85415 - Forecasting and Analyzing Political Violence

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

Political violence is one of the key elements of instability in today’s world. However, the paradigm within which we understand it has undergone a sea change since the end of the Cold War and 9/11. The present course aims to expose students to the latest social-scientific literature on conflict and violence. The perspective adopted aims to transcend traditional State-centric distinctions, and conceive of political violence as a unified phenomenon, with a variety of forms and actors giving rise to a plurality of equilibriums and outcomes. The course aims to enable students to understand the multifaceted nature of contemporary political violence, form reasonable and fact-based expectations of future developments, and thereby contribute to managing risk in a variety of institutional settings.

Course contents

The following topics will be covered:

  1. Actors
  2. Motivations, mobilization, and recruitment
  3. Goals of violence
  4. Structural and proximate causes of violence
  5. Tactics
  6. Strategies
  7. Intensity and time horizon of conflict
  8. Outcomes
  9. Victims


Students will be responsible for approximately thirty journal articles. The full list will be circulated on the first day of class and posted on the instructor's website.

Sample readings include:

  • Michael Ross, “How Does Natural Resource Wealth Influence Civil War?” International Organization 58 (2004): 35-67;
  • Jason Lyall and Isaiah Wilson, III. “Rage Against the Machines: Explaining Outcomes in Counterinsurgency Wars.” International Organization 63 (2009): 67–106;
  • Stathis Kalyvas, “The Ontology of Political Violence,” Perspectives on Politics 1:3 (2003): 475-494.

Teaching methods

The first session of each week will be conducted in lecture format, presenting the relevant theoretical literature.

The second session will focus on empirical cases and will be run as a seminar, demanding active student involvement.

Assessment methods

Student performance in the course will be assessed by means of a midterm exam and a final exam. Both will be in-class, closed-book, written exams.

Office hours

See the website of Matteo Giglioli