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Conflict & Development - POL00018M

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  • Department: Politics and International Relations
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Rob Aitken
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The module seeks to develop a critical understanding of development in contexts of pervasive violence. In doing so it takes a broad understanding of “conflict” which is not limited to “war” or even “armed conflict”. Our interest includes contexts of pervasive violence involving organised criminal gangs or widespread societal violence without clear sides as well as wars and armed conflicts. We seek to understand the political and economic relations which produce and sustain violence, and how societies might move out of violence. In doing so we focus on development in terms of human development and the agency and strategies of local actors.

After an introduction to key concepts and issues, the module develops in three parts.

  1. States, economies and violence. Rather that assume that contexts of pervasive violence are “failed states” or that violence is due to a lack of development, we examine the ways that modern states (colonial and nationalising states) and economies have shaped identities and power relations, and in turn patterns of violence. We examine the political and economic relations created in contexts of violence and how people in conflict-affected societies negotiate their livelihoods and identities in the context of power relations and violence.
  2. Humanitarian Action. We examine the moral dilemmas of humanitarian action and how states and humanitarian actors respond to emergencies. Do all humanitarian disasters have political causes? Does it matter? Can state or international interventions be effective in ending violence and promoting human rights?
  3. Liberal Institutions and Local Peacebuilding. We examine forms of peacebuilding including attempts to end violence, reconstruct violence-affected regions and reintegrate divided societies. We engage in the debates between liberal peacebuilding theory and its critics as well as forms of bottom-up and everyday peacebuilding.

Throughout the module we seek to look from the local to the global – to focus on the analysis of cases taking into account the agency of local actors while recognising that the identities and strategies of local actors are shaped by global connections.

Each week students can choose a case study reading from Latin America (eg Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru); Sub-Saharan Africa (eg Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Somalia); the Middle East and Central Asia (eg Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan) or South East Asia (eg Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, the Philippines).

Module learning outcomes

At the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the roles of states and economic development in the emergence of violence.
  • Explain the complex relations between development and violence in some contemporary conflict zones.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the non-formal institutions and cross-state networks that connect conflict zones, state actors and the global economy.
  • Analyse the ways in which political and economic relations are produced and reproduced in violent contexts.
  • Critically reflect on the coping strategies of local populations in contexts of pervasive violence.
  • Critically analyse the relations between international peacebuilding and the emergence of everyday and local forms of peace.


Task Length % of module mark
4000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
4000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Cramer, Christopher (2006) Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing: Accounting for Violence in Developing Countries. Hurst.

Nordstrom, Carolyn (2004) Shadows of War: Violence, Power, and International Profiteering in the Twenty-First Century. University of California Press.

Hickey, Sam and Diana Mitlin (eds) (2009) Rights-based approaches to development: exploring the potential and pitfalls.

Mac Ginty, Roger (2021) Everyday Peace: How So-called Ordinary People Can Disrupt Violent Conflict

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.