BSc International Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Rethinking Crisis

Course unit fact file
Unit code HCRI20021
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Humanitarian Conflict Response Institute
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course explores the changing nature of, and political uses of, the concept of “crisis” and enables students to rethink how different notions impact on responses. It will introduce students to theoretical approaches that will enable them to understand how information about crises is produced and informs everyday politics, as well as state-level and international strategy, decision-making and policy formation. Students will have the opportunity to engage with various aspects of crises from a theoretical perspective and then apply these to a series of case studies including migration, climate change, terrorism, and the Covid-19 pandemic to explore how events or phenomena labelled as “crises” are understood and dealt with in the contemporary context.


Year 2, semester 1 optional on BSc International Disaster Management and Conflict Response


  • To develop an understanding of the politics of and changing boundaries between different types of emergencies, and appreciate that they may be operating in the same spaces with similar actors and institutions but also potentially competing goals. Therefore links and commonalities, complexities and connections between management and politics require exploration in response to crisis.  
  • To develop an ability to engage in critical discussion and debate in a group, and to formulate ideas based upon key readings and advance a position in group activities based on the analysis and synthesis of readings.
  • To engage critically with relevant literature and be able to apply theoretical concepts from the literature to practical examples.

Knowledge and understanding

  • To develop a critical understanding of the diverse approaches to understanding contemporary crises and how they are communicated in different political spheres.
  • To recognise the importance of understanding the politics of crises, and the importance of knowledge production practices in and about crises.
  • To critically interrogate the literature related to crises drawn from a range of disciplines, and to recognise the challenges of addressing these crises, both practically and ethically.
  • To critically evaluate theoretical approaches and apply them effectively to case studies.


Intellectual skills

  • To critically interrogate the literature related to complex crises drawn from a range of disciplines
  • To recognise the challenges of addressing these crises, both practically and ethically
  • To understand the links between different aspects of complex crises as well as the interdependencies between crises
  • To critically evaluate theoretical approaches and apply them effectively to case studies.


Practical skills

  • Demonstrate analytical and debating skills with peers and tutor.
  • Evaluate information and summarise key points.
  • Demonstrate efficiency and creativity in writing.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop communication skills for a variety of audiences;
  • Show effective use of library resources drawing relevant literature, and seeking out information through the use of virtual sources to underpin learning and gathering information for written work.
  • Develop analytical skills and the ability to articulate ideas verbally and in writing;
  • Develop confidence in articulating ideas, both written and verbally.


Employability skills

Students will learn to develop analytical skills and strong communication skills, as well as the ability to articulate ideas verbally and in writing. Students will also develop confidence in discussing ideas, and debating concepts and theories. Individual reading and study time will help students to develop time-keeping and organisational skills, as well as the ability to monitor and develop their own learning.

Assessment methods

Essay plan 0%
Book review 30%
Essay 70%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on written assignments


Verbal feedback on 1-1 meetings with students



Recommended reading

Mark Duffield (2018) Post-Humanitarianism: Governing Precarity in the Digital World. Polity.

Claudia Aradau and Rens van Munster (2011) Politics of Catastrophe: Genealogies of the Unknown. Routledge.

Louise Amoor (2013) The Politics of Possibility: Risk and Security Beyond Probability, Duke University Press.

Naomi Klein (2007) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Toronto: Random House.

Michael T. Klare (2019) All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change. Metropolitan Books.

Jeff Huysmans (2006) The Politics of Insecurity: Fear, Migration and Asylum in the EU. Routledge.

Matt McDonald (2013) Discourses on Climate Change. Political Geography, Vol. 33, pp.42-51.

Charlotte Heath-Kelly (2013) ‘Counterterrorism and the Counterfactual: Producing the Radicalization Discourse and the UK Prevent Strategy’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Vol. 15, pp.86-105. 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Mandy Turner Unit coordinator

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