91295 - Politics, Violence And Crime

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in International Relations (cod. 9084)

    Also valid for Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Legal Studies (cod. 9062)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students will be able to: • identify and critically analyze the major research traditions and theories in the study of collective violence; • distinguish the major forms of collective violence, identifying the causes and dynamics; • link theory with empirical analysis on the subject of collective violence.

Course contents

The course is organized in lectures and seminars, as detailed in the following program. Lectures (16 hours) aim to introduce students to the core tenets of the discipline. Seminars (12 hours) aim to provide occasions for in-depth discussions of class materials and exercises. For the seminar section of the course, students will be divided in two groups according to their preferences, for a total of 28 hours for each student. Students are required to carefully read the assigned material before the session and - in the case of seminars - active participation through presentations of existing scholarship and case studies will also be expected.

The course examines different types of collective violence, including violence occurring in civil wars, instances of state repression, mafia and gang violence. It aims to explore the different “types” of violence, defining their main features and uncovering their rationale through a plurality of approaches. Ultimately, the class provides the theoretical and empirical tools to study violence in its relations with political order(s). The course is divided in two sections. The first section – conducted through frontal lectures – explores classic types of “political violence” (such as civil wars, revolutions and terrorism) looking at their origins and dynamics, then looks second section deals with violence perpetrated by states (such as repressions and genocides) and violence that occurs within states that does not challenge their existence or regime (such as that perpetrated by organized crime and gangs). The second section – run as a seminar in which students present and discuss the assigned material – looks at the organizations that “produce” violence, and namely at insurgent and mafia groups, analyzing their emergence, their internal functioning, and their relations with violence.

NOTE: The course is open exclusively to exchange students (Erasmus, Turing, Overseas, …) enrolled in Master’s level degrees.


Section 1 – Lectures: Varieties of Violence

Week 1

1. Introduction to the course: The Politics of Collective Violence (Lecture)

§ Gat, A. (2009). So why do people fight? Evolutionary theory and the causes of war. European Journal of International Relations, 15(4), 571-599*

§ Tilly, C. (2003). The politics of collective violence. Cambridge University Press, ch.1

§ Thucydides, “Civil war in Corcyra”, The Peloponnesian War, Book III, 69-85*

2. Violence, War(s) and Political Order(s) (Lecture)

§ Gat, A. (2011) “The Changing Character of War”, in Strachan, H., & Scheipers, S. (Eds.). The changing character of war. OUP Oxford *

§ Kalyvas, S. N. (2019). The Landscape of Political Violence, in Chenoweth et al. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Terrorism*

Week 2

3. Civil Wars (1): What, Where & Why (Lecture)

§ Davies, S., Pettersson, T., & Öberg, M. (2022). Organized violence 1989–2021 and drone warfare. Journal of Peace Research, 59(4), 593-610

§ Fearon, J. (2017), Civil War & the Current International System. Dædalus 146(4), 18-32

§ Data Source: http://ucdp.uu.se/

4. Civil Wars (2): What, Where & Why (Lecture)

§ Dixon, J. (2009). What causes civil wars? Integrating quantitative research findings. International Studies Review, 11(4), 707-735.

§ Stewart, F. (2011). Horizontal inequalities as a cause of conflict: A review of CRISE findings available on: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/9126/WDR2011_0029.pdf?sequence=1

Week 3

5. Logic(s) of Violence in Civil Wars (Lecture)

§ Cederman, L. E., & Vogt, M. (2017). Dynamics and logics of civil war. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 61(9), 1992-2016

  • Kalyvas, S. N. (1999). Wanton and senseless? The logic of massacres in Algeria. Rationality and Society, 11(3), 243-285
  • Kydd, A. H., & Walter, B. F. (2006). The strategies of terrorism. International Security, 31(1), 49-80
  • Data Sources:
    • https://storymaps.esri.csom/stories/terrorist-attacks/
    • https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/

6. Riots, Banditry & Revolutions (Lecture)

§ Scott, J.C. (1989). Everyday forms of resistance. The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies, 4(1), 33

§ Blok, A. (1972). The peasant and the brigand: social banditry reconsidered. Comparative studies in Society and History, 14(4), 494-503

§ Goldstone, J. A. (2001). Toward a fourth generation of revolutionary theory. Annual review of political science, 4(1), 139-187

Week 4

7. State repression, Terror and Genocides (Lecture)

  • Davenport, C. (2007). State repression and political order. Annual Review of Political Science, 10, 1-23
  • Pion-Berlin, D., & Lopez, G. A. (1991). Of victims and executioners: Argentine state terror, 1975–1979. International Studies Quarterly, 35(1), 63-86

§ Valentino, B. (2000). Final solutions: the causes of mass killing and genocide. Security Studies, 9(3), 1-59

8. Organized crime and violence (Lecture)

  • Lessing, B. (2015). Logics of violence in criminal war. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 59(8), 1486-1516
  • Trejo, G., & Ley, S. (2018). Why did drug cartels go to war in Mexico? Subnational party alternation, the breakdown of criminal protection, and the onset of large-scale violence. Comparative Political Studies, 51(7), 900-937
  • Data source: https://www.icc-ccs.org/piracy-reporting-centre/live-piracy-map

  • Mid-term Take-Home Exam distributed


Section 2 - Seminars: Organizing violence

Week 5

9. Seminar 1 - Start-up rebels (1): Organizational types

§ Staniland, P. (2014). Networks of rebellion: Explaining insurgent cohesion and collapse. Cornell University Press, chs. 1-2 *

§ Weinstein, J. M. (2006). Inside rebellion: The politics of insurgent violence. Cambridge University Press, chs. 1-2 *

10. Seminar 2 - Start-up rebels (2): Motives and myths

§ Costalli, S., & Ruggeri, A. (2017). Introduction. PS: Political Science & Politics, 50(4), 923-927

§ Moro, F. N. (2017). Organizing Emotions and Ideology in Collective Armed Mobilization. PS: Political Science & Politics, 50(4), 944-947

§ Nussio, E. (2017). How Ideology Channels Indeterminate Emotions into Armed Mobilization. PS: Political Science & Politics, 50(4), 928-931

§ Petersen, R. (2017). Emotions as the Residue of Lived Experience. PS: Political Science & Politics 50(4), 932-935

§ Schubiger, L. I., & Zelina, M. (2017). Ideology in armed groups. PS: Political Science & Politics, 50(4), 948-952

§ Peters, K., & Richards, P. (1998). ‘Why we fight’: Voices of youth combatants in Sierra Leone. Africa, 68(2), 183-210

Week 6

11. Seminar 3 - Rebel violence

§ Weinstein, J. M. (2006). Inside rebellion: The politics of insurgent violence. Cambridge University Press, chs. 5-6 *

§ Hoover Green, A. H. (2016). The commander’s dilemma: Creating and controlling armed group violence. Journal of Peace Research, 53(5), 619-632

12. Seminar 4 - Rebel governance

§ Arjona, A. (2014). Wartime institutions: a research agenda. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 58(8), 1360-1389

§ Terpstra, N., & Frerks, G. (2017). Rebel governance and legitimacy: Understanding the impact of rebel legitimation on civilian compliance with the LTTE Rule. Civil Wars, 19(3), 279-307

§ Mampilly, Z. (2012). Rebel rulers: Insurgent governance and civilian life during war. Cornell University Press, chs. 2 and 3*.

Week 7

13. Seminar 5 - Comparisons (1): Organizing Crime

§ Catino, M. (2019). Mafia organizations, chs. 1-3

§ Morselli, C., Giguère, C., & Petit, K. (2007). The efficiency/security trade-off in criminal networks. Social networks, 29(1), 143-153

§ Leeson, P. T., & Rogers, D. B. (2012). Organizing crime. Supreme Court Economic Review, 20(1), 89-123

14. Seminar 6 - Comparisons (2): Mafia violence

§ Catino, M. (2019). Mafia organizations, ch. 4

  • Berg, L. A., & Carranza, M. (2018). Organized criminal violence and territorial control: Evidence from northern Honduras. Journal of Peace Research, 55(5), 566-581

§ Magaloni, B., Franco-Vivanco, E., & Melo, V. (2020). Killing in the Slums: Social Order, Criminal Governance, and Police Violence in Rio de Janeiro. American Political Science Review, 114(2), 552-572. doi:10.1017/S0003055419000856

§ Papachristos, A. V., Hureau, D. M., & Braga, A. A. (2013). The corner and the crew: the influence of geography and social networks on gang violence. American Sociological Review, 78(3), 417-447

§ How to write a review: Guidelines for the class paper

* Books marked by an asterisk are available on the E-library of the University of Bologna

Teaching methods

The course is organised into lectures and seminars, according to the logic of the inverted classroom. Lectures (16 hours) aim to introduce students to the core tenets of the discipline. Seminars (12 hours) aim to provide occasions for in-depth discussions of class materials and exercises. Students attend 8 lectures on theoretical interpretations. In the seminar section, students are divided into two groups, each of which must attend 6 seminars. The activation of online classes will depend on the evolution of the pandemic situation.

Students are invited to carefully read the assigned material before the session and - in the case of seminars - active participation through presentations of existing scholarship and case studies will also be expected.

Assessment methods

1. Students who regularly attend classes will be assessed through:

§ a take-home midterm exam on section 1 of the program (50% of the grade)

§ class presentation and participation in section 2 (25 % of the grade)

§ an article review (1000 words) on an article to be agreed with the instructor (25% of the grade).

Students are required to read assigned material before classes. Starting from session #9, the course will be structured around student groups’ presentations of assigned class material corresponding to the topic of the session. Composition of groups and schedules of the presentations will be agreed at the beginning of the semester.

2. Students who DO NOT regularly attend classes will be assessed through a final take-home written exam. The exam will be composed by 3 questions and students will have to provide answers in the range of 1000 words each. Exams will be made available on Esami OnLine (EOL) 4 days before the exam dates (“appelli”) as posted on AlmaEsami and will be due on exam date by noon.

Criteria for evaluation of the written exam

  • discussion of the concepts and theories, with reference to debate in the readings.
  • empirical examples coherent with the arguments presented
  • well-structured text, composed by an introduction providing a brief overview of the topic, and descriptions of how the essay will unfold; a main body of the paper: based on a structured discussion of the phenomena and related concepts and a a short conclusion summing up the paper

Grading Policy

The final overall grade will be in the range 18-30:

  • 30 cum laude (outstanding, sure grasp of all the material and many interesting insights)
  • 28-30 (excellent, sure grasp of all the material and some interesting insights)
  • 26-27 (very good, competent grasp of all the material)
  • 24-25 (good, competent grasp of some the material)
  • 21-23 (satisfactory, partial grasp of the material)
  • 18-20 (pass, barely sufficient grasp of the material)
  • 17 or below (fail, insufficient grasp of the material)

Teaching tools

Lectures' slides and class material are available on virtuale.unibo.it

Office hours

See the website of Francesco Niccolò Moro