Overview: This seminar provides an overview and critical assessment of contemporary research on civil conflict. It will be in equal measure backward looking – assessing the state of the art; what have we learned – and future oriented – what are the cutting edge issues and challenges for students of civil war. Reflecting the research interests of the instructors, the course will be plural in meta-theoretical (positivist, post-positivist), theoretical (political economy, political ethnography, sociological, constructivist, political psychology) and methodological terms (agent-based modelling, game theory, process tracing, case studies, interpretive approaches).
The first part of the course (sessions I - III) assesses what we now know about civil wars – why they break out, how they are sustained, how do they end – and how to think – conceptually and theoretically - about dynamics and process. The second part (sessions IV - VII) builds on the first to explore the cutting edge and where next questions; our focus here will be new work seeking to capture the dynamics of civil war. Among other issues, we will consider the roles of transnationalism; of bureaucracies, groups and organizations; of social processes; and insurgency-counterinsurgency dynamics in driving forward or constraining the evolution of such conflicts.