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Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies




Admission Requirements



The course introduces students to concepts, theories, analytical tools, methods, and databases to study violent conflict and peace. Students will get a thorough introduction to the foundations of peace and conflict studies. Various contexts and types of protracted armed conflict and civil war will be explored, involving the role of state-related and non-state actors, as well as the constraints and interests that guide or prevent international, regional, and local intervention in intrastate conflict. The course focuses on one of the key challenges of today: recurrent conflict and the passage of peace settlements and renewed conflict escalations. In response to conflict resurgence, different interdisciplinary insights and approaches will be studied through lectures and weekly context seminars. Students gain a solid basis for subsequent courses and further explorations in the field of Peace and Conflict Studies.

Course Objectives

General course objectives:

  • Knowledge of and ability to understand contemporary challenges of violent conflict and peace;

  • Formation of analytical competence (a step that goes beyond the capacity of mere issue or context description), based on insights in innovative and interdisciplinary approaches

Learning outcomes:

  1. Have acquired an understanding of the main concepts, arguments, approaches, instruments and databases relating to the study of conflict and peace in international relations;
  2. Have acquired the ability to identify and use research-based knowledge of concrete contexts, demonstrating contextual analysis skills;
  3. Have acquired the capacity to develop a basic framework for assimilating contemporary challenges of conflict and peace studies;
  4. Have acquired the skill to build up thoughtful and constructive ways to deal with conflict and peace studies, by providing relevant input to issues and themes of the course

Mode of Instruction

The set-up of this course consists of lectures and context seminars with plenary forum debates (two 2-hour sessions per week, weeks 1-7). There will be general thematic lectures, with introductions by the lecturer(s), outlining the particular objectives of that session, the analytic framework, and the main issues and contents for exchange. In addition, each student is challenged to engage actively with a short paper and an individual presentation to weekly in-class forum debates, prepared in 6 small groups (consisting of 3 students). In this way, the course provides an interactive learning environment to develop the foundations as well as concrete contextual analyses of contemporary armed conflict and peace interventions. The context seminars will involve, among others, the Sudans, Syria, Gaza (Israel/Palestine), the DR of Congo, Somalia, and countries linked to what earlier has been called the ‘Arab Spring’. Interactive lectures provide the framing for intensive reading, knowledge and analytic capacity building, as well as discussion of the basic positions taken. Your final research paper will assimilate the key insights gained. An excursion will be made to the Peace Palace. A blackboard site will support the course.


Assessment: Quality of in-class participation and preparation of readings
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1-7

Assessment: Individual presentation as input to in-class plenary forum debates, prepared by 6 small groups, consisting of about 3 students
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1-7 (students inscribe for their preferred day)

Assessment: Short paper as background to individual presentation (2,000 words, excl. Lit list and Footnotes)
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1-7 (students submit short paper 2 days before individual presentation, at 10.00h)

Assessment: Final research essay (5,000 words, excl. Lit list and Footnotes)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week 8 (due by Friday 21-12-2012, at 17.00h)


Compulsory and recommended readings per session (lectures and context seminars) are included in an electronic reader, which will be made available at the course site on the blackboard. A full reading list is included in the course syllabus.

Contact Information

Dr. Berma Klein Goldewijk (course convener and instructor)
b.kleingoldewijk@upeace.nl:mailto: b.kleingoldewijk@upeace.nl

Weekly Overview

Week 1: Peace and conflict studies: basic concepts, theories, tools, methods, and databases
Week 2: Armed conflict: international and non-international armed conflict and civil war
Week 3: Recurrent conflict: a key challenge to conflict and peace studies
Week 4: UN/regional peace operations: international peacekeeping and local peacebuilding
Week 5: Peace negotiations and agreements: a passage of settlements and re-escalation
Week 6: Peace, transitional justice and the disputed role of international law
Week 7: Peacebuilding and multi-track diplomacy: the role of the state and non-state actors
Week 8: [Reading week – no sessions]: final research essay

Preparation for first session

Students will be invited to prepare a presentation and short paper for one of the plenary forum debates, on one of the course subjects/contexts of their choice (as from Week 2). This short paper may be a theoretical contribution or an in-depth exploration of a particular context dealt with in this course. For the first session, read carefully the course syllabus, browse the electronic reader, and think about your timing for your short paper and individual presentation. At the start of the course, a list of preferred topics/contexts for presentations and short papers will be made, with about 3 students involved in small groups and plenary forums per session.