Core Curriculum Courses in Peace and Conflict Studies

Note: This is not necessarily an exhaustive list. Courses given in the PCS program by the core faculty will generally count as core courses, and they can change. If in doubt, please contact the program director, Sean T. Mitchell,

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.


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.


26:735:525 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.


Gender, Religion and Armed Conflicts, Zahra Ali

This course aims to provide an understanding of conflicts related to identities-ethnic, national, racial, social etc.-in interaction with gender and religion. It is an interdisciplinary course relying strongly on sociological as well as feminist postcolonial and transnational perspectives. The course seeks to analyze and explore the different ways in which gender and religion interacts with class, race, ethnicity in situations of social tensions and struggles as well as in contexts of armed and military conflicts. The course examines multiple contexts both in the North and the Global South and intend to provide a transnational understanding of identity-driven conflicts in relation to both local and global structures of power.


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.


26:735:526 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.


26:735:576 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.


26:735:563 How Societies Recover From Mass Violence, 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.

26:735:579 International Negotiation & Conflict Resolution, Lynn Kuzma

This class explores a variety of techniques, theories, and frameworks for analyzing and resolving conflict. Students will perform conflict mapping and practice conflict resolution techniques.  Because this class emphasizes building conflict resolution skills and abilities, the class will involve engaging in simulated conflict scenarios and subsequent reflection.