GV307      Half Unit
Conflict and Cooperation: A Few Provocative Debates

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Omar Shahabudin McDoom


This course is available on the BSc in Government, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in Government and History, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

This course is capped at two groups.

Course content

(Q1) When is it permissible to kill civilians for a political cause? (Q2) Should governments be permitted to restrict civil liberties in the name of security? (Q3) Is cultural diversity more problematic than desirable in societies? (Q4) Should we preserve and promote multiculturalism? (Q5) Do grievances or ideologies matter more in explaining radicalization and terrorism? (Q6) How convincing are the arguments in favour of open borders? (Q7) What role, if any, does inequality play in the onset of political violence? (Q8) How skeptical should we be of apocalyptic claims regarding climate refugees and violent conflict? (Q9) When it is justifiable to use drones to kill? (Q10) What are the arguments for and against an international responsibility to protect civilians in cases of gross human rights violations?

This course is organized around these ten "big" empirical and normative questions which touch on issues in the public sphere relating to political and ethnic conflict and cooperation. The selection of debates and cases may vary year-to-year as the scholarly frontier of understanding and the world's catalogue of conflicts also evolve. The course is taught as a research seminar comprising ten weekly two-hour sessions. Given its research-oriented focus, the course is attentive to methodology and students will be taught to critically evaluate the more common approaches to empirical research in the field.  Students will have the opportunity to undertake a single substantial research project on a course-related topic resulting in an assessed summative essay.


This course is delivered through 20 hours of seminars in the Michaelmas Term. In 2020-21, teaching may be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus seminars to allow maximum flexibility. Students will also be encouraged to participate in smaller, peer group-only meetings in advance of the seminars to discuss and prepare the week’s topic. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of the MT.

Formative coursework

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

Students will submit a 1500 word annotated bibliography, in which they summarize between 3 and 6 scholarly writings (articles or books) that they have carefully chosen themselves after conducting a comprehensive literature search on a course topic and research question approved by the course instructor.

Indicative reading

A statement from Al Qaeda regarding the mandates of the heroes and the legality of the operations in New York and Washington - Al Qaeda, 2002

The Lesser Evil - Michael Ignatieff, 2004

E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture - Robert D. Putnam, 2007-06

Are There Any Cultural Rights? - Kukathas, Chandran

Dying to win: the strategic logic of suicide terrorism - Robert Anthony Pape, 2005

Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders - Joseph Carens

Beyond greed and grievance: feasibility and civil war - P. Collier, A. Hoeffler, D. Rohner

Climate Change and Conflict: The Migration Link - Nils Petter Gleditsch, Ragnhild Nordas

Killing by remote control: the ethics of an unmanned military - Jeff McMahan, 2013

The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ and the Structural Problems of Preventive Humanitarian Intervention - Roland Paris, 2014-10-20


Essay (80%, 4000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (20%) in the MT.

The annotated bibliography will inform the final 4000 word summative essay on the student's chosen course topic.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Application of information skills
  • Communication