Core Subject: Approaches to International Conflicts - From Theory to Methods

Course content

This core subject takes its point of departure in the strong International Relations (IR) tradition of the department – and it adds a particular focus on conflict resolution as well as theoretical approaches to how conflicts are managed, mediated and resolved.


The core subject provides candidates with deep knowledge and key competences to analyze international conflicts, understood broadly as anything from separatism, civil wars, terrorism, international controversies, status rivalry to diplomatic tensions. While the object of analysis is conflict, the core subject is not limited to the specific tradition of ‘conflict studies’, but has a strong component of other conflict-focused theories within and beyond IR. This unique approach to studying conflicts makes the core subject the place to go for graduate students who want to work with international conflicts and their resolution in an in-depth and theoretically advanced manner. It offers an ambitious program, which challenges students to work systematically by effectively linking theory, methods and empirics. 


This particular profile is internationally quite unique as other Nordic peace research communities do not have a similar theory dimension. In turn our many brilliant IR students will be challenged in a productive way by confronting work that does not spin out of the standard repertoire of IR-theories. By seeing how different evolving conversations have produced different overlapping intellectual universes, they gain an increased reflexivity in relation to using theories. In turn, the core subject will emphasize methods and strategies of analysis, training students in developing and applying their own analytical skills, knowledgeable of but not hostage to one particular set of theories. 


Core subject in the core subject track in International Relations and Conflict Resolution. Only accessible to students who are admitted to International Relations and Conflict Resolution.


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semester only, as the course is not offered in the spring.


Learning outcome

On completion of the course, students should be able to evaluate complex conflicts and their possible resolution in light of IR and conflict studies theories. 



  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of different approaches to understanding and handling international conflicts

  • Demonstrate knowledge of theoretical trends and key debates within International Relations and Conflict Resolution

  • Identify and evaluate the causes, dynamics and positions in a conflict

  • Estimate the likely success of specific resolutions to concrete conflicts and diplomatic tensions

  • Communicate knowledge about current conflicts, conflict patterns and conflict resolution practices



  • Contribute to critical problem-solving in a highly conflictual setting 
  • Make informed analyses of the use and nature of IR and conflict studies theories in concrete areas
  • Systematize and juxtapose different ways of approaching a conflict situation analytically. 



  • Based on knowledge about IR and conflict studies methods, being able to formulate and evaluate possible solutions to international conflicts 
  • Critically reflect upon the usefulness of different methodological approaches and concepts
  • Analytically reflect upon methodological design and its implications for the analysis of conflict situations 

The course is taught by a dedicated teaching team. The teaching format is a mix of lectures, workshops and peer feedback. Active student participation forms the basis of the success of the course.

Indicative list:


Demmers, Jolle (2016) Theories of Violent Conflict: an introduction, Routledge


Wallensteen, Peter (2019) Understanding Conflict Resolution: War, Peace and the Global System, Sage 2019


Galtung, Johan (1969). "Violence, Peace and Peace Research". Journal of Peace Research. 6 (3): 167–191 (25)


Galtung, Johan (1990). "Cultural Violence". Journal of Peace Research. 27 (3): 291–305 (15)


Galtung, Johan, 1996, Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization, 70-80, 89-126 (49)

Bramsen, Isabel; Poul Poder and Ole Wæver (eds) (2019) Resolving International Conflict: Dynamics of Escalation, Continuation and Transformation, London: Routledge.


Richmond, Oliver P. (2014): Failed Statebuilding: Intervention, the State, and the Dynamics of Peace Formation. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Kaldor, Mary. New and old wars: Organised violence in a global era. John Wiley & Sons


Barkawi, Tarak. "Decolonizing war." European Journal of International Security 1, no. 2 (2016): 199-214. (16)


Cederman, Lars-Erik, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, and Halvard Buhaug (2013) Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,


Collins, Randall. Violence: A Microsociological Theory, London: Routledge.


Mac Ginty R. (2014) Everyday peace: Bottom-up and local agency in conflict-affected societies. Security Dialogue 45: 548-564 (17).


Hansen, Lene (2006) Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War, London: Routledge 

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Free written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semester only, as the course is not offered in the spring

Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • English
  • 56


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester

Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinators
  • Jonathan Luke Austin   (3-6d6f64436c6976316e7831676e)
  • Maja Zehfuss   (12-796d766d3a86717472817f7f4c75727f3a77813a7077)
Saved on the 06-05-2024

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