MA Public Opinion and Political Behaviour
MA War, Culture and Society options

Year 1, Component 04

Option(s) from list
Approaches to War, Culture and Society

What is at stake when we study war, culture and society? This module equips students with different disciplinary perspectives on the human experience of war in different times and places. It introduces students to major historical debates on the social effects of war in the modern era, human rights in conflict zones, and the psychological causes and consequences of war experience. Alongside approaches to these debates, students will consider diverse ways of 'framing' the study of war – whether this means thinking through gender, looking at the local or the global, or considering how individuals and societies come to terms with death rather than focusing on fighting. Finally, the module introduces students to a range of primary sources for studying war and its effects on culture and society, including personal testimony, legal sources, medical texts, and film. The module therefore exposes students to theoretical and methodological perspectives that will inform their study across this MA programme.

War and Medicine

Both medicine and the military are social phenomena. From the middle of the 19th century, medicine came to play an increasingly central role in the emergence of modern mass and industrialised warfare. In addition to the maintenance of discipline and morale, medicine also provided administrative and technical support to what became known as the 'total' wars in the 20th century. This module examines the relationship between medicine and the military in the 'modernisation' of societies during the 19th century and 20th century. It asks to what extent medicine contributed to the 'rationalisation' of military management?

War and Slavery in the Atlantic World

In the Atlantic World, war and slavery were intimately entwined. In Africa, warfare created slaves, while slavery spawned warfare. In the Americas, armies consisting of slaves and free blacks fought alternately for and against slaveholders through the eighteenth century, while in the nineteenth century, war figured prominently in the destruction of slavery. This M.A. module examines the complex relationship between war and slavery in the Atlantic World between ca. 1450 and 1850. It will begin with an examination of the role of warfare in the process of enslavement before exploring the many ways in which enslaved and freed people participated in warfare in the Americas. Topics will include: European and West African ideologies of warfare and enslavement; the 'predatory state' thesis; gender, warfare, and enslavement in Africa; the "gun-slave cycle"; free black militias in the Iberian colonies; the employment of black soldiers, free and enslaved, in the wars of the long eighteenth century; ex-soldiers and slave rebellion in the Americas; and the role of warfare in ending slavery. Students will be required to complete a historiographic essay on a topic of their choosing. This will be a reading-intensive module. Students are expected to read an entire book every second week, along with substantial reading in between. Each student is expected to contribute to seminar discussions on a regular basis and to run the seminar (as part of a group) at least once.

War and Memory: Remembering, Commemorating, and Contesting the Past

The memories surrounding war and conflict are defining features of cultures and societies around the world. Wars are remembered in a variety of ways: through commemoration, in in individual and family stories, within popular culture, and within political narratives. These memories often tell us more about the present (or rather the time in which they are remembered) than about the wars and conflicts themselves. In fact, analysing how war is remembered today is often one of the best ways to understand how all types of history can be deployed to serve different purposes in the present. Memories of war are often highly politicised and controversial, becoming bedrocks of national myths. To challenge these memories, and these myths, is often to challenge the fundamental ideas that national cultures are based on. This module looks at the construction, circulation and contestation of war memory in a variety of national contexts, and at different points in the past. It focuses on three broad themes: commemoration, popular culture, and the politics of remembering the past. We will discuss topics including the symbolism of the ‘poppy’ in commemorating the First World War, the depiction of the Second World War in film, the memory of the Vietnam War in the United States, and the different ways societies have remembered the bombing of civilians throughout the twentieth century.

Human Rights, Social Justice and Social Change

Until very recently, it was frequently claimed that human rights were the dominant moral instruments for regulating global politics and law. Indeed, many went so far as to claim that we were living in an age of human rights. Is this still true today? Human rights are increasingly challenged from a variety of perspectives. Indeed, an increasing number of people describe the global human rights project to be in a state of real crisis. With human rights increasingly challenged, it is vitally important that we are able to understand the basis and extent of this challenge, in order to overcome the challenge. This module provides an opportunity to do just that. We will situate the theory and the practice of human rights within the broader moral and political contexts within which contemporary human rights unfolds. We will also connect theory with practice in order to examine key spheres in which the challenge to human rights occurs.

Literature and the First World War

Literature has been a site of conflict in the cultural history of the First World War. In The Social Mission of English Criticism: 1848-1932 (1983), Chris Baldick demonstrated that when the relatively new university subject of literature (under the generic term "English") was developing during the First World War, academics proclaimed that it was poetry which would save the nation. In 1919 the newly formed British Drama League aimed to bring about a lasting peace by promoting amateur dramatics nationwide. The idea of poetry as a repository of the authentic experiences of the "trench" poets as lost warriors has contributed to an anglocentric perspective on the war and a reinforcement of poetry as the ultimate aesthetic form. Such a perspective, distilled in Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (1975), was challenged by Claire Tylee, The Great War and Women's Consciousness (1990) as well as Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (1995). This module draws on a wide and rich field of literature and literary criticism. It locates the literary engagements with the First World War in the global context of wartime responses and the wider reflection on the impact of war which reverberated through genres and literary and cultural movements. This module includes material on such topics as war, trauma, and bereavement.

Transitional Justice

Broadly speaking transitional justice refers to the belief that any State where mass atrocities have taken place should engage with a set of judicial and non-judicial processes in order to achieve a successful transition from conflict to peace or repression to democracy. You’ll receive an overview of the history, theory, legal background and dilemmas of transitional justice, followed by in-depth discussions of the four pillars of transitional justice – truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, and of their interrelatedness.

Contexts of Refugee Experience

What are the relevant contexts of refugee experiences? How can academic disciplines help us understand refugee experiences in a deeper way? How can we grasp the multidimensional aspects of the refugee phenomena? Study the multidisciplinary nature of Refugee Care from a unique combination of both academic and professional perspectives.

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