This course will examine the classification of violence; its forms and motivations; governance and regulation of violence; and its physical, psychological and political effects and uses. It will address questions such as: whether all violence can be considered political; the changing social construction of violence; how a context of violence tends to bifurcate thinking and ways of knowing; how violence becomes enculturated; and whether it can be seen as a form of communication. It considers individual and collective state and non-state violent actors; normative and legal definitions and contexts of violence; and how violence is legitimized or de-legitimized. The effects of violence are considered in historical perspective, the effects of war on populations, the aftermath of political violence for combatants, the changing understandings of the impact of violence on individuals, the use of suffering and the politics of victimhood and contemporary understandings of trauma.

This course invites students to explore the study of conflict analysis and conflict transformation through a journey in the field of social memory studies. The course will focus on the role of memory politics in peace and conflict studies. By doing so, the course will allow students to delve into the analysis of internal dynamics of societies in or after conflict and discuss the ways in which they negotiate their pasts, presents and futures in the aftermath of war, conflict, repression, dictatorship, genocide and mass atrocities.

The course will explore dynamics and frameworks enabling the social organization of memory, and modes in which entire communities (and not only individuals) preserve, remember or forget the past, commemorate it, deny or obliterate it. Finally, the course will highlight practices related to memory activism in spaces of mnemonic conflicts over the narratives and representations of the past.

In order to do so, students will be introduced to some theoretical frameworks in social memory studies and in conflict studies. Students will then apply this theoretical knowledge to a number of case studies, allowing them to further investigate the role of memory and memory activism in conflict analysis, and think comparatively about processes in conflict and post-conflict transformation.

In studying conflicts, we see quickly that no matter their particularities and specificities, there are common themes and threads, why then do they continue not only to arise but to carry on for so many years? For many, the answer lies in the nature of the international system and its fundamental organising principle, that of state sovereignty, whereby states are considered to have authority over a defined and internationally recognised territory, protected from external intervening forces. As with so many rights and principles, it was never intended that sovereignty be unconstrained. In 2005, in reaffirmation of this idea of “constrained sovereignty” but also as a response to successive, sometimes illegitimate and/or illegal interventions into the sovereign affairs of states, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the principle of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

This course will explore the processes of how political and ethnic conflict can become “religious”, on the one hand, and how religion can itself generate conflict, on the other. During the course, students will learn about the nature of conflict in general and specifically about religious conflict. The course inquires into various interactions between religious and ethno-national identity, with special attention paid to inter-relations among different religions in the Balkans. The relationship between religion and ethnicity, politicized aspects of religious conflicts, and the place of religion in relation to questions of nationalism and hegemony will also be explored during the course.