UCL Institute of the Americas


AMER0002: Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

***NOT RUNNING IN 2023/2024***

Module convenor: Dr Katharina Richter


This module will begin by considering a variety of epistemological framings for the study of society-environment interaction. Broadly construed, ‘positivism’, ‘structuralism’ and ‘constructionism’ are set within a critical realist ontology of nature in order to help us specify what we are referring to when we speak of ‘nature’, ‘society’, ‘development’ and ‘sustainability’, and how such concepts relate to each other. From there our attention turns to the emergence and institutionalisation of the concept of ‘sustainable development’ and the challenges to ‘sustainability’ discourse represented by post-development theory and Latin American constructs such as ‘buen vivir’. Through the investigation of a variety of environmental issues, social movements, politics and policies in LAC, the course seeks to illuminate some of the key claims-makers, claims, and claims-making processes that have emerged in response to perceived environmental deterioration and social deprivation, and resulted in new forms of social organisation and environmental governance.

Indicative Topics

The module will cover the following topics, which may be subject to variation depending on developments in academic research and the interests of the class:

  • Thinking about sustainability
  • Understanding nature and society
  • Development, sustainable development and post-development: global discourse and LAC experience.
  • Agri-cultures in LAC
  • Forests, forestry and forest peoples in LAC
  • Extractivism and sustainability in LAC
  • Ecotourism and sustainable development in LAC
  • Natural Hazards and Human Disasters in LAC

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

  1. explain the relevance of, and the relationships among, distinct approaches to researching sustainable development;
  2. assess critically claims and counter-claims in relation to sustainability issues;
  3. discuss with insight distinct discourses of ‘development’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘post-development’ at the global, regional, national and local levels;
  4. make informed and relevant contributions to Latin American and Caribbean environmental policy debates;
  5. undertake independent research;
  6. work successfully in a team;
  7. present research findings both orally and in writing.

Teaching Delivery

The module will be delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminar presentations and attendance at relevant UCL-IA events. There is also an AMER0002 Facebook group, which acts as an ongoing forum for asynchronous discussion throughout the module until the final essay submission. Students are expected to read two to three articles in preparat6ion for class each week. The final two weeks of the module are devoted to student-led seminars.


Methods of assessment
15% Peer assessed group seminar
15% Journal article review (500 words)
70% Final Essay (2500 words)