BSc Global Development with International Study

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Conceptualising the Camp

Course unit fact file
Unit code HCRI30651
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


What is a camp? How is it defined by different actors? Why is the word so common in humanitarian crises and yet, can mean a multitude of different things for those who reside in one? This module takes a long-term historical approach to the idea of the camp, real or imagined, in humanitarian and conflict settings. Students are provided with the theoretical and conceptual tools for analysing the types of camps which have existed past and present and the purpose they serve. Further, the course interrogates the “root causes” of camps, whether war and conflict, genocide, or government imposed detention, we ask how they are maintained and justified and continue to be an integral part of humanitarian response. Students will critically analyse primary and secondary sources ranging from examining the colonial concentration camps, to the holocaust through to western detention centres in the present day.


  • To interrogate the different definitions and understandings of the Camp in humanitarian settings 
  • To consider the types of humanitarian crises which result in the formation of camps · To critically assess the purpose of camps for different actors and the roles played by these actors in maintaining or dismantling them. 
  • Develop critical research and analysis skills related to the use of primary and secondary sources and demonstrated through two pieces of assessment 
  • Develop research skills aimed at delivering a guided seminar for fellow students.

Teaching and learning methods

The tutorials will follow a student-led approach whereby each week, an additional case study will be presented by the students to broaden the discussions presented in the previous lectures.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Evaluate a range of conceptual models used to define the camp. 
  • To develop a critical cogency and originality in interpreting the the actors involved in the creation and maintenance of camps and the purposes they serve 
  • To exemplify a good understanding of the types of humanitarian crises or conflicts which result in the creation of a camp, past and present 
  • To understand the historical lineage of the camp and its colonial underpinnings through analysis, critical engagement and management of sources and evidence. 
  • To use this knowledge to make an assessment on the future of the camp in humanitarian and conflict settings.

Intellectual skills

  • Critically interrogate the literature and primary sources on camps in humanitarian and conflict settings, past and present 
  • Understand scholarship on the theories of camp creation and interrogate the differences between the scholarship from the Global North versus the Global South. 
  • Develop an ability to use primary sources, to use personal accounts and sources as a means for developing academic arguments. 
  • To demonstrate these skills with accuracy, lucidity and fluency in assessments.

Practical skills

  • Understand the many facets of a camp in different circumstances and use this understanding for appropriate humanitarian interventions in future crises.
  • Have a sound understanding of the international standards expected for refugee management today. 
  • Be able to translate historical facets of the camp to present day humanitarian iterations of the camp. 
  • Develop a screencast podcast to inform others of the ways in which camps were conceptualised in the past or present 
  • Write a critical essay demonstrating research skills and academic and referencing conventions

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop an audio / visual screencast mini-documentary to communicate academic knowledge to a wider audience. 
  • Become specialists in refugee / IDP camps and detention centres for future careers. 
  • Bring the human element to a solid, physical structure

Employability skills

Group/team working
Recognising and identifying views of others 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 its significance. Research design - ability to develop and design an independent research project
Presentation - capacity to make a screen cast presentations, using appropriate media for a target audience Time Management - ability to schedule tasks in order of importance Improving own Learning - ability to improve one's own learning through planning, monitoring, critical reflection, evaluate and adapt strategies for one's learning

Assessment methods

Assessment Task

Formative or Summative


Tutorial preparation and participation



Knowledge translation project – screencast documentary







Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback

On all summative assessments

Oral feedback

Presentation - Formative

Additional feedback as required in office hours

Formative and summative

Recommended reading

Gatrell, P. (2013) The Making of the Modern Refugee, OUP: Oxford 

Hall, A. (2012)  Border Watch: Cultures of Immigration, Detention and Control, Pluto Press 

Hampton, J. (2002) Internally Displaced People: A Global Survey, Routledge. 

Hilberg, R. (1985) The Destruction of the European Jews, New York: Holmes & Meier. 

Johnson, H. (2014)  Borders, asylum and global non-Citizenship: the other side of the fence, CUP: Cambridge. 

Laycock, J. (2015) ‘Beyond National Narratives? Centenary Histories, the First World War and the Armenian Genocide’, Revolutionary Russia, 28:2. 

Lisher, S. K. (2005) Dangerous Sanctuaries: Refugee Camps, Civil War and the Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid, Cornell University Press: New York.

Smith, I. R. & Stucki, A. (2011) ‘The Colonial Development of Concentration Camps’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 39:3.

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jessica Hawkins Unit coordinator

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