Course 2021-2022 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
CLMG (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - M (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - IM (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - MM (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - AFC (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - CLELI (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - ACME (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - DES-ESS (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - EMIT (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - GIO (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - DSBA (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - PPA (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04) - FIN (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SPS/04)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (I sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus

Suggested background knowledge

A basic knowledge of International Relations and Conflict Studies could be helpful. Students that have no prior knowledge of such fields can read these books: 1 – Frieden A, Jeffrey A, Lake DA, and Schultz KA (2018). World Politics: Interests, Interactions, Institutions. New York: Norton (for a general and wide perspective on International Relations) 2 – Cederman LE, Gleditsch KS, Buhaug H (2013). Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (about conflict studies, especially civil wars)

Mission & Content Summary


From large-scale wars to mass protests, and from coups d’état to ethnic violence, politics often turns violent. When do wars, coups, ethnic violence, and civil wars occur? Under what conditions are these conflicts longer, more severe, frozen, or terminated? Diving into the contemporary political chaos, this course aims to study rigorously the factors that explain violent disruptions of the political order, and the institutional devices that allow political communities to contain, prevent, and mitigate conflict. First, the course focuses on interstate wars, investigating how different regimes have conducted wars since the XX century. Second, the classes assess civil wars, in particular the dynamics of ethnic conflict. In this context, we analyse and discuss competing theoretical frameworks and empirical strategies to better grasp the reasons behind ethnic grievances and violence. Next, we consider the role of non-state actors in wars, from mercenaries to pro-government militias and from terrorists to pirates and that of international norms and gender dynamics. After these classes, the course entails a short monographic part about the relation between conflict and geopolitical dynamics. At the end, students are required to work in groups and provide a presentation (30min ca.) on one of the topics discussed in class. The ultimate goal is to acquaint students with an empirical approach to the analysis of conflict and with solid theoretical tools to support such investigation


§  Introduction: When do politics turn violent?

§  Inter-state war: Why do states engage in wars?

§  Democratic peace: Do democracies fight each other?

§  Gender and war: Are queens more war-prone than kings?

§  Civil wars: Why do citizens rebel?

§  Ethnic civil wars (1): When do ethnic groups turn to violent and non-violent means?

§  Ethnic civil wars (2): How can states reduce ethnic grievances?

§  Coups: When do military and non-military coups happen?

§  Human rights violations: Why do states target their own population?

§  Non-state actors in war: When do states resort to private actors in war?

§  Mercenaries: Are mercenaries legitimate actors? Are they effective on the battlefield?

§  Pro-government militias: What is the effect of militias on war?

§  International norms: Do norms matter in explaining war and peace?

§  Taboos: Why do states refrain from using nuclear and chemical weapons?

§  Social stigma: Who is terrorist and who is a freedom fighter?

§  Seminars

§  Monographic part: Geopolitics (Andrea Colli)

§  Students’ group work and presentations

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...


§  Discuss contemporary, crucial issues related to conflict.

§  Assess how different actors interplay in the politics of war and peace.

§  Find, interpret, and use relevant datasets for the study of conflict.

§  Explain when and why various forms of violence and wars are more likely.

§  Evaluate competing theories against alternative empirical strategies. 



At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • §  Employ solid theoretical and empirical insights to analyse and explain political conflict and violence.

    §  Locate and critically assesses relevant datasets for policy evaluation.

    §  Interpret in a rigorous way contemporary events.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Online lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Exercises (exercises, database, software etc.)
  • Group assignments


  • Seminars
  • Students' presentations
  • Research groups

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  x x
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)


The exam will cover the 80% of the final grade. Students' presentations and other research projects will cover the 20%

Teaching materials


Class materials and day-to-day readings (as in the syllabus)


Cederman LE, Gleditsch KS, Buhaug H (2013). Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press


Kalyvas SN (2007). The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Last change 14/07/2021 15:15