SO6010 - Modern crises: surviving pandemics, climate change and food insecurity in an era of inequality

What will I learn on this module?

The module is concerned with production and consumption and the inequalities that these produce. Throughout the module, we will explore how institutions and ordinary people challenge the production and consumption of various material and non-material goods. You will critically explore ways of understanding and theorising crises, including studying historical and more contemporary examples, such as the Climate Change and environmental crisis, Food crisis and Covid-19 crisis. The module focuses on the sociological analysis of issues such as climate change, food scarcity, pandemics, how they interact and the ways people react at the local, national and global levels. Understanding the responses provided by both individuals and societies will help us understand contemporary patterns of inequalities, as well as an unclear ‘empowering and blaming game’ in the context of attributing responsibilities for both causing and tackling crises, which is reflected at both macro and micro levels of society. A variety of sociological theories and concepts will be applied to the analysis of real-world situations each year, such as examples of local communities’ adaptation to environmental and social changes, media representation of climate change, environmental activism. You will engage with both UK and international examples to analyse the extent to which individuals and communities have been able to challenge crises and their impacts over time.

How will I learn on this module?

You will explore real-world crises of sociological relevance. You will participate in a mix of interactive lectures and workshop activities, online and offline interaction, whole group discussion, small group activities, research tasks, short presentations, and debates. The module will draw on a range of resources, including documentaries and other media. You will be expected to read identified key texts in advance of each workshop to enable participatory discussion, but also to find your resources to enrich the discussion. You will be asked to engage with contemporary examples of crises and draw on case studies from the media and the internet to support class activities and discussions.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

A brief overview of the academic support available to students, including any support that may be accessed outside formal scheduled teaching.

You will be supported through seminars and Blackboard, supplemented by one-to-one tutorials and email. You will be given contact details and office hours to book tutorials and ask questions by email.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. You will be able to critically analyse the contemporary conceptualisation of social crisis in relation to contemporary examples of social threats, which produce effects at multiple intertwined levels (social, economic and cultural contexts).

2. You will be able to draw upon relevant Sociological theory to understand and analyse different examples of crises.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
1. You will be able to select the appropriate tools for reflecting on and comparing different forms and strategies of dealing with a crisis and the impacts of specific interventions on different sectors of society.

2. You will be able to select and analyse a range of diverse resources including media, film, reports, and internet resources, to enable you to engage critically with the tensions created by a social crisis and its impact.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• You will develop a critical, reflective and comparative understanding of diverse examples of tackling crises across the global North and South

How will I be assessed?

You will be asked to join a group by week 2 and choose one macro-area that you want to investigate as a group (these areas might be Climate Change crisis, environmental crisis, Food crisis and Covid-19 crisis)

The assessment combines
i) the final record of study (3500 words) resulting from an individual reflective journal on an exploration of a specific organisation operating in Newcastle upon Tyne (60% of the mark – WEEK 8)
ii) and a pre-recorded PowerPoint group presentation (max 10 slides, max 15 mins) that compares the results of your reflections and suggests weaknesses and strengths of the work of the organisation in your macro-area (40% of the mark).





Module abstract

The module will critically explore ways of understanding and theorising crises. The module will explore both historical and contemporary crises such as climate change, food insecurity and global pandemics. The module will draw upon micro and macro-sociological theories to identify those social forces that are responsible for the crises, understand how individuals, groups and organisations react to the crises, and the impact of the crises on creating and intensifying social inequality. Students will engage with both UK and international examples to analyse the extent to which individuals and communities have been able to challenge crises and their impacts over time. The module will provide assessments that are aimed to develop fundamental skills such as working in teams, independent critical thinking and public speaking.

Course info

UCAS Code L300

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Social Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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