for the week and post it to the Discussions Forum on Blackboard no later than the night before class (by midnight). It can be a clarification question or a provocative discussion question.


Presentation/Orientation (every week) - 15%

Each week two students will present a 15-minute introduction/orientation to the readings, identifying critical questions and comments to open up class discussion. Student pairs are expected to email the class plan worksheet to me at least two days prior to presentation. *Students will be asked to present their presentations virtually.


Environmental Justice Autoethnography - 30%

(1-2 pages) In this assignment you will reflect upon places that are meaningful to you. The goal is to understand your personal relationship with the environment. As part of this assignment you will consider how past experiences in places shape your life today and their environmental concerns (Note: these do not necessarily have to be about sustainability; they can be about feelings of exclusion/inclusion and/or other topics covered in the course). You will explore spatial experiences in relation to issues of culture, identity and attachment to place.





Final Project: Environment Justice Research Analysis - 40%                                          

(3-4 pages)  For your final project you will conduct a case study of a particular setting with a focus upon a particular environmental issue of your choice. This will involve doing original qualitative field research, library research, and data analysis. ask you to use at least 3 new references beyond the ones I am suggesting for this coursework.



1.8.2 Attendance: class participation and attendance are essential to successfully complete this course. *To prepare for any glitches, please sign into Zoom five minutes before the class. Once you sign in, please mute your microphone unless you have a question. Zoom allows students to express questions through audio as well as through text. If you have a question or are asked to respond to a prompt, you may unmute your microphone or send your question in the text box on the side of the screen. I will manually check attendance through the participant feature in the virtual classroom. If you must miss a class, please email me in advance. Multiple unexcused absences may result in failing the course.


It is through class discussions and activities that the more captivating topics come to life. If you perhaps miss a class, it is your responsibility to notify me and arrange to get the notes from a peer. Three unexcused absences may result in course failure. If you will miss a class session because of religious observance, please let me know in advance. Please note that City College hosts a number of spiritual and religious groups including Chabad, Hillel, Christian Collegian Network, the Muslims Student Organization and Women in Islam. Please contact the appropriate group for any religious or spiritual questions and accomodations. If a major event or illness prevents you from attending several classes or adequately fulfilling class requirements, please let me know as early as possible, so that we can plan an alternative means for you to complete all assignments. Note that it is up to the student to, when appropriate, take the initiative to create alternative work plans with the professor. Be sure to check with a classmate to discuss any work you missed.


1.8.3 Class Participation: worthwhile discussion of the material (including asking questions), participation in class activities, and completion of in-class assignments have been shown to reduce boredom, and enhance learning. Students are expected to actively take part in their own learning and to participate throughout the course, in a relevant and respectful manner. This includes active listening to peers. It is easier to participate if you have read the assigned material and completed any assignments before class. If you are uncomfortable with class participation, please meet with me as soon as possible so that we can work together to help you overcome your discomfort. If you have a question or are asked to respond to a prompt, you may unmute your microphone or send your question in the text box on the side of the screen. I may create at least one poll during each class. This poll will be a question connected to our class, and you are required to answer it. This will count as part of your participation grade.


1.8.4 Reading Assignments: it is essential that you come to each class having actively read the materials listed for that date (see course schedule below). Active reading means asking yourself: what is the author or authors’ main point(s)? What do I think about it? Why do I feel this way? Am I alone in this reaction or not? Remember to take notes on what you read but also on what you don't grasp. This will help you fully comprehend the material, complete weekly homework assignments will help you prepare to ask questions, apprehend better the concepts, and make contributions during class supporting your classmates' understanding too.




Through course readings, discussion, exercises, and assignments students will:


- Demonstrate an understanding of the scope of the field of environmental justice and key environment-culture concepts

- Connect socioenvironmental cases with key anthropological theories

- Practice environment justice research

- Apply anthropology research methods in a study of spatial relationships and human needs

- Analyze forms of social, spatial, and environmental inequality

- Communicate understanding through written, oral, visual, and multimedia presentations


1.10 Grading Rubric:


Attendance/ Participation/ Critical Question                  






Environmental Justice Autoethnography                      



Final Project: Environment Justice Research Analysis



Final grade                                                                                               


G#1 + G#2 + G#3 + G#4


The grading system works as such:


A+ = 100-97 B+ = 89-87 C+ = 79-77 D = 69-60

A   = 96-95 B   = 86-84 C   = 76-74 F = < 60

A- = 94-90 B- = 83-80 C-  = 73-70





I am committed to affirming all students' identities and voices, especially those from historically marginalized or underrepresented backgrounds. This course values person-centered language and preferred gender pronouns and respect for others' experiences.


  • All students must follow the honor code.
  • Students are asked to produce their own original analysis.
  • Cheating on assignments, quizzes, and exams is unacceptable.
  • When turning in assignments, plagiarism is not acceptable.
  • Students must not claim other written work as their own.
  • Students who do not abide by the honor code can fail the course, be sent to the Dean's office, and be expelled.





  • According to the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity:
  • Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person's ideas, research, or writings as your own. The following are some examples of plagiarism:
    • Copying another person's actual words without the use of quotation marks and footnotes attributing the words to their source;
    • Presenting another person's ideas or theories in your own words without acknowledging the source;
    • Using information that is not common knowledge without acknowledging the source; Failing to acknowledge collaborators on homework and laboratory assignments.
  • Internet plagiarism includes submitting downloaded term papers or parts of term papers, paraphrasing or copying information from the internet without citing the source, and “cutting & pasting” from various sources without proper attribution.
  • A student who plagiarizes may incur academic and disciplinary penalties, including failing grades, suspensions, and expulsion.


A complete copy of the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity may be downloaded. The web address for the document is:…




4.1 THE CCNY LIBRARIES: The City College Libraries are committed to providing superior service and resources in support of the instructional and research mission of the College. The libraries offer a wide range of services, resources, and reference materials, many of which can be accessed online. Librarians are available to assist you with everything from general orientations to the library (e.g., what can be found where) to more specific assistance on how to conduct an effective literature search. For more information about the CCNY libraries, visit their main website at


4.2 DOMINICAN STUDIES INSTITUTE: Please also see the Library of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, a unique reference collection whose mission is to identify, acquire, organize, preserve and make available bibliographical sources documenting the Dominican experience in the United States.

-City College Archives: Please also take a look at City College’s terrific archives at or email them at .


4.3 THE WRITING CENTER: The CCNY Writing Center offers one-on-one assistance for students working on writing assignments and projects. They also offer group workshops to aid students in the development of specific writing skills such as developing thesis statements, building strong paragraphs, and incorporating sources in your writing. You should visit them whenever you need someone to listen to your ideas,


4.4 ACCESSABILITY CENTER: Ensures full participation and meaningful access to all of The City College of New York's (CCNY) services, programs, and activities in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, The Amendments Act of 2008, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and other applicable Federal, State, and local non-discrimination laws. AAC/SDS accomplishes this goal through the coordination and implementation of academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and support services for students with disabilities. The Center actively works toward full inclusion and the removal of access barriers in policies, procedures, and practices. AAC/SDS engages in increasing disability awareness among members of the CCNY community through workshops, training, and the dissemination of literature. For information and appointment contact the AAC/SDS on North Academic Center, Room 1/218 phone: 212.650.5913; fax: 212.650.5772; TTY/TTD: 212.650.8441, e-mail:


4.4.1 Accessibility Ethos: Regardless of the disabilities experienced by each unique person, such as sensory, cognitive, or physical condition, disabled bodies are discriminated against in different environments by the 'cultivation of normality' that guides and regulates human relationships as a whole. Aiming to change that scenario, I practice the 'culture of access' in my courses, whether in person or online. I am committed to offering my classes as much accessible as possible; always guided by the 'accessibility ethos' that contemplate disabilities as alterity, difference, or singularity to be considered in encountering and not as a lack in advance. Because of that I am always looking for ways to cocreate connections between students with different bodily conditions to make meetings effectively happen - not because their diversity is ignored, on the contrary, precisely because they are considered and embodied as part of the dynamics of exchanges and relationships between people within that context. *Do not hesitate to ask me about any accommodations that you might need throughout our coursework.






Class 1 – Anthropocene vs. Capitalocene


Understanding the socio-environmental crisis


This unit addresses the concept of socio-environmental crisis, its effects on the planet and society itself, and human beings' role in the production and modification of the socio-environmental crisis (Anthropocene vs. Capitalocene). We will assume that the study of the relationship between environment, culture, and society only makes sense through an unbalanced relationship between them, which would justify the search for alternative paths forward. At the end of the topic, students should be able to answer the following questions: What is a socio-environmental crisis? What are its causes and effects? What is the role of humans in bringing about the socio-environmental problem? What is the Anthropocene? What is the Capitalocene?



(a) Ailton Krenak (2020): Ideas to Postpone the End of the World. Translated by Anthony Doyle. TBD


(b) Jason W. Moore (2017) The Capitalocene, Part I: on the nature and origins of our ecological crisis, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 44:3, 594-630, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2016.1235036



Class 2 – What is Environmental Justice?


This topic aims to understand the concept of environmental justice, the movement itself, and its historical roots. We will engage with debates about income, race, and ethnicity in environmental justice studies in order to answer the following questions: what is environmental justice? What is the history of the concept in the USA and the world? What are its production and reproduction mechanisms? Why does it matter to think about income, race, and ethnicity?



(a) Ronald and Phaedra C. Pezzullo (2007): Environmental Justice and Environmentalism The Social Justice Challenge to the Environmental Movement. Introduction - Revisiting the Environmental Justice Challenge to Environmentalism (p.1-25)


(b) Ronald and Phaedra C. Pezzullo (2007): Environmental Justice and Environmentalism The Social Justice Challenge to the Environmental Movement. Chapter 10 - Globalizing Environmental Justice.



Class 3 – Sustainable Development:


history, dimensions, critics


This class presents the concept of sustainable development and its history, demonstrating that it is polysemic (has multiple meanings) and emerges? as a political-normative concept. The vast number of dimensions that can compose sustainable development can be understood as one of the reasons for its polysemy, as well as the way in which it is commonly confused with the term “sustainability” itself. We will also present the main criticisms of the concept of sustainable development. At the end of this topic, students should be able to answer the following questions: what is sustainable development? What is sustainability? How did these concepts come about? What are the main definitions of SD? What are the main criticisms of it?



(a) Nascimento, Elimar Pinheiro do. (2012). The trajectory of sustainability: from environmental to social, from social to economic. Estudos Avançados, 26(74), 51-64.


(b) Marcel Bursztyn & José Drummond (2014) Sustainability science and the university: pitfalls and bridges to interdisciplinarity, Environmental Education Research, 20:3, 313-332, DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2013.780587



Class 4 – Complexity and environmental rationality


The purpose of this topic is to present and characterize the concept of complexity and environmental rationality. Here we will learn about the relationship between complexity, environmental rationality, and sustainable development. We will understand how the first two concepts are related to sustainable development and why it is important to think about developments that qualify as sustainable. By the end of this topic, students should be able to answer: what is complexity? What is environmental rationality?



(a) Morin, Edgar (2008). On complexity. Chapter 01- Blind Intelligence.


(b) Leff, Enrique (2014), Environmental Rationality: The Social Re-Appropriation of Nature, Alternautas, 1(1), 88‐99.…


(c) Leff Enrique (2010) Latin American environmental thought: a heritage of knowledge for sustainability. ISEE, Publicación Ocasional 9:1–16.



Class 5 – Interdisciplinarity and Systemic View


In this topic, we will address the concepts of interdisciplinarity and systemic vision and deepen our understandings of them. These ideas will be explored based on their relationship with Sustainable Development. The main question guiding this topic is: why is understanding interdisciplinarity and taking a systemic perspective essential to thinking about Sustainable Development? By the end, students should be able to answer: what is interdisciplinarity, what are its variations, and what are its components? What is a systemic perception, and how does it materialize? How important are the two concepts for thinking and exploring the term Sustainable Development?



(a) Morin, Edgar. (2008). On complexity. Chapter 07 & Appendix 1

(b) Capra, F. (2005). Complexity and Life. Theory, Culture & Society, 22(5), 33–44.


Class 6  – Possibilities: Sustainable Consumption


This topic addresses the concept of sustainable consumption, its origins, and its main categories. We aim to understand the role of the consumer in solving environmental problems. By the end of this topic, students will be able to answer the following questions: what is sustainable consumption? How did it come about, and what is its primary objective? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach to consumption? How are we to think about emancipated consumers in countries with a high level of inequality?



García Canclini, Néstor. (2001). Consumers and citizens: Globalization and multicultural conflicts. (Chapter - 1) ProQuest Ebook Central


Streeck, Wolfgang: Citizens as Customers: Considerations on the New Politics of Consumption, New Left Review, v.76, p.27–47, 2012.


Isenhour, C. (2011). Can consumer demand deliver sustainable food? Recent research in sustainable consumption policy and practice. Environment and Society, 2(1), 5+.…



Class 7 – Possibilities II: The Collaborative Economy


This topic gives students an understanding of the concept of collaborative economy, its origins, and its main categories. We will aim to understand its role in the production and consumption of products, its impacts on companies and the environment, and the roles of technology and consumers. By the end of this topic, students will be able to answer the following questions: what is the collaborative economy? How did it come about, and what is its primary objective? What are its characteristics, and what are some empirical examples of it?



(a) What is Collaborative Consumption - And What isn't'? Are Airbnb, Zipcar, Etsy, and Uber really all doing the same thing? Or do we need better definitions of this new economic force? URL:…


(b) Micheletti, M., & Stolle, D. (2007). Mobilizing Consumers to Take Responsibility for Global Social Justice. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 611(1), 157–175.


(c) Isenhour, C. On conflicted Swedish consumers, effort to stop shopping and neoliberal environmental governance. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, v.9, p. 455-469, nov-dec. 2010.