BSc International Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response and Spanish

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Disasters and Development

Course unit fact file
Unit code HCRI20012
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Humanitarian Conflict Response Institute
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The overarching aim of the course is to prepare students to theoretically and empirically investigate how development relates to disasters. For decades the idea of “Development” has been the concern of economists, political scientists, sociologists and anthropologists, to name just a few. Disaster risk management, in turn, was for decades seen as separate to development. This course critically unpacks this assumption/omission, and examines how development shapes disasters as well as disaster risk management.  

This course conceptualises disasters as a symptom of underdevelopment and links key development theories, issues and challenges to the causes, consequences and responses to disasters. The course takes an applied, interdisciplinary approach to some of the “big questions” in our field: What does development mean? How do we do development? Who defines development?  The first half of the course in particular focuses on exploring what development is and what it means to be ‘doing development’. Students will look at whether or not development should focus on economic growth or inequality, on state-led or market-led development. The second half of the course goes in depth to explore key challenges to development, and illustrates these themes through case studies and the role of communities in their own development and disaster risk reduction. Other important themes covered include colonialism, neoliberalism, gender, participation, non-governmental organisations, among others, as important drivers of and approaches to development and disaster risk reduction.   





  • An understanding of the changing definitions of development over the course of the twentieth century to the current day; 
  • An understanding of how development discourse and disaster discourse are connected; 
  • A critical understanding of the different ways in which povery, vulnerability and inequality have been understood and the implications of those differences; 
  • An understanding of the different roles of development actors, and the debates about their role and impacts; 
  • An ability to use empirically formed analysis to identify gaps and tensions in the literature and academic debates; 
  • An ability to engage in critical discussion and debate in a group, and to formulate ideas based upon key readings. 

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, a student will be expected to be able:

  • To critically understand the interface between development and disasers; 
  • To interrogate what development means and how it is practicsed over time and in different contexts; 
  • To understand the intended and unintended consequences of various forms of development interventions and how they shape disaser risk and risk reduction; 
  • To understand the role of key international and local actors and agencies in development and disaster risk reduction. 

Knowledge and understanding

  • Knowledge of specific case studies of various forms of development interventions and disasters
  • Knowledge of key concepts in development such as 'eurocentricism', 'neoliberalism', 'community participation', 'gender and development'
  • An understanding of teh interplay between international and local approaches to development and disaster risk reduction
  • Develop familiarity of the practical tools of development such as livelihoods assessment, participatory planning etc.

Intellectual skills

  • Deepen critical appraisal
  • Appreciate differing methodological/conceptual perspectives
  • Link theoretical/conceptual material with case study material

Practical skills

  • Writing academic essays
  • Preparing and delivering presentations
  • Debating and discussing

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Working autonomously
  • Working in teams
  • Respecting different views
  • Giving feedback to others


Employability skills

- Editorial and analytical skills - Evidence-led decision-making - Putting together and maintaining arguments (useful for a marketing/awareness campaign or business case) - Oral and communication skills - especially in terms of comprehending large amounts of information and drawing reasoned conclusions - Meeting deadlines - Working autonomously and in groups

Assessment methods

Group Presentation 30%
Essay 70%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

  • Informal verbal feedback during lectures and workshops.
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during office hours or by making an appointment)



  • Written feedback on the presentations
  • Written feedback on the essay assignment




Recommended reading

Achebe, C. (1986). Things fall apart. Heinemann.  

Bankoff, G., Frerks, G., & Hilhorst, D. (2004). Mapping vulnerability: Disasters, development, and people. London: Earthscan. 

Chambers, R. (1997). Whose reality counts? : putting the first last. Practical Action Publishing.

Chari, Sharad, and Stuart Corbridge. 2007. The development reader. Routledge

Cowen, M.P. and R.W. Shenton 1996. Doctrines of Development. London: Routledge 

Deaton, Angus. 2013. The Great Escape: Health, Wealth and the Origins of Inequality. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Desai, V., & Potter, R. B. (2014). The companion to development studies (3rd edition.). Routledge. 

Escobar, A. (2012). Encountering development : the making and unmaking of the Third World. Princeton University Press. 

Kothari, U. (2005). A radical history of development studies : individuals, institutions and ideologies. Zed Books. (e-book available via the Manchester U Library) 

Sen, A. K. (1999). Development as freedom (1st ed.). Knopf. (e-book available via the Manchester U Library)

UNISDR 2000: Living with Risk, A global review of disaster reduction initiatives. 


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Practical classes & workshops 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nimesh Dhungana Unit coordinator
Ayham Fattoum Unit coordinator

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