Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x seminar participation  10%
Semester Assessment 1 x seminar presentation  15%
Semester Assessment 1x 1,500 essay  25%
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,000 essay  50%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to.
1. Critically engage with contemporary debates about food aid and foreign policy.
2. Evaluate key concepts and discourses about famine, NGOs and the media in disaster relief.
3. Critical engage with and identify, analyse and evaluate the assumptions, theories that underpin conceptualizations of famine and wider questions about humanitarianism.
4. Demonstrate a Master's level awareness of the key literatures on famine and food aid in international relations.


Students will develop the ability to analyse, evaluate and discuss:
- the debates about food aid and foreign policy.
- the discourses of famine and an exploration of the role of NGOs and the media in disaster relief.
- the growth of international humanitarian aid agencies.
- the impact of media images of victims, the evolution of aid with strings, and international accountability.
- the module looks at how famine links with the wider questions of humanitarianism and military or non-military intervention.

Brief description

The module explores the question of famine very broadly, as the key to a number of more general issues in international politics and contributes to the Department's provision of optional modules in the area of the Third World and Postcolonial Politics.


1. Introduction: What is famine? Definitions, theories and firsthand accounts. Case study: Ireland 1845/51.
2. Nature's revenge Food availability decline: Malthus and critiques. Population and famines.
3. A problem of 'entitlements'? Contending theories. Sen's entitlement theory. Critiques.
4. A global problem? Trade, agribusiness and development. Global food regimes. Structuralist critiques. Hunger, starvation and poverty.
5. Conflict famines as 'complex political emergencies'. Beneficiaries, local and global. Conflict famines and complex emergencies.
6. Relations of hunger: gender, race and ethics Science, gender and hunger Race and hunger. Ethical questions.
7. Food aid and development, Food aid debates, Regime studies of food aid, Aid institutions and power.
8. Famine, food security and development. Vulnerability and coping. Relief-development debates. Development and conflict.
9. The media and famine as a humanitarian issue Images of disaster. Case study: Ethiopia and Eritrea, 1984/85.
10. Security, intervention and development. Relief in 'complex emergencies': intervention or disengagement? Humanitarian intervention. Merging agendas.


This module is at CQFW Level 7