• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Culture, Health and Medicine
  • Areas of interest Interdisciplinary Studies - Sustainability, Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Health Medicine and the Body
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person

Waste is ubiquitous and has a multitude of effects on human, animal, and environmental health. Our world is undergoing unpredictable and dramatic changes, from sweeping climate change to technological innovations revolutionizing the minutiae of daily life. Under scrutiny is the sustainability of societies and landscapes and our collective ability to maintain them into the uncertain future. With growing populations and increasing consumption patterns around the world, waste management presents a variety of challenges for urban planning, economic development, local conservation, and public health. Waste is a critical focus for understanding the social, political, economic, aesthetic, and ethical ideologies and values that shape our current mode of existence. For example, in parts of the developing world such as Brazil, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, entire communities have been erected alongside landfills and the waste material is the very source of livelihoods for these marginalised populations. Their engagement with reclaiming waste leads to the burden of social stigma and long-term health consequences. This course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the intersection of life, waste, and sustainability. It will address how the volume and variety of waste is a core concern for understanding the risks to human, animal, marine, and microbial life. Drawing on anthropology, cultural geography, discard studies, environmental studies, science studies, and urban studies, we will apply an eclectic theoretical approach to understand the complexity of waste production, disposal, management, treatment, reuse, and the effects on the health of communities and diverse ecosystems. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
1. Apply an interdisciplinary theoretical approach to issues related to health, sustainability, and waste.
2. Explain the diversity of social structures, cultural practices, and contemporary ideologies that shape how we understand waste.
3. Articulate the complexity of waste management and sustainability as it relates to the mass phenomena of urbanization, industrialization, and globalization.
4. Produce independent research to further demonstrate how waste is critical to understanding human health and environmental sustainability. 
5. Work collaboratively to address common concerns regarding health, sustainable waste practices, and environmental protection.

Indicative Assessment

Participation (10%) LO 1
Presentation and Leading Discussion, 30 minutes (10%) LO 2,3
Online Discussion Board Postings, 3 posts (450 words for each post) (20%) LO 1,2,3
Book Review, 1500 words (20%) LO 1,2
Group Project, 3000 words (40%) LO 1,4,5

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact through weekly seminars and presentations over 12 weeks
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading, and writing

Assumed Knowledge

MA students in the cognate fields of anthropology, geography, sociology, public health, environmental studies, science studies, medicine, political science, history, philosophy, economics


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $3360
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $5160
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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