SUM4503 – The Politics of Pandemics: Security, Development and Global Governance Challenges

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Course content


The current covid-19 pandemic has revealed that the global spread of highly infectious diseases is among the most severe threats facing civilization, and a major threat to sustainable development. Pandemics threaten public health, societal security and the global economy. This course will draw on perspectives from international relations, anthropology and ethics to explore the politics of pandemics.

Across interactive lectures and seminars, we will analyse pandemics as a major global governance challenge that increasingly involves public-private partnerships between governmental and intergovernmental agencies like the World Health Organization, military, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian agencies, and for-profit companies. We will explore the different motivations, resources and priorities of these actors, and their role in the current covid-19 response.

Through examples from past outbreaks like Ebola and the current pandemic, the course will provide insights into the tensions between humanitarian efforts, domestic security motivations and neo-colonial intervention. We will also critically appraise the growing reliance on technological solutions to pandemic risk.

Learning outcome

Students will:

  • Become acquainted with the main development and political challenges posed by contagious infectious diseases at both community level, nationally and globally;
  • Learn about the complexity of policy-making on an issue involving experts in public health, development aid, civil protection, humanitarian crises, military, diplomacy, and public-private partnerships;
  • Obtain a nuanced understanding of the competing political and financial interests at play in pandemic preparedness and response;
  • Critically analyse different policy options and practices in epidemic preparedness, including community perspectives
  • Understand the need for interdisciplinary approaches to study and address pandemic preparedness


You may apply to be a guest student at SUM. Please follow these instructions.


This one-week intensive course will be taught digitally, through interactive short lectures, small group discussions and seminars, and a film screening. The main lecturers will be Katerini Storeng, Antoine de Bengy Puyvallée and Sonja Kittelsen from SUM. There will also be contributions from external experts.

As this course takes place over a short period of time and requires active participation from students, students are advised to read the syllabus in advance of the course.


Home exam.

Written examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read more about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Spring 2020

The teaching period in spring 2020 is May 4th -  8th. 


Spring 2020

Teaching language