Dynamics of Armed Conflict


07 - 11 May 2018


PRIO, Hausmanns gate 3, Oslo


Jeffrey T. Checkel, jtcheckel@sfu.ca




Marte Nilsen, marnil@prio.org


Professor Jeffrey T. Checkel, Simon Fraser University (jtcheckel@sfu.ca)
Professor Scott Gates, University of Oslo and PRIO (scott.gates@stv.uio.no).

​This course provides an overview and critical assessment of contemporary research on civil conflict.  It will be in equal measure backward looking, assessing the state of the art; what have we learned; and future oriented, exploring the cutting edge issues and challenges for students of civil war.

The course is organized in collaboration between PRIO and UiO 7-11 May (no class on 10 May).

Course Description:

The first part of the course (sessions I - III) assesses what we now know about civil wars and international conflicts – why they break out, how they are sustained, how do they end – and how to think – conceptually, theoretically and methodologically - about dynamics and process.  The second part (se​ssions IV, VI - VIII) builds on the first to explore the cutting edge and where next questions; our focus here will be new work seeking to capture the dynamics of civil war and international conlict.  Among other issues, we will consider the roles of transnationalism; of bureaucracies, groups and organizations; of social processes; and insurgency-counterinsurgency dynamics in driving forward or constraining the evolution of such conflicts.

Reflecting the research interests of the instructors, the course will be plural in meta-theoretical (positivist, post-positivist), theoretical (political economy, political ethnography, sociological, constructivist, political psychology) and methodological terms (game theory, agent-based modelling, process tracing, case studies, interpretive approaches).


Deadline for applications: 2 March 2018.

Submission of course essay: TBA.


Active Participation in Class Discussions: The course will be run as a seminar, where debate and discussion are the norm; for each session, written discussion questions will serve as our starting point.  For this format to be successful, students need to read the seminar readings prior to our first meeting.

Preparation of Discussion Points: For each class session, students are required to prepare a brief list of discussion questions and comments (3-5 in number); these should be based on the readings and will be distributed to all other seminar participants.  (Please make sufficient copies for distribution!)  Your questions/comments should reflect a critical assessment of those readings. What are their strong and weak points? What are their meta-theoretical, theoretical, methodological, empirical contributions?  How do they relate to or build upon other readings or discussions?

Completion of an Analytic Essay: Students have two options. (I) Prepare an analytic review on a topic that is of special interest and is consistent with the course's purpose and theme. Or (II), prepare a draft research design for a PhD project on civil war where dynamics play some role.  In either case, essays should be 6000-10000.  On the first day of class, students should provide the instructors with a 2-3 pp. introduction to their proposed essay.  These overviews will then be discussed at one-on-one meetings.

This course is free of charge, but students will have to cover their own travel costs. PhD students may apply for an accommodation stipend.


The deadline for applications is 2 March 2018. Please fill in the electronic application form. PhD candidates should specify the topic of their project under 'Research interests'. PhD candidates get priority, but others with graduate studies from a relevant discipline may also apply. 

There is no participation fee, but the cost of transportation and accommodation must be covered by the participants. A limited number of stipends to cover basic accommodation at neighbouring Anker Hotel are available for PhD students who​​ do not have funding for such course participation through their universities or otherwise. If relevant, check the 'stipend' box in the application scheme.

Please address any application questions to Marte Nilsen.