GV4H9      Half Unit
Armed Groups: Violence, Governance, and Mobilization

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr.des. Livia Schubiger


This course is available on the MSc in Conflict Studies. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

GV4H9 is a recommended option for the MSc Conflict Studies. Other students will be admitted subject to space, with preference given to Government Department students. The course is capped at three groups. The deadline for applications is Thursday October 1, 2015 at 5:30pm.

Course content

This course introduces students to the social-scientific analysis of violence, governance, and mobilization in intra-state armed conflict and civil wars. The primary focus lies on how armed groups interact with the civilian population and how they mobilize followers, how and why armed groups’ internal institutions and their strategies of violence vary across conflicts, and what the consequences of these patterns and arrangements are. The course engages with a variety of theoretical and empirical approaches that will familiarize students not only with cutting-edge research on these issues, but also their relation to ‘big debates’ in conflict research and comparative politics. Students are introduced, in particular, to the following core themes:

  • Recruitment and Mobilization in Armed Conflict: The course assesses the insights and limitations of existing research in uncovering the incentives of groups and communities to engage in violent collective action, the choices of ordinary citizens to join insurgent or counterinsugent armed groups, as well as the strategies of armed group leaders to enlarge their constituencies.
  • Order and Governance in Civil War: Students are introduced to a novel research agenda that has started to explore how social and political order is established in times of civil war, when and how armed groups aspire to govern the daily lives of civilians, and why some armed groups manage to establish and maintain high levels of internal cohesion and control while others do not.
  • Causes and Consequences of Wartime Violence against Civilians: The course critically reviews theories and recent empirical studies that have set out to explain the puzzling variation in violence against civilians across conflicts, armed groups, and over time, as well as the consequences of civilian victimization for subsequent conflict dynamics and post-conflict recovery.

Empirically, the course engages with both quantitative and qualitative studies and a wide variety of ongoing, recent, and historical cases from civil wars around the globe, including the conflicts in Colombia, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Peru, Sierra Leone, and Syria, among others.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

Lent term: 10 x 1 hour lectures, 10 x 1.5 hour seminars (2 groups). There will be a reading week in week 6.

Formative coursework

  • 1 presentation: The presentations critically assess and compare the theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions of selected mandatory and/or recommended readings for one specific course topic and/or case.
  • 1 essay: The essay (2000 words) proposes an original argument related to one of the course subjects.
  • 1 mock exam (formative, 1 hour).

Indicative reading

Cederman, Lars-Erik, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch and Halvard Buhaug. 2013. Inequality, Grievances and Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kalyvas, Stathis N. and Laia Balcells. 2010. "International System and Technologies of Rebellion: How the End of the Cold War Shaped Internal Conflict." American Political Science Review 104(3):415-429.

Kalyvas, Stathis N. and Matthew Kocher Kocher. 2007. "How `Free' Is Free Riding in Civil Wars? Violence, Insurgency, and the Collective Action Problem." World Politics 59(2):177-216.

Jentzsch, Corinna, Stathis N. Kalyvas and Livia I. Schubiger. 2015. "Militias in Civil Wars: An Emerging Research Agenda." Journal of Conflict Resolution: Forthcoming.

Mampilly, Zachariah Cherian. 2011. Rebel Rulers. Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life during War. Cornell University Press.

Staniland, Paul. 2014a. Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse. Cornell University Press.

Weinstein, Jeremy M. 2007. Inside Rebellion. The Politics of Insurgent Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wood, Elisabeth Jean. 2003. Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wood, Elisabeth Jean. 2008. "The Social Processes of Civil War: The Wartime Transformation of Social Networks." Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 2008 11:539-561.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills