ASTK18306U Conflict and Peacemaking in Divided Societies

Volume 2019/2020

Bachelor student (2012 programme curriculum): 10 ECTS

Bachelor student (2017 programme curriculum): 7,5 ECTS

Master student: 7,5 ECTS



Although violence and group conflict is hardly new, over the past decades that has followed the end of the Cold War, nationalism and ethnic conflict has replaced ideological competition as the main source of strife within and between nation-states. Violence between ethnic groups, religious communities, and clans has shaken countries and regions across the globe. Most of the violent conflicts taking place in the world today are framed in cultural terms, as ethnic, nationalist, or religious. In many cases, these conflicts have spilled over the borders of states, threatening regional security and, some scholars argue, even world order. Even in the supposed "nation-states" of the "First World," where populations were once thought to be unified by a common national identity, cultural conflict has emerged as a major political issue for example the rise of secessionist movements and an array of right-wing anti-immigrant parties. Throughout the world, minority groups have become increasingly assertive, demanding recognition and rights, while the powerful, seeking to protect their positions, have responded with repression and violence.

The increasing frequency and deadliness of nationalist conflict at the international and the intrastate level, from mass expulsions to state-sponsored genocide, has prompted international and humanitarian interventions that have challenged time-honoured norms of state Sovereignty and its integrity. However, despite widespread recognition amongst intellectuals and policymakers of the virulent resurgence of nationalism, there is a widespread lack of consensus on the meaning and origins of, as well as the management strategies for dealing with, nationalist conflict.


At the same time, international relations have increasingly been shaped by what Samuel Huntington famously termed as the “Clash of Civilization”  and the debate surrounding Huntington's work has received a sense of urgency after the September 11 and  with the so-called War on Terror. Yet, other argued it is poorly understood and instead termed the rise of religious movements and religious inspired conflict or violence as the “Clash of Fundamentalism.” Accordingly the great conflicts of our time are not clashes of civilizations, they are clashes and competitions between different modes of modernity. One emphasized individualism and democratic popular participation, while the other emphasized the importance of communal identity and self-determination. 



This course aims to enable students to:

  • Have knowledge of the emergence and persistence of nationalism as well as the circumstances under which it may become associated with ethnic, religious polarisation and violence in their broader political context on the one hand; and the process of conflict resolution and peace building in deeply divided societies, on the other.
  • Have knowledge of the causes, consequence and responses to civil wars, nationally, regionally and internationally.
  • Develop an integrative understanding of global issues, conflict resolution and peacebuilding theories, research, and practice
  • Be aware of the social and economic situation of plural societies undergoing ethnic, religious polarisation, violence and civil war.


Lecture Topics (Tentative)

Week 1 Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies

Week 2 Defining Conflict, Peace Violence

Week 3 Understanding Contemporary Conflict

Week 4 Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict

Week 5 The Political Economy of Conflict: the greed and grievance debate

Week 6 The Causes of Internal Conflict: Structural and Political Factors

Week 7 Reflecting on roles of religion in conflict and peace

Week 8 Nationalism as a basis of mass killing and genocidal violence  

Week 9 Non-Violence civil resistance as a basis for conflict transformation

Week 10 Containing conflict: Third party mediation and preventive diplomacy    

Week 11 Containing conflict: Peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention  

Week 12 Separation as a solution? Partition and Secession

Week 13 Institutional design and mechanisms of peacemaking

Week 14 Conflict Transformation, Reconciliation and Peacebuilding

Learning Outcome


On successful completion of this module, you will be expected to be able to:


  • Acquire theoretical knowledge of major approaches in the studies of nationalism and apply these theories to arguments about the role of identity in ethno-political conflicts
  • Identify the conditions under which identity-based conflicts are likely to exist
  • Acquire a deep knowledge about the different ways in which the international community has tried to deal with civil wars and of genocides specifically with the problem of political, moral and legal responsibility as well as different approaches to preventive diplomacy, mediation, humanitarian intervention and reconciliation.
  • Possess knowledge about how to design and carry out a research paper and write an independently researched essay on a conflict and peace studies related topic.



  • The ability to think and evaluate a range of different approaches to the study of ethno-political conflicts and conflict resolutions.
  • The ability to explain the causes and consequences of identity-based conflict in several regions of the world



  • Enhance their capability to think critically about nationalism and ethno-political conflicts
  • Acquire a good theoretical background in conflict resolutions.
  • Knowledge of geopolitical and local conflicts and the role of nationalism in conflicts across the globe.
  • Provide policy solutions to prevent identity-based conflict from starting, or recommend solutions to mitigate conflict once it has already started

Required Texts


The following materials should be purchased for the course:

Oliver Ramsbottom, Tom Woodhouse, and Hugh Miall (2016) Contemporary Conflict Resolution 4thedn, Cambridge: Polity Press.


Other readings include articles from a wide variety of journals and books.

Syllabus will be available in Absalon before the classes begins. Login at  Also available upon request.

There are no prerequisites, other than a keen interest in Conflict resolution and Peacebuilding
Teaching will take the form of lectures, student presentations and class discussions based on the assigned readings
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Exam registration requirements

Free written assignment

Students will be required to write an essay based on a research topic of their choosing. The topic must be relevant to the broad themes and questions covered by this course.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

Free written assignment


Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner