The master program Culture and Environment in Africa focuses on pre-historical, historical, and contemporary political ecology of the African continent at the intersection of global, national, regional and local sub-systems. Africa has had a longstanding history of sustainable community-based management of natural resources and of local cultural vitality. However, at the same time, pre-historical and historical case studies have provided evidence of rapid human induced and/or natural environmental collapses. Local forms of resource management were incorporated into larger commoditized economies by colonial administrations and, later, by national regimes. This often led to local interests becoming pitted against national interests.
In recent years, transnational and international agreements and organisations have considerably influenced the administration of natural resources. Consequently, the multiplicity and hybridization of institutions, world views, perceptions, and strategies impacting upon African environments is growing rapidly. Nowadays African savannas, deserts and rainforests are valued as part of a global natural heritage and as repositories of biodiversity. Furthermore, Africa is endowed with a rich cultural heritage, with approximately 2000 languages currently spoken on the continent attesting to the diversity and extent of local adaptations. However, current poverty and demographic shocks (e.g. rapid population growth or demographic catastrophes such as HIV/AIDS), lack of education, weak institutions, declining state functions, violent conflict, globalization, and major environmental changes have led to an increase in the vulnerability of the coupled human-environment system.
These developments will be examined in detail in this master program. The course is offered as a one-subject master course. It will provide an interdisciplinary approach to human-environment relations, which entails diverse methodological skills and capacities to operate and assess methodologies and theories of various disciplines. It will enable graduates to participate in advanced research within interdisciplinary programs, and prepare students for work in national and international organisations operating in the field.