Module Identifier IP30620  
Academic Year 2001/2002  
Co-ordinator Dr Jenny Edkins  
Semester Semester 2  
Course delivery Seminar   10 Hours (10 x 1 hour)  
  Lecture   12 Hours (12 x 1 hour)  
Assessment Seminar presentation     10%  
  Case study   1 x 4,000 words   70%  
  Essay   1 x 1,500 word essay   20%  

Brief description

This module examines the international issues of mass starvations and genocides and looks at selected case studies in some detail.


The module provides a critical introduction of debates surrounding famines, complex emergencies and genocides in international politics. It presents the argument that famine and hunger are not technical but political problems, bound up with conflict and oppression and similar in many ways to genocide. There is extensive use of video material, the aim being to provide students with richness of detail which they can draw on to debate the politics of famine and genocide.


The module begins by examining four case studies in some detail: Ireland 1845-1850; Germany 1933-1945; Ethiopia 1984-1985; Rwanda 1994. We then consider what causes famine or genocide and who benefits. We look at several approaches to famine and genocide including the Malthusian approach, Sen's entitlement critique and the complex emergency writers. Later lectures consider a series of issues: the way food for work programmes and famine relief camps sustain that system; technologies and micropractices of famine and genocide, images of famine and the portrayal of disaster, and, finally, questions of memory and accountability. Alongside the lectures, there will be showing of documentaries which illustrate the case studies. Seminars will be student-led.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module, students will be able to:

- show a critical understanding of issues raised by hunger, famine and genocide
- discuss these questions orally and in writing
- demonstrate knowledge of a number of cases of famine, hunger and genocide
- produce a critical analysis of a specific famine or genocide using concepts encountered in the module

Transferable skills

The module asks students to think critically analytically about material they are presented with, both textually and in film. The material is difficult and challenging both intellectually and emotionally. During the seminars they will have the opportunity to learn how to facilitate group discussions, to practice their skills in explaining and discussing their own ideas, and to select material suitable for inclusion in discussion. The final written assignment demands individual initiative in researching a topic, finding material and producing a coherent written piece of some length.

Reading Lists

Christine Kinealy. A Death-Dealing Famine.
Raul Hilberg. The Destruction of the European Jews.
Alex de Waal. Famine Crimes.