GV4A8 Half Unit
Political Violence and Terrorism
This information is for the 2023/24 session.
Prof James Hughes
This course is available on the MSc in Political Science (Conflict Studies and Comparative Politics). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.
Availability to students outside the MSc in Political Science (Conflict Studies and Comparative Politics stream) is subject to space. This course is capped at two groups.
How can we distinguish legitimate resistance and political violence from terrorism? What is the relationship between war and terror? What distinguishes a combatant from non-combatant? Should we erode civil liberties and democratic values to fight terrorism? How do social scientists theorise about political violence and terrorism? This course attempts to answer these and similar questions by a comparative examination of the theories and ethics of political violence and the root causes, nature and types, and dynamics of violence. This course also evaluates different political and security policies and methods of conflict resolution as change agents. A number of case studies of historical and contemporary conflicts are examined to illustrate the theoretical and policy dilemmas. The course has two parts. Firstly, it examines definitions and concepts, the principles and efficacy of the laws and norms of armed conflict and ethical dilemmas in their application. We explore the causes and motivations for engaging and not engaging in political violence. We examine the historical evolution of policies of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism from the colonial era to the present day. The effects of dealing with resistance, from coercive to cooperative approaches, is analysed, and the impact on the balance between security and liberty in democracies is mapped. Secondly, the course explores the key issues and debates through a number of case studies that analyse political violence and terrorism in democracies and non-democracies, including the insurgency and counterinsurgencies in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the transnational challenges posed by Islamist violence and forms of White Supremacist violence, and the relationship between war and genocide. Throughout the course comparisons will be made and lessons drawn from the performance of different regime types (colonial, democratic, and authoritarian) in managing political violence.
This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 30 hours per group in the Autumn Term. There will be a reading week in week 6 of the AT for private study and assessment preparation.
One essay of 1,500 words, to be on a topic that differs from the summative essay. Students must also contribute to a team presentation.
Tore Bjorgo ed. Root Causes of Terrorism, Routledge (2005); Andrew Silke ed. Terrorists, Victims and Society, Psychological Perspectives on Terrorism and its Consequences, Wiley (2003); David Whittaker, The Terrorism Reader, Routledge (3rd edn, 2007); Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, Basic Books (1992); Arguing about War, Yale University Press (2004); Michael Ignatieff The Lesser Evil. Political Ethics in an Age of Terror, Edinburgh University Press (2005); James Hughes, Chechnya from Nationalism to Jihad, University of Pennsylvania Press (2008); Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, University of Pennsylvania Press (2004) and Leaderless Jihad, Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, University of Pennsylvania Press (2007), and Misunderstanding Terrorism, University of Pennsylvania Press (2016); Jeff Victoroff and Arie W. Kruglanski eds, Psychology of Terrorism. Classic and Contemporary Insights, Psychology Press (2009); Cas Mudde, The Populist Radical Right: A Reader, Routledge (2017).
Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the WT.
Student performance results
(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)
|Classification||% of students|
Total students 2022/23: 26
Average class size 2022/23: 13
Controlled access 2022/23: Yes
Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (MT)
Value: Half Unit
Course selection videos
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Personal development skills
- Team working
- Problem solving