Land use, natural resource use, provisioning and sustainable development must be analyzed from several perspectives; where the social, cultural economic, and ecological are increasingly being included. Equally central, but less often acknowledged, are issues of power and political systems, and the processes in time and space that affect them. Is the market economy a stimulus for local agricultural development? Does it promote a sustainable use of natural resources? Or is it a threat to local provisioning and security? How is income from agriculture distributed within society, e.g. between men and women, and between urban and rural areas? Who owns the rights and/or the power to define what is a sustainable versus a non-sustainable use of natural resources? Researchers in developed countries? The UN? A local political elite? Local communities? These and many other topical and future key issues are dealt with within political ecology.

The course covers the use of land and other natural resources at local to global scales, from both a theoretical and a practical perspective. The theoretical block presents the emergence and development of political ecology within research, and includes comparisons with other scientific perspective on land use and natural resource management (e.g. geographic landscape analysis and resilience theory). Another key element of the course is case studies, where examples of local communities' use of land and water resources are analyzed both from a physical and human geographical perspective. The character, causes and effects of changes in natural resource utilization are discussed and problematized – especially in a political-ecological perspective, but also in relation to other scientific theoretical schools. Special focus is on social change and ecological dynamics, and how they interact through time and over space. Current environmental issues are problematized and critically analyzed in relation to complexity, local contexts, historical conditions, power relations, and the ongoing process of globalization. The course also contains presentation of, and some practice in, commonly used political-ecological research methods with emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches. Central here is a critically self-reflective application of methods to analyze bio-physical data as well as socially constructed categorizations.

The course provides skills highly relevant in a dynamic and growing multi-disciplinary research focus, where political ecology is discussed in relation to parallel scientific perspectives. The course provides knowledge about natural resource management in relation to a problematization of key issues pertaining to environmental processes and provisioning. The course moreover provides insights into environmental, historical and social conditions of importance for sustainable natural resource use at different scale levels. The course finally gives exercise in applying political-ecological theories and methods for the analysis of land use issues.

Language of instruction



Autumn term, period A-B. Study tempo 100%.


Competence equivalent to a Bachelor's Degree in any of the major subjects Earth Sciences, geography, biology-earth sciences, environmental sciences, human geography, urban and regional planning, economic history or international relations. Or 30 credits from the Master’s Programme in Globalization, Environment and Social Change at Stockholm University.

Also required is knowledge equivalent to Swedish upper secondary school courses Mathematics D and English B/English 6.


Application period for autumn term: 15 March until 15 April.

• Applications are made via

This also applies to master's students who are going to apply for optional courses within a program.