Aid, Politics, and Violence in Africa

Apr 2013

Take this class! Séverine is an exceptional professor—intelligent, challenging, prepared, knowledgeable, engaging... not to mention that she spent years in the humanitarian and development aid world prior to becoming an academic. She has done extensive research on conflict in the DRC, and was referred to by a colleague as the expert on the DRC (her colleague who she invited to come speak to our class was the representative of Médecins Sans Frontieres to the UN for 12 years). In short, Séverine is exceptionally knowledgeable about the humanitarian and development aid community, in theory and practice. In terms of the class, you will learn about the history of humanitarian and development aid, the challenges between theory and practice, contemporary aid work and interventions, etc. Not only does the class give you a broad understanding of the field, but in-depth study on various conflicts, aid strategies, international actors, etc. This class is taught from a critical perspective, so expect to spend the majority of the time critiquing how aid is flawed and inherently problematic. Throughout the semester, Séverine invites multiple guests to come speak to the class—ranging from an economic analyst for the UN to the MSF rep to the UN. The speakers are usually very interesting and engaging. As other reviews have mentioned, yes, there is a lot of reading. But, it is not overwhelming and Séverine does an excellent job of only assigning the sections of books which are relevant to class, pairing different texts together, pulling from a wide variety of sources, including essential readings for the field of study, and balancing challenging and easier readings. The reading reviews are not challenging and are good preparation for class discussion. Séverine also does an excellent job of being available and responsive to all of her students. She is very approachable and is genuinely interested in what you have to say and in helping you understand class material or anything else you want to talk to her about. She offers individual guidance throughout the research paper process and her advice is constructive and helpful—she seems to know about nearly every facet of humanitarian/development aid, and if she doesn't she'll help you find out. Make sure you go to her office hours for any help, she definitely wants to see you and help you in her class.

May 2010

This class, and professor were absolutely fantastic! Severine is a knowledgeable and dedicated professor, who is genuinely interested in challenging her students and making sure that they learn. She encouraged engaging discussions and brought in guest lecturers, without losing the focus of the topic we were discussing. I've probably learned more from this class (both about the specific topic and about poli sci as a discipline) than all the other poli sci classes I've taken, combined, and the syllabus is full of fascinating texts. You will definitely work in this class, but it's worth it!

Mar 2009

This class is amazing and a must for anyone who wants to do humanitarian/development work in the future. The reading list is fabulous - Professor Autesserre hand-picked engaging texts that allow you to really understand the aid enterprise and its effects (shockingly negative). It focuses on Africa, but she assigns readings that have to do with other humanitarian crises around the world (former Yugoslavia, India, etc). The work is pretty standard for a colloquium and there is a 25 pg paper on humanitarian aid/development due at the end of the semester. What is great about the paper is that you can write about any aspect of aid/development you want on any place on earth, not only Africa. Make sure to do all the readings because the discussion is entirely class based, she neatly summarizes the readings/main points of the discussion at the end of the class. Professer Autesserre also brings a lot of great guest speakers to class - for example she got a UN development worker, an Action Against Hunger officer, and a Doctors Without Borders representative to speak to us throughout the semester. Overall, it was a very enjoyable class that completely changed my outlook on the humanitarian field.