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


Studiepunten 6.00

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. In case students have not followed these courses, they should consult their study advisor and the course coordinator in advance.

Continuation courses:

MSc Thesis Disaster Studies.


Conflicts and disasters stand out because of their high levels of disruption, insecurity, and suffering. They are 'shock events' that seem to be outside of what we define as 'normality', and interrupt pathways of 'development'. In this course, we unpack these notions and reflect on how crises are connected to change, notions of transformation, and development. We also zoom in on the production of discourse and knowledge about crisis. In this course, students learn to problematize, conceptualize and analyze conflicts and disasters in relation to societal change and (conceptualizations of) 'development'.

Crisis, development, and change:
In this course we propose to see crises not simply in terms of chaos and breakdown, but to recognize the processes of ordering and organization at different levels. Moving beyond ideas of crisis as 'development in reverse', we suggest that crises are the product of processes of transformation inherently marked by inequality and exclusion. Crisis events then become sites at which different claims are expressed about what development is, and what generates insecurity and human suffering. How is this reflected in governance in contexts of conflict and violence? (This is discussed with the concepts of “hybrid governance” and “rebel governance”) How do people cope with situations of (extreme) violence and insecurity? (We explore the notions of "warscape"  and "social navigation"). How does society change as a consequence of crises? (We zoom in on "gender transformation").

Production of knowledge on crisis:
Academics, politicians, and society at large engage in constructing and legitimizing specific frames and understandings of crises. We take a critical look at these efforts. How have scholars looked at the relation between conflict and development over the years? (We zoom in on the  "security and development nexus".) How and why do politicians 'declare' a crisis and justify the measures to be be taken? (We bring in the notion of "securitisation"). How can we study crisis and crisis interventions as social processes with ethnographic methods? (We explore what is meant with “aidnography”.)

The lectures focus on these different conceptual debates. In a yearly changing case study (Current Crisis Studio), we unpack a current crisis situation and explore different aspects of it.

Note: This course is obligatory for MID students intending to do an MSc thesis in the domain of Disaster and Conflict (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 the relations between crisis, development and social transformation;
- 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 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.

For students preparing to do a thesis in the field of disaster and conflict, the course offers a series of optional Thesis Tutorials.


- 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 consist of articles and/or book chapters and will be made available through MyPortal.

Keuze voor: MTOTourism, Society and EnvironmentMSc5AF
MIDInternational Development StudiesMScA: Spec. A - Sociology of Development5AF