SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

War and the International

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

This course has the following aims. First, for students with a year of Politics it builds on and extends the conceptual and theoretical analysis of world politics. Second, for students without a background in Politics, it provides an introduction to the study of world politics, organised around the analysis of war and society. Specifically, it develops an account of war and society as central to the relations between a global north and a global south and charts the role of war in the production of states, societies and cultures, and the international system itself. Topics covered include the relations between war and race, gender, class, nationalism, state development, political economy and international organization. By the end of the course students should expect to have an informed and critical grasp of the role of war and society in the production and shaping of the modern world, as well as an overview of how world politics has been conceived and explained.

Scope and syllabus

This course has the following aims. First, it introduces second year undergraduate students to the phenomenon of war and demonstrates its ubiquity in world politics. Second, it develops an account of war as a constitutive force in the production of world politics past, present and future. Specifically, it charts the role of war in the production of states, societies and cultures, and the international system itself. Fourth, it develops an account of war in the context of relations between a global north and a global south. Fifth, it sketches the different forms war has taken across time and space; specifically, colonial, great power, small, counterinsurgent, ‘cold’ etc. Sixth, it brings these themes together in an account of the so-called ‘war on terror’, charting continuities and discontinuities with other forms of war. By the end of the course students should expect to have an informed and critical grasp of the role of war in the production and shaping of the modern world and how it has been conceptualised and explained.

Method of assessment

One 3-hour unseen written examination accounting for 70%, three 2000 word assignments accounting for 10% each. 

Suggested reading

  • Barkawi, Tarak. 2006. Globalization and War (New York: Rowman and Littlefield).
  • Barkawi, Tarak and Keith Stanski (eds.) Orientalism and War (London: Hurst and Company).
  • Barkawi, Tarak. 2010. ‘Empire and order in international relations and security studies,’ in Robert Denemark, ed. The International Studies Encyclopedia (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell), vol. III, pp. 1360-1379.
  • Barkawi, Tarak and Mark Laffey (eds.) 2001. Democracy, Liberalism and War: Rethinking the Democratic Peace Debates (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Press)
  • Barkawi, Tarak and Mark Laffey. 2006. ‘The Postcolonial Moment in Security Studies,’ Review of International Studies 32(2): 329-352
  • Barnet, Richard J. 1972. Roots of War (New York: Penguin)
  • Boot, Max. 2002. The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power  (New York: Basic Books)
  • Cumings, Bruce. 1992. War and Television (London: Verso)
  • Cumings, Bruce. 2010. The Korean War: A History (New York: Random House)
  • Dower, John W. 1986. War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Pantheon Books)
  • Enloe, Cynthia. 2004. The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press)
  • Fanon, Frantz. 1963. The Wretched of the Earth (London: Penguin).
  • Gillis, John R. (ed.) 1989. The Militarization of the Western World (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press)
  • Goldstein, Joshua. 2001. War and gender: how gender shapes the war system and vice versa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • Gregory, Derek. 2004. The Colonial Present: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq (Oxford: Blackwell)
  • Grandin, Greg and Gilbert M. Joseph (eds.). 2010. A Century of Revolution: Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Violence During Latin America’s Long Cold War (Durham: Duke University Press).
  • Greiner, Bernd. 2009. War without Fronts: The USA in Vietnam (London: The Bodley Head)
  • Guevara, Che. 1973. The Marxism of Che Guevara: Philosophy, Economics, Revolutionary Warfare (New York: Monthly Review)
  • Halperin, Sandra. 2004. War and Social Change in Modern Europe: The Great Transformation Revisited (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
  • Haslam, Jonathan2011. Russia’s Cold War: From the October Revolution to the Fall of the Wall (New Haven: Yale University Press)
  • Hevia, James L. 2003. English Lessons: The Pedagogy of Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century China (Durham: Duke University Press)
  • Horne, Alistair. 2006. A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (New York: NYRB)
  • Howard, Michael 2008. War and the Liberal Conscience (London: Hurst and Co.)
  • James, C.L.R. 1980. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (London: Penguin)
  • Khalili, Laleh. 2012. Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press).
  • Kwon, Heonik. 2010. The Other Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press)
  • Lindqvist, Sven. 1996. Exterminate all the Brutes (London: Granta)
  • Malesevic, Sinisa. 2010. The Sociology of War and Violence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • Mandel, Ernest. 1986. The Meaning of the Second World War (London: Verso)
  • Moon, Katherine. 1997. Sex among Allies: military prostitution in US-Korea relations (New York: Columbia University Press)
  • Neep, Daniel 2012. Occupying Syria under the French Mandate: Insurgency, Space and State Formation  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • Thorne, Christopher 1986. The Far Eastern War: States and Societies 1941-45 (London: Unwin)
  • Trotsky, Leon. 1971. Military Writings (New York: Pathfinder)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules