Political Violence

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Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"


Course format: The course is articulated into seven sessions according to the syllabus, which will be provided in September. Every session will be primary organized as a collective discussion rather than a lecture. For each of the meetings, students are required to adopt a pro-active stance based on the reading of all the articles/chapters in the syllabus. During each session a student will prepare a 10 minutes presentation, with questions, comments and critics that can stimulate further discussion after the topic of the session has been presented from the lecturer. All students must do the readings and active participation in the seminar is compulsory. Academic guests from SNS will give invited talks on specific topics related to the course.

Requirements: Master (50%) and PhD students will be evaluated through their participation and active participation in class. PhD students are not required to write a paper as the instructor will only determine whether they have passed (or failed) the course. Those PhD students who are willing to write their term paper on the topic of the course, between 5,000 and 6,000 words, must agree the topic of the paper with the professor. Master students must produce a final paper (in Italian or English) of not more than 3,000 words on one of the topics covered during the course (50%). Students are expected to attend all class meetings except in cases of Covid reasons, illness or urgent family issues. More detailed information on the requirements of the course will be discussed on the first day of class.


Session 1: Introduction - January 19 2023, 10am – 1pm

During the first session we will define the boundaries of what we mean with political violence. We will also look at early theories of political violence.



Tilly, Charles. 2004. “Terror, Terrorism, Terrorists” Sociological Theory 22 (1): 5-13.

 Victoroff, Jeff. 2005. “The Mind of the Terrorist: A Review and Critique of Pshychological Approaches.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 49 (3): 3-42.

 Crenshaw, Martha. 2017. "The Strategic Logic of Terrorism." In Conflict After the Cold War: Arguments on Causes of War and Peace, ed. Richard K. Betts, 448-461. New York: Routledge.


Additional readings

Bart Schuurman. 2018. “Research on Terrorism, 2007–2016: A Review of Data, Methods, and Authorship”, Terrorism and Political Violence

Crenshaw, Martha. 1990. “The Logic of Terrorism: Terrorist Behavior as a Product of Strategic Choice”. In Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind, ed. Walter Reich. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, pp. 7–24.

Crenshaw, Martha (1990). “Theories of Terrorism: Instrumental and Organizational Approaches”. In Inside Terrorist Organizations, edited by David C. Rapoport, 13–31. New York: Columbia University Press.

English, Richard. 2016. “The Future Study of Terrorism,” European Journal of International Security, 1(2): 135–49.

Le Bon, Gustave. 2001 [orig. 1896]. The Crowd, A Study of the Popular Mind.

Juergensmeyer, Mark (1997). “Terror Mandated by God,” Terrorism and Political Violence 9(2): 16–23.


Session 2: Political violence and social movement studies -  January 26, 2023, 10am – 1pm

During this session we will look at political violence as “politics by other means”. We will focus on what characterizes the social movement perspective to political violence.



Lorenzo Bosi and Stefan Malthaner. 2015. “Political Violence” in Donatella Della Porta and Mario Diani (eds.) Oxford Handbook of Social Movements, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Gunning, Jeroen. 2009. “Social Movement Theory and the Study of Terrorism.” In Critical Terrorism Studies: Framing a New Research Agenda, 156–77. London; New York: Routledge.


Additional readings

Alimi, Eitan, Chares Demetriou and Lorenzo Bosi. 2015. The Dynamics of Radicalization: A Relational Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Beck, Colin J., and Eric W. Schoon. 2017. “Terrorism and Social Movements.” in Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, 2nd Edition, II. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.

Donatella Della Porta (1995). Social movements, political violence, and the state: a comparative analysis of Italy and Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Della Porta, D. (2008), “Research on Social Movements and Political Violence”, Qualitative Sociology 31, 221-230.

Della Porta, Donatella. 2013. Clandestine Political Violence, Cambridge: Cambridge University press. 

Tilly, Charles. 2003. The Politics of Collective Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Viterna, Jocelyn. 2013. Women in War: The Micro-Processes of Mobilization in El Salvador. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Wood, Elisabeth. (2003). Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador. Cambridge University.


Session 3: Security studies and political violence - February 2, 2023, 10am – 1pm

with the participation of Delina Goxho and Daniela Musina, SNS  (TBC)

During this session we will look at how a re-conceptualization of ‘security’ could intersect and stem from debates within social movements studies, in line with already existing strands within critical security studies. Seeking to move beyond issue of ‘national security’, these approaches seek to investigate on one end the production of insecurities and how they could trigger political and organized violence, and on the other how political violence is used to carry out security agendas (counterterrorism, counterinsurgency and so-called stabilization agendas).



Kalyvas S. (2006), The Logic of Violence in Civil War, Chap 6 and 7 (A Logic of Indiscriminate Violence & A Logic of Discriminate Violence)

Peoples and Vaughan-Williams (2021), Critical Security Studies: an Introduction, 3rd Edition, Routledge

Rogers and Goxho. 2021. “Light footprint-heavydestabilising impact in Niger: why the Western understanding of remote warfare needs  to be reconsidered.” International Politics


Additional readings

Buzan et al. (1998), Security: a new Framework for Analysis, Lynne Reiner Publishers, Boulder, Colorado

J. Huysmans (2000). The European Union and the Securitization of Migration. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies38, 751–777

MacKay et al. (2021), Remote Warfare: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, in E-IR

Straus S. (2015), Making and Unmaking Nations: War, Leadership and Genocide in Modern Africa, Cornell University Press

Peoples, C. “Security after Emancipation? Critical Theory, Violence and Resistance.” Review of International Studies 37, no. 3 (2011): 1113–35.

Alison, M. (2004). Women as Agents of Political Violence: Gendering Security. Security Dialogue, 35(4), 447–463.

Ogawa, A. (2018). Security Paradigms and Social Movements: The Changing Nature of Japanese Peace Activism. Asian Journal of Social Science46(6), 725–747.

Khalili, L. (2013). Time in the ShadowsConfinement in Counterinsurgencies. Stanford University Press Stanford, California. Introduction, 1–10 and Conclusion, 239 – 255.

Session 4: Jihadism and political violence -  February 9, 2023, 10am – 1pm 

with the participation of Dr. Jerome Drevon, Geneva Graduate Institute, and Silvia Carenzi, SNS (TBC)

During this session we will look at the behavior of militant Islamist groups in the MENA countries.



Introduction and Conclusion in Wiktorowicz, Q. (Ed.). (2004). Islamic Activism: A Social Movement Theory Approach. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Stenersen, A. (2018) Jihadism after the ‘Caliphate’: towards a new typology. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies,


Additional readings

Hafez, M. M. (2003). Why Muslims rebel: Repression and Resistance in the Islamic World. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers

Ashour, Omar. The de-radicalization of Jihadists: Transforming armed Islamist movements. Routledge, 2009.

Thomas Hegghammer, Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010

Barak Mendelsohn, The al-Qaeda Franchise: The Expansion of al-Qaeda and Its Consequences, New York: Oxford University Press, 2016

Ahmad, Aisha. Jihad & Co.: black markets and Islamist power. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Tahir Abbas (2021) Reflection: the “war on terror”, Islamophobia and radicalisation twenty years on, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 14:4, 402-404,

Rabea M. Khan (2021) Race, coloniality and the post 9/11 counter-discourse: Critical Terrorism Studies and the reproduction of the Islam-Terrorism discourse, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 14:4, 498-501,

Jerome Drevon & Patrick Haenni (2022): Redefining Global Jihad and Its Termination: The Subjugation of al-Qaeda by Its Former Franchise in Syria, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism,


Session 5: Political opportunities and State violence -  February 16, 2023, 10am – 1pm 

This session will be held from Prof. Donatella Della Porta, SNS

The session will be devoted to state repression and its effects in the development of political violence.



Della Porta, D. (2013), Clandestine Political Violence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Chapter 2.

Della Porta, D. (2016), Where did the revolution go? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Chapter 9.


Additional readings

Mazower, Mark. (2002). “Violence and the State in the Twentieth Century” in The American Historical Review, Vol. 107, No. 4 (Oct., 2002), pp. 1158-1178.

Sluka, Jeffrey A. (2000). Death Squad the Anthropology of State Terror, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Chomsky, Noam (1990) Pirates and Emperors: International Terrorism in the Real World. Brattleboro, VT: Amana Books.

Christian Davenport & Molly Inman (2012): The State of State Repression Research

Since the 1990s, Terrorism and Political Violence, 24:4, 619-634

George, Alexander (1991) Western State Terrorism. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Jackson, Richard (2008) “The Ghosts of State Terror: Knowledge, Politics and Terrorism

Studies,” Critical Studies on Terrorism, 1(3): 377–92.

Mazzei, Julie (2009) Death Squads or Self-Defence Forces? How Paramilitary Groups Emerge and Challenge Democracy in Latin America. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Mesut Yeğen (2007) Turkish nationalism and the Kurdish question, Ethnic and

Racial Studies, 30:1, 119-151,


Session 6: Memories and political violence - February 23, 2023, 10am – 1pm

This session will be held from Dr. Lorenzo Zamponi, SNS

During this session we will look at the dynamics of the representation of past political violence and the way in which they influence the symbolic environment in which actors are situated in the present.



Aguilar, P. (2003) Institutional Legacies and Collective Memories: The Case of the Spanish Transition to Democracy. In: Olick, J. K. (ed.) States of Memory: Continuities, Conflicts, and Transformations in National Retrospection. Duke: Duke University Press, pp. 128-160

Zamponi, L. (2015) Remembering Violence: Four Cases of Contentious Memory in the Italian and Spanish Student Movements of the 1960s and 1970s. In: Bosi, L., Ó Dochartaigh, N., Pisioiu, D. (eds.) Political Violence in Context. Colchester: ECPR Press, pp. 89-114.

Zamponi, L. (2018) Social Movements, Memory, and the Media. Narrative in Action in the Italian and Spanish Student Movements. London: Palgrave, Chapter 8.



Additional readings

Alexander, J. C., Eyerman, R., Giesen, B., Smelser, N. J., & Sztompka, P. (2004). Cultural trauma and collective identity. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Antonello, P., & O’Leary, A. (eds.) (2009) Imagining terrorism: The rhetoric and representation of political violence in Italy 1969–2009. London: Modern Humanities Research Association and Routledge.

Armstrong, E. A., & Crage, S. M. (2006). Movements and memory: The making of the Stonewall myth. American Sociological Review 71(5), 724–751.

Daphi, P., and Zamponi, L. (2019) Exploring the Movement-Memory Nexus: Insights and Ways Forward. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 24(4), pp. 399–417.

Melin, E. (2003). State repression and the struggles for memory. London: Latin American Bureau.

Merrill, S. and Lindgren, S. (2018) The Rhythms of Social Movement Memories: The Mobilization of Silvio Meier’s Activist Remembrance across Platforms. Social Movement Studies 19(5-6), pp. 657-674.

Olick, J. K., & Robbins, J. (1998). Social memory studies: From “collective memory” to the historical sociology of mnemonic practices. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 105–140.

Whitlinger, C. (2019) The Transformative Capacity of Commemoration: Comparing Mnemonic Activism in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 24(4), pp. 455–474


Session 7: Processual approach and political violence  - March 2, 2023, 10pm-12pm

During this session we will look at the processual turn in the study of political violence. This session will present and critically discuss some of the main processual approaches in the study of political violence, focusing, in particular, on their conceptual and theoretical foundations and their explanatory logic, but also discussing exemplary empirical works that have adopted a processual perspective in their research.



Bosi, Lorenzo. 2021. “A processual approach to political violence: how history matters” in Richard English (eds.) The Cambridge History of Terrorism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 106-123.

Bosi, Lorenzo, Donatella Della Porta and Stefan Malthaner. 2018. “Organizational and Institutional Approaches: Social Movement Studies Perspectives on Political Violence” (Co-author with Prof. Donatella della Porta and Dr. Stefan Malthaner) in Erica Chenoweth, Richard English, Andreas Gofas, and Stathis Kalyvas (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Terrorism. Oxford: Oxford University Press:  133-147.


Additional readings

Alimi, E. Y., C. Demetriou, and L. Bosi (2015), The Dynamics of Radicalization: A Relational and Comparative Approach (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Eitan Alimi, Lorenzo Bosi, and Chares Demetriou, ‘Relational Dynamics and Processes of Radicalization: A Comparative Framework’. Mobilization 17, no 1 (2012): 7-26

Bosi, Lorenzo, Chares Demetriou, and Stefan Malthaner (2014). ‘A Contentious Politics Approach to the Explanation of Radicalization’. In L. Bosi, C. Demetriou, S. Malthaner (2014). Dynamics of Political Violence: A Process-Oriented Perspective on Radicalization and the Escalation of Political Conflict. Farnham: Ashgate.

Cross, R., and D. A. Snow (2011), “Radicalization within the Context of Social Movements: Processes and Types”, Journal of Strategic Security 4/4, 115-129.

Horgan, John (2008). ‘From Profiles to Pathways and Roots to Routes: Perspectives from Psychology on Radicalization into Terrorism’. The Annals of the American Academy, 618, July 2008, 80-94.

Luft, A. (2015), “Toward a Dynamic Theory of Action at the Micro-Level of Genocide: Killing, Desistance, and Saving in 1994 Rwanda”, Sociological Theory 33/2, 148-172.

McCauley, C., and S. Moskalenko (2008). “Mechanisms of Radicalization: Pathways toward Terrorism,” Terrorism and Political Violence, 20: 415–33.


Obiettivi formativi

Overview of the course: This course aims to provide a guide towards the development of an independent investigation of political violence. This is now a large area of study within sociology, political science, history, geography, anthropology and psychology and we will not be able to survey all of the literature on the subject. This course serves as both a theoretical grounding and a field map, with the intention of highlighting exciting areas for further research on political violence. Looking across-geographical areas and historical periods, the various sessions will discuss course readings as well as critical background, concepts, theories, and ideas that complement the readings referring to relevant studies in political violence. The course will serve as a guide for further independent study.