Resistance, Suffering and Leadership: The Political Lives of Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi - PO659

Looking for a different module?

Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2020 to 2021.


The module will begin with an introduction to biographical narrative as a method in political science and to 'leadership' as a concept. Following this introduction, the module will present three ‘icons’ of 20th/21st Century world politics in three blocks of three weeks each, leaving one week for a concluding and comparative discussion (and one reading week). Throughout the module, the three themes of the title – resistance, suffering (sacrifice) and leadership – will be highlighted and will serve as a focus as the module considers the lives of Gandhi, Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi and their impact on world politics. Considering the lives of these iconic figures will allow us to discuss a number of important question, e.g. how they, as individuals, made choices that led them to occupy such prominent roles, how they understood themselves and how that self-understanding evolved over time, how the historical context provided them with opportunities to exercise influence and mobilise mass movements, how resistance and suffering enhanced their leadership roles, and how they used the influence they gained. While political science often studies political reality from an aggregate point of view, incorporating large numbers of observations through quantitative analyses, PO659 endeavours to explore general patterns in political reality through the unique experiences of three individuals and their journey to political stardom. We will also be able to take a critical look at how Western culture and politics often appropriate prominent individuals as representatives of liberal values without paying attention to the complexities of the relevant local contexts, customs and traditions.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

This module will be taught through pre-recorded online lectures and seminar teaching.


Not available 2016/17

Method of assessment

A1 Poster 20%, Essay 2500 words 40%, Exam (2hrs) 40%

Indicative reading

MK Gandhi, An Autobiography or the Story of My Experiments with Truth (Penguin, 1982)
N Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (Little, Brown, 1994)
Aung San Suu Kyi, The Voice of Hope (Rider, 2008)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the module, students will:

be familiar with the political biographies of Gandhi, Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi8.2 be familiar with the key political issues which dominated Gandhi's, Mandela's and Aung San Suu Kyi's lives,
be familiar with the processes of vocational clarification and the evolution of the self-understanding of Gandhi, Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi as political actors,
be familiar with theories and principles of leadership, and be able to analyse and explain how they apply to concrete examples of political leadership,
be able to conduct a focused, comparative study of political biographies,
have a good understanding of 'political biography' as a method in political science and be able to critically evaluate the limits and potential insights of this method.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
Back to top

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.