Faculty of Arts


Comparative Perspectives on Ethno-political Violence

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for POLITICS 356.



This course offers a theoretical and practical introduction to the causes and prevention of violent ethno-political and religious conflict. It examines the leading explanations of four forms of collective violence - "deadly ethnic riots", communal and separatist conflicts and genocide - considering the role of religion, ethno-nationalism, economic competition and political power in motivating people to kill people from other ethnicities. The course then examines a number of historic and current cases of each form of conflict, explaining these events and testing the utility of the relevant theories.

Cases examined include: religious riots and ethno-separatism in India, Indonesia, Myanmar and elsewhere; communal war in the Solomon Islands, Indonesia and Kenya; separatist rebellion in Bougainville and Thailand and the Philippines; genocide in Rwanda; and the Holocaust. A later module introduces some of the main concepts and policies of conflict prevention, including those currently used by international development agencies and national governments.


By the end of this course you should:

  • Have a good understanding of many of the main theories of conflict onset and of policies of conflict prevention
  • Be familiar with a range of cases of ethnic, religious and political conflict in our region and beyond
  • Be skilled at the methodology of structured comparison, including the formulation and testing of hypotheses
  • Be able to evaluate theories and analyse cases through comparative analysis
  • Have developed the ability to present nuanced and informed arguments (in oral and written form) on the onset and prevention of violent conflict

View the course syllabus

Availability 2018

Semester 1


Lecturer(s) Dr Chris Wilson


Weekly and additional readings are provided on Canvas. It is important that you read at least the essential readings each week before the lectures and tutorial so you can get the most out of the course, make a substantial contribution to tutorial discussions (and of course be best placed to earn a high grade).

Recommended Reading

The lectures will present a number of cases of different forms of violent conflict, many but not all from the Asia Pacific region. I encourage you to search for information about other cases not covered in the course and use these in your essays and other assignments. You are also welcome to use and test other theories not discussed in the lectures.


POLITICS 356: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage II in Political Studies or Politics and International Relations, or POLITICS 106 and 30 points at Stage II in Global Politics and Human Rights

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