South Asia: Climate Change and Society

Fall 2019
Winter 2020
OlympiaStudy Abroad
Olympia +
study abroad option
Class Size: 25
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

climate justice, climate policy and politics, political ecology, environment and development

South Asia contains a dazzling array of seemingly irreconcilable contradictions and paradoxes that this program will explore. The region is home to emerging players in the global economy / emerging emitters of greenhouse gases, as well as so-called ‘least developed countries’ / ‘most vulnerable countries’ to climate change; countries that equate development with economic growth, and those that measure ‘gross domestic happiness’; political systems that espouse varieties of capitalism, communism, and Maoism; leaders of non-violent movements, and violent uprisings; exemplary regional cooperation/religious tolerance, and entrenched regional/religious conflicts; successful anti-colonial struggles, and deeply internalized colonialism; rich natural and cultural resources, and immense poverty.

How does a region with such tremendous cultural diversity and physical variation that is in the throes of significant social and environmental change wrought by colonization and then economic globalization prepare to address contemporary crises such as climate change and cultural homogenization? In the process of meeting these challenges, how are negotiations between tradition and modernity made? How do structures of social inequality specific to the region – along lines of gender, caste, indigeneity, class, religion, and nation-state – determine who shapes discourses and controls resources, and who is marginalized in pursuits of economic development and environmental protection, in what ways? To what extent are these discourses Western(ized), and to what extent are they endogenous to the region? What forms of agency do subaltern groups and those in positions of power exert within the constraints of patriarchal, neoliberal, and neo-colonial structures?

We will examine these questions within the broad framework of Third World Environment and Development Studies, seeking to ground our learning in the context of specific issues such as eco-tourism, park-people conflicts, community forestry, hydropower development, climate change policies, migration and diaspora, development aid and foreign intervention. The disciplinary frameworks of political ecology, geography, critical development studies, and environmental studies will inform our investigations.

This Fall-Winter program includes a qualitative research methods component where students will develop skills in primary research. The Winter program includes a study abroad component to Nepal for 4-5 weeks where students will be able to deepen and apply their learning through field visits, and an independent research project. Students opting out of the study abroad component of the program will choose research projects focused on South Asian diaspora communities in the Pacific Northwest. The Fall program will engage with some of these communities in the greater Seattle area through field trips and guest lectures.

Study abroad:

1.             Special Expenses: $    (Estimated expenses students will cover themselves)

2.             Required Student Fee: $3,500*   (Fee covers group expenses for services organized by college)

3.             Administrative Fee:     $400   (Nonrefundable deposit to cover administrative costs of running study abroad)

*Students have the option to spend four weeks in Nepal, with a cost of approximately $3,500 (approximately $1,200 for airfare and $2300 for room, board, and other expenses).

Students interested in scholarship support for study abroad should review the Gilman Scholarship site for eligibility,   , and contact Michael Clifthorne in the Office of International Programs for more scholarship information.  Applications should be started in summer. For details on study abroad, visit   or contact Michael Clifthorne at  .

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

Community development; international development; anthropology; geography; area studies; non-profit organizations; environmental studies; foreign affairs; diplomacy; advocacy and activism work.


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

All students in the program are responsible for the $200 program fee Fall quarter to cover field trips.

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 25

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Tuesday, January 7, 2020 - 10:00 am
SEM 2 E3105 - Workshop

Located in: Olympia

2019-11-15Winter quarter student fee removed
2018-11-09Study Aborad information updated