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GD908-20 Leading Transformation in the Anthropocene

Global Sustainable Development
Taught Postgraduate Level
Module leader
Romain Chenet
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
100% coursework
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

The Anthropocene defines human existence on our home planet earth and requires significant and radical change to reduce uncertainties about the continued positive, collective, socially just improvement in the human lived experience. Many of us aspire to contribute to something we understand as positive change - but often have limited opportunity to reflect critically on how best to conceptualise and practice such a desire. The entirety of human history – particularly that of efforts to promote “civilisation” and “development” – demonstrates that good intentions are often insufficient to ensure broadly acceptable outcomes. While positive agendas are marred by apathy or consciously captured and manipulated by special interests, there are many examples of genuine unintended yet problematic consequences. The legacies of colonialism, fossil-fuelled capitalist relations and patriarchy have proved widely intractable, and significant work remains to ‘decolonise’ the Sustainable Development agenda. The module is designed to support students in contributing to such re-imagining and reshaping our collective world.

Module aims

This module allows students to explore in a fully transdisciplinary fashion - drawing on knowledge, inter alia, from Philosophy, sociology, economics, ecology - interpretations and tools associated with positive social change in a variety of contexts: the ultimate aim being that students construct their own more fully informed and critically reflective personal methodologies of positive agency. This is achieved by creating opportunities for critical encounters with foundational thinking as well as prominent responses to the fundamental questions of: who should or should not, be doing what and how, for the purposes of positive global transformation?

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

Week 1) Setting the Anthropo’scene: The context for transformation

Week 2) Breaking all the Western “Rawls”: Philosophy fit for the future Rawls, Sen, competing discourses of ‘sustainable development’

Week 3) Dominant and Subaltern Discourses of Progress

Week 4) Problem-based and response-focused thinking: Ideology and Visioning creative responses

Week 5) Sustainable Development: Transforming or Reinforcing Colonial structures?

Week 6) Change Making as I am: Interpersonal politics of identity, culture and language

Week 7) Provoking Transitions: Individuals and Markets, States, Structures, Institutions and Power

Week 8) Social Movements and Radical Actions for Change and Transformation

Week 9) Returning to the Anthropocene: "The Arts" and Economics

Week 10) Independent Study and Submission of Assessed Presentation

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Understand the profound implications that the Anthropocene creates for those aspiring to lead positive human change and transformation
  • Identify, deconstruct and critically engage with existing normative discourses and their tools for the improvement of human lived experience.
  • Think creatively to imagine alternative futures for the Anthropocene and evaluate them against normative principles.
  • Adopt a research grounded, trans-disciplinary approach, to reflect the personal motivations to contribute towards positive change.
  • Create, reflect on and rework coherent personal methodologies of change-making, drawing on philosophical ideas, considering personal identity politics and wider issues of hard and soft power.
  • Proactively build communities of practice for normatively motivated, collaborative learning and development.
Indicative reading list

Bignall (2016). Three Ecosophies for the Anthropocene: Environmental Governance, Continental Posthumanism and Indigenous Expressivism. Deleuze Studies 10 (4). [Online].

Chandler, D.C. (2013). Where is the human in human-centred approaches to development? A critique of Amartya Sen’s ‘Development as Freedom’. The biopolitics of development: reading Michel Foucault in the postcolonial present. New Delhi: Springer.

Hickel, Jason (2019). The contradiction of the sustainable development goals: Growth versus ecology on a finite planet. Sustainable development 27(5). [Online].

KlitGaard, R. (1971). Gandhi's Non-Violence as a Tactic. Journal of Peace Research, 8(2). [Online].

Langhelle, Oluf (2000). "Sustainable Development and Social Justice: Expanding the Rawlsian Framework of Global Justice". Environmental Values, 9(3). [Online].

Malier (2019). Greening the poor: The trap of moralization. British Journal of Sociology, 70(5). [Online].

Vergragt & Quist (2011). Backcasting for sustainability: Introduction to the special issue. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 78(5). [Online].

Zunes (1999). The role of non-violent action in the downfall of apartheid. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 37(1). [Online].

Research element

Healey & Jenkins (2009) propose that Research-led-teaching design should consider four discrete opportunities. This module has been designed to include two of these opportunities.

  1. Research-led learning, where the module syllabus is developed from current research in relevant fields, being based on contemporary and seminal, peer reviewed and other high quality research literature. As such, all knowledge for student engagement will be consciously and specifically chosen for its merits in reference to broader academic understanding. This will involve literature concerning the concept of the Anthropocene, critical reviews of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, seminal work on the philosophy of the concept of Sustainable Development etc.

  2. Research-tutored learning, where students engage actively in discussing high quality, contemporary and seminal research literature.

The format of the contact sessions will present initial introductions knowledge (in the "Lecture" slot), but then rely on independent student reading, so that students themselves are placed at the centre of providing knowledge content for graduate seminar discussions (in Seminar slots, as mediated and validated by staff tutoring).


Positive global transformations are widely recognised to require transdisciplinary approaches and this approach is adopted in the design and delivery of learning opportunities. Leadership is broadly conceived and the module draws on knowledge from Philosophy, Development Studies, Sociology, Political-Ecology etc.

Authentic assessment will require students to demonstrate transdisciplinary aptitude, through the production of a Personal Methodology of change that draws on a range of disciplinary knowledge sets. Transdisciplinary aptitude will be explicitly embedded in the marking rubric, as adapted from the standard university scale and descriptors.


This is a module on the Master’s in Global Sustainable Development which offers learning experiences that draw on a range of different national and international and subjects. Literature will be chosen according to the principles of decolonising the curriculum, with space consciously created for the expression of usually more marginal discourses. For example, the module will include literature authored by stakeholders in the Global South, as well as covering these geographies and local narratives about them, as a point of subject.

Subject specific skills

The students will develop a transdisciplinary aptitude for reflecting on the nature of appropriate, positive intellectual leadership for transformation, including an ability to engage effectively with varied vocabularies and the knowledge sets they represent, as well as how to combine these authentically and innovatively.

Students will also have the opportunity to develop skills for personal research, note taking, synthesis of information, the communication and discussion of information, necessary for change agency.

Transferable skills

Students will be required to learn together as a community as an inherent part of the pedagogical structure - therefore reflecting on the role and nature of 'leadership' as praxis rather than just abstracted knowledge.

Students will have the opportunity to develop skills for the oral presentation of knowledge and its constructive discussion - for example, via the regular implementation of induction learning concerning non-violent communication etc - as a regular part of contact time learning opportunities. They will be encouraged to understand that they will receive weekly feedback from their seminar experiences that should be used for such development.

While learning will be contextualised as that for socially positive change and transformation, students will engage with structural process learning around the behaviours of reflective practice.

Specific content on the role of personal identity characteristics will be transferable to many other life experiences.

Study time

Type Required
Seminars 10 sessions of 2 hours (11%)
Private study 95 hours (50%)
Assessment 75 hours (39%)
Total 190 hours
Private study description

7-9 hours of private reading will be allocated between students on a weekly basis; adjust to provide time for engagement in assessments. Students will have both common and individually allocated reading , which they will be required to share knowledge about in the workshops on a weekly basis.


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You do not need to pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group A1
Weighting Study time
In-class participation 10% 10 hours

Engagement in community learning will be assessed by the tutor based on workshop contributions

Personal Methodology for Change Agency 60% 40 hours

A formally philosophised reflection on the praxis of positive change

Presentation 30% 25 hours

Students will share orally a draft of their personal methodologies for change in week 10.

Feedback on assessment

Substantive annotated comments will be provided on submitted assessment artefacts with overview summary addressing how work was judged against the marking rubric for the assessment and what areas should be prioritised for future development.

Tutor observation of community learning and learning circles will result in written feedback.


This module is Core for:

  • Year 1 of TGDA-L801 Postgraduate Taught Global Sustainable Development