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Colloquium on Aid, Politics and Violence in Africa

Course number: BC3810

International emergency aid often takes place in violent contexts. Beyond the claim that humanitarian aid is and should be neutral, what are exactly the relationships between aid, politics, and violence? What are the political and military impacts of humanitarian and development assistance? Aid is aimed at healing sufferings, but it can also fuel violence or be an instrument of war. Should humanitarian aid promote the imperatives of conflict resolution and democratization? If so, does it compromise the humanitarian ideals? Does aid contribute to perpetuating subtle forms of domination? This colloquium adopts a critical, social science approach to humanitarian and development assistance (it is not a class on how to design and implement aid programs, but rather a class on how to think about aid). It focuses on aid in Africa as background against which to understand the political implications of aid in complex emergency situations. It has a majority African focus, but it includes some non-African cases for comparative purposes, to elucidate the important theories on the subject. Readings include both highly theoretical works and case studies. Guest speakers will be invited for several class sessions, to exchange with students and explain how the debates studied in class play out in the “real” world.