Discourse, Politics, and Place: Critical Perspectives on Environmental Governance

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

The primary aim of this course is to strengthen and expand students' understanding of global environmental issues and their implications for local development challenges. To do so, we critically engage both longstanding and emerging theoretical, conceptual, and methodological debates concerning sustainable development and environmental governance in human geography. Students will cultivate an in-depth understanding of important themes within these debates, further empowering them to independently assess and utilize key theories and concepts relevant for their respective Master thesis projects.

The course adopts a `global` perspective on sustainable development and environmental governance as processes that necessarily affect all nations - rather than simply the nations of the so-called Global South - but which are nonetheless eventually translated into concrete form within grounded local contexts. Exploring the interrelations between `global` and `local` iterations of these processes, we examine influential discourses and narratives of environmental change, assessing these in relation to a diversity of place-based geographical perspectives. Key themes include global climactic change and its mitigation; forest and biodiversity conservation; food security and sustainable agriculture; and renewable energy transitions. In short, the course leads us to both a critical and a nuanced understanding of how power relations shape - and are shaped by - encounters between `local` communities, global environmental discourses, and sustainable development institutions operating across multiple scales.

Learning Outcomes

A student who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes:


The student

  • demonstrates an advanced understanding of theoretical, conceptual, and methodological debates concerning sustainable development and environmental governance in human geography.


The student

  • independently assesses and utilizes relevant theories and concepts.
  • critically evaluates narratives or explanations of environmental issues in relation to multiple perspectives and data sources.
  • demonstrates enhanced capacity to formulate scholarly arguments in academic writing and support these with relevant literature, data, or other evidence.

General knowledge

The student

  • identifies and critically analyses multiple discourses and narratives.
  • independently assesses the reliability or validity of various discourses, narratives, and forms of evidence.
  • evaluates the relative strengths and limitations of distinct approaches or understandings of environmental and development problems.
  • robustly substantiates individual perspectives or claims with reference to reliable data, evidence, or supporting argumentation

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction


Place of Instruction

Teaching through the learning platform Mitt UiB.
Required Previous Knowledge
Bachelor in Geography, Development Studies, or equivalent.
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
  • GEO335 (5 ECTS)
  • GEO336 (5 ECTS)
  • Access to the Course
    Master's Programme in Geographies of Sustainable Development (MASV-MEHA) or Master's Programme in Geography (MASV-GEOG), students from other relevant master's programmes at UiB and incoming exchange students with relevant background. Interested students from other programmes and exchange students are welcome to contact the Department of Geography (Studieveileder.geog@uib.no).
    Teaching and learning methods
    This is a hybrid classroom-online course, allowing for both in-classroom and online participation. The course is divided into two parts. Part I consists of seven double-hour lectures examining key themes and debates in geographical research on sustainable development and environmental governance. Part II consists of a series of seven seminars, in which students are encouraged to engage these debates with reference to place-based case studies. At each seminar, students will present progress towards their course paper and receive feedback from their peers.
    Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
    Mandatory seminar attendance and one seminar presentation
    Forms of Assessment
  • Essay (30% of the total grade)
  • Term paper (40% of the total grade)
  • Oral exam (30% of the total grade)
  • All parts of assessment must be passed in the same semester. Grades for each part of assessment and the final grade will be published in Studentweb.

    Grading Scale
    Grading A-F
    Assessment Semester

    Assessment in teaching semester.

    Students who have a valid document of absence or fails the exam may take the exam in the following semester.

    Reading List
    The reading list will be ready before 1 June for the autumn semester and 1 Decemeber for the spring semester.
    Course Evaluation
    All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.
    Examination Support Material
    Programme Committee
    The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
    Course Coordinator
    Course coordinator and administrative contact person can be found on Mitt UiB.
    Course Administrator
    The Department of Geography at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course and the study programme.