Political Violence and the Human Condition

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Political Violence and the Human Condition

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Behavioral Science, Psychology, Sociology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    This course aims to provide students with knowledge of the perpetrators and victims of political violence. It will cover the reasons why, and the processes and mechanisms through which, people get involved in political violence, as well as the impact this has on victims and their communities.

    When finalizing the course, students will have knowledge and understanding of:
    - The driving forces of violent behavior on an individual and group level;
    - The psychological and neurological foundations of violent behavior;
    - The adverse psycho-social and intergenerational consequences of violence for victims and communities;
    - The prospects and problems of an inter-disciplinary approach to violent behavior that combines psychology and criminology.

    In addition students will be able to:
    - Gather and integrate knowledge of multiple disciplines with the purpose of handling complexity of issues related to peace and conflict and designing effective solutions;
    - Formulate judgements based on a critical evaluation of knowledge, methodologies and research results from multiple disciplines, which include a critical reflection on the social and ethical responsibilities linked to the application of the students’ own knowledge and judgements

    Mass atrocities are frequently perpetrated during wars and they have a devastating effect on the victims and their communities. The perpetrators and the victims of this violence have been studied from numerous disciplines including, but not limited to, criminology, clinical psychology, psychiatry, social psychology and history. Studies across these different disciplines have focused on characteristics and processes that contribute to mass violence on different levels of analysis. In addition, extensive scientific literature exists on the consequences of mass violence for the exposed society, community and the individual, and how individuals, communities and countries may deal with the past. In this course, these perspectives will be integrated to provide an overview of the reasons why, and the processes through which, individuals perpetrate mass atrocities. The hypothesis that these individuals are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances will be discussed by analyzing theories as well as case studies. Furthermore, the appropriateness of individual accountability for these collective manifestations of political violence will be discussed, as well as potential alternatives.

    A second central focus of the course will be the psychological and psychosocial consequences of political violence and war-related trauma for its victims and affected communities and societies. Finally, we will also focus on how to interfere with the development of such adverse

    Lectures and seminars

    Exam (50%) and written assignments (50%).

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.


This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work; others help us improve the user experience. By using the site, you consent to the placement of these cookies.

Read our Privacy Policy to learn more.