SO311      Half Unit
Law and Violence

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ayca Cubukcu STC.S113


This course is available on the BSc in Sociology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

This course is available to students in Year 3 only.



Course content

Law and Violence is an intensive introduction to key theoretical texts that can inform a nuanced understanding of the controversial yet crucial nexus between law and violence. What is the relationship between law and violence? Are they mutually exclusive forms of human action?  Is it a paradox that law employs violence in claiming to prevent or circumscribe the latter? Is it a contradiction that violence is often the means to establish or change the law? We will consider these questions within historical contexts of the nation-state and the global legal order. The case of refugees—often caught “outside” the law—will also be considered.


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

This course requires the practice of close reading. We will not read in large quantities. However, students are expected to engage with the assigned texts deeply, paying special attention to the presuppositions of the authors and the structures of their argumentation, identifying the weaknesses and the strengths of their theoretical constructions. By the end of the course, students are expected to make the texts speak with and against each other.  Students in this course will have a reading week in week 6.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 1 other piece of coursework in the MT.

Essay abstract (max 800 words) to be submitted in class in week 7.  Students will get detailed feedback on their abstracts.

Indicative reading

Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford Uni. Press. 1995.

Antony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law. Cambridge University Press. 2005.

Talal Asad, “Thinking About Just War and Terrorism,” in Cambridge Journal of Foreign Affairs.

Talal Asad, On Suicide Bombing, Columbia University Press. 2007.

Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem. Penguin Press. 1963.

Walter Benjamin, “Critique of Violence” in Reflections, Schocken Books. 2002 [1929].

Jacques Derrida, “Force of Law: The ‘Mystical Foundations of Authority’” in Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice. Drucilla Cornell, Michel Rosenfeld, David Gray Calson, eds. Routledge. 1992.

Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended. Picador. 2003 [1976].

Georges Sorel, Reflections on Violence. Dover. 2004 [1908]

Carl Schmitt, Political Theology. The MIT Press. 1985 [1922].


Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth. Telos Press. 2003 [1950].


Essay (90%, 4000 words) in the LT.
Class participation (10%) in the MT.

Two hard copies of the assessed essay, with submission sheets attached to each, to be handed in to the Administration Office, S116, no later than 16:30 on the first Tuesday of Lent Term. An additional copy to be uploaded to Moodle no later than 18:00 on the same day.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2016/17: 10

Average class size 2016/17: 13

Capped 2016/17: Yes (30)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills