NIFK21000U Gender, Environment and Sustainable Development

Volume 2024/2025

MSc Programme in Environment and Development
MSc Programme in Global Environment and Development
MSc Programme in Sustainable Forest and Nature Management


Gender equity and so-called ‘sustainable development’ remain elusive. Despite decades of development efforts, environmental degradation is only escalating and inequality in wellbeing and autonomy persists. Critical scholars view gender inequalities and environmental problems as intimately connected. Both rest on forms of exploitation of nature and bodies which are argued to be rooted in patriarchal, colonial and capitalist relations, structures and worldviews. Gender – understood as something other than biological sex – operates in tandem with other markers of distinction such a class, caste, indigeneity, race and sexuality. This course operates from the premise that there is nothing natural about gender differences. It explores the theoretical underpinnings of this premise and its implications for how we as scholars, students and practitioners can think about sustainable development centered around commoning and care. To imagine a world without the gender gap requires that social movements, activists, and scholars join forces and share experiences and interpretations as well as analytical frameworks. With this course we aim to contribute to this productive cross-pollination.

This overview course has a distinct approach to understanding how gender and ecological conditions are interrelated. Grounded in social theory, it is inherently critical of standard development and gender narratives and instead seeks explanatory power within historical and structural conditions. We explore different approaches to this. The course readings are selected as key contributions to broad debates on gender, environment, and development and are rooted in disciplinary fields such as critical geography, political economy, feminist political ecology, and critical social theory. Over eight weeks, structured around core themes including decoloniality, critiques of capitalism, globalization, performativity, care, and commoning, students will engage in primary readings of feminist and other critical scholars who have been at the forefront of conceptualizing gender and human/environment relations in different ways. Through this we aim to understand: i) how gender and ecological conditions are interrelated, ii) the dynamics behind the widespread ‘dual oppression’ of particular humans and the environment as well as the policy responses designed to redress these, iii) critical perspectives on buzzwords like ‘sustainability’, ‘sustainable development, and ‘gender’ that circulate in policy and project documents, global ‘development goals’, and social movements, and iv) a range of conceptual and analytical tools to both explain today’s realities and instigate change toward new future trajectories.

The course offers students of environment and development, geography, global development, environmental science, food science, natural resources governance, or similar fields the opportunity to learn how to understand and analyze the relations between gender, environment, and sustainable development, and to engage in debates about different approaches to these issues. While experience with social sciences in general will be helpful, we welcome students with natural science backgrounds who are ready to immerse themselves. We combine a close reading and discussion of these texts with case studies, documentaries, and interactions with activists and social movements. By the end of the course, students have acquired the skills to formulate critical questions and clear methodologies around the entanglements between issues of gender and the environment and the challenges these pose to sustainable development. This will enable them to understand and engage in diverse gender and environment conflicts and debates across diverse topics, scales, and contexts.   

Learning Outcome

Upon completing this course, participants should be able to:


  1. 1.1 Describe the historical development on research on the relations between gender and environment.
  2. 1.2 Explain how research on gender and the environment can benefit from feminist critiques of topics such as coloniality, knowledge production, capitalism, and the commons.
  3. 1.3 Explain the characteristics of feminist methodologies to researching sustainable development.


  1. 2.1 Assess the different social dynamics which contribute to gender inequalities.
  2. 2.2 Identify processes by which gender becomes a difference which shapes access to and use of natural resources.
  3. 2.3 Develop methodologies and analytical tools to research gendered processes of sustainable development.


  1. 3.1 Critically analyze cases of unequal access to resources and the role that gender plays in shaping this.
  2. 3.2 Reflect on the interplay between gender and other forms of social difference.
  3. 3.3 Connect arguments and theories from social movements and activists to academic approaches to gender and the environment.

Academic books, articles, popular materials and documentary films.

The precise teaching material will be announced on Absalon.

No formal requirements
The course curriculum is predominantly social science focused. While there are no formal requirements for course admissions, we expect that students come with a willingness and openness to engage critically and productively with social theory. We encourage students of all disciplianry and personal backgrounds to sign up.
The course is based on a mix of lectures, student presentations (seminar), guest lectures, and group work. A high level of student participation in in-class discussions is expected.

A usual week is structured like this:
Monday: lectures, in-class discussions, group work
Wednesday morning: lectures, in-class discussions, group work
Wednesday afternoon: documentaries, visits from activists, experience sharing, development of exam synopsis
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 32
  • Preparation
  • 108
  • Theory exercises
  • 16
  • Seminar
  • 24
  • Exam
  • 26
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Type of assessment details
From the first week of the course, the students will be asked to develop a synopsis which will provide the basis for the final exam. Students can select a case of their own or alternatively from our ‘case bank’, and will be asked to continuously reflect on how the course readings relate to that particular case. By the end of the course, students will be asked to submit a synopsis. The oral exam will be based on this synopsis. There is no time for preparation.

The oral examination counts 100%.
Exam registration requirements

In order to qualify for the exam, students must hand in a 1000 words synopsis and provide peer feedback to another student during the final week of teaching.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examiner

The same as the ordinary exam.


If the student has not submitted a synopsis prior to the ordinary exam, the student must submit an synopsis made individually. Length 1500 words. Contact the course coordinators for further details when registering for the re-exam




Criteria for exam assesment

Demonstrated knowledge of course materials. See Learning Outcomes