War, Atrocity and Genocide - SO710

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


This is an interdisciplinary module on war, atrocity and genocide. Drawing on a range of sources from military history, social psychology, sociology, criminology, political ethics and political history, it is concerned to explore the following questions: What is war and why is it a matter of criminological and sociological interest? What are the defining experiences and emotions associated with war and genocide? How is killing in war framed or 'constructed' in the minds of those who kill? What is mass killing/genocide and how is it accomplished and facilitated in war? Why is rape used so widely as a weapon in conflict situations and what is its lasting impact? What is genocide and how should it best be understood? How are atrocities in war denied, excused or rationalized? Correspondingly, the aim of the module is to provide a framework for thinking about (1) the phenomenology of killing in war; (2) the conditions which facilitate genocide and mass killing at the state and sub state level; and (3) the ways in which perpetrators of mass killing, their apologists and distant others contrive to deny, rationalize or legitimize mass killing/genocide.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 21
Private study hours: 129
Total study hours: 150

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Coursework - assignment 1 (1500 words) – 30%
Coursework - assignment 2 (3000 words) – 70%

Reassessment methods
100% coursework

Indicative reading

Arendt, Hannah (1963) Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Viking Press).
Bauman, Zygmunt (1989) Modernity and the Holocaust (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).
Baumeister, Roy F. (1997) Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty (New York: Henry Holt).
Bourke, Joanna (1999) An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth Century Warfare (New York: Basic Books).
Bourke, Joanna (2008) Rape: A History from 1860 to the Present (London: Virago).
Browning, Christopher R. (1992) Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York: HarperCollins).
Caputo, Philip (1977) A Rumor of War (London: Pimlico).
Cohen, Stanley (2001) States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering (Cambridge: Polity Press).
Collins, Randall (2008) Violence: A Micro-Sociological Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
Ferguson, Niall (1998) The Pity of War (London: Penguin).
Geras, Norman (1998) The Contract of Mutual Indifference: Political Philosophy after the Holocaust. (London: Verso).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes are as follows. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1.appreciate the foreground phenomenological dynamics of war and genocide;
2.demonstrate systematic understanding of key aspects of the role of emotions in killing in war and genocidal events, including being able to utilise this knowledge in verbal and written discussion;
3.understand and be able to critically evaluate key perspectives on organized mass atrocity/killing and the socio-cultural conditions which facilitate it;
4.understand the range of interpretive mechanisms for denying, minimizing, excusing or justifying mass atrocities, including being able to describe and comment upon particular aspects of current research, or equivalent advanced scholarship, in this field

The intended generic learning outcomes are as follows. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1.demonstrate skills in presentation and debate, both verbal and written, and in utilization of research and empirical data
2.synthesize items of knowledge from different schools and disciplines of inquiry
3.demonstrate advanced research skills through library investigation, critical debate and essay writing
4.demonstrate skills in reading and disseminating complex empirical and theoretical material
5.demonstrate skills in group working


  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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