GV307      Half Unit
Conflict and Cooperation: A Few Provocative Debates

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Omar Shahabudin McDoom


This course is available on the BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in History and Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Data Science, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations, BSc in Politics and Philosophy and BSc in Social Anthropology. 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. 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 1000 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 Nordås

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%, 3000 words).
Class participation (20%) in the MT.

The annotated bibliography will inform the final 3000 word summative long essay on the student's chosen course topic.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: 28

Average class size 2021/22: 15

Capped 2021/22: Yes (30)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Application of information skills
  • Communication