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Human Security: Poverty




Admissions requirements

A 200-level course from the same track or permission of the instructor.


Human Security: Experiencing Poverty is an inter-disciplinary, comparative study course in which students explore the multi-dimensional nature and experience of poverty and the complex ways the poor try to navigate various socio-cultural, political, and economic landscapes in search of social protection, poverty alleviation, and upward mobility. Through group simulation exercises and detailed case studies of different “poor” groups in the Netherlands, students will be challenged to critically reflect on: 1) the meanings and experiences of poverty, 2) its impacts on various facets of life, 3) debates around the root causes of poverty, and 4) the various formal and informal systems of multi-sectoral social protection offered through state welfare systems, non-profit organizations, the private sector, and community and family arrangements. Combining theory with experiential and practical peer-learning of comparative case study materials, students will be given the tools to contemplate the contours for promising approaches toward alleviating global poverty.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:
1. Be able to identify and reflect on various dimensions of poverty, in particular a focus on the lived experience of poverty among the poor;
2. Be able to reflect on and make use of the different methods (quantitative and qualitative) for measuring and representing poverty;
3. Be able to describe and critically evaluate predominant theories explaining poverty and inequality;
4. Be able to work in groups to develop case studies that identify, describe and analyze poverty, that explore its specific historical and structural roots, and that showcase and evaluate different informal and formal social protection efforts and anti-poverty policies;
5. Be able to present and discuss case study findings, course literature and poverty simulation experiences through active seminar discussion and a creative student-led group presentation exercises;
6. Be able to critically and comparatively reflect and evaluate the (de)merits of various approaches to poverty alleviation and social protection.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught in two-hour interactive seminar sessions twice a week. Students will work in groups on an assigned poor population case study in the Netherlands and a poverty simulation. The first seminar of each week will present concepts and discuss assigned readings. The second seminar of each week will include group presentations of case study research tasks and discussions of simulation experiences.


Class Participation: 15%
Case Study Research Task Presentations: 20%
5 written profile assignments (each worth 8%)
Take Home Exam: 25%

Class Participation:
Students will have ample opportunity to participate actively in class seminars. For example, students will be expected to contribute to class discussions and debates, to share opinions on readings, and to raise questions around lectures or student presentations. Each week students will also discuss their experiences with the poverty simulation exercise that we will be undertaking through the entire course.

Case Study Research Task Presentations:
Students will be pre-selected into teams and each team will be assigned a case study of a different poor community within the Netherlands. Throughout the course, your team will research poverty and social protection efforts within your case study population. Each week you will be given a research task for your population and at several points throughout the course you will give a presentation to the class of some of your most interesting findings. Through this approach, all students build up a rich understanding of poverty and social protection issues at their back door.

Presentations will be non-digital and involve creative components in a way that departs from the typical class presentation approach at LUC.

Students will submit 2 essays of no more than 1400 words each. The essays will require students to combine and reflect on class readings, class discussions, and case study research materials. It will also require students to incorporate fieldwork and interviews with social protection providers of their group.

Take Home Exam:
The take home exam will comprise of two parts: a poverty simulation exercise (10%) and an essay of max. 1500 words (15%).


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The literature for each seminar meeting will be provided digitally.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact



The readings assigned for our first class meeting are:

Spicker, Paul. (2007). “Definitions of poverty: Twelve clusters of meaning.” In Poverty: An International Glossary. London: Zed Books. Pgs.229-243 (14 pages)

Nussbaum, Martha. Nussbaum, Martha. "Capabilities as fundamental entitlements: Sen and social justice." Feminist economics 9.2-3 (2003): 33-59.

Sahlins, Marshall. (1972) "The original affluent society." In Stone Age Economics. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. (35 pages)

Butler, Patrick. 2014. “In their own words: Children’s experience of poverty in schools.” The Guardian.