• Class Number 2618
  • Term Code
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Topic Introduction: humanitarianism; complex emergencies
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Annika Lems
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 19/02/2024
  • Class End Date 24/05/2024
  • Census Date 05/04/2024
  • Last Date to Enrol 26/02/2024
SELT Survey Results

Introduction to Humanitarian Action (ANTH8056)

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.
Dr Annika Lems

Research Interests

Dr Annika Lems

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions