Theoretical Debates on Environmental Problems is a core course in the doctoral curriculum designed to contextualize PhD students’ understanding of the intersections of the ecological, social, and political dimensions of environmental problems. The course explores how theoretical frameworks at multiple levels help define and analyze environmental issues from various epistemological and disciplinary perspectives.
Doctoral students taking this course will gain a richer understanding of the complexity of environmental problems and possible ways to analyze them. With these richer understandings, we hope to unsettle and re-conceptualize some of our notions of the "environment," and our ways of knowing it. This class is thus organized to establish a critical scholarly foundation that contributes to an understanding of the world from multiple epistemological, disciplinary, and theoretical perspectives. The first two parts of the course will challenge our pre-existing assumptions about our work as environmental scholars, and the relations between knowledge, data, theory, and method in an interdisciplinary setting. We aim to broaden our horizons to familiarize ourselves with a range of scholarly approaches used by researchers in the department. In the third part of the course we will work to enhance our critical thinking skills through the practical application of a selection of theoretical and conceptual frameworks to practical case studies, including the students' own research topics as well as other environmental problems. In the final segment of the class, students will begin to work with their chosen supervisors to identify and focus in-depth on some of the theories most relevant to their own research projects, and practice explaining these theories and discussing their application with their peers.