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International Peace and Conflict Resolution | SIS


Course Descriptions

IPCR offers a diverse array of courses that engage students in the current topics of the field. The courses bridge theoretical and practical approaches to conflict analysis, conflict resolution, and nonviolent approaches to peace. The main themes explored in the courses include:

  • Contending theories of conflict, the causes of war, organized violence and the conditions for peace, their basic assumptions, and their relationship to present global policies, structures, and events.
  • Alternative approaches to peacemaking, their basic assumptions and methodologies, and their application to current conflict situations.
  • The role of culture and cross-cultural communication in conflict situations, conflict resolution, international negotiations, realization of human rights, and the role of identity labels such as gender, race, ethnicity and their role in conflict dynamics and conflict resolution. Development of skills in critical analysis and conflict resolution alternatives.
  • Values and ethics embedded in different religious traditions as well as ways of fostering reconciliation and coexistence.

IPCR Core Courses

Peace Paradigms (SIS 607)

This course examines the history and development of contending approaches to peace, their basic assumptions and methodologies, and their application to current conflict situations, with particular emphasis upon the following: peace through coercive power; peace through nonviolence; peace through world order; and peace through personal and community transformation.

Conflict Analysis and Resolution (SIS 609)

This course explores conflict resolution as a field of inquiry and research; perspectives, theories, and assumptions underlying conflict analysis and conflict resolution; and contending approaches to conflict resolution training and practice. A case analysis approach is used to examine the role of contemporary issues in conflict situations.

Culture, Peace and Conflict Resolution: Alternatives to Violence (SIS 606)

This course examines the complex role of culture in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Historically grounded conceptualizations of culture are reviewed in terms of their international relations application. The course identifies core patterns of cultural differences in values and beliefs, interpretive frames, and behaviors that impact on peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts. Also examines specific conflict intervention approaches in terms of their cross-cultural applicability.

Elective Courses in IPCR

The following list includes other IPCR courses at the graduate level. For course descriptions, please click on the course name.

Theories of Violence and War (SIS 610)

This course sets forth the main theoretical frameworks, with empirical examples, for understanding the causes and conditions of violent conflict. It examines organized violence at various levels (global system, state, group, and individual) and across disciplines (political science, sociology, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and more). Usually offered every term.

International Negotiation (SIS 611)

International Negotiation is an advanced, interactive graduate seminar that focuses on how international actors negotiate in diverse contexts. The course covers negotiations to achieve ceasefires, resolve hostage and terrorist incidents, to comprehensively end wars, to advance economic relations and resolve diplomatic crises, among others. Special concepts and theories that distinguish international negotiations from those that are domestic or interpersonal are also addressed. Learners gain: understanding of the historical origins of international negotiation and selected aspects of conflict resolution theory; deeper understanding of theories about the process and outcome of international negotiation; improve their own negotiation skills by practicing on simulations and cases; and develop the ability to analyze negotiations in order to develop policy recommendations, strategies and tactical responses.

Qualitative Research Methods in PCR (SIS 612)

Integrative seminar to test theories and assumptions raised in contemporary venues of peace and conflict resolution research. Seminar focuses on peace and conflict resolution research as distinct from research into war and violent conflict. Theoretical and methodological approaches to peace and conflict resolution studies are examined in detail. Usually offered every spring.

Reconciliation and Justice (SIS 613)

This course exposes students to the complex and multi-dimensional aspects of the relationship between reconciliation and justice in a post-conflict context. It also develops a deeper understanding of the challenges involved in applying and designing a reconciliation project in a development context. The course addresses the tension between the request for reconciliation, coexistence, and peace and the demand for justice. Usually offered every fall.

Applied Conflict Resolution (SIS 617)

Examines a variety of theories for analyzing conflict and a range of methods for addressing it at various levels of social interaction. Through interactive learning methods, students see the strengths and limitations of concepts and methods, as well as their potential applications. Usually offered every term.

Kurds: Social, Cultural, Political Identities (SIS 619) 

This course focuses on Kurds in the international context. It examines the relationship among the Kurds and Turkey and Iran and also explores superpower policies with regard to the Kurdish issue.

Islamic Peace Paradigms (SIS 619)

The ideal of peace is deeply embedded in the religious vision of Islam, but ideas for achieving peace have differed. This course explores the interpretive foundations, history, and practice of four major Islamic paradigms: tradition, reformism (islah), renewalism (tajdid), and Sufism (tasawwuf). The origins, value structure, and methodology of each paradigm are examined in light of the challenges facing contemporary Islamic societies. Usually offered every fall.

Peacebuilding in Divided Societies (SIS 619)

This course explores the various methods and techniques of peacebuilding and conflict resolution that have been applied in conflicts in multiethnic and divided societies. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the primary case studies, but other examples of deep-rooted conflicts are also integrated into the class. Usually offered every fall.

Gender, Human Rights & Conflict (SIS 619)

This seminar examines the gender dimensions of human wrongs associated with violent conflict. Students are encouraged to ask questions about the complexity of human rights problems and consider aspects of human rights problems made invisible to the outside world by silencing or obscuring the victims. Students also explore how each aspect of conflict is gendered. Of primary concern is gendered forms of resistance to and cooperation with agents of war and peace, the role gender plays in the militaries and militarization, the impact of militarization on the lives of men and women in both war and peace time, and recent legal and political attempts to address gender-based violence in human rights.

Gender and Conflict (SIS 619)

This seminar examines the gender dimensions of conflict and political violence. It explores how each stage of conflict is gendered, including: (1) the origins of aggression and the preparations for war through the militarization of society and the engendering of human security; (2) the conduct of war, wartime atrocities, and the composition, training and performance of armed forces; and, (3) the aftermath of war and conflict prevention attempts through peace agreements, peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts, and the structures and practices of transitional justice. Of central concern throughout the course is feminist activism and gendered forms of resistance to and cooperation with political violence.

Human Rights and Conflict (SIS 619)

This course explores the increasingly relevant intersection of international human rights and conflict. It introduces students to many of the ethical and operational issues that policymakers, diplomats, human rights and humanitarian aid workers, soldiers, peace-keepers and civilian police face in responding to today's conflicts. In so doing, the course also provides students with basic understanding of humanitarian law. The class explores human rights as a cause or consequence of violent conflict; holding militaries and paramilitaries responsible for violations; peace negotiations and human rights advocacy; the truth vs. justice debate in truth commissions and war crimes trials; civil society as human rights safeguard; human rights implications of the war on terrorism; and the human rights of refugees and displaced people.

Islam & Human Rights (SIS 619)

Human rights tenets are deeply embedded in the religious vision of Islam. This course examines human rights as a value and norm in international relations and of Islam as a constituent of political culture. It explores the wealth of information dealing with the issue from the Qur=anic discourse, the Prophetic tradition, Muslim scholars= interpretations, modern humanism perspectives, international law documents, independent scholars= findings, and official and non-official declarations by the United Nations and other organizations. The many questions explored include the following: What do people in Muslim cultures think about human rights and why? How does Islam influence the understanding of human rights in Muslim societies? Is there an antithesis between Islam as a religion and the value of human rights? How do we evaluate proposals for a particularly Islamic conceptualization of human rights?

Islamic Sources of Conflict Resolution (SIS 619)

Investigates the role of cultural and religious elements in conflicts affecting the Muslim world, and examines Islamic precepts as they relate to the theory and practice of conflict resolution. After reviewing principles and precedents from the Qur'an, the Hadith, the Shari'ah, and traditional Islamic culture, students engage in research projects to analyze conflict and conflict resolution processes both within the Muslim world and between Muslim and non-Muslim ethnic and political groups.

Spirituality and Global Politics (SIS 619)

Examines the application of spirituality to global politics with particular emphasis on how modalities of faith and belief which transcend narrowly sectarian concerns promote peace and conflict resolution. Includes the historical significance of faith and belief on contemporary issues in global politics, content and process of spirituality, and consciousness in social action.

U.S. Iran Relations (SIS 619)

This course reviews the state of U.S.-Iran relations in the context of historical changes from the end of World War II to the present, including the politics of oil, the fall of Mossadeqe, the emergence of a Cold War partnership with Iran, the effect of U.S. policy on the Iranian revolution of 1979, the hostage crisis, and the Iran Contra scandal. Contemporary issues and problems such as Iran's nuclear program and challenges to U.S. foreign policy are also discussed. The course examines the historical and contemporary relationship, presenting both challenges and opportunities to American foreign policy and national security interests, to provide an understanding of U.S.-Iran relations in cultural, economic, and social as well as political terms.

Conflict in Africa (SIS 619)

This course is a historical and analytical overview of conflict in Africa. The course begins with conflict in pre-colonial Africa and the advent of colonialism. The bulk of the course is concerned with an exploration of theories regarding the causes of conflict in Africa, ranging from the economic and social impact of colonialism, political culture, ethnic divisions, greed and grievance, etc. Two recent major conflicts in Africa are analyzed with respect to these theories. Finally, possibilities for peace in Africa are addressed.

Conflict Prevention and Assessment (SIS 619)

This course explores contemporary approaches to conflict assessment and the challenges of preventing the outbreak of armed conflict. It invites student to consider best practices in conflict prevention as practiced by several actors, including local and national governments, NGOs, civil society organizations, donor agencies, the United Nations, and regional political organizations.The overall aim of this course is to fully understand the value of conflict prevention in contemporary global crisis management, and deepening of knowledge of the comparative merits of the various tools and concepts associated with conflict prevention.

Dialogue: Approaches and Applications (SIS 619)

This course explores different theories and approaches to dialogue as a conflict transformation framework. It focuses on various types of identity-based conflict and the use of dialogue approaches and tools to transform and change the dynamics of ethnic, religious, and cultural conflicts. Interfaith, interethnic, and intercultural dialogue processes and case studies are explored and examined, especially their design, process, and possible impact.

Economics of Violence and Peace (SIS 619)

This course examines political economic issues concerning war and peace, including civil war, terrorism, and insurgency. Taking a broad view which emphasizes the interaction between economic and non-economic factors, including religion and culture, it discusses economic causes of wars, focusing on economic grievances, resources, environmental problems, and poverty; economic consequences of wars; and economic measures for conflict prevention and resolution, as well as post-conflict reconstruction.

Human Rights and US Foreign Policy (SIS 619)

The story of human rights in U.S. foreign policy is one of perpetual tension and resistance, of interpretation and reinterpretation.  This course explores the nature of this dynamic process, exposing the way in which it involves both acceptance of and resistance to human rights.  The course is divided into seven learning modules: The first two modules provide historical and conceptual context, while the next two modules discuss both the “hard” and “soft” instruments in the human rights foreign policy toolbox.  The final three modules examine in greater depth the human rights foreign policy approaches adopted by the current U.S. administration, with special attention to changes in policy and practice post-September 11th and post-Iraq invasion.

Human Rights in Latin America (SIS 619)

Drawing on theory and case studies, this course examines alternative answers to questions such as what explains the horrific human rights abuses that took place in Latin America during the Cold War, and how and why have patterns of human rights abuse changed since then, including after 9/11. It examines the role of the United States, international and national NGOs, and of other actors in the region's observance of political, socio-economic, indigenous, and women's rights.

Localizing Peace (SIS 619)

This course is premised on a comprehensive understanding of peace that explores local capacities for peacebuilding and sustainable development in a multitude of diverse cultural and religious contexts. Peace at global, regional and national levels is unlikely to take root unless such capacities are established – for ultimately peace must be made and practiced on a local basis. This course addresses the vital need to make active use of local peace resources and to pursue forms of local-international collaboration that sustainably yield locally valid and effective solutions—currently an emerging area in the field of Conflict Resolution. Localizing Peace seeks to develop practical frameworks and raise critical questions for identifying, eliciting and tapping local resources to enhance capacity for local solutions to conflict.

Middle East Conflicts in Fiction & Film (SIS 619)

This course explores Middle East conflicts through literature and film by examining the social, cultural, and political significance of the Middle East conflicts as portrayed in literary tradition and films focusing on the ideological connection between masculinity and war, the issue of representation of the other as enemy, the relationship between violence against women and war, myths and popular images of war, and how literature and film perpetuate or contest them. The course provides an engaging way for students to gain historical literacy and critical thinking about the politics of war and Middle East conflicts by offering a unique perspective to examine conflict through novels, short stories, poetry, and films about the Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanese civil war, Algerian revolution, Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf War and the Iraq war.

Negotiation Analysis and Skills (SIS 619)

This course draws on several of the foundational branches of research, including game and decision theory, social and cognitive psychology, communication as well as more recent syntheses such as negotiation analytics. Negotiation is a key skill in the repertoire of people who are committed to building peace, working for peaceful change, and otherwise changing hearts and minds in a non-coercive context. It is important to understand too the coercive applications of negotiation in order to better know how to deal with them.

Peacemaking in Intractable Conflict (SIS 619)

This course provides an in-depth analysis of both official and unofficial third party peacemaking interventions in intractable conflict, as represented by various forms of mediation and by problem-solving methods captured under the approach of interactive conflict resolution. The focus of interventions is primarily on applications of mediation and third party consultation, both separately and in combination, to violent and protracted ethnopolitical conflicts with international ramifications. In addition to discussing current issues in mediation and interactive conflict resolution, the course assesses the potential for complementarity between official (Track I) and unofficial (Track II) diplomacy through an evaluation of selected cases.

Policies for Constructive Intergroup Relations (SIS 619)

Over at least the past century and a half, the United States and many other countries have been addressing the question of how ethnopolitical groups can function together well within the boundaries of a single country. This course examines past and current policies, as expressed in law and institution building, to creating trusting, cooperative intergroup relations in multiethnic societies, accommodate diverse populations and to ensure justice and fairness in situations where prejudice has held sway. The class looks at a variety of constitutional models designed to share power, and study recently written peace treaties and constitutions to see how these models have been adopted. In addition students become familiar with the most salient debates about such issues as immigration policy, education policy, affirmative action, multiculturalism and the proper nature of religious toleration, using case studies from Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, the UK, and the United States.

Peacebuilding in Africa (SIS 619)

This course examines problems of peace and security in Africa in the post-independence period, focusing on the past 15 years. It analyzes cases from different subregions of the continent, including Liberia, Sudan, and the Congo, and assesses the efforts of regional institutions, the United Nations and outside powers to find peaceful solutions.

Post-war Peacebuilding (SIS 619)

The course will closely examine the requirements of modern peacebuilding operations. A systems perspective will inform a good deal of the reading and discussion as well as assignments in the course. Students will approach peacebuilding from a holistic viewpoint that has variously been described as whole-of-government, 3D, and interagency coordination. Finally, it will consider peacebuilding effectiveness, evaluating impact in a number of country-specific cases.

Theories and Methods of Nonviolence (SIS 619)

Examines the successes and criticizes the shortfalls of six major nonviolent struggles of the twentieth century. Students sharpen their capacity for critical thinking by applying insights from these struggles to current problems in the United States.

U.S. Experiments in Peacebuilding (SIS 619)

Since 1990 the U.S. government has played a central role in international efforts to resolve a number of international civil conflicts, with limited results. Relative success in Bosnia, Peru-Ecuador, and Liberia stand alongside Haiti, Darfur, Lebanon, and Iraq. This course explores the theories behind official U.S. peacebuilding and the range of mechanisms and programs deployed by U.S. government agencies, including the State and Defense Departments, USAID, and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Key questions are addressed including: is the U.S. an empire; does its sole superpower status hinder or enhance its peacebuilding role; why was stabilization and reconstruction initially ignored in Iraq; what lessons can be drawn from the American experience in Afghanistan; and what reforms are desirable?

Youth and Conflict (SIS 619)

This course examines the relationship between youth and conflict, starting with an exploration of varying definitions of youth as a biological, cultural, and political category. The class discusses youth and children both as victims of conflict and as perpetrators of violence, as well as youth and nation, the effect of conflict on educational systems, the special concerns of girls, the efforts of international child protection agencies and NGOs, children's testimonies of violence, and youth-sponsored peace-building activities internationally.

Comparative Peace Processes (SIS 619)

International and internal conflicts in the past two decades have been unfortunately abundant, but so have the peace processes that sought to transform them. This course systematically surveys the successes and failures of negotiation of different peace processes across time, geography and political context. A major peace process simulation will be built into the course as the interactive negotiation component. Relevant theories and concepts of international negotiations are covered as are the classical and emerging concepts related to the negotiation of peace. There is no prerequisite. The course complements existing courses International Negotiation and International Mediation & Third Party Intervention.

Human Rights (SIS 622)

This course explains the main principles of international human rights law and provides a solid grounding in the main United Nations and regional systems for human rights protection and promotion. In addition, students are introduced to the methodology of human rights fact-finding, including interview techniques and planning investigations The course also considers the political, sociological, and ethical dimensions of human rights advocacy. Students consider the ways in which human rights address human society and how we treat one another, how authority is used, and issues of basic justice and fairness. Usually offered every fall.