2019 Summer School Courses

Marie Breen Smyth course


Violence, War and Trauma

Course description

This course will examine the classification of violence; its forms and motivations; governance and regulation of violence; and its physical, psychological and political effects and uses. It will address questions such as: whether all violence can be considered political; the changing social construction of violence; how a context of violence tends to bifurcate thinking and ways of knowing; how violence becomes enculturated; and whether it can be seen as a form of communication. It considers individual and collective state and non-state violent actors; normative and legal definitions and contexts of violence; and how violence is legitimized or de-legitimized. The effects of violence are considered in historical perspective, the effects of war on populations, the aftermath of political violence for combatants, the changing understandings of the impact of violence on individuals, the use of suffering and the politics of victimhood and contemporary understandings of trauma.

Course Structure

  • Theoretical introduction to violence, its definition, causes, forms, prevalence, trends and contexts
  • An examination of violence in systems of subordination, namely race and ethnicity; gender and sexuality; and socio-economic inequality and class.
  • Methods and politics of casualty counting
  • Military training, learning to kill, veterans and former combatants
  • Violence, the uses of suffering and the politics of victimhood
  • The concept of trauma and the regulation of suffering

Case studies may include

  • Violence and its proponents: militarism
  • Legitimizing and delegitimizing violence; the case of ‘terrorism’
  • All topics will be illustrated by practical examples drawn from research and experience in the US, UK, Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, Pakistan and India, South and West Africa and any other societies contributed by students.



Marie Breen Smyth class

Professor Marie Breen-Smyth is Visiting Professor in the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where she is also Senior Faculty Fellow in the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development in the McCormack Graduate School at UMASS Boston, and Research Affiliate at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, in the University of Otago, New Zealand and Professor Emerita and former Associate Dean in the University of Surrey, England. She has also taught at universities in Wales, Northern Ireland and Germany. She was 2002-3 Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow in the United States Institute of Peace. When in the Department of International Politics in Aberystwyth University, together with Richard and Jackson and Jeroen Gunning she founded the field of Critical Terrorism Studies and the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism. In Northern Ireland she established the Institute for Conflict Research and led the first comprehensive research into the effects of the Troubles, The Cost of the Troubles Studies. She also co-founded Derry Wellwoman, a free health centre for women. Her field work experience includes Northern Ireland, South Africa, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Ghana, Nigeria, Macedonia. She is a native of Northern Ireland.

Her most recent publications include: ‘Victims and Survivors in the Northern Ireland Conflict’ in Terhoven, P (2018) Victimhood and Acknowledgement; the other side of terrorism. European History Yearbook; “The Securitized Western Imagination: the lone (white) wolf and suspect communities” in Martini, A., Ford, K. and Jackson, R. (2019) Encountering Extremism: A Critical Examination of Theoretical Issues and Local Challenges Manchester University Press and Interviewing combatants: Lessons from the Boston College Case in David Miller (ed) Contemporary Social Science Special Issue (forthcoming, 2019) 'A critical approach: violence, ‘victims’ and ‘innocents’' (with Samantha Cooke) in Kennedy-Pipe, C. Mabon, C and Clubb, G. (eds) ‘Terrorism and Political Violence: the Evolution of Contemporary Insecurity’. ​ Sage (2015); ‘Everywhere and forever’ War on ‘Terrorism’ and the challenge for Transitional justice' Institute of Transitional Justice (forthcoming); The Ashgate Research Companion on Political Violence, (Ashgate 2013) and Terrorism; A critical introduction with Jackson, Gunning and Lee Jarvis (Palgrave, 2011). She has also made two films with Northern Visions about the impact of political violence, And then there was silence (2000) and Injured (2011).

Her practitioner experience includes working as a community organizer in North Belfast during the conflict in Northern Ireland, as a licensed clinician in mental health in Massachusetts, USA, work in establishing the criminal justice inspection agency during the peace process in Northern Ireland and in integrating community restorative justice into the state system, and organising field missions and reports for the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations on Children and Armed Conflict on the issue of the recruitment of children into armed groups. She writes on political violence and terror, victim politics, casualty counting, veterans’ affairs and has regional interests in Northern Ireland, South Africa, West Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan.



  • Karadjordjeva 65
    11000 Belgrade, Serbia


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