91195 - FORECASTING AND ANALYZING CONFLICT AND INSTABILITY

Course Unit Page

SDGs

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Peace, justice and strong institutions

Academic Year 2019/2020

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 overarching goal of social-scientific research is to inform the choices society faces in dealing with complex challenges, and no topic is as pressing as the need to confront political instability, conflict, and violence. The present course aims to expose students to the latest social-scientific literature on forecasting the various drivers of political conflict. The perspective adopted aims to transcend traditional State-centric distinctions and to conceive of political instability and conflict as unified phenomena, 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 instability, form reasonable and fact-based expectations of future developments, and thereby contribute to managing risk in a variety of institutional settings. Among the topics covered, along with traditional issues such as resource curses, corruption, and foreign encroachment, are emerging threats such as climate change and cybersecurity.

Readings/Bibliography

Non-attendees will be responsible for the close reading of two books: a) Michael C. Desch, The Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2019; b) Cecilia Emma Sottilotta, Rethinking Political Risk: Concepts, Theories, Challenges, London, Routledge, 2017. Attendees will study class materials (slides and notes), as well as background texts posted weekly on the Insegnamenti OnLine (IOL) platform (approximately 2 journal article-length pieces per week). Examples are: Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede & Michael D. Ward (2012), “Forecasting Is Difficult, Especially about the Future: Using Contentious Issues to Forecast Interstate Disputes,” Journal of Peace Research 50:17-31; Farrell, Henry & Bruce Schneier (2018), “Common-Knowledge Attacks on Democracy,” Research Publication no. 2018-7, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; Mariya Y. Omelicheva (2011), “Natural Disasters: Triggers of Political Instability?,” International Interactions 37:441-65.

Teaching methods

Lectures, student presentations, policy simulation.

Assessment methods

Non-attendees will sit an in-class, closed-book, written final exam, worth 100% of their overall grade. The final exam will cover all material included in the two required books for the course and will consist of a series of short essay questions. Sample final exams will be made available on the IOL platform. The final exam will be offered at various different dates within the official exam periods. Attendees will need to declare their intention to follow the course by week 2. They will be required to be present in class at all lectures. The maximum number of sessions that may be missed (barring documented emergencies) in order to maintain attendee status is 2. Attendees will be graded on the basis of three separate tests. The first is a midterm, which will be held on the Wednesday of week 5 (October 23rd). This will be an in-class, closed-book, written exam, whose aim is to test the knowledge of the theoretical material presented in the first half of the course. The second assessment method is an in-class presentation, to be given following a schedule T.B.D. in the second half of the course. Its aim is to apply the theoretical knowledge gained in the first part of the course to an empirical case-study. The topic of the presentation must be approved by the instructor by week 7. The third assessment method is a final exam, which will take the form of a policy simulation, in-class, open-book, with electronic submission, and will take place on the Wednesday of week 11 (December 4th). There will be no make-up sessions for the attendee midterm exam and final policy simulation. Each of the three attendee assessment methods will count toward 30% of the overall course grade. The last 10% will match the highest grade awarded in any of the three.

Teaching tools

IOL platform.

Office hours

See the website of Matteo Giglioli