DV420      Half Unit
Complex Emergencies

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof David Keen CON. H715


This course is available on the MPA in International Development, MSc in African Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Global Politics, MSc in Global Politics (Global Civil Society), MSc in Health, Community and Development, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies, MSc in Population and Development, MSc in Social Policy and Development, MSc in Social Policy and Development: Non-Governmental Organisations, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The course examines the consequences and causes of humanitarian disasters. It looks at the changing nature of civil conflicts, at the famine process, and at the benefits that may arise for some groups from war and famine. It examines some of the roots of violence in civil wars, as well as the information systems that surround and help to shape disasters.


15 hours of lectures and 13 hours and 30 minutes of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of lectures in the ST.

There will be a ninety minute revision session in late LT or early ST.


Formative coursework

Students will have the opportunity to receive feed back on formative work, in the form of a practice assessed essay.

Indicative reading

A detailed weekly reading list will be provided at the first course meeting. A useful text, which is designed in large part around the course, is David Keen, Complex Emergencies (Polity, 2008). Other texts of interest include David Keen, Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars is More Important than Winning Them (Yale University Press, 2012);   Stathis Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2006); David Keen, Conflict and Collusion in Sierra Leone (James Currey, 2005); David Keen, Endless War? Hidden Functions of the 'War on Terror' (Pluto, 2006); Michael Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing (Cambridge University Press, 2005); Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines (Oxford University Press, 1981); Frances Stewart and Valpy FitzGerald (eds.), War and Underdevelopment, Volumes 1 and 2 (Oxford University Press, 2001); and Jeremy Weinstein, Inside Violence: The Politics of Insurgent Violence (Cambridge University Press, 2007); Tim Allen, Trial Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Lord's Resistance Army (Zed Press, 2006), Chris Dolan, Social Torture: The Case of Northern Uganda, 1986-2006 (Berghahn, 2009); Zoe Marriage, Not Breaking the Rules, Not Playing the Game: International Assistance to Countries in Conflict (Hurst and Co., 2006); Christopher Cramer, Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing: Accounting for Violence in Developing Countries (Hurst and Co., 2006); Mats Berdal and David Malone, Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars (Lynne Rienner, 2000); Hugo Slim, Killing Civilians: Method, Madness and Morality in War (Hurst and Co., 2008).


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 12.5
Merit 77.5
Pass 9.7
Fail 0.3

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2014/15: 119

Average class size 2014/15: 13

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information