• Offered by Department of International Relations
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject International Relations
  • Areas of interest International Relations
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • AsPr Dorothy D'Costa
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2019
    See Future Offerings



Humanitarianism is a prominent powerful, though often vexed issue in world politics today. Debate on the role of humanitarianism in world politics often vacillates between belief in its capacity to transform the international system and frustration and disillusionment with its perceived failure to do so. In examining the role of humanitarianism in world politics, this course seeks to disaggregate these debates, revealing key themes, trends and questions in the evolution of the concepts and practices of humanitarianism. Central amongst these are the themes of assistance and protection that are often viewed as at the very heart of humanitarianism, along with advocacy and temoinage.

The course first examines the historical evolution and global diffusion of humanitarian concepts and practices. In this we encounter ideas such as the humanitarian imperative and humanitarian space, as well as discuss the genesis of movements that have been central to the globalisation of humanitarian practices, such as the ICRC.

In the second section of the course we look in detail at the concepts and practices of international humanitarian assistance, considering in particular some of the dilemmas and paradoxes of assistance.

In the third section of the course we explore the concepts and practices of humanitarian intervention. We critically examine the evolving relationship between humanitarian intervention and the concept of sovereignty; the emergence of the idea of a ‘responsibility to protect' and the extent to which this can and is being implemented.

Finally we examine the extent to which conceptions of humanitarian obligations have come to underpin state building projects states that have been identified as ‘failed' or ‘failing'.

Learning Outcomes

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

Students by the end of the course will have developed both practical and theoretical insight into the evolution of contemporary discourses and practices of humanitarianism. They will have examined formulation, implementation and subsequent assessment of international humanitarian assistance. They will have grappled with the fundamental problems of how to assist, who to assist and when to assist, as well as learnt of the political pressures that shape where we assist. In addition, they will have critically examined the development of both the norms and practices of humanitarian intervention, placing these in the context of broader debates about sovereignty and protection in world politics.



Other Information

Delivery Mode:

The course is conducted through seminars with an emphasis on interactive teaching aimed at engaging all students in active participation.

Indicative Assessment



5000 - 6000 words of written assessment, comprising essays, seminar papers and an examination, as deemed appropriate by lecturer.

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.




Ten hours per week: two for seminar attendance, and eight for reading and writing. Please note this is a general guide, averaged over the semester and the final hours ultimately depend on the individual's ability in reading and writing.

Preliminary Reading

Reading required before course begins.


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
2019 $3840
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $5460
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4137 25 Feb 2019 04 Mar 2019 31 Mar 2019 31 May 2019 In Person View

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