MSc International Disaster Management

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Humanitarianism and Genocide

Course unit fact file
Unit code HCRI63332
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course will introduce students to a global history of genocide and examine humanitarian responses to mass violence past and present. It is structured in three parts: first we will discuss definitions of genocide and why they matter; second we will look at various humanitarian actors in twentieth century genocides; and third we will explore the memory and memorialisation of genocides within and beyond the humanitarian sector. The module will draw on a wide range of fields (genocide studies, peace and conflict studies, public history and memory studies, international law, etc.) and case studies such as the Aboriginal populations in Australia and Canada, children during the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, and the work of Médecins Sans Frontières during the Rwandan genocide.

This course will be delivered using a blended learning approach with workshops taking place on campus and lectures delivered asynchronously.


  • Deepen critical reasoning and intellectual curiosity
  • Strengthen written and oral communication skills Engage critically with a wide range of academic literature in genocide and humanitarian studies
  • Reflect on the long-term influence of the past on public debates, policy frameworks, and humanitarian action
  • Understand the wider usefulness of humanities and social science for the humanitarian sector

Teaching and learning methods

The principal teaching and learning methods will be the lecture and the workshop. Lectures will be asynchronous (recorded videos, guided readings, etc.). Workshops will include class exercises and student-led discussion. All materials will be available on Blackboard. 10x1 hour asynchronous lectures 10x1 hour workshops

Knowledge and understanding

  • Gain a global understanding and historical overview of genocide and mass violence and how humanitarian actors have responded to it Learn about specific case studies
  • Identify the evolutions of legal, practical, and cultural understandings of genocide and the potential conflicts of interpretation between them
  • Identify the ambiguities of humanitarian work in situations of extreme violence
  • Grasp the challenges of conducting historical and social research on humanitarian response and mass violence

Intellectual skills

  • Critically engage with a wide range of disciplines and materials around genocide and mass violence
  • Familiarise yourself with many different geographical and chronological settings
  • Develop a critical understanding of the methodological challenges of history writing and their relevance beyond the discipline.
  • Further develop awareness of current humanitarian issues around mass violence and genocide prevention

Practical skills

  • Gain a strong understanding of policy brief writing
  • Demonstrate analytical and debating skills with peers and tutor
  • Demonstrate efficiency and creativity in writing
  • Show effective use of library resources and search engines to gather information

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Interpretation and argumentation (written and oral)
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Project and time management
  • Cultural and ethical awareness

Employability skills

Analytical and intellectual skills (written and oral) Communication and Presentation skills Interpersonal skills Research skills Meeting deadlines Working autonomously and in groups

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%

Assessment task

Formative or Summative 



Critical Reflections Formative and summative 1000 words 30%
Essay proposal Formative 300 words 0%
Essay Summative 2,000 words 70%

Feedback methods

Feedback method Formative or Summative
  • Written feedback on assignments
  • Written feedback on essay proposal
  • Informal guidance during workshops
  • Peer review and oral feedback in class
  • 1-to-1 feedback during office hours


Recommended reading

Bloxham Donald and Moses Dirk (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies, Oxford University Press, 2010.

Bradol Jean-Hervé and Le Pape Marc, Humanitarian Aid, Genocide and Mass Killings: Médecins Sans Frontières, the Rwandan Experience, 1982–97, Manchester University Press, 2017.

Dean Carolyn, The Moral Witness: Trials and Testimony After Genocide, Cornell University Press, 2019.

 Lal Vinay, ‘The concentration camp and development: the pasts and future of genocide’, Patterns of Prejudice, 39, 2, 2005, 220-243.

Lester Alan and Dussart Fae (eds), Colonization and the Origins of Humanitarian Governance: Protecting Aborigines across the Nineteenth-Century British Empire, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Sémelin Jacques, ‘What is “Genocide”?’, European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire, 12:1, 2005, 81-89.

Steinacher Gerald, Humanitarians at war: the Red Cross in the shadow of the Holocaust, Oxford University Press, 2017.

Totten Samuel (ed), Plight and Fate of Children During and Following Genocide, Routledge, 2014.

Whitt Laurelyn and Clarke Alan, North American Genocides. Indigenous Nations, Settler Colonialism, and International Law, Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Antoine Burgard Unit coordinator
Bertrand Taithe Unit coordinator
Jessica Hawkins Unit coordinator

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