SDC-34306 Studying Crisis: Conflict, Disaster and the Social


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work5
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. G van der Haar
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. G van der Haar
dr. JF Warner
dr. BJ Jansen
Examiner(s)dr. ir. G van der Haar

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

RSO-34306 Theorizing Development: Implications for Research; SDC-32806 Sociology in Development: Towards a Critical Perspective.


Conflicts and disasters are shock events characterised by high levels of disruption and insecurity. Yet, crises are not simply about chaos and breakdown, but involve order and ordering at different levels. They present both continuities and discontinuities. This course looks at how crises are both socially produced and produce social outcomes. Students learn to problematize, conceptualise and analyse conflicts and disasters in relation to societal change and re-ordering. We problematize the connection between crisis and development. Where violent conflict and disaster are often taken as a sign of the break-down of development or as 'development in reverse', we suggest that crises are the product of processes of transformation inherently marked by inequality, which may be deepened by uneven or lop-sided development. Crisis events then become sites at which different claims about what development is, are expressed.
We discuss the following issues:
- crises are often associated with intense change (“extreme make over”). We explore the production and impact of change, as well as the normality in and normalisation of disaster and conflict. For this, we bring in the notion of securitisation.
- we look at how people cope with the extreme conditions of insecurity and uncertainty, drawing on notions from the anthropology of conflict, such as “warscape” and “social navigation”.
- in crisis situations, specific repertoires of intervention and governance come into play. Which are these, how are they justified, and how do they shape processes of in- and exclusion? We discuss the concepts of “hybrid governance” and “rebel governance”.
- the course discusses methodological approaches to understand crisis and crisis interventions as social processes. The notion of “aidnography” is introduced for the ethnographic study of aid organisations.
Note: This course is obligatory for MID students intending to do an MSc thesis in the domain of Disaster Studies (which covers natural hazards and disasters, violent conflict, forced displacement, and crisis response). The course is open to other students, but it is recommended they contact the course coordinator previous to enrolling, to check on prior knowledge.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- identify and critically appraise processes of societal re-ordering associated with conflict and disaster;
- identify and critically appraise selected theoretical notions and methodological approaches to the understanding of conflict and disaster;
- analyse social processes in conflict and disaster making use of these notions;
- identify and critically appraise the relations between crisis and development at the level of theory and in social reality;
- analyse a real life complex crisis, identifying different dimensions and re-working these into distinct research problems.


Concepts and approaches are explored in the lectures, which involve interactive discussions of the literature. Lectures will have an interactive set-up, with buzz exercises and in-class discussions. Students are expected to attend the lectures, to read the literature in preparation of the sessions, and are invited to share their questions, viewpoints and concerns.
In addition, the course includes the 'Current Crisis Studio'. This engages students in the analysis of a current case of crisis and crisis response, and guides them in breaking down a complex issue in a number of research puzzles. The 'Current Crisis Studio' is concluded with a presentation and debate session. The course also includes a number of 'Thesis Tutorials' which allow students to develop their ideas on thesis topics in connection to relevant theories and methodologies.


- written exam (60%);
- case study assignment (group work in Current Crisis Studio) (40%).
Both components require a minimum mark of 5.50 to pass the course.


The literature will be made available through MyPortal.

Restricted Optional for: MTOTourism, Society and EnvironmentMSc5AF
MIDInternational Development StudiesMScA: Sociology of Development5AF
Restricted Optional for: WUDIRBSc Minor Disaster Risk and Resilience5AF