SO311      Half Unit
Law and Violence

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ayca Cubukcu STC.S113


This course is available on the BSc in Sociology. This course is not available as an outside option nor 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and online materials totalling a minimum of 20 hours in LT.

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 LT.

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 ST.
Class participation (10%) in the LT.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the first Tuesday of Summer Term.

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

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: Sociology

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

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