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Political Violence

Module Code: PO3720

Module Name: Political Violence

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas + Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours: 2 lectures per week; 1 tutorial per fortnight
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Dr. Shane Mac Giollabhui
  • Office hours: Tuesday, 10am-12noon
  • 2016-2017 Module Syllabus

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, student should be able to:

  • understand how, and under what conditions, the social construction of identity can contribute to civil conflict;
  • appreciate how other structural factors, such as poverty, lead to civil conflict;
  • evaluate how different research methodologies generate different types of insight into the causes of civil conflict;
  • learn how the perpetrators of violence justify their acts;
  • identify the key determinants of civil conflict in a range of empirical settings, including the countries of the Mano river basin, Northern Ireland, Syria and Sri Lanka;
  • explain how the design of political institutions can undermine political stability and, conversely, encourage cooperation between competing social groups;
  • evaluate whether different types of institutional design can encourage political stability in a divided society.

Module Learning Aims

This module aims to build students’ understanding of the causes, nature and consequences of civil conflict.


Module Content

This course examines how, and to what end, violence is practiced. Over the course of the year, we will explore the factors that lead some political actors to choose violence over a peaceful solution to conflict. We address directly one of the biggest and oldest question in the study of comparative politics: why are some societies prone to civil conflict, while others are not? In the first semester, we draw on a wide variety of readings from across the social sciences to understand how, and under what conditions, the social construction of ethnic identity leads to civil conflict. In the second semester, we apply this theoretical framework to an empirical examination of civil conflict in a range of periods and settings, including Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Mano River Basin, and Syria.

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Recommended Reading List

Hardin, Russell. One for All: The Logic of Group Conflict. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1995

Kalyvas, Stathis. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2006

Strauss, Scott. Making and Unmaking Nations: The Origins and Dynamics of Genocide in Contemporary Africa. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 2015

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Assessment Details

This course is assessed by two essays (40%) and an end-of-year examination (60%).

* In the case of one-term visiting students (PO372B and PO372C) , the course is evaluated through two essays (length: 2,000 words).

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Last updated 20 September 2016 polsci@tcd.ie.