Core Curriculum Courses in Peace and Conflict Studies


Core Curriculum Courses in Peace and Conflict Studies

Syllabi for recently taught courses can be accessed by clicking the course title. 

26:735:501 Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies, The Program Faculty

This course is a required first semester Introduction for all incoming MA PCS students. The basic structure, goals and requirements are discussed. Then each class is a presentation by one of the MA PCS Core Faculty, describing their Core Courses and research interests. Students will attain a general overview of Peace and Conflict Studies as approached by our program, and be better able to plan their individual course of study. Students and faculty will get acquainted, and an incoming class will all get to know each other as a cohort.


26:735:502 Classical Foundations of Social Theory, Ira Cohen

This course provides a graduate level introduction to the works of the classical theorists who laid the foundations for modern social thought with additional coverage of theorists who have developed and expanded upon classical theoretical themes. Students will acquire competence in concepts, methods and critical visions of modernity that are the lingua franca across many otherwise disparate fields in the social sciences today. Major emphasis will be given to the thought of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber.


26:735:523 Comparative and International Education: Development in Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights, Jamie Lew

This course provides an overview of the history, theories, and current trends in comparative and international education focusing on peace, conflict and human rights. The readings and discussions will be framed by historical and contemporary theories of comparative and international education development: colonial and post-colonial theories, economic theories of modernization, neoliberal economic expansion, international migration, and globalization. Using various case studies, it will explore and critically analyze the social production of mass schooling, nation-building, cross national trends in implementing human rights, and emergency education in conflict and post-conflict zones.


Gender and Migration: A Global Perspective, Sherri-Ann Butterfield

Studies of migration often primarily have men at its core when researching how the cross-border movement of people drives globalization and the creation of multicultural societies. However, given the fact that females make up about one half of all international migrants today, it is imperative that we incorporate the experiences of women (and girls) in discussions of migration, and thus, peace and conflict. This course enters into the migration discourse by examining the ways in which issues of migration and globalization differentially impact females and males. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach, this course will focus on ethnographic research, historical comparative case studies, as well as large-scale statistical studies, in order to understand how notions of identity, gender, culture, inequality, citizenship, region, and religion come to define migration, and in many situations, ensuing conflict and peace.


26:735:525 Environmental Conflict, Genese Sodikoff

Competition over territory and natural resources often leads to social conflict. This course focuses on the ways power dynamics shape landscapes, cause conflict, and exacerbate problems of ecological scarcity and degradation. Historical and ethnographic case studies illuminate the ways environmental conflicts have been framed by policy makers, social scientists, and people on the ground. These include, for example, the forceful displacement of Native Americans for the creation of national parks in the United States, the seizure of African savannah by British colonialists for large-game hunting preserves, the delimitation of rain forest by states and NGOs for biodiversity protection and ecotourism, and the enforcement of international bans against killing endangered species in regions where poverty is acute. Texts explore influential theories of environmental conflict, such as the “tragedy of the commons,” scarcity-induced violence, political ecology, postcolonial mindsets, and overpopulation, as well as scholarly critiques of these perspectives.


26:735:526 Peace, Conflict, Security, and Development, Sean T. Mitchell

International aid organizations and military and police strategists in places as different as rural Afghanistan and urban Brazil (and even here in Newark, NJ) today often understand security and development to be interdependent goals. But for critics, this “security-development nexus” legitimates authoritarian surveillance regimes and violent intervention into the lives of the world’s poor. This course examines the relationships between security and development in the contemporary world. Through reading ethnographic and historical case studies, as well as theoretical, journalistic, and polemical works, the course explores the different meanings assigned to these terms and the origins and material consequences of the “security-development nexus.” At its core, the debate over security and development revolves around key perspectives on the relationships among inequality, governance, well-being and the social bases of violence and peace.


26:735:527 Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation, Chris Duncan

The nature of the relationship between religion, violence, and peace is a contentious one in academia. Some argue that religion has little to do with violence and is simply a façade that hides the political and economic motivations of elite actors, while others argue that religions are inherently violent. Others take more nuanced positions, such as arguing that analysts need to pay more attention to the role and meaning given to religion by participants in violent conflicts. These approaches raise a number of questions: Is religion a source of violence or is it simply a tool used by the elite to manipulate the masses? Can religion and politics be separated? Is religion also a resource for peace and reconciliation? The course explores how various scholars from a variety of disciplines (anthropology, sociology, political science, and religious studies) have looked at the connection or lack there of, between religion, violence and peace. The course begins with an analysis of key concepts in understanding the role of religion in the world today, including secularism, fundamentalism, religious freedom, reconciliation, and the very idea of religion as a category. The second half of the course will focus on case studies, including Indonesia, the Middle East and Thailand.


26:735:541 Irregular War: History, Culture, and Theory, R. Brian Ferguson

“Irregular War” is an ethnography-based examination of recent intrastate wars, when at least one party is not a government-based military, and different sides have a distinct social and cultural character. Students will develop a critical and comparative perspective on theories about cultural values, social organization, identities, interests, leaders, group formation, power, “the State,” violence, and history. Beginning with contrasting theoretical perspectives, eleven weeks will then focus on detailed examination of major areas of recent irregular war, each with a comparable counterpoint conflict. Student teams will research and present cases, and are tasked to identify critical junctures where mass violence became more likely, and conflict resolution efforts that do or do not address underlying causes of war.


26:735:544 Urban Space and Urban Conflict, Aldo Civico

Urban centers are becoming the theaters of new social and violent conflicts. According to the United Nations, by 2030, 80 per cent of the world population will live in urban areas. This course will explore the contribution that the field of conflict resolution and strategic peace building can offer to support efforts in lowering violence and crime. Students will apply the concepts learned in mapping and in analyzing case studies in urban violence.


26:735:545 Culture, Political Violence, and Globalization, Alex Hinton

This course explores the cultural, structural, socioeconomic, and ethnohistorical dimensions of different types of violence (political violence, terrorism, war, and genocide) in a variety of local contexts (Cambodia, Rwanda, the Yanomamo, the United States, Argentina, Paraguay). It examines such topics as the bodily inscription of violence, terror and taboo, and the discourses mediating the perpetration, experience, and aftermaths of mass violence.


26:735:563 Transitional Justice, Recovery and Legacies of Atrocity, Isaias Rojas-Perez

“Transitional Justice” examines the broader ethical and political question of how contemporary post-conflict societies recover from devastating state-sponsored violence. By means of an interdisciplinary approach and a focus on case studies, students will develop a critical understanding of how survivors and affected communities in former war-torn areas remake their local worlds and everyday lives, working towards social coexistence, justice and memory within and outside state-sponsored projects of transitional justice. The course speaks to debates in legal anthropology; anthropology of violence; human rights studies; interdisciplinary theories of transitional justice; theories of “post-conflict;” and cultural elaboration of mourning and commemoration in the aftermath of atrocity.


26:735:576 Strategic Nonviolent Conflict, Kurt Schock

This course examines strategic nonviolent conflict, i.e., conflicts prosecuted by civilians wielding methods of nonviolent action in struggles against oppressive and often violent opponents. The organized and sustained use of methods of nonviolent action by civilians in asymmetric conflicts is often referred to as “civil resistance.” Civil resistance movements occur partially or entirely outside of institutional political channels (which may be non-existent, blocked, or controlled by hostile parties) and involve people using methods of nonviolent action to deny legitimacy and support to the opponent. Historically, the impact of civil resistance on challenging unjust relationships between citizens and states, and oppressor and oppressed, has been significant.


26:735:579 Topics in Non-Violence: Conflict and Resolution, Ken Kressel

This course focuses on the mediation of social conflict at the interpersonal, organizational, and international levels. Topics include theories of dysfunctional conflict; cognitive, behavioral, and institutional obstacles to the constructive management of conflict; strategies and tactics of intervention; and theoretical and empirical issues in the study of the mediation process.