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240528 SE Anthropology of religion, the environment and climate change (P4) (2016S)

Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 40 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Monday 14.03. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Tuesday 15.03. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Wednesday 16.03. 09:45 - 11:15 Übungsraum (A414) NIG 4. Stock
Thursday 17.03. 13:15 - 14:45 Seminarraum D, NIG 4. Stock
Monday 04.04. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Tuesday 05.04. 09:45 - 11:15 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Wednesday 06.04. 09:45 - 11:15 Übungsraum (A414) NIG 4. Stock
Thursday 07.04. 09:45 - 11:15 Seminarraum A, NIG 4. Stock


Aims, contents and method of the course

This course is organised in two parts:

Part I starts with two lectures addressing environmental transformations and the ways in which interdisciplinary approaches and different perceptions of the environment shape human responses to perceived challenges: from the emergence of the Anthropocene concept and the way it calls into question conventional distinctions between social and natural sciences, to questions of evidence according to different disciplines and knowledge traditions. The following lecture, looking at specific ethnographic settings in the Himalaya and on the Tibetan Plateau, explores the ways in which different forms of environmental knowledge can interface (or not) in the understanding of the environment and the role they play in decision making and risk management. The first pro-seminar is dedicated to the debates that have shaped the COP 21 conference in Paris and the role that anthropology can play in understanding and shaping the processes involved. The second pro-seminar focuses on the ethical questions that emerge when environmental transformations are perceived as threats to local communities at different scales or the human species as a whole. Setting out from a range of readings from different religious and philosophical traditions the seminar discusses the ways in which they provide responses to environmental emergencies. Buddhism, Christianity, Shamanism and Pagan traditions, among others, draw on their values to define individual and collective priorities, visions and aspirations as ‘green’ , ‘sustainable’, ‘environmental friendly’, ‘in harmony with nature’ etc. This raises a number of questions:

To what an extent do they shape human action in relation to the environment?

Are they mutually compatible and translatable across different cultural settings?

Do they have an influence on global debates and negotiations?

This pro-seminar will offer an opportunity to explore the reasons behind the increasing involvement of religious communities in the climate change debate and to look in detail at some of their responses.

Part II sets out by focusing on key Buddhist notions and the way in which these have been deployed in 21st century debates. We are going to look at the reconstruction and reform of Buddhism in areas where this was banned as well at the ways in which diaspora communities have re-framed basic Buddhist tenets to adapt to new circumstances and global issues. We are also going to look at the ways in which innovations in communication technologies have been adopted in Buddhist societies: from manuscript to digital dharma. The first of the two pro-seminars will offer an opportunity to explore questions surrounding gender issues in Buddhist communities looking in particular at the life of historical women celebrated as spiritual exemplars and at the current debate on women’s’ access to full ordination. The second pro-seminar will offer the opportunity to review Buddhist environmental narratives, looking at both spiritual leaders’ statement to this effect and the rising number of Buddhist environmentalist groups.
Upon completion of the course students are expected to be able to:
* Engage with current debates on climate change using anthropological and interdisciplinary approaches;
* Engage with current debates within Buddhist societies and with the ways in which Buddhist spiritual leaders and communities draw on Buddhist notions to address global challenges;
* Write an academic text with clear references to the course literature (and, where possible and appropriate, to direct experience, research and news items)

Assessment and permitted materials

Deadline for set essays: 10/4/2016

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Examination topics

Reading list

Key Readings
(additional readings will be announced on moodle)

Part I - Lecture 1 - Introduction
Chakrabarty,D 2009. The Climate of History: Four Theses. Critical Inquiry 35(2): 197-222.
Wynne, B 2010. Theory Culture & Society. 05/2010; 27(2-3):289-305

Part I - Lecture 2 - Living with environmental change in the Land of Snow: a cross-disciplinary approach

Byg, A, Salick J, Bauer, K (2012) Contemporary Tibetan Cosmology of Climate Change. JSRNC 6.4, 447-476
Diemberger, H 2012 Deciding the future in the Land of Snow: Tibet as an arena for conflicting forms of knowledge and policies, in K. Hastrup (ed.) The Social Life of Climate Models. London: Routledge.

Hulme, M. 2009. Why we Disagree about Climate Change. Cambridge: CUP.
Magistro, J. & C. Roncoli 200. Anthropological perspectives and policy implications of climate change research Climate Research 19:91-96.

PART II - Lecture 1 - The anthropology of Buddhism: ancient traditions, new debates

Carrithers, M. 1983 The Buddha, Oxford University Press: Oxford

Masuzawa, T. 2005 The Invention of World Religions. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press. Introduction and Chapter 4.

Part 2 Lecture 2 - From manuscript to print to digital Dharma

Barrett,T. 2008. The Woman who Discovered Printing. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Part II - Pro-seminar 1 - Gendering Buddhist Practices

Diemberger, H. 2007. When a Woman Becomes a Religious Dynasty: The Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press.

Gyatso, J. 1989 'Down with the Demoness: Reflections on a Feminine Ground in Tibet' in Willis, J. (ed.), Feminine Ground, Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications

Huber, T 1994 Why can’t women climb the white crystal mountain? in P. Kvaerne (ed) Tibetan Studies. Oslo: : The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture

Makley, C (1999) 'Gendered Practices and the Inner Sanctum: The Reconstruction of Tibetan Sacred Space in ‘China’s Tibet’. In Huber, T. (1999), Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places In Tibetan Culture, Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archive

Sponberg, A. 1992 Attitudes toward Women and the Feminine in Early Buddhism. In, J. I. Cabezon (ed) Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. Albany: State University of New York. P. 3-36.

Part II Pro-seminar 2 - Environmental Buddhism and Buddhist environmentalism

Diemberger,H, Hovden,A, Yeh,E 'The Honour of the Mountains is the Snow' in Huggel,C, Carey,M, Clague, J, Kaab,A (eds) The High-Mountain Cryosphere: Environmental Changes and Human Risks. Cambridge:CUP

Stanley, J and Loy, D 2009 A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency. Boston: Wisdom Publications

Pope Francis 2015 Encyclical Laudato Si http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papafrancesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:40