Assignment 3: Due 9 June

The intended and intended consequences of humanitarian aid

Of the three main theoretical perspectives in sociology, functionalism seems to be the one most commonly used by many sociologists.  Although Durkheim is the intellectual father of functionalism, it was R K Merton who added the touch of employing functional analysis as a tool.  In more general usage a functional analysis may be know as a sociocultural impact statement, but the intent is the same:  to think through all of the possible manifest and latent functions of any action, policy or event.

Using your readings to this point, and especially focusing on the material that you have read so far in Polman’s book (and any other additionalCrisis Caravan materials you wish to add), please do a [non-jargon filled] functional analysis of Western “humanitarian” aid.  You might find the material in Hall’s review of The Crisis Carvan to be particularly useful.

Some questions you may choose to consider addressing include:

  • How is it determined where, when and in what form aid is given?
  • What good does humanitarian aid to for the intended beneficiaries?
  • What are some unintended negative consequences for the intended beneficiaries? for the local communities? for the overall social and political realities in the region?
  • Are the impacts of aid gender-neutral?  Explain.
  • How clear is the line between aid that is responding to an immediate need (e.g., emergency food and medical attention)and aid intended as essentially development work (e.g., infrastructure like schools, roads, power grids, or clinics)?
  • How does humanitarian aid play into the actions of those who are corrupt both within the humanitarian organizations and within the local/national political leadership of the host nation?  That is, where does all of the aid money go?


  • Due by 10:00pm EST June 9th.
  • Late posts will be downgraded at least one letter grade.
  • Comments to at least two colleague’s posts by  June 11th by 10:00PM EST.
  • At least three citations: at least one from text and/or other assigned reading, and at least two from outside academic sources.  Note:  you are to read/watch/listen to all of the material in the hyperlinks in the parent post above; your contact with the material should be apparent in your post.
  • List references at the bottom of the page (MLA format).
  • At least one photo and/or video link.
  • Minimum 0f 500 words (excluding references).
  • Grade will be based on quality and quantity of response to the post prompt including adherence to the above benchmarks.
  • Keep in mind that you are writing for a broad audience that is educated and interested in this topic; infuse your post with the sociology you are learning/have learned in a non-jargonistic manner

Please check Assignments/Assignment 3 before you Publish.


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  1. Posted June 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    If we did this assignment for the prompt that was posted before it was changed do we have to do the new prompt instead?

  2. Posted May 28, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    What is the prompt? Or will it be posted later?