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Researching Authoritarianism: the Politics of Conflict, Violence and Genocide


N.B. Course descriptions are subject to change

Admission requirements

Admission to the Master International Relations. Other students who are interested in this course, please contact the co-ordinator of studies.


We are witnessing a resurgence of violent authoritarianism. In Putin’s war in Ukraine; in Xi’s mass internment of Uyghurs; and in General Min Aung Hlaing’s violent coup in Myanmar. Similarly, violent insurgents such as ISIS or the Taliban not only govern like authoritarian regimes but their leaders face the same challenges that other authoritarian elites do. Authoritarian politics drives global conflict. And yet it remains poorly understood by analysts and policy makers.

We will engage recent research that demonstrates why authoritarian regimes initiate conflict and mass violence. We will examine the inner workings of authoritarian regimes with a focus on regime types, the means of popular control, and the dangers of elite competition. We will then show how authoritarian politics drives global conflict and mass political violence, such as war, civil, war and genocide.

We will engage state-of-the-art research on authoritarian politics, conflict, and violence. To deepen our understanding of authoritarian politics, we will study elite rivalry in an authoritarian regime of your choice. The final assignment is a research paper on authoritarian politics and/or its relation to mass political violence.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Recognize and classify authoritarian regimes;
  • Reflect on the differences and commonalities of authoritarian regime types;
  • Reflect on the complex nature of the authoritarian environment, its politics, and the role of state and non-state actors therein;
  • Explain the violent nature of authoritarian regimes;
  • Explain the particular relationship between authoritarian politics and mass political violence, such as war, civil war and genocide;
  • Conduct supervised research on authoritarian politics and violence.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Lecture, seminar style discussion and supervised research.

Assessment method

  • Prepare the pre-assigned readings prior to each class, and participate fully in the discussions. You should bring the readings to class;

  • Submit research assignments related to the study of authoritarain politics and mass political violence;

  • Submit a proposal for a research paper, which contains: research question or hypothesis; a outline, and a preliminary bibliography;

  • Submit a research paper that aims to contribute to knowledge with respect to authoritarain politics and mass political violence. The research paper will only be graded if the student has attended the seminars.


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.

Inspection and feedback

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.

Reading list

To be announced


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable