TIK4010 – Science and Politics in Controversies on Nature

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Course content

Science is and has always been a central actor in environmental controversies and politics. This course introduces students to how social and cultural studies of science and technology [STS] investigate the dynamics of environmental issues and controversies, and in particular the roles played by science and politics. Through engagement with past and present issues in such domains as deforestation, pollution, climate change, GM crops, animal welfare, food politics, and biodiversity, the module will work with questions such as: how do concerns about nature or the environment become public matters and political issues? Who are the actors involved; and what are the different interests, values and ways of life at stake? What is made of nature or the environment in these controversies? What roles do different forms of science and technology play, and what are the relations between science, regulatory politics, the market, environmental movements and other forms of public involvement? The course is inter-disciplinary and draws on recent research results from a number of disciplines, such as sociology, history, economics and philosophy as well as from the field of "STS" (science, technology and society).

Learning outcome

The aim of the course is (1) to provide students with a set of tools and resources from social, cultural and historical studies of science and technology for engaging with environmental controversies and politics (2) to enable students to analyze and discuss environmental issues and controversies as political matters, shaped and regulated by the particular forms of knowledge, values, institutions and actors that get included or excluded (3) to enable students to consider how the handling of environmental issues and controversies have implications for power, distributions of wealth and chances of life, and for differences such as between the North and the South


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Formal prerequisite knowledge

Students at post graduate level may be accepted upon application.


The main body of the module is composed of six weeks of lectures and seminars, followed by M.A. thesis writing seminars. For non-ESST students we also offer a brief but intensive introduction to social and cultural studies of science and technology. During the first six weeks we will collectively engage with a set of past and present, local and global, controversies, and with different ways of approaching, analyzing and handling these. Students are expected to take actively part in discussion as well as in bringing in materials and resources from their respective backgrounds for these exercises. For more information, please see schedule and reading list.


ESST students must pass the compulsory thesis outline, other students must pass term essay. The essay should be approximately 8000 words including references.

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Every spring


Every spring

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