Beasts and Boundaries: Sociology, Science, and Nature

Module code: SY3089

Module co-ordinator: Professor Bob Carter

This module begins with the question: what does it mean to be human in the twenty-first century? This question has become a troubling one for a number of reasons. In particular, the boundaries of what the human is have been challenged by technology and genetics (drones enable death at a distance, cosmetic surgery allows for the extensive management of appearance, the internet has made possible new forms of sociability), whilst also being called into question through climate change and environmental degradation. Developing a sociological response to these developments entails examining the relations between knowledge, science, and nature in the context of Western modernity.

In this module we will study major sociological perspectives on these relations while examining their relevance through a series of case studies, such as eugenics and contemporary debates about genomics, ancestry and descent, environmentalism and global warming, social networking and the politics of surveillance, and the relations between human and other animals.

We will consider these debates within the broader development of ideas about the 'post-human' and the implications of these for traditional sociological conceptions of action, agency. and the place of the nonhuman.


  • Eighteen one-hour lectures
  • Eight one-hour seminars


  • Assignment (100%)