Jonathan M. Obert (Section 01)
Violence lies at the very heart of both political institutions, such as the state, as well as the expression of political beliefs. Focusing on domestic rather than international forms of conflict, this course will address questions of what violence is, how it is organized in society, and what it means to those who use it. We will first identify ways to think about violence as a political activity—why do actors choose violent over non-violent means of resisting governments or expressing dissent? Is violence ever rational? What purposes does it serve? How is violence different from other kinds of political interaction like arguing or debating? Next we will think about how violence is organized—that is, how do political leaders, parties, police forces, and paramilitaries, for example, try to control and manage the use of force? When do private individuals and groups choose to protect themselves and when do they turn to the state? Building on the theoretical interventions of scholars such as Arendt, Weber, Sartre and others, we will use empirical studies of the political use of force from around the world to ask how violence shapes political phenomena such as elections, protest movements, taxation, and nationalism.
This seminar course is designed both to facilitate engaged classroom discussion as well as improve analytic skills. Throughout the course we will engage with the arguments and contentions of a number of key theoretical and empirical works, which will provide a foundation for critical reading and reflection through writing. The core assignment of the course is a 12-15 page paper, which we will break into a number of sub-assignments, allowing students to learn organizational skills involved in managing larger projects and providing feedback and opportunities for re-drafting.
Fall semester. Professor Obert.
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