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Nation-building and resistance


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations.


Politicians and policymakers would be considered remiss if they sent soldiers into combat without the means to prevail; yet they have frequently launched wars in which success depended on a transformation of a foreign state’s political institutions, society, or culture that was simply not possible with the means at hand, or any plausible means available. Where did this idea of “nation-building” – intervention in a foreign country and an attempt to guide its development and politics – come from? What was the nature of the resistance it sparked across the globe? And with the outcome of recent nation-building efforts so disappointing, does nation-building have a future?

On this course, we will consider nation-building from a number of perspectives. We will look at the history of nation-building, and how it fits into the broader stream of imperial history and interactions between the West and non-West. We will look at the theories and cultural beliefs that underlie both nation-building and resistance to it. We will also consider how nation-building relates to other international practices, such as warfare, peacekeeping, and the responsibility to protect (R2P). Finally, we will consider particular case studies of nation-building from the perspective of different actors involved – cases including the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia and the Soviet Union, and United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Brief introductory description of the course. Please include course subject and teaching materials used.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • Gain a competent understanding of key theoretical approaches to the concept of nation-building;

  • Gain an understanding of how nation-building looks in practice from the perspective of various, especially non-Western, actors;

  • Understand how our contemporary concept of nation-building fits into the broader stream of imperial history;

  • Understand the place of nation-building in contemporary warfare, both from the perspective of the West and resistance movements;

  • Finally, be able to synthesize their knowledge into insightful analyses of case studies.


Via the website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

  • 24 hours of classes.

  • 120 hours of studying compulsory literature (10 hours per week over 12 weeks).

  • 24 hours researching and writing the critical review

  • 30 hours preparing group presentation

  • 82 hours researching and writing the final research essay

Total: 280 Hours for 10 ECTS

Assessment Method

  • Class attendance and participation

  • Group presentation

  • Critical review

  • Final essay


  • Class attendance and participation: 20%.

  • Group presentation: 15%.

  • Critical review: 15%.

  • Final essay: 50%.

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


The resit is only available to students whose mark of the final examined element is insufficient.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for disseminating the syllabus and other course materials.

Reading list

  • Reading list shall be posted on Blackboard before the start of the course.


Via uSis.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Contact information

[Dr. A.J. Gawthorpe](