ASTK18385U Global Violence and Political Evil

Volume 2021/2022

Bachelor: 15 ECTS

Kandidat: 15 ECTS


What are the dynamics of global political violence? How do wars, massacres, genocides, and other crimes against humanity become possible? And how are emerging technologies shifting those conditions of possibility? In this course, we explore cutting-edge empirical and conceptual answers to these questions. This ranges from approaches that question our traditional understanding of human responsibility for political violence, through those that stress the material, infrastructural, and technological embedding of violence, and towards frameworks that explain how political violence becomes globalized across time and space. In doing so, we address the continuing prevalence of political evil in our world, a phenomenon that remains significantly responsible for other key dilemmas in international relations, such as refugee flows, gender-based violence, and geopolitical instability. To ground its discussions, the course will also work through a series of intertwined case studies – the Algerian revolution, the ‘War on Terror’ and the Syrian civil war. We will also introduce key methodologies for studying political violence and the implications of our discussions for the possibility of preventing political violence.


Indicative Topic List:

  1. Visions of Political Evil


  1. New Approaches to Violence


  1. Human Violence


  1. Social Violence


  1. Digital Violence


  1. Material Violence


  1. Violence Prevention 1


  1. Violence Prevention 2


  1. The Future of Political Evil



Case Studies:


  1. Syrian Civil War
  2. The War on Terror
  3. The Algerian Revolution
Learning Outcome


Students will be able to:

  • Explain and analyse how forms of political violence become possible,
  • Analyse how political violence reverberates at global political levels;
  • Discuss how contemporary developments (technology, populism, etc.) is affecting the dynamics of global violence;
  • Discuss the politics of political violence both theoretically and empirically.



Students will be able to

  • Interrogate both theoretical and empirical texts and engage with the conceptualisations they produce;
  • Construct, defend and critique different approaches to understanding political violence;
  • Explore different forms of data – textual, visual, testimonial, etc. – and dissect their different implications.
  • Translate academic insights into political violence into possible practical political interventions.



Students will learn

  • Critical thinking;
  • Independent working;
  • Oral communication and writing;
  • Visual communication.


Indicative List:


Andersen, Elijah. Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999.

Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem. New York: The Viking Press, 1963.

———. The Human Condition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1958.

Austin, Jonathan Luke. “A Parasitic Critique for International Relations.” International Political Sociology 13, no. 2 (2019). https:/​/​​10.1093/​ips/​oly032.

———. “Security Compositions.” European Journal of International Security 50, no. 3 (2019).

———. “The Departed Militant: A Portrait of Joy, Violence and Political Evil.” Security Dialogue 51, no. 6 (December 1, 2020): 537–56. https:/​/​​10.1177/​0967010620901906.

———. “The Poetry of Moans and Sighs: Designs for and against Violence.” Frame: Journal of Literary Stuies 33, no. 2 (2020).

———. “Torture and the Material-Semiotic Networks of Violence Across Borders.” International Political Sociology 10, no. 1 (2016): 3–21.

———. “Towards an International Political Ergonomics.” European Journal of International Relations 25, no. 4 (2019).

———. “We Have Never Been Civilized: Torture and the Materiality of World Political Binaries.” European Journal of International Relations 23, no. 1 (2017). https:/​/​​10.1177/​1354066115616466.

Austin, Jonathan Luke, and Anna Leander. “Designing-With/In World Politics: Manifestos for an International Political Design.” Political Anthropological Research on International Social Sciences (PARISS) 2, no. 1 (July 13, 2021): 83–154. https:/​/​​10.1163/​25903276-bja10020.

Avruch, Kevin. “Notes Toward Ethnographies of Conflict and Violence.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 30 (2001).

Baudrillard, Jean. The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Bauman, Zygmunt, and Leonidas Donskis. Liquid Evil. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

Baumeister, R. F. Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. New York: W.H. Freeman, 1997.

Benjamin, Walter. “Critique of Violence.” In Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, edited by Walter Benjamin. New York: Schocken Books, 1986.

Bousquet, Antoine. The Eye of War. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2018.

Bufacchi, Vittorio. “Two Concepts of Violence.” Political Studies Review 3, no. 2 (2005): 193–204.

Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London: Verso, 2004.

Carbonnier, Gilles. Humanitarian Economics: War, Disaster and the Global Aid Market. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Card, Claudia. The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Collins, Randall. Violence: A Micro-Sociological Theory. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Cunha, Miguel Pina, Stewart Clegg, Armenio Rego, and Yiannis Gabriel. “Evil Organization Studies: On Genocide, Culture and Organization.” Culture and Organisation 20, no. 5 (2014): 450–52.

Debrix, Francois, and Alexander D. Barder. Beyond Biopolitics: Theory, Violence, and Horror in World Politics. London: Routledge, 2012.

Della Ratta, Donatella. Shooting a Revolution: Visual Media and Warfare in Syria. Pluto Press, 2018.

Dodd, James. Violence and Phenomenology. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Esparza, Marcia, Henry Huttenbach, and Danel Feierstein. State Violence and Genocide in Latin America. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Feitlowitz, Marguerite. A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Feldman, Allen. Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Fierke, K. M., and Kahled Fattah. “A Clash of Emotions: The Politics of Humiliation and Political Violence in the Middle East.” European Journal of International Relations 15, no. 1 (2009): 67–93.

Kalyvas, Stathis N. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Mullins, Sam. “Rehabilitation of Islamist Terrorists: Lessons from Criminology.” Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict: Pathways toward Terrorism and Genocide 3, no. 3 (2010).

Ophir, Adi. The Order of Evils: Toward An Ontology of Morals. Michigan: Zone Books, 2005.

Sjoberg, Laura, and Caron E. Gentry. Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Women’s Violence in Global Politics. Zed Books, 2007.

Valentino, Benjamin. Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004.

Zimbardo, Phillip G. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. New York: Random House, 2007.

This class will involve multiple modes of teaching and learning, including but not limited to:

• A series of lectures-seminars, which will involve intensive class-based discussion, in which we explore core concepts and cases related to political violence;
• A series of practical classes, in which we will learn, test, and discuss key methods for studying political violence (ethnography, verification analysis, etc.) at a concrete level;
• A student research workshop in which we will discuss the projects you will conduct throughout the semester on key cases of global political violence.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Total
  • 56
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment

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