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Political Violence and Civil War



Content: This seminar will survey recent research on the causes, dynamics and outcomes of civil wars. It provides students with a broad understanding of relevant concepts, theories, and empirical findings, and also with the tools to write their own case studies. The course is divided into three parts: (1) The causes of civil war; (2) Civil war violence and restraint; and (3) Responding to civil war violence. Topics covered include civil war onset, armed group organization and recruitment, intensity and forms of violence against civilians, rebel governance of civilians, rebel group organization and fragmentation, counterinsurgency, peace zones, and the legacies of civil wars. Assignments will encourage students to think creatively about issues related to civil wars, assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of theoretical and empirical approaches, and to refine their own intellectual stance.

Course objectives

Objective 1: Students develop a broad understanding of the causes, dynamics and outcomes of civil wars.
Objective 2: Students learn to apply the concepts and theories to empirical cases.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Examination includes participation in class, a group presentation in which students present a case study, short written assignments, and a book review essay in which students compare a fictional with an historical account of a civil war.

Reading list

The syllabus with a reading list will be made available via Brightspace one week before the beginning of the course



See tab 'Practical Information'.