SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Political violence

Module Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Term 2

The course offers Masters students in the MSc in Middle East Politics an opportunity to engage with the a range of debates surrounding political violence in a variety of manifestations prevalent in Africa and Asia, but especially the Middle East. The course themes include conventional and civil warfare, colonial and decolonisation violence, counterinsurgencies, torture and domestic repression, demonstrations and riots, and terror.

Enrolment is limited to 28 students.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The aim of the course is to 

  1.  engage with various debates surrounding political violence
  2.  understand different social scientific approaches to the question of violence
  3.  hone the students’ analytic and research skills
  4.  hone the students’ oral and written communication abilities.

Method of assessment

The course will be assessed by two essays on topics that will be suggested. The first essay is 3000 words long and contributes 40% of the mark for this course; the second, is a 4000-word essay and contributes 60% of the overall mark for the course. Please consult the PG Departmental Handbook for valuable advice and style requirements for writing essays. Dates for the submission of essays are (i) the first Monday after the reading week; (ii) at the beginning of the subsequent term.

Suggested reading

The following readings are to be completed before the first session:

  • Raymond Williams, 1983. “Violence” in Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture an Society, (New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 329-331.
  • Harry Eckstein, 1980. “Theoretical Approaches to Explaining Collective Political Violence,” in Ted Robert Gurr, ed., Handbook of Political Conflict (New York, Free Press), pp. 135-66.
  • Mark Mazower, 2002. “Violence and the State in the Twentieth Century,” American Historical Review 107:4, pp. 1158-1178.
  • Charles Tilly, 2001. “Public Violence” in International Encyclopedia of the Behavioral and Social Sciences (Amsterdam: Elsevier) Vol. 24, 16206-16211.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules