CSPS Winter School Natural resources and Conflict: Theorizing governance, resistance and violence – 4 ECTS

Mon 10 December 2018 until Wed 19 December 2018

The extraction, exploitation, distribution and trade of natural resources continue to be a source of conflict worldwide, notwithstanding claims of inclusive and equitable development. The PhD course “Natural Resources and Conflict: Theorizing Governance, Resistance and Violence” offers an in-depth exploration of theoretical approaches to understand the nature of these conflicts, how they reflect local, regional and international power dynamics, and how they relate to institutional change. An issue of particular concern is when and how conflicts turn violent and how to approach such violence theoretically.

This course is relevant both to PhD candidates who specifically study natural resource conflicts, and to those who encounter forms of conflict and violence as they study topics related to resource management and economic and social development related to for instance land, water, forestry or mineral extraction. The course helps PhD candidates unravel the multiple contradictions surrounding the governance of natural resources, the resistance these may generate, and the overt and covert forms of violence found in their research settings.

The course is organised around theories that link governance, resistance and violence. The course thus moves beyond theories on resource scarcity and the ‘resource curse’ that came to dominate the debate on resource conflict in the 1990s but that have been highly criticised. It offers students a solid theoretical basis to problematize the relation between natural resources and conflict, touching upon questions such as: What role does the state play in resource governance? Does it contain or generate resource conflict? What is resistance and when does it become violent? How is violence organised socially and politically?
What does violence communicate? More practically, the course asks: in what ways do conflicts and
violence play a role our research projects?

We draw on different disciplines (history, philosophy, political sociology, geography, economics) to rethink the relation between resource governance, resistance and violence. The various sessions in the course combine the reading of foundational texts with readings of more recent academic work on resource conflicts.

Learning outcomes

During the course, participants develop an adequate conceptualization of conflict and violence relevant to their research question and setting. Students will engage directly with foundational texts on governance, resistance and violence and link these to the manifold ways in which resource conflict manifests itself.
Students learn to see how conflict and violence are produced and what are the impacts on their research project and on the research population.

After successful completion of this course, participants are expected to be able to:

  • Identify core theoretical frames to rethink the ways in which resources and conflicts are linked
  • Understand the importance of historical, abstract and theoretical texts and apply them to contemporary debates on the governance of natural resources
  • Critically reflect on the implications of different theoretical framings for their research projects
  • Develop a conceptualisation of governance, resistance or violence for their own research project.


10-12: 10.00-11.00 Introduction: Understanding the relationship between resources and conflict Gemma van der Haar and Lotje de Vries
10-12: 11.00-13.30 Rethinking the tragedy of the commons: Do we need a central form of power to control violence? Han van Dijk Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
11-12: 10.00-12.30 Extraction, capture and control: the modern state in development Joost Jongerden Pierre Clastres: The Archeology of violence
12-12: 10.00-12.30 Structural violence in resource governance to be defined Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem, a report an the banality of evil
13-12: 10.00-12.30 Resisting repression and dispossession. What role for violence? Lotje de Vries Franz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth
14-12: 10.00-12.30 Competing claims to resources: How and why does claim-making turn violent? Gemma van der Haar Charles Tilly: The politics of collective violence
17-12: 10.00-12.30 Rethinking incentives: Is violence rational behaviour? Maarten Voors James Fearon: Rationalist Explanations for War
18-12: 10.00-12.30 Violence as performance: How do natural resource conflicts persist as forms of communication? Arjaan Pellis Niklas Luhmann: Social systems
19-12: 10.00-12.30 Presentation session on PhD research All
19-12: 15.00-17.00 Public WASS lecture Paul Richards Peace is Impossible; A neo-Durkheimian approach to coping with intractable conflict
For more info and registration, click here.

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