An Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies

Module de rattachement : polémologie.

  • Cours en 9 sessions de 3 heures et 2 séances de conclusion de 2 heures.
  • Enseigné au premier semestre.
  • Langue d’enseignement : anglais.
  • Intervenant : Dr. Cécile DUBERNET.
  • Contact :


Though Peace Research emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, it did not break through conventional thinking on war and violence until the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War.  Drawing from the fields of politics, psychology, sociology, public ethics amongst others, peace research is, by definition, inter-disciplinary. Nevertheless, over the years, peace researchers have focused on three broad areas of enquiry: the causes and conditions of violence and war, conflict resolution mechanisms and, last but not least; the norms and institutions that contribute to building peace (Lopez, 1994, 94).

Unforeseen by analysts (realists, liberals, historians) the bloodless end of the Cold War opened a debate both in the theory and in the practice of international relations.  Like feminists, postmodernists and constructivists thinkers, but with forty years of research insights and several established programmes, peace specialists took advantage of this changes in international relations and brought to the fore major contributions on our understanding and approaches of conflicts.  These include (but are not limited to) large scale data programmes on violence, several key tools in conflict analysis, the theory and practice  underpinning notions such as peacekeeping, civilian peace intervention, arbitration, mediation, multi-track negotiations, truth and reconciliation commissions etc…

This course is an introduction to the field of peace research with a focus on conflict analysis and on civilian interventions.  A large section of the course will be devoted to experimenting with key tools of conflict analysis that have been developed in order to better grasp tense situations, most notably “the life cycle of international conflict management”, “Levels of Analysis”, the concept of “Greed and Grievance’, “the  “Positions, Interests and Needs” of conflict actors, the “culture iceberg”.  Time allowing, a very short introduction to “conflict mapping” and “peace and conflict impact assessment” will also be given.  An important aspect of this course is information search and some time will be devoted to deciphering between reliable and not-so-reliable online sources of information.  The students will also be introduced to key ethical rules concerning the use of sources and asked to apply them.  The last part of the course is devoted to the study of interventions, in particular civilian peace interventions, with an in-depth study of the concept of proactive presence as developed by organisations such as the Peace Brigades International.

Course Objectives:

  1. Introduce the students to different approaches of the notion of peace and conflict.
  2. Introduce the students to conflict analysis resources available online.
  3. Introduce the students to key tools of conflict analysis.
  4. Train the students to debate in English.
  5. Train the students to work in teams.

Course Structure and Evaluation:

This course is made of 9 sessions of 3 hours each and two concluding sessions of 2 hours.  Each session includes lectures, brainstorms, exercises (often in groups), presentations.  Participation is crucial and observed.  The course is meant for students to discover peace research and to experiment with basic tools of analysis in order to build a practice and gain in self-confidence (in English as well).  The course ends with a series of case studies in teams: the students will construct a full conflict analysis on a case and prepare a presentation for their peers completed by a written study.  This work will be marked and the mark will be shared by all the member of the team.  The final mark of each student can be altered by up to 2 points (+ or -) for participation.

Session I: Introduction: What is Peace Research?

Key definitions and concepts.  Conflicts: their evolution and phases, working beyond chronologies.

Session II:  Origins of conflicts: ‘The level of analysis approach’.

Session III:  Origins of conflicts: economies of war

Session IV:  Actors’analysis

Session V Culture as a source of conflict?

Session VI (09/11/10; 9.00-12.00): Dynamics of violence

Session VII Interventions (military and civil dimensions)

Session VIII  Introduction to the theory and practice of Civilian Peace Intervention; Methodology of case studies presentation.

Session IX

Presentation of some of the case studies. Evaluation of the course

Session X

Presentation of some of the case studies. Conclusion of the course.

Professor returns the feedback on the course


The course is online on the internal ICP platform DOKEOS.  Over there, you will find: this course description, working documents, a agenda containing a detailled reading list for each session, and a link section.  Articles, primary source documents and methodology documents can also be found in the ‘document’ section of the site.  The plans of all the lectures as well as your presentations and handouts will be added progressively to the site.

Rules for the course.

Students must arrive on time.  The door will remain open for ten minutes after which I will close it and ask you not to disturb the course.  Food, drinks, cell-phones, MP3s are not allowed during class.

Computers are welcome as long as they are used only to take notes.  The professor will ask any student not respecting these rules to leave the room.  Last, but not least, it is essential that students come prepared to the sessions.  Key reading will be given online for each session (except on the first day).  The students are required to read at least one item on the list before the session and to prepare for the homework given. The professor may check whether this has been done.

Key books for this course:

  • Barash D. and Webel C., Peace and Conflict Studies, 2nd edition (Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2009).
  • Crocker, Chester, Hampson, Fen Osler, Aall, Pamela. (eds). (2003). Turbulent Peace, The Challenges of Managing International Conflict.  Washington D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press.
  • Ramsbotham Oliver, Woodhouse Tom, Miall Hugh, (2007) Contemporary Conflict Resolution, 2nd edition (Cambridge: Polity Press).
  • Fisher S. and al. (2000) Working with Conflicts (London: Zed books, 2000).
  • Lederach John Paul (2004), The Moral Imagination, the art and soul of peace building, (USA: Oxford University Press).
  • Most of the above books are available for consultation in the FELS library ( 21 rue d’Assas, 6th floor). Some specific reading (including texts available online) will be given for each session.  Besides more reading is placed on the webspace of Dokeos as the course progresses.

Online sources: a list to get started.


Research and international institutions.