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Violent Non-state Actors in International Affairs


Admission requirements

Admission to MA International Relations, specialisation International Studies.


This course will focus on the activities of violent non-state actors (VNSAs) in international affairs. The role and importance of terrorists, insurgents, warlords, bandits and pirates has increased over the last century or more. Civil or intra-state violence has far outnumbered inter-state conflict. Understanding and explaining the violent behaviour of VNSAs currently forms a thriving area of research. The questions this course will deal with are: to what extent are these actors pursuing strategies to attain political ends, like classic strategic thinking would stipulate? Or are there perhaps other drivers of violence? To what extent are there links between NSA tactics and the pursuit of specific goals? Are these actors at all capable of operational planning, given the often fragmented nature of their organisations?

Course Objectives

This course will deal with the politics and strategies of violent non-state actors in international affairs in the modern period. The student will be introduced to the state of the art in the study of irregular conflict. Violent non-state actors in the shape of the Spanish guerrillas during the Napoleonic wars till today’s IS fighters in Iraq and Syria will take centre stage. The student will be trained in the competency of making and presenting, in an oral and written form, strategic analyses of violent non-state actor (strategic) behavior.



Mode of instruction

Two-hour seminars.

Course Load

  • 24 hours of classes (attendance is compulsory)

  • 120 hours of reading and preparing for the lectures (5 hours per week over 12 weeks)

  • 60 hours to prepare and complete literature and document analyses

  • 30 hours to prepare presentation

  • 46 hours to complete the final essay

Total: 280 Hours for 10 ECTS

Assessment Method

Students are expected to:

  • read the pre-assigned readings prior to each class, and participate fully in the discussions. Bring the readings to class;

  • submit a proposal for an end of term paper, which contains: a research
    question; a 1 page outline, and a preliminary reference list;

  • write and present an end of term paper on a well-defined aspect of the course (max.
    3,500 words).
    The end term 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 for students who have both presented and handed in a complete version of the term paper and when the mark for this paper ends up insufficient.


Communication will be conducted primarily via Blackboard.

Reading list

The required reading for the course will be posted on Blackboard in the shape of the course syllabus before the start of the semester.


Via uSis.

Contact information

Prof. dr. I.G.B.M. Duyvesteyn