SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

War and the International 1

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 1

War is a social institution which has long been central to both the practice and the study of international relations. This module is the first part of a two-parts course, which has the following aims. First, it introduces students to the phenomenon of war and demonstrates its ubiquity across time and space in human affairs. 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. Third, it develops an account of war in the context of relations between a global north and a global south. Fourth, it sketches the different forms war has taken across time and space; specifically, colonial, great power, small, guerrilla, counter-insurgent, 'cold' etc. Fifth, 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. In addition, they will also have been introduced to an historical sociological conception of the international informed by postcolonial thought.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • [See module outline above]


1 hour lecture per week

1 hour tutorial per week

Scope and syllabus

Week 1: Introduction: What do you know about war?
Week 2: International Relations and Theories of War
Week 3: On Violence
Week 4: War and Society in Global Perspective
Week 5: Why Fight?
Week 6: Bodies and War
Week 7: Small Wars
Week 8: Revolutionary War and Counterinsurgency
Week 9: Neoliberalism and the War on Terror
Week 10: Conclusion

Method of assessment

Assessment is 30% coursework (one 1500 word essay) and 70% unseen examination (2 hours).


Suggested reading

  • Barkawi, Tarak. 2006. Globalization and War (New York: Rowman and Littlefield)
  • Barkawi, Tarak and Mark Laffey. 2006. ‘The Postcolonial Moment in Security Studies,’ Review of International Studies 32(2): 329-352
  • Boot, Max. 2002. The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power  (New York: Basic Books)
  • 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)
  • 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)   


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules