Course code:



M - Intermediate

Class size limit:


Lab fee:


Typically offered:

Upon occasion

This course considers the definition of the human in terms of the politics of climate change and discussions about the notion of the Anthropocene, by staging an encounter between the discipline of geology and work in the humanities. Suggestions by scientists over the last few decades that human activity on the planet has attained geological force led Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen to argue in 2000 that the current epoch should be called the “Anthropocene.” Others challenge this suggestion, pointing out that humans have long left traces on the earth. Discussions about the Anthropocene are tied to the challenge of how to respond to the effects of human-induced climate change, including the threat of human extinction. This course will address questions such as: How do scientists and humanists engage with policy and scholarship about climate change? What are their central questions and key terms? We will consider how understandings of geological time and the stories rocks tell, might inform thinking in the humanities about climate change. In turn, we will consider how humanist questions about the definition of the human might inform the ways in which science interfaces with politics and policy regarding climate change.

This course is co-taught by a geologist and an anthropologist, and will be an exercise in translation between very different fields. Class material will include laboratory activities, seminar discussions, and close readings of texts in postcolonial studies, geology, anthropology, and literature. Students will be assessed based on class participation, reading responses, laboratory activities, and a final project.



None, but preference will be given to those who have had prior course work in either anthropology or geology. Permission of instructor required.

Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.