MA Peace and Conflict Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Peace and Social Agency, Security and Intervention: Theories and Practices

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI70991
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


In the light of the recent collapse and long-term stagnation of peace processes worldwide, this module investigates blockages to peace at the domestic and international level. For this purpose, the module concentrates on the key theoretical and conceptual constructs that can help us understand peace-related interventions (e.g. peacebuilding, peacekeeping, mediation in peace negotiations) and local peace agency in their wider geopolitical as well as structural context. The module will introduce students to key concepts and embed them in wider International Relations theory, placing emphasis on the critical exploration of ideas and structures. In keeping with the critical ethos that is associated with Peace and Conflict Studies in Manchester, strong emphasis will be placed on issues of power, agency and bottom-up approaches to peace. In this course, we will focus on both, the agency that people and communities have in building peace, and on questioning the peace that is rolled out for them as part of international intervention in their various forms. Different types of interventions will be critically discussed to highlight their limitations and the power relations that characterise them.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • interrogate key concepts and theories in peace and conflict studies and embed them within IR theory.
  • comprehend the nature of power and agency in relation to peace, conflict and resistance.
  • analyse the key blockages to peace as well as linkages between them.
  • engage critically with relevant literature and the most important thinkers in Peace and Conflict Studies.
  • understand the shortcomings and political implications of external interventions (e.g. peacekeeping, peace mediation, peacebuilding)
  • consider the tensions and complementarities between bottom-up and top-down approaches to building peace.
  • assess how the thinking in Peace and Conflict Studies has changed throughout its different generations.
  • use the theoretical and conceptual knowledge acquired in this module as a foundation for the semester 2 core module that will look at research methodologies and case studies.
  • demonstrate improved teamwork, writing, presentation and research skills.

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be delivered in ten two-hour blocks of teaching. In the first three seminars, the convener will introduce the underlying driving forces and revolutionary dynamics. As of week 4, students will be involved in the dissemination of knowledge through group presentations.


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 15%
Written assignment (inc essay) 85%

Assessment activity

Length required

Weighting within unit




Short Essay



Group Presentation

20 min



Recommended reading

There is no single text that covers everything. You are encouraged to read widely – from many disciplines. Some of the recommended books and articles are quite difficult to read and you should be prepared to read them twice so that you get a full understanding of them. As far as possible, many of the texts are available online. 

There is a lot of useful information to be found on the homepages of relevant institutions (e.g., UN documents, reports from think tanks, peace-related INGOs, and the excellent Accord series on peace processes from Conciliation Resources -, but the vast majority of your citations will be expected to come from peer-reviewed academic books and articles.

The following are general texts that might serve as a good starting point for your research:

  • Richmond, O.P. (2020) Peace in International Relations (London: Routledge). [This book comprehensively connects International Relations theory to Peace and Conflict Studies. It explains the underlying ideas that have driven peace interventions and formed the basis of the current international peace architecture. As you can see below, this book provides the theoretical framework to many sessions throughout the semester in order to ground our discussions in International Relations.]
  • Richmond, OP and G. Visoka (2021) Peacebuilding, Statebuilding and Peace Formation (Oxford: Oxford University Press) [This edited volume explores the conceptual foundations of international peace interventions and local peace agency, their political implications and internal tensions.] 
  • Ramsbotham, O., H. Miall and T. Woodhouse eds., Contemporary Conflict Resolution (London: Polity).  [This textbook explains the different concepts in Peace and Conflict Studies and their underlying theories in great clarity. If you get confused about the differences between peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, go back to this book.]
  • Richmond, O.P., S.Pogodda and J. Ramovic (2016), Palgrave’s Handbook of Disciplinary and Regional Approaches to Peace (London: Palgrave). [This handbook covers the PCS-related debates in all relevant disciplines, while also exploring regional drivers of conflict and what peace means in all different regions of the world.]
  • UN (2016) Resolution 70/262. Review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture (New York: United Nations). [The ‘sustaining peace’-agenda is based on a review of the international peacebuilding architecture and represents the latest seminal document on peacebuilding.]

Key Journals

  • Check the following journals regularly as they publish material relevant to this module: International peacekeeping, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, Cooperation and Conflict, Civil Wars, Security Dialogue, Review of International Studies. The journal Peacebuilding is edited at Manchester by Oliver Richmond, Gezim Visoka and Roger Mac Ginty. 


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sandra Pogodda Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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