Faculty of Arts


Humanitarian Interventions


Humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have recently become important sites for social scientific inquiry parallel to their increasing prominence in the management of world affairs.

This course traces the rise of the humanitarian narrative and examines how humanitarianism — along with other key words such as crisis, emergency and intervention — has become one of the organising categories of political action and order. 

Course content analyses both the possibilities and limits of intervening in the lives of individuals and communities grounded upon humanitarian discourses of compassion.

Weekly seminars address the following topics, among others:

  • Conceptualising disaster and emergency
  • Humanitarian values and governance
  • Humanitarian mobility
  • Discourses of building back better – linking relief and development
  • Sacred aid – faith-based organisations in humanitarian interventions
  • Social lives and everyday practices of humanitarian aid workers

Course Objectives:

By the end of the semester, students will:

  • Review and critique the historical rise (and present crisis) of humanitarian intervention as a prominent mode of governance in global affairs
  • Think, write and speak critically about key analytical concepts in studies of humanitarian interventions such as the politics of bare life, the emergency-development continuum, humanitarian partnerships, trauma and resilience
  • Identify and critique research methods used in social studies of humanitarian interventions
  • Situate the everyday practices of humanitarian intervention (project design and implementation, organisational management, working with local partners and so on) in light of the first three objectives
  • Locate and critically appraise these debates and practices in the context of particular case studies of humanitarian interventions around the world. Examples may include but are not limited to:  Christchurch earthquake, Haiti earthquake, Asia-Pacific cyclones (e.g., Cyclones Haiyan, Pam and Winston), Syrian civil war and refugee crisis, Hurricane Katrina, volcano eruptions and frequent flood events across Southeast Asia, American military misadventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and so on

Availability 2021

Semester 1


Lecturer(s) Dr Jesse Hession Grayman


DEVELOP 717: 15.0 points

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