• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Asian Studies
  • Areas of interest Development Studies, Environmental Studies, History, Pacific Studies, Asian Studies

Natural disasters and epidemics present risks on a new scale for the Asia-Pacific region, which has been characterised by dramatic increases in population density and in economic growth. More recent events need to be understood in the context of the region's long history of cataclysmic disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, volcanic eruptions, flood and drought, and a sequence of devastating epidemics, from the Plague through to avian flu. This course addresses the social, cultural and economic dimensions of the history of disasters and epidemics in Asia and the Pacific, the role of these events in shaping societies in the region, and the recent transformations in the scale of their impacts and the nature of trans-national, state and community responses. Case studies of particular disasters and epidemics address questions of their causes and consequences, and will be grounded through guest lectures in an understanding of the science of disasters. The scope for reducing future impacts is considered within the framework of both state and community-based strategies for the promotion of resilience and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), the unequal distribution of risk, risk assessment and insurance, and the additional contribution of global climate change.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon completion of this course, student should be able to:

1. Demonstrate knowledge of the broad history and scope of disasters and epidemics in the Asia-Pacific region, as covered in this course

2. Identify the distinctive characteristics and impacts of different forms of disaster and epidemic

3. Recognise issues of difference and debate in the study of disasters and epidemics

4. Distinguish between and assess the roles of different actors in the response to disasters and epidemics

5. Locate and critically evaluate a wide range of scholarly, government and NGO sources on disasters and epidemics

6. Communicate relevant material in presentations and well-supported and cogent essays.

Indicative Assessment

Research seminar (notes and reading list) 20% 
Case study essay (2000 words) 35% 
Thematic essay (4000 words) 45% 

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The course will consist of 3 contact hours per week over 12 weeks, including two one hour lectures; the first outlining the characteristics of a particular disaster or epidemic, and the second addressing case studies in detail. The third hour will be devoted to a research seminar, with group discussion of student presentations on research relating to their essay topics. In addition to assessment of preparation and presentation of the research seminar, the student will produce two major essays, the first on a case study (2000 words) and the second on a thematic question (4000 words).

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have successfully completed ASIA8020 or ASIA8021.

Preliminary Reading

McGuire, Bill  2012. Waking the Giant: how a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Oliver-Smith, Anthony and Susanna M. Hoffman (eds)  1999. The Angry Earth: disaster in anthropological perspective. New York: Routledge.


IBRD/World Bank  2014. Community Mapping for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management: harnessing local knowledge to build resilience.


Sakai, Minako, Edwin Jurriens, Jian Zhang and Alec Thornton (eds)  2014. Disaster Relief in the Asia Pacific: agency and resilience. London: Routledge.


Shaw, Rajib  2012. Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction. Bingley UK: Emerald.


Wolfe, Nathan  2011. The Viral Storm: the dawn of a new pandemic age. London: Allen Lane.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $3216
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $4590
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
9072 23 Jul 2018 30 Jul 2018 31 Aug 2018 26 Oct 2018 In Person N/A

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