ASTK18384U Democratic participation in times of the Anthropocene.

Volume 2021/2022

Bachelor: 7,5 ECTS

Kandidat: 7,5 ECTS


This course engages with the emergence of the new geological epoch ‘The Anthropocene’. The geological epoch defines a time where human activity has become a force of nature that radically and irrevocably changes the earth. Rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity and other irreversible tipping points illustrate this – but it also underscores the connectedness of humans and non-humans / culture and nature. In the course we will investigate how democracies can face the predicament posed by the Anthropocene, especially how and whether the political norm of democratic participation can or should be expanded to non-humans. The purpose of the course is to translate abstract political theory into practice, thus institutionalizing the normative commitments in the Anthropocene. The course will follow the role-play ‘Vitalism in action: Imagining a new collective for the Anthropocene’ organized by Laboratory for Aesthetics and Ecology and funded by the research project ‘Vital Politics: Rethinking Normativity in the Anthropocene (VIPO)’.


Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to follow the process of establishing the role-play, and to think with the role-play to develop their own research agendas. The course investigates the potentials in creative knowledge generation and alternative ways of conducting research in social science. Furthermore, the course is driven by an ambition and commitment to integrating research in teaching. Students will be introduced to the VIPO research group and to research in the department on the Anthropocene. Furthermore, students will be working independently on potential research agendas inspired by the data-collection from the role-play.


The course is structured in five parts. First, we will investigate the Anthropocene as a condition for contemporary political science. In the second part of the course, we will explore vitalism, thing-power and new materialism. Subsequently, this is put into the context of democratic participation in the third part of the course, which investigates the concept of democratic participation in the Anthropocene and how to give voice to non-humans. The fourth part of the course is methodological and reflects on how we – as researchers – can generate knowledge from performances. The role-play is situated within this theme, where the students and lecture will discuss ways of observing or participating in the role-play. Finally, we will discuss the data generated by the students from the role-play. The students will give each other feedback, and collaborate in the sense-making process. The course will be concluded with a session on critique, and its role in the Anthropocene.

Learning Outcome


  • Describe the main approaches to the Anthropocene.
  • Insights into the current academic debates on new materialism.
  • Knowledge of different expressions of democratic participation in the Anthropocene


  • Reflect on the wider relevance and implications of non-human democratic participation.
  • Independently formulate research questions to the subject of the seminar and conduct an analysis drawing on the literature of the course as well as data collection from the VIPO role-play.
  • Relate critically to concepts such as democracy, participation, vitalism, and the Anthropocene.



  • Present academic work in oral and written form, as well as give feedback to the presentation of others.
  • Evaluate the validity of the arguments on democratic participation of non-humans in the Anthropocene.


The following is a preliminary reading list, to give an indication of which types of literature we will be reading during the course. A full reading list will be made available prior to the course.


Bennett, Jane. 2009. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press. https:/​/​​10.1215/​9780822391623.


Latour, Bruno. 2017. Facing Gaia, Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime. Oxford: Polity Press. http:/​/​​login?url=http:/​/​​lib/​kbdk/​detail.action?docID=4926426.


Kelty, Christopher M. 2017. “Too Much Democracy in All the Wrong Places: Toward a Grammar of Participation.” Current Anthropology 58 (S15): S77–90. https:/​/​​10.1086/​688705.


Haraway, Donna. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Experimental Futures Technological Lives, Scientific Arts, Anthropological Voices. Durham London: Duke University Press.

This course presupposes an interest in interdisciplinary work and familiarity with political theory broadly conceived
The course will consist of a combination of lectures, student discussions, and possibly talks by guest lecturers
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner