MA International Conflict Studies Programme Convener: Professor Vivienne Jabri 2 Core Modules:

MA International Conflict Studies
Programme Convener: Professor Vivienne Jabri
2 Core Modules:
The Global Governance of Conflict and Security: Theories and Methods - 40 credits (Terms 1 and 2)
The Government and Resolution of Conflict – 20 credits (Term 2)
The ICS programme has had two core modules; the first, Violence the State and Global Politics (20
credits term 1) and the second, Concepts and Methods in International Relations (20 credits, term
2). The latter was shared with students registered for the MA in IR.
I have decided that the MA in ICS should have its own dedicated core modules. This change is
responsive to student feedback and is a move that gives the programme greater distinctiveness. I
have also increased the core elements of the programme to ensure that students gain full access
both to the theories and methodologies associated with the study of international conflict and the
ways in which these theories and methods can be used both to analyse practices and to formulate
The following provides a description of the two core elements of the programme, together with a
preliminary lecture outline:
Core 1:
The Global Governance of Conflict and Security: Theories and Methods (replaces Violence, the
State and Global Politics)
Module Convener: Professor Vivienne Jabri
Credits: 40
The aim of the module is to introduce students to the major theories, concepts and methods in
critical understandings of conflict, security, and their global governance. The module explores the
prisms through which conflict and security are understood and the ways in which these impact on
global responses to conflict. Just as conflicts can no longer be conceived as isolated phenomena but
have manifestations that are global and transnational, so too the theories and methodologies we
use should reflect this complexity.
Using social and political theory, as well as international relations theory, the module asks
fundamental questions relating to the place of violence in the human condition, in the constitution
of the individual self and in social and political institutions, including the international system. It
engages with the question of how conflicts come to be understood through the prism of security and
asks how such a move impacts on global responses to conflict. The module explores the relationship
between violent practices and political institutions, highlighting issues relating to sovereignty,
humanitarianism, and exceptional practices. It investigates the concept of ‘failed states’ and
practices of state-building from a critical theoretical standpoint, and highlights the challenges that
arise when sovereign power is no longer confined to the state. It highlighted the question of spaces
of conflict and exceptional practices, so that students might reflect upon and become aware of the
social, political, and juridical implications of particular responses to conflict in a globalised arena. The
module engages students with the question of how power operates in determining global responses
to conflict, introducing students to the very cutting edge in the literature on sovereignty,
humanitarianism, the materiality of warfare, global exceptionalism, and their implications for the
transformation of the international as a political and juridical space.
The first term of the module is devoted to the theoretical and conceptual grounding of the subject
matter covered and outlined above. The second term is devoted to the ‘application’ and ‘translation’
of these theories and conceptual frameworks to distinct methodologies that researchers can use in
seeking understanding of particular practices. The second term of the module will cover
methodologies such as the analysis of practices, discourse analysis, the analysis of institutions,
narrative and performativity in conflict and security studies, and aesthetics as a distinct method in
social and political analysis.
A summary of aims:
- The module aims to foster the capacity for critical analysis in the study of conflict, security, and
global responses to conflict and security challenges. It seeks to develop students’ capacity for
independent judgement and communication at a level commensurate with taught postgraduate
- The module focuses on the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological approaches to global
governance relating to conflict and security.
- It provides students with the ability to ‘apply’ theoretical and conceptual approaches in particular
case-studies, thereby fostering the capacity to translate theory to research design and
- It aims to familiarise students with major sociological, philosophical, and political approaches to
the subject of violent conflict and how such conflict relates to political practices at state and global
levels of interaction.
- Drawing on social and political thought, the module aims to familiarise students with the major
literature and approaches to the understanding and analysis of conflict and security, including their
relationship to language, identity, the politics of exclusion, and global exceptionalism.
- It enables students to unpack the socio-political and judicial implications of global exceptional
practices and the use of transnational space as a location of extra-legal responses to conflict.
- It enables students to engage with the ‘application’ of critical theory, poststructuralism, and
feminist thought to the understanding of war as an instrument of governance, focusing on
interventionary practices and their implications for populations involved in conflict.
- The module fosters an understanding of the spaces of conflict and their late modern spatial
articulations, from the city to the local, transnational, and international.
- The module provides an understanding of the epistemological, ontological and methodological
underpinnings of the major theories being used today (including an understanding of the agencystructure dynamic in the production of violence) and a comprehension of how theories of violent
conflict and security relate to conceptual, theoretical, and methodological approaches in politics
and international relations.
-The module provides students with the capacity to analyse the discursive and institutional
frameworks through which conflict is interpreted and rendered a target for global response
- The aim is to enable students to appreciate the policy implications of the ontological and
epistemological prisms through which conflicts are read and understood.
A summary of learning outcomes:
By the end of the module, students will have developed:
- An understanding of the major contemporary theories, concepts and methods used in the
understanding of conflict, security, and the global governance thereof.
- They will be able to critically assess the contribution of the diverse approaches to our
understanding of conflict and security, the role of the state, and the global arena.
- They will be able to appreciate the implications of ‘global governance’ in the late modern,
postcolonial context.
- They will have the ability to draw on the advanced literature in this area to appreciate the everchanging role of the state and global institutions in relation to violence and security in global
- Students will be able to appreciate the major debates within the literature on the three formative
concepts that underpin the module; global governance, conflict, and security.
- They will be able to distinguish, for example, between rationalist, constructivist, critical,
poststructural, and feminist understandings of conflict, security, and operations of power in a
global context.
- They will be able to engage critically with discursive and new materialist understandings of conflict
and security practices.
- They will develop an understanding of the spatial and temporal manifestations of conflict in a
globalised, transnational context and their implications for practices of violence and
- They will be able to critically assess the different conceptual, theoretical and methodological
approaches to the study of conflict, security, and their global governance, and appreciate the policy
implications of the theoretical and conceptual prisms through which conflicts come to be
- They will be able to engage with critical methodologies, including discourse and narrative analysis,
and the use of aesthetic outputs in thinking about the application and translation of theories and
conceptual frameworks to research methods used in particular case-studies.
Core 2:
The Government and Resolution of Conflict (20 credits)
Module Convener: Professor Vivienne Jabri
The aim of the module (which must be taken in the Second Term in conjunction with the
other core module in ICS) is to enable students to engage with the ‘practice’ of responding to
international conflict. The core aim is ‘training’, developing students’ skills in the analysis of
international conflict and in designing responses to particular conflict contexts. With this
training/skills element in mind, the module is project-based, where students engage in
collective work. Being taught in conjunction with the other ICS core module, The Global
Governance of Conflict and Security: Theories and Methods, the module challenges
students to apply their theoretical and conceptual training to reflection on designing
response mechanisms to international conflict.
Through such practical engagement, students will develop an understanding of the
processes and dynamics that lead to particular responses to conflict, labelled here the
‘government’ and ‘resolution’ of conflict. The aim is to enhance advanced learning
appropriate to a postgraduate core module. This involved critical engagement with the
cutting edge literature in International Relations that focuses on the determining factors that
explain responses, decisions, and policies related to international conflict and, crucially, how
this literature can be mobilised in developing core skills relating to analysis and the devising
of responses to conflict.
The module considers questions such as:
How do we conceptualise responses to international conflict? What are the factors
that determine the policies adopted in such responses?
How does power operate in the determination of responses to conflict?
Does influence derive from structural power (e.g. distribution of capabilities) or does it
emerge in situated diplomatic and/or ‘local’ practices?
To what extent do international norms determine responses to conflict?
Does ‘humanitarianism’ enhance or impede conflict resolution and negotiated
outcomes to conflict situations? Should a concern with human rights ‘trump’ efforts to
achieve the end of violent conflict?
Can the ‘motives’ for shaping particular responses to conflict be captured or
investigated empirically? What are the challenges that the researcher faces in
determining the motives of actors in international politics?
- Does the so-called ‘practice turn’ in International Relations help us analyse the actual
diplomatic and other moves that actors make locally, in international institutions,
government departments, or even non-governmental organisations working on the
- Which international institutions are best placed to respond to conflict? Should be
global (e.g. the UN), military alliances (e.g. NATO), or regional (e.g. the EU or the
Arab League)?
- How do we conceptualise ‘agency’ in the context of responses to international
The module is framed by the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological literature devoted
to the analysis of responses to international conflict. However, its pedagogical approach is
practice-oriented. The students will use this framing to engage with actual conflicts such as
Sri Lanka, Libya, or Syria. The aim is to focus on ONE conflict, divide the cohort into smaller
groups, and these will in turn engage the types of questions and perspectives highlighted
Summary of Learning Outcomes:
By the end of the module, students will be able to analyse a particular context of conflict and
critically reflect upon the design of response mechanisms in international conflict through the
use the theories, concepts, and methods that frame the module in the analysis of
responses to international conflict.
navigate the cutting edge literature on international practices and institutions and how
this can be used in understanding particular contexts of conflict.
consider what power and influence mean in shaping processes and outcomes in the
context of international conflict.
appreciate the significance of ‘agency’ and its location in relation to the influence and
shaping of conflict outcomes.
conceptualise structural hierarchy and domination in determining response
mechanisms in international conflict.
appreciate ‘competence’ and symbolic power in determining outcomes.
appreciate the impact of gender and cultural difference in determining agency in
responses to and the shaping of international conflict and conflict resolution.
understand the impact of institutional culture and everyday norms and rules in
shaping responses to conflict.
engage practitioners in debate using the theoretical, conceptual and methodological
tools that students have had exposure to in seeking understandings of actual
responses to complex international conflicts.
Have the capacity to analyse and design response mechanisms to a particular casestudy of conflict presented to the students at the very outset of the module.
develop group/collective working methods, as required by the project work defining
the module.