nl en

Gender in Fragile Environments




Admission requirements

  • Classes of 2013-2016: similarly-tagged 200/300-level courses or permission from the instructor.

Course description

This new and exciting course examines ‘gender in fragile environments’ using the framework of human security with an emphasis on institutions (social norms, values and customs). This course draws attention to dynamic patterns of exclusion/inclusion and power in human security and local development, particularly where the state is weak or absent. Towards the achievement of democratic human societies, the development economist Amartya Sen highlighted several instrumental types of ‘freedom’ including social freedoms (e.g. access to education, resources and services) and economic freedoms (e.g. participation in trade and production). Sen indicated that these freedoms were largely shaped by ‘social values and norms’. This may be particularly pertinent in more fragile developing countries.

In the course, we will specifically focus on two themes to study institutions and gender in fragile settings (where the state is weak or absent). First we will look at household food security; and discuss food insecurity, particularly as a function of access (and social, political and economic dimensions). Second, we will look closer at gender dynamics in markets and value chain development in less certain environments. Drawing on case studies in Afghanistan, India and East Africa, the course will critically analyze trends of change, (social) innovation and agency in strengthening inclusive livelihoods and human security. We will discuss the interfaces between institutions, actor strategies, and power relations, and the influence of external aid interventions.

Learning outcomes

The main objective of this course is for students to develop a deeper understanding of gender and dynamic institutions (norms, values, customs) in fragile settings. The course aims to develop critical thinking regarding human security and inclusion in fighting global poverty and working towards democratic processes. By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Discuss theories of human security and underlying (informal/formal) institutions influencing access/distribution of assets and entitlements, particularly related to gender.

  • Identify the main drivers of food insecurity, and the interaction between dfferent social, economic and political institutions influencing gender.

  • Discuss markets and value chains, and appreciate the role of institutions and power relations in fostering exclusion in economic development.

  • Debate and theorize about mechanisms of change using concepts drawn from the course, and the nuanced role of external aid in this process.