Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL3211: Nonviolence: Power and Politics

This module descriptor refers to the 2017/8 academic year.


NQF Level 6
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 1 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Roberto Baldoli (Lecturer)





Available via distance learning


This module will introduce you to the key theoretical and practical dimensions of nonviolence in contemporary politics. The course is divided in two parts. In the first part, you will learn about the origins and the different definitions of nonviolence. We will look at the relationship with other important concepts such as pacifism, responsibility to protect, political power, and violence. You will be introduced to the two main traditions of nonviolence: principled and pragmatic. You will have the opportunity to critically analyse nonviolence as a principle (rejecting any kinds of violence) or as a set of techniques of action (alternative to the use of violence). You will be asked to reflect on the conceptual ambiguities surrounding this concept and engage with the responses to the criticisms made over the years.

The second part of the module will revolve around the political usages and applications of nonviolence. In particular, we will analyse examples of nonviolence as a tool to overthrow tyranny (civil disobedience); as way to 'democratize democracies'; as a way to rethink institutions (using the European Union as an example); and as an alternative approach to wage war and fight terrorism.

We will read some of the key texts in the history of nonviolence, such as Thoreau 'Civil Disobedience' and Luther King's 'Birmingham letter'. But the emphasis will be on empirical evidence, that is, comparative case studies of contemporary power politics, conflict and domestic policy change. To better understand nonviolence, we will also use different media to get into our case studies, including documentaries and films.

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