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Social Movements and Political Violence



Objective: 1. Students will acquire basic knowledge of the concepts, theories, and analytical approaches to understand social movement dynamics and learn to assess their explanatory power by applying them to particular instances of violence and non-violence in social movements.
Objective: 2. Students will hone both their critical thinking and technical skills by engaging in independent analyses of a variety of sources, which include different types of media (text, video, audio, images, tables and graphs).
Content: This course focuses on the links between civil resistance, social movements and political violence. Civil resistance can take on a variety of forms and social movements engage in different activities to achieve their goals. The main questions that will be discussed in this course are: Under what conditions does civil resistance remain peaceful? Under what conditions do social movements turn to violence to achieve their goals? What types of violence do they engage in? Under what conditions do social movements transform into armed groups? We will not only consider the violent behavior of social movements, but also the turn to violence by the state. Why does the state sometimes respond with violent repression to civil resistance and the rise of social movements? Considering the interaction between social movements and the state more generally, why does civil resistance sometimes escalate into civil war or even genocide? The types of political violence we will discuss include (ethno-political) riots, electoral violence, terrorism, civil war, and genocide. Empirical examples will come primarily from Latin America and Africa, but also from the US and Europe, and include historical and contemporary examples, ranging from the Dutch resistance against German occupation during World War II to the Arab Uprisings in 2010/2011.

Methods of Instruction

Lectures, seminar discussions, group work, and a field trip. The course will incorporate innovative forms of lectures and assignments, which build on the combination of multiple types of media (text, video, audio, images, tables and graphs).

Study Material

The syllabus with a list of journal articles, book chapters, films and videos will be available on Blackboard. Readings for the first session will be announced on Blackboard two weeks before the start of the course.


Short assignments (30%), midterm exam (30%), group assignment (30%), participation (10%). Students may miss two classes without penalty; any other absences will be reflected in the participation grade.



Admission requirements