In their most violent form, (international) conflicts represent the costliest type of social interaction. This seminar-based course will focus on such conflicts, and familiarize students with a range of methods for their analysis and management. In the first part of this course students will observe and scrutinize conflicts along a continuum ranging from stable and durable peace to outright war, with numerous intermediate types of interactions that mirror conditions of unstable or conditional peace, crisis, and fragile transitional post-conflict environments where the threat of the re-emergence of violence remains and where the road to stable peace seems long and difficult. Each juncture requires a tailor-made conflict management activity, undertaken by the parties to the conflict themselves or assisted by outside parties. The selection of an appropriate method of conflict management is of fundamental importance whether a conflict will de-escalate into stable peace or will preserve potential to relapse into violence once again.
This seminar seeks to explore a range of factors pertinent to any conflict analysis and management:
Various theories that explain root causes and trigger mechanisms that lead to an escalation of violence.
Methods used to end or contain violent conflict, de-escalate tensions, maintain and enforce “negative” peace (i.e., the absence of war) while trying to build sustainable, “positive” peace where the expectation of settling conflicts through the use of violence essentially disappears altogether. The focus will be on matching methods of conflict management to the characteristics of conflict being analysed, such as the substance of the underlying issues, the nature of the parties, and the various stages of the conflict. This approach assumes that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ conflict management theory or approach that can be indiscriminately applied across all time, space, and issues.
Students should emerge from this seminar with an advanced set of tools to analyse conflicts, especially those that have a clear potential to escalate into various forms of violence. At the same time, students will learn how to select for the most effective responses aimed at managing conflicts so that the probability and intensity of violence is minimized, while the potential to build enduring peace is maximized.
Mode of instruction
The course is seminar-based. The students are expected to participate actively in structured discussions on assigned readings for each class.
Presentation (and class participation) 30%
First essay 30%
Second essay 40%
Students are required to prepare the readings and actively participate in each course. For each class students will give a 15-20 minutes presentation on the assigned topic for that day, which will be followed by a group discussion. Students are also required to write two essays on assigned topics: In the first essay students will have to analyze a conflict of their choosing. The analysis should follow the structure present in the literature which will be discussed in class. In general the analysis should: indicate the root causes of conflict, illustrate the conflict cycle and show if the conflict was treated by any preventive conflict management activity. Word limit: 2000 words. In the second essay students will have to analyze a conflict management activity of their choosing. The analysis should focus either on the processes of peace negotiations (and/or mediation) or of post-conflict peace-building. The papers will be evaluated according to how well students are able to apply concepts and principles covered in class to their chosen case. Students are encouraged to include a critique of the selected strategies in terms of theories presented in this course, indicating ways in which the conflict might have been more effectively managed, had the parties chosen more wisely from among the available approaches. Word limit: 3500 words.
Information relevant to the course will be posted on Blackboard.
Assigned readings for the course will be announced in the beginning of the seminar.