Course description

Anthropology is the discipline par excellence that has dealt with questions of relations and the study of cultures through ethnography. This course offers an introduction to anthropological theory and method and highlights their relevance to a range of issues in the context of nature –culture relationship, human-non-human relations, gender and “objectivity”. The critical reflection on concepts such as culture/nature, sex (gender), exchange (reciprocity) and questions of power leads to a new perception of cultural pluralities and diversities. The course will offer students

anthropological analytical tools and concepts for exploring ethnographically the perspective of other people.


Educational objectives

The course aim is to integrate anthropological perspectives into perception and analysis of cultural artistic expressions. Additionally, the course will prepare students for a critical engagement with scientific texts and help them develop appropriate academic writing skills. The critical reflection on concepts such as human relationship with nature (ecology), sex (gender), exchange (reciprocity) and questions of power will lead to new perceptions of bottom up, grounded empirics and active listening.

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course description


The course belongs to the class “caratterizzante” (alternativa) in the MA in Eco-Social Design (LM-12). This course is a compulsory optional subject in the area “Sciences & Discourse”


Course title


Area: Sciences & Discourse

Course code


Scientific sector

SPS/07 – Sociologia generale


Master in Eco-Social Design (LM-12)




1st and 2nd






Alvise Mattozzi

office F4.04, e-mail, tel. +39 0471 015227, Webpage

Scientific sector of the lecturer


Teaching language


Teaching assistant (if any)


Office hours

Friday, 15-17

Teaching language


Total lecturing hours


Total hours of self-study and/or other individual educational activities

about 120





Course page


Course description

The course introduces students to sociology, its concepts and its research methods.

As for this year, the introduction to sociology will take place through the concept of “action” and specifically through the idea of “acting in common”. “Acting in common” is, for Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of sociology, the way in which “society becomes conscious and affirms itself”.

After an outline of the various ways in which sociology accounts for the unfolding of actions, usually juggling between various dichotomies such as agency/structure, individual/collective, understanding/explanation, the course will focus on role artifacts (tools, devices, interfaces, infrastructures, etc.) play in the unfolding of actions, often neglected by sociology. Students will learn how to describe actions by considering the role artifacts.

The issue of “acting in common”, i.e. of collaboration, cooperation and coordination, will be then also tackled by considering artifacts and their mediating role. These steps will lead to the issue of “acting in commons”, in order to reflect and describe the role artifacts play or can play in managing and practicing the commons.


Educational objectives


Students will be able to:

•      collaborate with experts and other designers to develop and implement an integrated project;

•      take into account the social impacts occurring within the tension between global and local dimensions;

•      take into account the social aspects that characterize a territory, a community and a group of people;

•      integrate social aspects in project design while considering the tension, which occurs between the local and the global dimensions;

•      develop an individual way of thinking, leading to critical judgements and self-assessments;

•      communicate, multilingually in a convincing way, through a variety of modalities (written, oral, visual);

•      talk to experts about the project;

•      read experts’ articles, studies and reports related to one’s own project issues and integrate those analyses with one’s own project design;

•      organize a research project while identifying relevant studies and researches, experts to collaborate with, methods and instruments to adopt;

•      outline the cultural and social territorial framework where the students will intervene;

•      set up a field work or an inquiry in order to define the socioeconomic framework, by exchanging ideas with researchers and experts’ students will collaborate with;

•      understand specialist literature so as to integrate it within their own research project;


Knowledge will be acquired in the following fields:

•       the social dynamics and changes regarding the rural and urban environments and the social dimensions of technique and innovation, particularly those ones which take place in the Alps; the main methods, techniques and tools of data collection, the investigation and description of such dynamics;


List of topics covered

-          Action

-          Agency

-          Artifacts

-          Class

-          Collaboration, cooperation, coordination

-          Culture

-          Description

-          Lifestyle

-          Practice

-          Social Capital

-          Structure


Teaching format

Most of the classes will consist in frontal lectures and discussions. In few cases the discussion will be based on class exercises, most of the times on home assignments.

Part of the classes will be carried out directly in the project course.


Learning outcomes


Knowledge and understanding

Students will learn how sociology works: how it articulates issues, how it gathers data about social phenomena, how it describes them, how it accounts for them.

At the end of the course student should be able to understand and position within the broader coordinates of the sociological debate empirical research articles.


Applying knowledge and understanding

At the end of the course students should be able to find, understand and integrate social researches into their design projects, as ground for their project’s choices and features.

At the end of the course students should be able to dialogue with social scientists in order to discuss about the sociological aspects of their projects.

At the end of the project students should be able to discuss about and to choose the appropriate method to gather data about their design projects.


Making judgments

At the end of the course students should be able to assess the relevance and value of a social research or a social research method for their design projects.


Communication skills

At the end of the course students should be able to communicate with social scientists about their design projects.


Learning skills

At the end of the course students should be able to get deeper into the sociological debate and to learn about specific social researches related to the specificities of their design projects.





Written and oral.

Students will be assessed considering:

-          the results of the home assignments assigned during the course

-          the result of the oral discussion about the relation between what done in the sociology course and what has been designed for the semester project course at the exam

-          participation in class activities

-          the ability to integrate course topics and issues into the final presentation of the design project


Assessment language: English



Evaluation criteria and criteria for awarding marks


-          the average of the marks given for the home assignments provides access to a certain range of marks to which the student can aspire as result of the oral discussion at the exam;

-          at the exam students have to show that they are able to manage the entirety of concepts, categories and models introduced in class and deepened through the required readings.  Once a student has shown a sufficient ability to manage course’s concepts, categories and models, a mark between 17 and 30 will be assigned in relation to the student’s performance and to the range of mark to which s/he has had access thanks to the average of the home assignments’ marks;

-          therefore, even with a good average resulting from home assignments a student can fail, if s/he does not show to be able to manage the entirety of concepts, categories and models introduced in class and deepened through the required readings during the oral discussion at the exam;

-       participation in class counts between 0 and 2 points to be added on the mark awarded after the discussion at the exam in case that mark is 18 or more;

-       the ability to integrate course topics and issues into the final presentation of the design project counts between 0 and 1 points  to be added on the mark awarded after the discussion at the exam in case that mark is 18 or more.

-          Therefore, if a student fails at the oral exam no point for participation or integration into the final project’s presentation will be added.


Admission to the final part of the exams requires that the average of marks on home assignments be positive.

Evaluation criteria change for every assignment but tend to always consider the ability to compare essays among them or with empirical findings and/or observations. More in general evaluation criteria consider not only the way in which the assignment brief has been fulfilled, but also the capacity to take into account other parts of the course and to make connections among them, as well as with possible personal experiences as design student.


Required readings

Required readings will be communicated the first day of class and will be available on OLE and in the Reserve Collection on Line and in the Library


Supplementary readings


General reference for concept and categories:

- A. Giddens, P. W. Sutton, Essential Concepts in Sociology, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.


General references for framing the sociological debate today:

- Gubelkian Commisision, Open the Social Sciences. Report of the Gubelkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences. Stanford University Press, 1996.

- B. Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Oxford University Press, 2005.

- J. Urry, Sociology Beyond Societies: Mobilities for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2000.

- I. Wallerstein, “The Creation of a Geoculture: Ideologies, Social Movements, Social Science”, in World System Analysis. An Introduction, Duke University Press, 2004, pp. 60-75.


General references for framing the sociological debate around action and agency today:

- B. Latour, “Where are the Missing Masses? The sociology of a few mundane artifacts”. In W. E. Bijker & J. Law (Eds.), Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change (pp. 225–258), MIT Press, 1992.

- B. Latour, “On Interobjectivity”, in Mind, Culture, and Activity, 3/4, 1996, pp. 228–245

-  J. L. Martin, The Explanation of Social Action, Oxford University Press, 2011.

- J.-H. Passoth, B. Peuker and M. Schillmeier (eds.), Agency without Actors. New approaches to collective action, Routledge, 2012.

- T. R. Schatzki, K. Knorr Cetina and E. von Savigny (eds.), The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, Routledge, 2001.

- E. Shove, M. Pantzar, & M. Watson, The Dynamics of Social Practice: Everyday Life and how it Changes. SAGE, 2012.




Coruse Syllabus: not available
Coruse Syllabus: not available

This seminar gives a general overview about concepts, methods, instruments, practices and strategies of political ecology as well as about the scientific exploration and the critical, problem-solution-oriented treatment of interrelations between environmental alterations and political, economic and social factors in general. It provides an introduction to:

1. topics and approaches of political ecology in connection with complementary areas of research and teaching regarding the interplay of human societies and ecological environments within established scientific disciplines (like sociology, economics, anthropology and ecology) as well as emerging inter- and transdisciplinary endeavors (like sustainability science, environmental studies or science technology studies);

2. models for exploring the shifting relationship of ecology and society, for understanding the whole range of what is taking place in the anthropocene, and for analyzing crucial patterns and the cumulative dynamics of the advancing socio-ecological crisis;

3. the concept of sustainable development as an alternate vision of civilizational progress, the reasons for its elaboration and necessity, its dimensions and how they interact, as well as in derivative concepts like ecological modernization and eco-social transformation and how they correspond with contrasting strategies like efficiency, sufficiency and consistency;

4. the meaning of socio-cultural constructions of nature, society, the human being and other important entities with reference to different framings of our reality which are leading to distinct word views and competing concepts of what to understand as problems and how to figure out possible solutions for them;

5. international disparities in human development, living conditions and resource consumption, also with respect to processes of global warming and world-wide environmental change and to the question who are the beneficent and affected parties and how to ensure intra- and intergenerational justice;

6. interdependencies between risk, vulnerability, disaster and resilience as crucial phenomena and research streams within the political ecology context of developing and industrial societies;

7. utilization competencies and environmental conflicts (e.g. political struggles about land use, pollution or the degradation of landscapes) as field of scientific research and central concern of public debate with regard to the constellation of winners and losers within the decisive network of human actors, environmental conditions and features dependent to agricultural and industrial economies and technological infrastructures;

8. basic accesses of several social theories and streams of political thought in relation to the socio-ecological crisis and how they explain, in comparison, its genesis, how they develop their criticism and what kind of recommendations they provide;

9. the question of how design, engineering and other professional activities (especially those referring to governance and management and other spheres of decision-making) are involved in these troubles and what they can offer to better our perspective for shaping social change and human ecology.