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Unit information: State and Non-State Violence in Latin America in 2020/21

Unit name State and Non-State Violence in Latin America
Unit code POLI20017
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Roddy Brett
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit analyses armed conflict, civil war, dictatorship and so-called post-conflict violence in the Latin American region (including gang and drug-related violence) from a historical perspective. The unit focuses on the period from the Cold War to the present day, investigating how patterns of violence have shifted and evolved over time in the region. The unit draws the student towards and understanding of ‘patterns’ of violence – in particular, the causes of political violence, individual motivations of violent actors, the nature of the violence, and an analysis of the actors involved (as perpetrators, victims, facilitators, and so on). The unit engages with a wide range of diverse conflicts and manifestations of political violence – including Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, amongst others – and seeks to understand the factors that led to conflict/authoritarian onset, shaped the trajectory of the violence and led to its ending. The unit engages with theoretical approaches central to core subjects of international relations and political science, juxtaposing theoretical frameworks with discussions based upon comparative empirical research in the Latin American region. The module introduces broader academic discussions relating to theories of political violence, genocide and human rights.


• To introduce the students to Latin America’s history of conflict and violence, and, in particular, to the specific case study countries
• Encourage students to think critically about the factors that shaped revolution and counterrevolution in Latin America.
• Develop student’s understanding of the complex regional dynamics that determined the historical shifts between authoritarianism, civil war and democratic regimes in Latin America.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

• Evidence clear understanding of a range of conceptual frameworks and comparative literature on Latin American politics.
• Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the factors, processes and practices shaping civil war, armed conflict and authoritarianism.
• Critically apply relevant theoretical frameworks to historical events and processes.
• Critically engage with the factors shaping the Cold War in Latin America.
• Integrate empirical evidence into theoretically and conceptually grounded arguments and comparative assessments of violence in Latin America.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

1500 word essay (25%)

2500 word essay (75%)

All Learning Outcomes are assessed by both pieces of assessment.

Reading and References

• C.J. Arnson (Editor) (2012) In the Wake of War: Democratization and Internal Armed Conflict in Latin America. Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Stanford University Press.

• E.D. Arias and D.M. Goldstein (Editors) (2010) Violent Democracies in Latin America. Duke University Press.

• P. Kingston (2006) Readings in Latin American Politics: Challenges to Democratization. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

• Greg Grandin, in G. Grandin and G. Joseph (Editors) (2010) A Century of Revolution: Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Violence During Latin America’s Long Cold War. Duke University Press.

• D. Kruijt and K. Koonings (Editors) (1999) Societies of Fear: The Legacy of Civil War, Violence and Terror in Latin America”. Zed Books.

• J. Chasteen (2011) Born in Blood & Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. Boston: Norton and Company.

• A. Duran-Martinez (2018) The Politics of Drug Violence: Criminals, Cops and Politicians in Colombia