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Conflict Studies - 10ECTS

SOU44012 Conflict Studies

This module starts with the Irish/British peace process and the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) reached in 1998. We start here not merely because this course takes place in Ireland, but because the GFA is based on theories of conflict that are typical of western social science and have been influential on ‘peacemaking’ elsewhere in the world. These theories assert that conflict is rooted in ethno-national identity/difference and that separation is the solution [consociation in the case of the GFA]. The GFA is also illustrative of the problems of western social scientific thinking about ‘ethnic conflict’ and its resolution. These problems derive from a failure to acknowledge that western social science is not the neutral arbiter of these conflicts: most of today’s ‘ethnic conflicts’ are actually the product of western colonialism, and social science has been complicit. So, the first problem is a failure to address the root of conflict in colonial violence. The second problem is a lack of reflexivity [which is why the assignment urges you to be reflexive]. The third problem is that the forms of ‘conflict resolution’ arising from these theories of ethnic identity/difference do not so much resolve conflict as freeze it and generate seemingly endless disputes about who was to blame: an ongoing meta-conflict about the conflict. Rather than seek to arbitrate such disputes, we will end the module by exploring the potential of narrative methods such as autoethnography and oral history to address the concerns of victims, perpetrators, bystanders, beneficiaries.

Learning Objectives:

  • On successful completion students will:

  • 1. see through the notion that ‘conflict’ is produced by identity/difference and glimpse the underlying violence in the rise of the nation state in western Europe and its projection onto the rest of the world through colonialism

    2. locate ‘The Troubles’ and the Irish/British peace process and/or other case studies in this larger context

    3. parse the different forms of violence: subjective, structural, communal, rule-making vs rule-breaking etc.

    4. understand the decolonial and feminist challenge to social scientific claims to objectivity and truth

    5. recognize the consequent need for social science to be reflexive and linked to this ...

    6. take on board the narrative turn in international relations

Lectures & Tutorials/ Contact hours:


Recommended Texts/ Key Reading:

· BBC series Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History [episode 1]

· Finn D. (2019) One Man's Terrorist: A Political History of the IRA, Verso [Introduction, ch1&2, Epilogue]. Available as an ebook from college library.


Coursework only. The module is assessed based on presentations and essay.

Penalties for late submission: Without an authorised extension, the mark given will be lowered by one grade