Humans at War - POLI6560

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2023 to 2024.


This module aims to investigate the different roles and experiences of human beings at and in war. Following an introduction to approaches to agency in social and political theory, the course will examine the roles of combatants (both state and non-state), civilians (men, women and children), and third parties (peacekeepers, humanitarian workers, journalists, and academics). Engaging with the fluidity of each category (a human being can be a woman and a combatant at the same time and all categories are interlinked by a complex web of social, economic, and political relations), the categories will first be analyzed as a social group (examining questions such as age brackets, income brackets, education, life expectancy), then investigated in terms of their political functions and roles. Finally, the experiences of each category will be examined through testimonies (using written, audio and video material and guest speakers) in an attempt to access some degree of experiential knowledge of war and peace. Due to the sensitive nature of the material examined, the module will not be using lecture capture.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150


An optional module for all politics and international relations students. Available as an elective module to the wider university.

Method of assessment

Essay 1, 2500 words, 50%
Essay 2, 2500 words, 50%

Reassessment methods: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Reading list (Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually)

Bourdieu. Pierre (ed.) (1999) The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society. Cambridge: Polity.

Campbell, David. (2003) "Representing Contemporary War," Ethics and International Affairs. 17(2): 99-108.

Collart, Claude and Venter, Sahm (eds). (2004) Something to Write Home About: Reflections from the Heart of History. Bellevue: Jacana.

Dallaire, Romeo. (2005). Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. London: Carroll & Graf.

Levi, Primo. (1996) If This is a Man; The Truce. London: Abacus.

Nordstrom, Carolyn. (1999) "Wars and Invisible Girls, Shadow Industries, and the Politics of Not-Knowing," International Feminist Journal of Politics. 1(1): 14-33.

Nordstrom, C. and A. Robben (eds). (1995) Fieldwork Under Fire: Contemporary Studies of Violence and Survival. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. understand the key approaches to agency in social and political theory

2. identify the various actors involved in warfare and peace-making

3. understand the social, political and experiential aspects of the various types of actors involved in war

4. critically engage with conflict studies and International Relations, and challenge the underlying assumptions of the field

5. identify cognate disciplines studying actors in war including sociology, anthropology and ethnography of war

6. analyse testimonies of war (written, oral, video, photographic)

7. engage with experiential knowledge and link it to theoretical approaches to conflict

8. formulate questions in face to face contact with interviewees

9. understand the ethical issues linked to interviews with actors involved in war

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. communicate effectively in writing and speech

2. use information technology (particularly audio visual and internet-based technology) for the retrieval of information

3. choose a topic of interest and relevant to the course for the second assignment and work independently to complete it

4. express their ideas in a group setting, listen to others and respond constructively to opposing points of view


  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.
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