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School of Social Sciences

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MA Peace and Conflict Studies
Benefit from specialist training at a leading centre for critical approaches to peace and conflict studies.

MA Peace and Conflict Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course description

This interdisciplinary MA explores the processes through which actors have attempted to define and build peace in areas affected by war and violence, particularly since the end of the Cold War. Drawing on expertise from the fields of history, politics, anthropology and the arts, this newly revamped course will offer students the opportunity to engage with conflict management, conflict resolution, conflict transformation, peacebuilding and statebuilding theories and practices.

 Moreover, the programme will critically address the conceptualization of peace and the implementation of peacebuilding projects by global, regional, national and local actors, including the UN, the International Financial Institutions, development agencies and donors, INGOs, and local organisations in conflict-affected environments. In particular, it will focus on social agency for peace, the question of the nature of the `peaceful state', and the ever-fraught question of the reform of the international system. The dynamics of these various contributions to peace will be the focus of a guided engagement, via local partner organisations, with the range of peace and conflict management actors present in either Bosnia Herzegovina or Cyprus (in Semester II).


Students will be able to show a critical understanding of:

1. Key issues and debates related to the theories of peace and practices of peacebuilding, statebuilding, conflict management, resolution, and transformation. They will become familiar with the range of international actors and organisations, their policies and practices, and their pros and cons.

2. The range of social science topics that influence peacebuilding, statebuilding, conflict management, etc., (including political, historical, anthropological understandings of peace and related programming strategies). Students will become familiar with the methodological and normative underpinnings of these disciplines.

3. The analytical and policy literature concerning peacebuilding, international governance structures, statebuilding, and the role of key actors and institutions including NGOs and military and other security actors. Concurrently, students will be able to evaluate the theory and policy tools in the context of the recent history of peacebuilding and statebuilding since the end of the Cold War, in a range of examples, including across the Balkans, Cambodia, Timor Leste, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, the recent and various Arab Revolts, and others.

4.  An understanding of local approaches to peacebuilding, including an awareness of the problems and critiques associated with `bottom up' approaches. Students will examine current debates on the nature of everyday peace and hybrid forms of peace, related questions about `local agency' and forms of resistance, activism, and social mobilisation.

5. Students will experience the on-the-ground realities of peacebuilding and statebuilding through a guided research visit to the range of actors involved in Bosnia-Herzegovina or Cyprus. This will form a key part of one of the core modules of the programme and will be run in association with local partners.

6.  The development of a range of academic and professional/transferrable skills through both independent and group-based work.

7. A detailed understanding of a specific conceptual and/or policy-related area of peacebuilding along with the implications and limitations of research findings on this subject, and of how to produce an original piece of academic research. This will be delivered via the dissertation.

Special features

The Institute is developing a novel configuration for research and teaching which will uniquely associate practitioners, non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners, theoreticians, policy makers and analysts in sustained intellectual engagement. Combining a targeted programme of research with the provision of timely analysis on current emergencies and conflicts, the institute will seek to develop new methodologies in the emerging field of humanitarian and conflict response research.

Additional voluntary workshops and events throughout the year further enhance study including:

    The evidence of objects, a trip to the Imperial War Museum (North)

    Other Case Briefings (e.g., Cyprus, Arab Uprisings)

    Policy Sessions: UN system and INGOs (Professor Dan Smith, International Alert)

    Manchester Peace and Social Justice Walk

    Working with Governments (Professor Dan Smith, International Alert)

    Regular `Leading Voices' workshops, with key thinkers in the field

Students studying this programme will also benefit from possible additional activities, such as:

    Student organised trips to London (International Alert ), New York (UN/IPA ) and Brussels

    Case Study Internships

    Attendance at the annual Peacebuilding conference in Manchester and potential participation in student panels.

Teaching and learning

Delivery of the course will take a range of forms, including lectures, seminars, tutorials, directed reading, a guided walk, a museum trip, a field trip and independent study.  Much of the delivery will be problem based/enquiry based learning.

This MA will be influenced and informed by the research of both staff and postgraduate research students at the Institute including research projects on:

    Political space in the aid industry

    Local/hybrid approaches to peacebuilding

    The contribution of BRICS nations to peace and security programming

    Critical peace studies

    The role of the state in peace and security programming

    Ethnographic approaches to understanding violence

    Refugees and internally displaced persons

    The political economy of conflict

    Performance in conflict and disaster zones

    Historical analyses of aid

Coursework and assessment

Students will assessed through several methods, with the aim of building up numerous academic and professional skills.  Forms of assessment will include:

    Research essays (3000 words +)

    The running of group workshops

    Reflective journals/learning logs

    Contribution to group discussion boards (electronically)

    Oral presentations

    Literature reviews/research design

Course content for year 1

Core Modules (15 Credits Each)  Students must take all of the following:
  • Peace and Social Agency, Security and Intervention: Theories and Practices                            

This module will introduce students to key theories and concepts related to the study of peace, security and conflict.  It will expose students to key debates related to these topics (both conceptual and practical) and provide students with an appreciation of the diversity of relevant policies at the international,  regional, national and sub-national levels. It will provide them with an analytical tool box which can be used to explore issues related to peacebuilding in theory and practice-tools which can be used in this module, other modules on the degree and in their professional lives.

  • Practical approaches to studying conflict-affected societies

This module explores issues of epistemology, positionality and research methods associated with field research in peacebuilding environments. This unit will involve a compulsory fieldtrip that is intended to challenge the notion of a conventional fieldtrip and to expose students to the practical and ethical dilemmas of field research.

  • Dissertation (12 000 - 15 000 words) (60 Credits)

Optional Modules:  Students to choose 60 credits from the following:

  • Reconstruction & Development (GDI) (15 credits
  • Humanitarian Practice in Situations of Armed Conflict (15 credits)
  • Arab Revolts and Revolutionary State Formation (15 Credits)
  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response: Inquiries  (15 Credits)
  • History of Humanitarian Aid (15 or 30 Credits)
  • Global Health (15 Credits)
  • Conflict Analysis (IDPM) (15 Credits)
  • Ethics in World Politics (Politics) (15 Credits)
  • Security Studies (Politics) (15 Credits)
  • Human Rights in World Politics (15 Credits)
  • Performance Theory and Practice (Drama) (30 Credits)
Please note that this is an indicative list and course modules may vary from year to year.

Course unit list

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Peace and Social Agency, Security and Intervention: Theories and Practices POLI70991 15 Mandatory
Practical Approaches to Studying Conflict Affected Societies POLI71102 15 Mandatory
Border-Crossings: Comparative Cultures of Diaspora ELAN60362 15 Optional
Humanitarianism and Conflict Response: Inquiries HCRI60031 15 Optional
Humanitarian Case Studies: Cross Generational Perspectives HCRI60042 15 Optional
Humanitarianism in Practice HCRI60061 15 Optional
Anthropology of Violence and Reconstruction HCRI60132 15 Optional
Global Health and Food Insecurity HCRI60152 15 Optional
Armed Groups and Humanitarian Aid HCRI60161 15 Optional
Humanitarian Diplomacy: Examining the Actors, Issues and Norms HCRI60221 15 Optional
Economics, Peace and Conflict HCRI61142 15 Optional
Memory, Mediation & Intercultural Relations ICOM60041 15 Optional
English as a Global Language ICOM60051 15 Optional
Reconstruction and Development MGDI60402 15 Optional
Conflict Analysis MGDI60451 15 Optional
Power and Resistance in Postcolonial Societies POLI60092 15 Optional
Governing in an Unjust World POLI60182 15 Optional
Global Governance POLI70422 15 Optional
Ethics in World Politics POLI70451 15 Optional
Security Studies POLI70461 15 Optional
Human Rights in World Politics POLI70492 15 Optional
Debating Justice POLI70612 15 Optional
Democracy: Theory & Practice POLI70871 15 Optional
Critical Environmental Politics POLI70921 15 Optional
The Arab Uprisings and Revolutionary State Formation POLI70981 15 Optional
The United Nations and International Security POLI71112 15 Optional
Fundamentals of Epidemiology POPH60991 15 Optional
Anthropology of Development and Humanitarianism SOAN60111 15 Optional
Displaying 10 of 28 course units


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