Understanding Violence, Conflict and Development

Key information

Module code
Department of Development Studies

Module overview

This elective provides a grounding in analytical approaches to understadning how violence, conflict and development are related. The course begins by discussing empirical trends, difficulties of data collection and the importance of categorisation and boundaries in contexts of violent conflict. It then moves onto some of the foundational theories on conflict and violence including gender perspectives, debates about the origins of human violence (anthropological, historical, psychological sources of violence) and the role of violence in historical change.

Against this background, the course explores how development theory has treated violence and conflict at different times before focusing on competing contemporary theories and claims about the causes and dynamics of conflict. The focus then shifts to the structures and manifestations of violence including themes related to boundaries, war economies, inequality, land and the environment. We look at themes in common between the study of these dimensions or types of violence and of wars and move on to explore different facets of intervening in violent conflict including humanitarian aid, conflict resolution and reconstruction. The course ends on the links between war/violence, and knowledge production, discourses and ethics, with a focus on terrorism and the war on terror and then the ethical challenges of conducting research on violence.

For on campus students wanting to select this module, please note you will not be able to select this and 15PDSC003 as this is a restricted combination.

Topics include:

  • Trends, Evidence and estimates
  • Non-war violence
  • Gender and violence
  • Violence, subjectivities and meanings
  • Ethnicity, religion and violence
  • Rational choice explanations of violence
  • Historical political economy explanations of violence
  • Democracy and democratisation
  • Resources and violence: abundance and scarcity
  • Humanitarianism, violence and war
  • Conflict resolution and peace settlements
  • Barbarism, ‘terror’ and the war on terror

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • articulate a critical understanding of contemporary theories of violence and conflict within and between states
  • critique and analyse the types of data that are available in violent contexts and the categorisation of different forms and levels of war and non-war violence
  • analyse the causes and implications of violence, particularly as it relates to issues of state formation and human development
  • understand the processes of peace, negotiation, humanitarianism and reconstruction as they relate to political and economic development
  • engage with debates on policies of intervention in situations of violent conflict.


Teaching takes place online through a weekly discussion

Method of assessment

100% coursework


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules