Thursday, 3 September 2015


We are looking forward to welcoming the new MSc Violence, Conflict and Development students in a few short weeks' time!
Several people have asked about preparatory readings. There are no textbooks for the course, but if you would like to get to know the research that we do, the easiest way is to browse through our publications pages: Chris Cramer, Jonathan DiJohn, Jonathan Goodhand, Laura Hammond, Tania Kaiser and Zoe Marriage.

I have spent the summer in Salvador, Brazil, consolidating my work on capoeira and security. You can read my blog here.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Looking forward to next year!

It's the end of term... and at the same time we are looking forward to next year! Today we met to discuss MSc Violence, Conflict and Development for the coming academic term, and then went straight on to our exam board meeting for the year that is finishing. We took advantage of the sunny weather and this abundance of meetings to get the first *ever* VCD team photograph.

The VCD teaching team L-R:
Laura Hammond, Colette Harris, Christopher Cramer, Zoe Marriage, Tania Kaiser, Jonathan Goodhand 

If you have an offer for next year and are wondering what to read before coming to SOAS in October, all of us have staff pages that can be found here:
If you select the 'publications' tab, you will find that several articles can be downloaded for free. You can get something of an idea of the kind of research that we do, including geographic specialism and disciplinary perspective.

We are looking forward to welcoming the new cohort in a few months' time!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Bloomsbury Humanitarian Debate

Last Monday I took part in the Bloomsbury Humanitarian Debate, a forum organised by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Birkbeck and MSF. The theme was the securitisation of aid, a subject that is of increasing analytical and political significance in light of current issues of migration across the Mediterranean (and the resourcing of responses), contexts of development and security in areas in which donors have played military roles (particularly Afghanistan) and the existence of IS, which presents development policy makers and practitioners with challenges that disrupt conventional understandings of the state, responsibility, needs and assistance.

The panel was drawn together from academic/research institutions, aid organisations and the military and, as the debate was hosted by the LSHTM, there was a strong theme of public health provision. There was broad agreement across the panel that security has been defined by the global north and that, as a result, the forms of security that are promoted through development tend to reflect powerful northern interests. There was less agreement in terms of the operational solutions to this exercise of power: at times it seemed that the usual distinction between pragmatism and principle had been re-cast as humanitarian principles allow a certain pragmatic distance from political pressure. At other times, the weight of opinion was behind the possibility of working within a diverse array of donor imperatives that allowed for effective aid to be given in particular circumstances.

The debate was drawn together around three questions: Understanding security; responding to security needs; and Security and humanitarian actions.

Full details of the debate can be found here:

As ever it was great to catch up with a couple of VCD alumni who came along and hear about what they have been doing since completing the course! :)  

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

In Place of War - and capoeira

A few months back I made contact with Ruth Daniel who heads up the In Place of War project that promotes art from areas of conflict. It's an amazing project - full details here:
As she was hosting an event in London last week I headed down with my capoeira group to support it. It was a great evening of capoeira, inspiring talks and fantastic music. And if that wasn't enough good things in one place, we had VCD students past, present and future there!


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

End of term, music day, dissertations

It's the end of term! It's not all over yet though as we still have dissertation supervision until the end of the month. It's really interesting to see what students have decided to research over the summer and how their ideas and arguments are developing.
And yesterday we had music day when different bands play in the corridor - this year raising money for the Music Department of Kathmandu University, which was badly damaged in the recent earthquake.


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Laura Hammond podcast on conflict resolution

Our head of department Laura Hammond is on the Guardian's podcast discussion what causes conflict and how to resolve it. Listen to her here:

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Blog from an alumnus - Michel Thill

I recently reconnected with Zoe, who was convening the Violence, Conflict and Development course the year I took it at SOAS in 2010-11. She asked me what I had been up to since then. Here it goes.

After I graduated from SOAS, I got an internship at the Rift Valley Institute (, a non-profit research, education and publishing organization focusing on conflict and post-conflict countries in Eastern and Central Africa. I won’t lie: I was looking for a job, not yet another unpaid internship. But this was the only offer on the table and so I accepted the position. Three and a half years later, I can say with certainty that it was not the worst decision I have ever taken.

In my third month of internship, RVI offered me a full-time position. I started out supporting its first research project in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Usalama Project, which documented armed groups in the Kivus and Ituri. Today, I manage RVI’s Great Lakes programme from London.


Working for a small research NGO operating in an even smaller niche of the fabulous aid industry can be rewarding, but is not always easy. To wear multiple hats, several of which are guaranteed not to fit is a prerequisite. Proposal writing, project management, editing and publishing processes, as well as fundraising have become familiar terrain—even networking is not alien to me anymore.

Doing research in far-flung places of the Earth however—as I pictured my future a few years ago—is not part of my job. I do not regret this. After all, there are many kinds of valuable knowledge and I am very happy to know what it means to run a research project in countries affected by conflict. That said, I have never abandoned the thought of trying to engage with such a country and its people on my own terms—to some extent freed from the burden of professional obligations.

This month, and after a (very) long preparation time, I started a part-time PhD at Ghent University, while I continue to work for RVI in a more limited capacity. My studies will aim to investigate police and policing practices in Kisangani, DRC and its surroundings to shed a light on how public authority is constituted and maintained in urban and rural settings in Congo. And to my delight, this will involve fieldwork in an arguably far-flung place of the Earth.

In my email to Zoe, I asked her if she knew any Congolese Londoners who could teach me Lingala. She gave me good advice: try Okapi Restaurant at Seven Sisters and practice the language while savouring Congolese cuisine. I will certainly do so!