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

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Building Nations: nations, nationalism and post-conflict reconstruction

Course unit fact file
Unit code HCRI30622
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Humanitarian Conflict Response Institute
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The world is imagined as being made up of nations but what are they? How do they come into being? What is nationalism and why is it such a powerful, emotive mobiliser of people and politics? This module offers an introduction to theoretical approaches to nations and nationalism, providing students with the conceptual and analytical frameworks for examining how these entities are created. It explores the various components that going to making nations, from symbols and cultural artefacts to language policy and foreign relations. Taking case studies from across the world, it encourages students to think critically about how contested the concepts of ‘nation’ and nationhood are in contemporary global politics, and how they have contributed to periods of violent conflict throughout modern history. By examining post-colonial, post-conflict cases, the module problematizes processes of nation-building and post-conflict reconstruction, asking the question of what constitutes a ‘viable’ nation-state.


  • To interrogate the core theories of nations and nationalism and gain deeper understanding of collective identification
  • To problematise popular notions of nations and nationhood, considering stateless nations and multinational states, as well as nation-states
  • To gain knowledge of a diverse range of case studies from both Europe and the Global South, in order to contrast post-colonial experiences of national self-determination and highlight the lingering legacies of colonialism
  • To develop critical thinking and independent research skills through written assessments

Knowledge and understanding

  • To develop a good understanding of key Modernist and Ethnosymbolist theoretical approaches to studying nations and nationalism
  • To develop knowledge of anti-colonial and Postcolonial thought on nationalism and self-determination
  • To critically discuss issues of identity, and symbolic and cultural capital as political legitimisers in social systems
  • To engage with the legacies of colonialism and challenges of post-conflict transition
  • To be able to apply the theoretical skills to critically examining specific case studies

Intellectual skills

  • To engage critically with the relevant literature
  • To reflect on historic, global power imbalances and their contemporary continued influence
  • Develop critical thinking and independent research skills

Practical skills

  • To develop an understanding of the complexities of nation formation and the various forms that ‘nations’ take in the global political arena
  • To evaluate different sources of knowledge (visual, memoirs, secondary criticisms, etc.) and critique their contributions to current debates on nationalism and self-determination movements
  • To demonstrate analytical, communication and debating skills with teaching staff and peers
  • To utilise effective use of library resources and conducting independent research

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Advanced communication skills for a variety of audiences, both written and oral
  • Effective team-work
  • Ability to develop, plan and achieve individual research outcomes
  • Enhanced analytical skills

Employability skills

Group/team working
- Team-work - identifying and recognising alternative opinions and viewpoints from peers and working constructively with them
- Information Retrieval - ability independently to gather, sift, synthesise and organise material from various sources (including library, electronic and online resources), and to critically evaluate their significance - Research design - ability to develop and design an independent research project
- Presentation - capacity to make oral presentations, using appropriate media for a target audience · Improving own learning - ability to improve one's own learning through planning, monitoring, critical reflection, evaluate and adapt strategies for one's learning - Time management - ability to schedule tasks in order of importance

Assessment methods

Essay plan 0%
Book Review 30%
Essay 70%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback

All summative assessments

Oral feedback on presentations


Additional feedback available verbally in office hours



Recommended reading

Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 2006).

‘Imagining East Timor’, Lusotopie (2001), pp. 233-239.

Cabral, Amilcar, Unity and Struggle: speeches and writings of Amilcar Cabral (NYU Press, 1979).

Return to the Source (NYU Press, 1974).

Hobsbawm, Eric, and Terence Ranger (eds.), The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 1992).

Hylland Eriksen, Thomas, and Richard Jenkins (eds.), Flag, Nation and Symbolism in Europe and America (London: Routledge, 2007).

Morris, Ewan, Our Own Devices: National Symbols and Political Conflict in Twentieth-century Ireland (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2005).

Simonsen, Sven Gunnar, ‘The Authoritarian Temptation in East Timor: Nationbuilding and the Need for Inclusive Governance’, Asian Survey, 46.4 (2006), pp. 575-596.

Smith, Anthony D., National Identity (London: Penguin Books, 1991).

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Catherine Arthur Unit coordinator

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