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Thematic Seminar: Disobedience


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
The number of participants is limited to 24.

Please note that passing a Thematic Seminar (10 EC) in the second year, second semester, is an entry requirement for starting your thesis in academic year 2024-2025. You need to have passed a minimum of 100 EC of year 1 and 2 of the International Studies programme as well in order to start your thesis.


This course will address the question of political authority and political illegal dissent as a political expression of opposition and resistance, within and beyond borders.

The major theories of political obligation/authority will be presented, but the course will mainly focus on civil disobedience as an illegal political act of individual and collective participation. During the course, we will try to answer the difficult question of what politics is – is it more an agonistic venture, or necessarily collaborative in nature? – and question the concepts of civil disobedience and conscientious objection. In particular, we will question whether non-citizens can act politically, whether disobedience can be democracy-enhancing or democracy-disrupting, whether violence is a morally acceptable way of participation, and focus on the scope of one’s political actions, passing from Thoreau, Gandhi and King to contemporary cases of disobedience beyond borders, from local cases of disruption, towards transnational forms of dissent targeting states and corporations alike.

Course objectives

The Thematic Seminars for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the multidisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral and written presentation skills:

1. To explain clear and substantiated research results.
2. To provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course:

  • in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;

  • in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;

  • using up-to-date presentation techniques;

  • using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;

  • aimed at a specific audience.
    3. To actively participate in a discussion

Collaboration skills:

1. To provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position.
2. To adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

1. To collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques.
2. To analyse and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability.
3. To formulate on this basis a sound research question.
4. To design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved.
5. To formulate a substantiated conclusion.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Seminars are held every week, with the exception of the Midterm Exam week. This includes supervised research.

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
Oral presentation 10%
Active participation 10%
Paper of around 2000 words 30%
Final Research Essay - 5,000 words (between 4,500 and 5,500) 50%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the End Grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


Students who score an overall insufficient grade for the course, are allowed resubmit a reworked version of the Final Essay. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the Final Research Essay and subsequent feedback.
In case of resubmission of the Final Research Essay the final grade for the Essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.

Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, but still within 5 working days of that deadline, will receive a grade and feedback on their essay. This will be considered a first submission of the final essay, however, the grade will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.
Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, and also fail to hand in their essay within 5 working days of that deadline, get 10 working days, counting from the original deadline, to hand in the first version of their final essay. However, this first version counts as a resubmitted essay with consequential lowering of the grade, and there will be no option of handing in a reworked version based on feedback from the lecturer.

Retaking a passing grade

Retaking a passing grade is not possible for this course.

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2023 – 2024.

Exam review 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 organised.

Reading list

Details to be announced.

Among other texts, we will work on

  • Arendt, Hannah. Crises of the Republic. Lying in Politics, Civil Disobedience, On Violence, Thoughts on Politics, and Revolution. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1972 ( Sections to be selected).

  • Delmas, Candice. “Disobedience, Civil and Otherwise.” Criminal Law and Philosophy 11 (2017): 195–211.

  • King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.” In Civil Disobedience in Focus, edited by Hugo Adam Bedau, 68–84. London - New York: Routledge, 2002 ( Sections to be selected).

  • Milligan, Tony. Civil Disobedience. Protest, Justification, and the Law. New York - London: Bloomsbury, 2013. (Sections to be selected).

  • Thoreau, Henry David. On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, 1849 (Sections to be selected).;

  • Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Revised Edition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999 ( Sections to be selected).

Additionally, the students will work through:

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, fourth edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2016, or;

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 15 December 2023:

  1. On 15 December 2023 you will receive a message with a link to the survey.
  2. Indicate there which are your 5 preferred Thematic Seminars, in order of preference.
  3. Based on preferences indicated by 8 January 2024 the course Coordinator will assign you to one specific Thematic Seminar by 22 January 2024.
  4. Students will then be enrolled for the specific groups by the Administration Office.

Students cannot register in uSis for the Thematic Seminar courses, or be allowed into a Thematic Seminar course in any other way.



The deadline for submission of the Final Essay is Friday 7 June 2024.