POL S 527 A: Special Topics in International Relations Research

Meeting Time: 
T 1:30pm - 4:20pm
PAR 206
Joint Sections: 
POL S 403 B, ENVIR 495 C
Karen Litfin
Karen Litfin

Syllabus Description:

Planetary Politics: Perspectives on Governance in the Anthropocene

Course Description

While scientists continue to debate whether we have entered the Anthropocene, there is a strong consensus that industrial civilization is tipping the Earth system from the Holocene, the interglacial “sweet spot” in which civilization emerged, into entirely new conditions. With humanity, one among unknown millions of species, operating as the primary driver of systemic change upon the planet, the local, national, and global no longer define our only spaces of action: we have become planetary. International Relations, both as a system of knowledge and a set of institutional practices, is therefore challenged by planetary realities.

The central inquiry of this course is: What kind of politics is commensurate to this new reality? Within this larger inquiry, we will ask ourselves:

  • In terms of institutions, ideologies, norms, and practices, what would a genuinely planetary politics look like?
  • How might existing models of Earth System governance, multi-level governance, international law, global grassroots democracy, and low-energy cosmopolitanism inform a planetary politics?
  • How, if at all, do various perspectives on planetary politics address the yawning chasm between the global rich and the global poor?
  • Putting aside purely utopian and dystopian discourses on the Anthropocene, what are some leverage points for transforming existing institutions, norms and practices into a planetary politics?

Specific topics will include: climate change (mitigation and adaptation), biodiversity, nitrogen cycle, geoengineering, energy governance, indigenous peoples, immigration, and food systems.

Course Requirements

There are three requirements for this course:  1) regular atten­dance and full participa­tion in seminar discussions; 2) a short paper (4-5 pages) on an assigned topic; and 3) a research paper on a topic of your choice.  The course grade will be determined as follows:

Class participation                25%

Short paper                           25%

Research paper                     50%   



Learning is enhanced when we articulate our ideas and receive feedback from others.  The success of our small seminar will be determined largely by the quality of active participation. Come prepared for lively discussion! Please send at least two discussion questions each week to me by Sunday evening. I will then integrate some of these with my own and photocopy for the class.

Research Paper

You will write an original research paper on a topic of your choice. Your paper may be either theoretical or empirical, or both.  You may approach your question through a range of methodologies—a case study, a comparative case study, a quantitative analysis, or theoretical inquiry—but be sure to justify your specific approach.  I encourage you to write a paper that supports your professional development. Please discuss your research question with me by the fifth of the quarter. Your paper should be 10-12 pages long and will be due on the last day of class (December 7).

Required Texts (in order)

Clive Hamilton. Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene. Polity, 2017.

Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann. Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future. Verso, 2018.

Frank Fischer. Climate Crisis and the Democratic Prospect: Participatory Governance in Sustainable Communities. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Bruno Latour. Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime. Polity Press, 2018. If this book is released in early November as planned, we will read it.

Recommended Readings

David Abram. Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology. Vintage, 2011.

Martín Arboleda. Planetary Mine: Territories of Extraction under Late Capitalism. Verso, 2020.

Jane Bennett. Vibrant Matter: a political ecology of things. Duke University Press, 2010.

Frank Biermann. Earth System Governance: World Politics in the Anthropocene. MIT Press, 2014.

David Ciplet, et al. Power in a Warming World: The Global Politics of Climate Change and the Remaking of Environmental Inequality. The MIT Press, 2015.

Nigel Clark. Inhuman nature: sociable life on a dynamic planet. SAGE, 2011.

William Connolly. Facing the planetary: Entangled humanism and the politics of swarming. Duke University Press, 2017.

Olaf Corry and Hayley Stevenson, eds. Traditions and trends in global environmental politics: international relations and the earth. Routledge, 2018.

Eileen Crist and H. Bruce Rinker. Gaia in Turmoil: Climate Change, Biodepletion, and Earth Ethics in an Age of Crisis. MIT Press, 2010.

Simon Dalby. Anthropocene Geopolitics: Globalization, Security, Sustainability. University of Ottawa Press, 2020.

Peter Doran. A political economy of attention, mindfulness and consumerism: reclaiming the mindful commons. Routledge, 2017. 

Charles Eisenstein. Climate: A New Story. North Atlantic Books, 2018.

Frank Fischer. Climate Crisis and the Democratic Prospect: Participatory Governance in Sustainable Communities. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Victor Galaz. Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics: The Anthropocene Gap. Edward Elgar, 2014.

Richard A. Grusin, ed. Anthropocene Feminism. University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

Lesley Head. Hope and grief in the Anthropocene: re-conceptualising human-nature relations. London: Routledge, 2016.

Thomas Homer-Dixon. The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization Island Press, 2008

Sikhina Jinna and Simon Nicholson, eds. New Earth Politics: Essays from the Anthropocene. MIT Press, 2016.

Chris Johnstone and Joanna Macy. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy. New World Library, 2012.

Naomi Klein. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Elizabeth Kolbert. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Picador, 2015.

Bruno Latour. Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime, Catherine Porter (trans.) Polity Press, 2017.

Sheryl R. Lightfoot. Global Indigenous Politics: A Subtle Revolution. Routledge, 2016.

Jamie Lorimer. Wildlife in the Anthropocene: conservation after nature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

Madeleine Fagan. “Security in the Anthropocene: Environment, Ecology, Escape.” European Journal of International Relations, vol. 23, no. 2, 2017, pp. 292–314.

Eva Meijer. When Animals Speak: Toward an Interspecies Democracy. New York University Press, 2019.

Sam Mickey. Coexistentialism and the unbearable intimacy of ecological emergency. Lexington Books, 2016.

Todd Miller. Storming the Wall: Climate change, migration, and homeland security. City Lights, 2017.

Gregg Mitman, et al. Future Remains: A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene. The University of Chicago Press, 2018.

Jason W. Moore. Capitalism in the web of life: ecology and the accumulation of capital. New York: Verso, 2015.

Peter Newell and Matthew Paterson. Climate Capitalism: Global Warming and the Transformation of the Global Economy. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Christian Parenti and Jason W. Moore. Anthropocene or capitalocene?: nature, history, and the crisis of capitalism. PM Press, 2016.

Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore. A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet. University of California Press, 2017.

Jedediah Purdy. After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene. Harvard University Press, 2015.

Gleb Raĭgorodetskiĭ. The archipelago of hope: wisdom and resilience from the edge of climate change. Pegasus Books, 2017.

Sharon J Ridgeway and Peter J Jacques. Power of the Talking Stick: Indigenous Politics and the World Ecological Crisis. Taylor and Francis, 2015.

Stuart Rosewarne. Climate action upsurge: the ethnography of climate movement politics. Routledge, 2014.

O.C. Ruppel, et al. Climate change: international law and global governance. Baden-Baden: Nomos. 2013.

Mark Schapiro, The End of Stationarity: Searching for the New Normal in the Age of Carbon Shock. Chelsea Green, 2016.

Roy Scranton. Learning to Die in the Anthropocence. City Lights, 2015.

Isabelle Stengers. In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism. Andrew Goffey (trans.) Open Humanities Press, 2015.

Paul Steinberg. Who Rules the Earth? How Social Rules Shape Our Planet and Our Lives. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing. The Mushroom at the End of the World : on the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press, 2015.

Arne Johan Vetlesen. Cosmologies of the Anthropocene: Panpsychism, Animism, and the Limits of Posthumanism. Routledge, 2019.

Paul Wapner. Is Wildness Over? Polity, 2020.

_____. Living Through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism. MIT Press, 2013.


Catalog Description: 
Examination of current topics in the theory and practice of world politics. Content varies according to recent developments in the field and research interests of the instructor.
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:08pm