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Human Security




Admission Requirements

Students must have completed a 100- and 200-level course within the International Development and/or Policy Science majors. Moreover, having completed courses in qualitative and/or quantitative research methods will be helpful, as will a basic understanding of institutional analysis.


Human Security is a social scientific course about violence and its implications for development. It investigates the logic and consequences of different types of violence, its causes in situations of group conflict and war, and the ways in which institutions and actors can interact to prevent or reduce it. Students can expect to engage rigorously with state-of-the-art theories on collective violence, as well as a wide range of case studies and statistical evidence on the topic. The course will allow students to select their own case studies, but suggest cases in South Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The central conceptual paradigm will be that of human security. This concept will help us zoom in on the complicated meanings of violence in societies with weak or perverse institutions. Moreover, it will help us identify the many creative strategies people devise to avoid or manage violence. The course will discuss a range of such strategies, including the role of the informal economy and informal market organisations; the role of religious organisations in conflict resolution; and the complicated dynamics of patronage and corruption in relation to violence. The course will end with a critical analysis of the potential of nonviolence, such as the Gandhian independence movement and the peace movement of women in Liberia, to present a viable alternative to collective violence.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Be able to apply and reflect critically on the human security paradigm and connect it to the major theories explaining collective violence and international development;

  • Have experience analyzing case studies and connecting their dynamics to theories covered in the course;

  • Have enhanced their skills of locating and selecting primary and secondary sources; and of presenting, debating, and essay writing; and

  • Have enhanced their grasp of empirical social scientific methods and the ways in which they can enhance and constrain our understanding of collective violence and development.

Mode of Instruction

This course will be taught through two-hour interactive seminars. Seminars will generally include a short introduction by the instructor, after which students will be asked to present, debate, or otherwise reflect actively on the relevant theme and readings. Seminars will focus both on concepts and on empirical case studies. Students will be asked to prepare their own case study analyses (both as a group or individually).


To be confirmed in course syllabus:

Class participation: 15% (Weeks 1-7)
Presentations and debates: 15% (Weeks 1-7)
Short essays: 40% (Weeks 1-7)
Research essay: 30% (Week 8)


The course reading list will include key academic and policy-oriented texts development studies, as well as articles from a range of academic journals (available in the Leiden e-library). More information will follow closer to the start of the course. Steven Pinker’s “The better angels of our nature” is a great introduction to the subject matter of the course and will be useful to read in advance.

Contact Information

Weekly Overview

  • Human security, institutions, and collective violence: an introduction

  • The logic of violence? Theories and evidence

  • Protests, riots, and pogroms: case studies

  • Insurgencies, civil wars, and genocide: case studies

  • Managing violence in the state’s margins: markets, churches, and corruption (2 weeks)

  • Nonviolence as an alternative?

Preparation for first session

  • Select a case of collective violence and conflict that you are particularly interested in, either from the syllabus or on the basis of other information.

  • Readings for the first class will be communicated closer to the beginning of the course.