AG Medical Anthropology


Population, Culture and the Environment

Wintersemester 2009/2010

Dr. Julia Pauli (
Universität zu Köln, Institut für Ethnologie


Since the 1798 publication of Thomas Malthus‘ „Essay on the Principle of Population“ more than two hundred years ago, politicians, scientists and the general public continue to discuss the relationship between population dynamics, human welfare and the natural environment. Malthus’s assumption that unrestrained population growth would eventually be limited by fixed natural resources has triggered diverse, often fierce debates in favour and in disagreement to the argument. To better understand the lines of thinking we will commence our seminar with an in-depth reading of key texts of this debate (i.e. Malthus‘ 1789 essay, some „Neo-Malthusian“ as well as critics, e.g. Shalini Randeria and Eric Ross). We will then work on a framework to analyze the multiple entanglements between population dynamics, culture and the environment and use this framework to analyze contemporary discourses on the issues, e.g. UN policies. The seminar will conclude with a discussion of case studies that highlight varying demographic, cultural and environmental aspects.


Grundlegende und einführende Literatur:

  • Jolly, Carole 1994: Four theories of population change and the environment. Population and Environment 16 (1): 61-90
  • Malthus, Thomas 1789:An Essay on the Principle of Population. London.
  • McNicoll, G. 2002: Managing Population-Environment Systems. In: W. Lutz, A. Pskawetz, W. Sanderson (eds.): Population and Environment. New York: 1-21
  • Pebley, Anne 1998: Demography and the Environment. Demography 35 (4): 377-389
  • Ross, Eric 1998: The Malthus factor. London.
  • Randeria, Shalini 2009: Malthus versus Condorcet. In Berking, Sabine and Magdalena Zolkos (eds.): Between life and death. Frankfurt a.M. pp. 25-46