• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Development Studies
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Annika Lems
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2024
    See Future Offerings

The course's aim is to give students a good understanding of the key social, political and conceptual issues underlying humanitarian ideas, actions and discourses. In an age marked by wars, large-scale displacements, pandemics and environmental disasters, humanitarian interventions have taken on a crucial role. While many humanitarian actors prioritize impartiality and neutrality in their ethics and practice, anthropological analyses can create more nuanced depictions of the multi-layered political, economic, social and cultural questions arising from humanitarian practices. Through readings from the burgeoning field of the anthropology of humanitarianism the course will address challenging questions, such as: Do we, as some anthropologists have suggested, live in an age of 'humanitarian reason' (Fassin 2012)? Where does this impulse to 'do good' (Hilhorst 2002) stem from? And how does this impulse correlate with local perceptions of help and being helped? What contradictions might arise from actions taken in the name of humanity?

Interactive and team-based learning methods will encourage students to switch their roles from passive recipients of knowledge to becoming active co-creators of the course's shape and content. The first half of the course will be dedicated to identifying and discussing key concepts and ideas from the anthropology of humanitarianism as well as to the historical

contextualization of contemporary forms of humanitarianism. By extending humanitarianism beyond the immediate realm of disaster relief responses, the course will make visible the powerful ways humanitarian ideas and practices interact with social, cultural and political realms. Having established a robust critical analytical framework, the second half of the course will be dedicated to humanitarian case studies. Based on students' interests and experiences, these ethnographic examples will shed light on the everyday micropolitics of humanitarian practices and highlight the complex social and cultural processes they involve.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. demonstrate a critical appreciation of the key concepts and approaches used by anthropologists of humanitarianism;
  2. understand the likely social, cultural and political impacts of humanitarian ideas and practices;
  3. reflect critically on their own experiences and understanding of humanitarian interventions in the light of the concepts and methods introduced in this course; and
  4. to interact and work with peers on team-based assessments in a socially intelligent, productive and mutually supportive way.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Presentation/ Essay Development (500 words) (15) [LO 1,2,3]
  2. Team presentation (30) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  3. Main Essay (5000 words) (30) [LO 1,2,3]
  4. Presentation Discussant (10) [LO 1,2,4]
  5. Class Discussant (15) [LO 1,2,4]

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.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from:

a) 24 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of seminars and tutorial-like activities; and

b) 106 hours of independent and team-based student research, reading, and writing.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Prescribed Texts

The readings and texts will be available on Wattle

Assumed Knowledge



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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2024 $4080
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $6000
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
Introduction: humanitarianism; complex emergencies
2618 19 Feb 2024 26 Feb 2024 05 Apr 2024 24 May 2024 In Person View
Moral and ethical basis of humanitarianism in the
2619 19 Feb 2024 26 Feb 2024 05 Apr 2024 24 May 2024 Online View

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