Rothberg International School

Division of Undergraduate Studies

Spring Semester 2017



48402: Violence AND Politics: SELECTED TOPICS

Dr. Tom Pessah



This course offers tools for analyzing the relationship between violence and politics, drawn from sociological, Marxist, anarchist, feminist and anti-colonial traditions. Empirically, we will cover a range of historical and contemporary cases in Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, and we’ll compare these cases to local phenomena. Central themes include the relationship between violence and social structure, state action and resistance, cultural representations, and ethical and embodied constraints on the use of violence. A pre-requisite for the course are: a course in Sociology /Middle East /Islamic Studies/ Conflict Resolution/ Israel Studies.  



Active informed participation                                                                         10%
1 short (10 minute) leadoff presentation of an assigned article                      20%
Midterm                                                                                                          30%
Final Exam                                                                                                      40%


Technology Policy
As a general rule all CELL PHONES, IPODS, IPHONES, BLACKBERRY DEVICES, AND ALL OTHER ELECTRONIC DEVICES MUST BE TURNED OFF AND PUT AWAY upon entering the classroom. Electronic devices are distracting and it is disrespectful to listen to your iPod, send text messages, send email or read email on your cell phone and/or blackberry during class. If you do find it better to use a computer for lecture and class notes, then you may use a lap top on condition that you use it only for class work. Students may not record this course in any fashion without written permission from me

Course Outline


WEEK 1 – INTRODUCTION:  From Biological to SOCIOLOGICAL Explanations of Violence




Weber, Max. 1958. “Politics as a Vocation” in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press. (pp. 77-92, 114-128) 301(04) W375G (1973 ed.); Available online for free (Google it! or via

Mitchell, Timothy. 2006. “State, Economy and the State Effect,” pp. 169-185 in The Anthropology of the State – A Reader, edited by Aradhana Sharma and Akhil Gupta. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Main Library GN 492 A54 2006; ERESERVE 002025461

Eliasoph, Nina. 2003. Avoiding Politics: How Americans Produce Apathy in Everyday Life. Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press. (1-22, 154-164) Main Library JK 1764 E45; E-BOOK 001767440



Week 3 – capitalism


Lenin, V.I. 2014. "Class Society and the State" in State and Revolution. Chicago: Haymarket Books. (41-58). Main Library HX 314 L352 1943 (1943 edition); Free online via

Luxemburg, Rosa. 1961. The Russian Revolution, and Leninism or Marxism? Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. (25-80). 335.4 L977; Free online via

Marshall, Peter. 2010. Demanding the Impossible: a History of Anarchism. Oakland, CA: PM Press. (‘Ends and means”, 625-638 & 657-660). 335.83 M367; ERESERVE 002024221 (p. 625-638); 002024223 (p. 657-660)


Week 4 - patriarchy


MacKinnon, Catharine A. 1989. Toward a Feminist Theory of the State. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. (157-183) Main Library HQ 1236 M34; ERESERVE 002025462

Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1991. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43(6). 1241-1251, 1282-1299. E-journal

Connell, R.W. 2005. Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press. (67-84) Main Library HQ 1090 C62 (1995 ed., p. 67-86); ERESERVE 002029726


Week 5 – Ethnicity


Brubaker, Rogers and David Laitin.  1998. “Ethnic and Nationalist Violence. Annual Review of Sociology 4: 423-452. E-journal

Brass, Paul R. 1997. Theft of an Idol: Text and Context in the Representation of Collective Violence. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press. (129-176) 303.6 B823; ERESERVE 002024227



Elias, Norbert. 1994. The Civilizing Process. Oxford: Blackwell. (161-182, 185-191, 387-397) Main Library CB 83 E413 2000 (2000 ed.); ERESERVE 002025644

Foucault, Michel. 1995. Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books. (‘The body of the condemned’, 3-31 & ‘Panopticism’, 195-228) Main Library HV 8666 F683 1995; ERESERVE 002024231 (p. 3-31); 002024233 (p. 195-228).

Week 7 – Colonization, racIALIZATION, and genocide


Pessah, Tom . 2014. “Violent Representations: Hostile Indians and Civilized Wars in Nineteenth-Century USA.” Ethnic and Racial Studies  37( 9): 1628-1645. E-journal

Prunier, Gerard. 1995. The Rwanda Crisis, 1959-1994: History of a Genocide. London: Hurst. (1-40, 229-264). Main Library DT 450.435 P78 1995; ERESERVE 002025463 (p. 1-40); 002025464 (p. 229-264).

PBS. 2014. “Rwanda – a Historical Chronology”, Frontline. ONLINE


Week 8 - de-Colonization


Gandhi, M.K.  1997. Hind Swaraj and Other Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (26-29, 39-41, 72-99). ERESERVE 002029890 (2009 ed., p. 25-28, 38-40, 70-97).

Fanon, Frantz.1963. The Wretched of the Earth.  New York: Grove Press. (35-94) Main Library DT 33 F36 D363 1966; ERESERVE 002025465 (1968 ed., p. 24-73); 002025466 (1968 ed., p. 75-83).

Week 9 – Film


The Battle of Algiers (director: Gillo Pontecorvo). 1965. Rome: Igor Film; Algiers: Casbah Film. Media Library OSV 10442

Evans, Martin. 2012.  Algeria: France's Undeclared War. (7-48). Main Library DT 295 E93 A64 2012; ERESERVE 002024240

Baratieri, Daniela. 2009. “Terrorists and Veils: The Battle of Algiers Four Decades Later,” pp. 11-29 in Rethinking Third Cinema: The Role of Anti-colonial Media and Aesthetics in Postmodernity, edited by Frieda Ekotto and Adeline Koh. Berlin: LIT Verlag. Overseas Library 791.43 E36; ERESERVE 002026208

Eid, Haidar and Khaled Ghazel. 2008. “Footprints of Fanon in Gillo Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers" and Sembene Ousamne's Xala,” English in Africa 35(2): 151-155. E-journal

Week 10 – Islamophobia

Kumar, Deepa. 2012. Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. Chicago, Ill.: Haymarket Books. (‘Images of Islam in Europe’ & ‘Colonialism and orientalism’, p. 9-40) 297.19 K96; ERESERVE 002024242 (p. 9-24); 002024244 (p. 25-40)

Mamdani, Mahmoud. 2004. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. New York: Random House. (3-62) Main Library E 840 M346 2005; ERESERVE 002024246

Bunzl, Matti. 2005. “Between Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: Some Thoughts on The New Europe,” American Ethnologist 32(4):499-508.  E-journal

Week 11 – recap