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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: Law, Violence, and Humanity (PLIT10125)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines the relationship between law, violence, and humanity. The main idea it explores is that the category of humanity, while expanding and universalizing the idea of shared human belonging, has been historically utilised as a political and legal weapon of exclusion and injustice. We will analyse the history and existing theorisation of the category of human in legal and political debates about war and the use of violence; the case-by-case justifications and criticisms of it by state and non-state actors; and the contemporary manifestations of the paradox of humanity as an instrument of violence and domination.
Course description This course introduces students to one of the most complex and challenging phenomena in contemporary global politics: the mobilisation of the category of humanity in a way that ultimately enables and legalise violence - often along gender and racial lines - rather than restraining it. We approach the question of the category of humanity in war and legal-political debates from four different directions which matches the four key sections of the course: (1) conceptually, we survey and assess various theorisations of the paradox at stake; (2) analytically, we explore arguments in support and against the mobilisation of humanity to restrain violence; (3) comparatively, we examine various regional and historical contexts - such as colonial and decolonial wars, humanitarian wars, and the "War on Terror" - in which state and non-state actors have deployed the category of humanity and the legal arguments related to it to make sense of the use of violence (4) critically, we probe the causes for the paradox at stake and interrogate the implications of the global politics for/against humanity.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Introduction to Politics and International Relations (PLIT08004) OR Politics in a Changing World: An Introduction for non-specialists (PLIT08012) OR Politics and International Relations 1A: Concepts and Debates (PLIT08017)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students who lack the compulsory pre-requisites but have completed comparable courses should contact the Course Organiser to confirm if they are eligible to take this course.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. As numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  45
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Book review, 1500 words: 45%
Essay, 2000 words: 55%

Feedback Essays will be returned with feedback within 15 working days of submission.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand different conceptualizations of humanity in relation to contexts of war and political violence
  2. Comprehend various legal and political mechanisms through which violence is criticized or legitimized through the mobilization of humanity
  3. Compare different contexts and demonstrate how the mobilization of the category of humanity allows different political actors to make sense of violence
  4. Reflect on the implications of the phenomenon at stake both as scholars and citizens
  5. Contribute to discussions about how polities and citizens may respond to the driving question of the course on the paradox of humanity
Reading List
Abu Lughod, Lila. Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.
Barnett, Michael. Empire of Humanity. A History of Humanitarianism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011.
Butler, Judith. Frames of War. London: Verso, 2009.
Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 2004 edition.
Kinsella, Helen. The Image Before the Weapon. A Critical History of the Distinction Between Civilian and Combatant. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011.
Perugini, Nicola, and Gordon, Neve. The Human Right to Dominate. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Moyn, Samuel. Humane. How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Zolo, Danilo. Invoking Humanity: War, Law and Global order. London: Continuum, 2002.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course students will demonstrate:
An understanding of the scope and defining features of the relationship between law, violence, and humanity, and an integrated knowledge of the main areas and boundaries of the debate on the topic.
A critical understanding of a range of the principles, principal theories, concepts and terminology of the relationship between law, violence, and humanity.
Knowledge of one or more cases that is informed by forefront developments.
Keywordsglobal politics,politics,race,gender,violence
Course organiserDr Nicola Perugini
Tel: (0131 6)51 5472
Course secretaryMr James Heitler
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