Thursday, 1 November 2018

'Curing Violence. How can be we become a less violent society?'

It's always great to hear what our VCD students are doing alongside their studying. Whitney Iles is the CEO of Project 507, a social enterprise that challenges systemic conditions that generate violence and develops positive peace. She has long-term experience as a practitioner in the sector of serious youth violence. Whitney writes for the Huffington and Guardian and is in the second year of her part-time degree.

This week Whitney shared the news of the publication of the book "Curing Violence. How can we become a less violent society?" and her chapter, entitled "The Social Context of Violence." In this chapter Whitney draws on her experience of working with youth violence to examine the ways in which violence is escalated, sometimes by attempts to reduce it. She advocates being more curious about and analytical of violence as ways to address these unintended outcomes.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The pretend guns of realism and the reality of resistance

I have written some reflections on the election in Brazil and the art of capoeira. Brazil has a violent and racist history; it also has some remarkable resistance. The piece is called "The pretend guns of realism and the reality of resistance." The struggle is not over!

Available here:

Thursday, 25 October 2018

online modules in VCD and Critical and Human Security Studies

For the last couple of years we have been running an online module in Violence, Conflict and Development as part of the CISD's MA in Global Diplomacy. It's been popular and a fantastic experience to be able to include online students in our intellectual community.
We have now completed another course that will run from April 2019 through CISD and in collaboration with CeDEP, SOAS's other distance learning department.
We are working towards being able to offer a full online Masters degree in the near future.

Here are the outlines of our existing modules:
Political Economy of Violence, Conflict and Development
This module provides a grounding in analytical approaches to the political economy of violence, conflict and development by discussing empirical trends, difficulties of data collection and the importance of categorization and boundaries to matters of violence. Foundational theories on conflict and violence including gender perspectives, debates about the origins of human violence (anthropological, historical, psychological sources of violence) and the role of violence in historical change will considered. Against this background, the course explores how development theory has treated violence and conflict at different times before focusing on competing contemporary theories and claims about the causes and dynamics of conflict.The course ends on the links between war/violence, and knowledge production, discourses and ethics, with a focus on terrorism and the war on terror and the ethical challenges of conducting research on violence.
Human and Critical Security Studies
The Human and Critical Security Studies module examines the meanings, mechanisms and agents of security, acknowledging shifts from the traditional notion of national security to forms of Human Security and critiques of the state. The module investigates processes and phenomena that pose direct threats to groups of people and, in doing so, potentially destabilise or aggravate situations. Famine, the oil trade and AIDS undermine people physically, politically and psychologically, and on occasions result in further forms of insecurity as people resist, retaliate or take advantage of volatile situations. The module will examine social factors such as age, gender, class and identity and the way that these shape and are shaped by experiences of security and look at the rapidly expanding academic literature linking specific threats to processes of vulnerability, insecurity, terror and globalisation. The UN, itself heavily involved in forging the meanings of security, has produced documents relating to health, climate change and other elements covered in the course.

More info about the MA Global Diplomacy here: 

online learning office

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

FAQ as the new term approaches

We are looking forward to a new term! As is normal at this time of the year we are receiving a lot of enquiries from students about the course, SOAS, and life in London. Here are some of the most common questions we receive, and some answers to them. These apply to all our Masters programmes. If you still have questions after reading through this, please get in touch with your course convenor.

There is a lot of information available on the SOAS website, so have a good look through that.

There is also a welcome page:

Q. What is the content/structure of my programme?

A. Details of all programmes, including content and optional modules, can be found here:

Q. How do I decide which modules to choose?

A. There is a huge range of modules, including several language options, to choose from and this can be a bit daunting. The dissertation is the jewel in your Masters crown, so choose modules that prepare you – in subject and/or discipline – for your dissertation. If you don’t know what you want to write about for your dissertation, have a look through the modules available and think what directions you would like your research and analysis to take over the course of your Masters.  

You have the chance to sign up for your modules before you arrive. This reserves you a place on the module (as some get full), but there is also a chance to change your module choices when you arrive.

Q. Where is the timetable?

Many courses have a one-hour lecture followed by a tutorial, which is often, but by no means always, on the same day. Part-time students are given priority when choosing tutorial times.

Any enquiries relating to MPhil/PhD should be addressed to Doctoral School Admissions.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

New term approaching - and a new book from Claudia Seymour

It's the time of the year when we start to think about the new term. I am receiving emails from incoming students, and it's great to get to know people a bit before we plunge into lectures and tutorials. There's even the odd late application that manages to sneak through the system ;)

We are looking forward to welcoming our new cohort, and we're also celebrating our long term professional contacts. I'm really happy to announce the forthcoming publication of Claudia Seymour's work on war and survival in Congo. Claudia completed her PhD with us some years back and is a Research Associate in the Development Studies department. The book's cover is by Miriam Nabarro, who was a VCD student the first year I taught at SOAS, and is now Artist in Residence. It is nothing short of brilliant to see Claudia and Miriam's work coming together in this way :)

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

What Women Want before Justice: Examining Justice Initiatives to Challenge Violence against Women in the DRC

For the last four years I've had the pleasure of working with Bilge Sahin, who has been writing her PhD on gender violence and mobile courts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While many people are aware of the extraordinary levels of sexual violence in eastern Congo, gaining an understanding of what causes it and how it interacts with international efforts to confront it requires deeper reading and research. Bilge has published this article in the International Journal of Transitional Justice, which will contribute to a more complete analysis of violence and justice. (Abstract below)

What Women Want before Justice: Examining Justice Initiatives to Challenge Violence against Women in the DRC

Sahin, Bilge and Kula, Sidonia Lucia (2018) 'What Women Want before Justice: Examining Justice Initiatives to Challenge Violence against Women in the DRC.' International Journal of Transitional Justice

While the realization of women’s rights has increased significantly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congolese women’s struggle is often obscured by certain international actors actively pushing for social change in the region. Those who are politically active in the area tend to forget that it is not the mere act of imposing policies that effects change, but rather actively involving Congolese women in decision-making processes. This article examines the way conflict-related sexual violence crimes are interpreted by donors, international organizations and international nongovernmental organizations, and what is implemented to challenge these acts of violence in accordance with the needs and expectations of Congolese women. By looking at current feminist discourse on conflict, security and development, the article aims to highlight the failures in implementing justice initiatives without input from women on the ground.

Bilge presenting her work recently at a conference at SOAS

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Food aid in Sudan - new book by Susanne Jaspars

I'm really happy to announce the publication today of our colleague Susanne Jaspars' book, "Food aid in Sudan. A history of power, politics and profit." I first came across Susanne's work on famine in the 1990s, and it is great to have her contributing to our intellectual life at SOAS.

Full details are below; here is the inside story from Susanne:
"My book on Food Aid in Sudan (published by Zed Books) is out today.  It presents a unique analysis of changes in food aid practices and its effect in one country over a period of fifty years.  It also builds on my own experience of working on food aid issues, much of which was in Sudan.  In the book, I discuss how despite the proliferation in food aid practices, food aid rarely had the intended effect of saving lives and supporting livelihoods.  It did, however, have a number of political and economic effects – including the creation of Sudan’s own food aid apparatus.  Furthermore, I find that contemporary medicalised and depoliticised food-based resilience practices do not reveal these effects.  Instead, they have facilitated the withdrawal of food aid in the face of ongoing conflict, displacement and high rates of acute malnutrition.  I argue that these practices can also be seen as abandoning crisis-affected populations.  These findings do not just apply to Sudan, but are emblematic of the failures of humanitarianism globally and of the need for reform." 

£65 / $95
ISBN: 9781786992093

Food Aid in Sudan

A History of Power, Politics and Profit

Susanne Jaspars

Published 15 May 2018
  • A comprehensive study of one of the world's largest food aid programmes, interrogating the failures of contemporary humanitarianism and the wider crisis in the global food system
  • Examines the evolution and effects of food aid practices in one country over a period of more than 50 years
  • Rich in empirical material – based on extensive interviews with all those involved in the food aid process
  • Author is an experienced aid practitioner who took an active role in shaping emergency food policy in Sudan, having worked for Oxfam, MSF and the World Food Programme

'A superb account of the intertwining of nutritional science, politics and humanitarian crisis in Sudan over fifty years. This is an essential book for all students of humanitarianism.'
Alex de Waal, co-author of Darfur: A Short History of a Long War

‘Jaspars has written a singular, important and challenging book. Indeed, I cannot speak too highly of this major work. This book deserves to become a classic within the humanitarian field and demands to be widely read.’
Mark Duffield, author of Global Governance and the New Wars

‘Provides crucial insights into how food aid has shaped power relations in Sudan. A timely and meticulous contribution towards understanding the politics of food insecurity and the processes of aid provision.’
Zoƫ Marriage, SOAS, University of London

‘Brilliantly and disturbingly demonstrates how a range of self-interests and shifting orthodoxies have combined to create the virtual abandonment of a highly distressed population in Darfur.’
David Keen, London School of Economics