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Civil War



This seminar examines civil war and its relationship to political order. How should we categorize, measure and compare violent outcomes in war? Why do actors organize in particular ways and pursue particular strategies in the context of civil war? What explains variance in violence against civilians? How do states respond to violence? Why does violence breakout in particular places and times? How do existing political orders shape the course of conflict, and how is political order transformed during and after violent conflict? The seminar also examines research design and difficulties of linking theory to evidence in the study of violence, aiming to improve student MA theses. The social scientific literature can be abstract for students new to the study of civil wars. To provide some background, students will study the one particular conflict in depth through history and literature. The knowledge gained through the diverse student readings enhances classroom discussion and provides evidence to connect to theoretical discussions.

Methods of Instruction

The course will normally be divided into two, two-hour sessions each week. The sessions will combine short lectures and seminar discussions.

Study Material

Course materials include journal articles, book chapters, article manuscripts, and two books.


The course assignment includes three elements: participation (10%), a presentation (10%), a conflict study (35%), and a research paper (45%). Details are provided below.

Active participation in seminars counts for 10 per cent of the final grade. Students are required to print the assigned readings for the seminar, read and reflect upon them before class, and contribute to the discussion. The participation grade also includes an in class presentation of the conflict study worth 10 per cent (see below). Depending on class participation and whether students are completing the readings, there may also be pop quizzes that count towards the participation grade. Consider this fair warning.

Conflict Study: Literature, History and Violence
The 2,000-word conflict study counts for 35 per cent of the grade and is due in class on October 6. To familiarize you with a particular conflict, each student studies a different insurgency using a unique module including a work of fiction (or, occasionally, a fictionalized memoir or journalistic account) set during a civil war and a historical study of the same conflict. The open-ended assignment is to compare these two accounts. Discuss the main themes of the novel and the experiences of the characters and compare these with the more general history of the conflict, connecting both to theories of civil war.

Research Paper
A 4,000-word research paper is the main assignment. It comprises 45 per cent of the final grade and is due on the last day of class. Using our weekly readings as a guide, write a paper examining a particular theoretical theme within the conflict you have studied. Your theoretical approaches and empirical evidence should go beyond what you have read in your module. The grading criteria for the paper include clarity of prose and organization, the strength of the arguments and evidence, and quality of the research. The paper should be organized around a clear argument, summarized in a thesis statement and contrasted against alternative explanations. The body of the paper should develop this argument and the alternatives, relying on empirical evidence gleaned from original research. Rather than merely summarizing the paper, the conclusion should explore the implications of the argument, suggesting new questions your paper poses.

You can register for an exam or retake through USIS until 10 days before the exam or retake.


Monday 2 September until 21 October, 13.00-15.00 hrs in SA15 (except 9 Sept in 5B14 and 30 Sept & 14 Oct in 2B22)
Wednesday 4 September until 23 October, 13.00-15.00 hrs in SA23 (except 23 October in SA35)

Entrance Requirements