Welcome to the blog of the European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on Political Violence. In this blog you will find timely articles and commentary, research news, job opportunities and other information relevant to scholars with an interest in understanding political violence.

The following recent publications may be of interest to the Group’s members:

Violent Societies: Networks of Violence in Civil War and Peace

By Christina Steenkamp, Palgrave Macmillan, October 2014

Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide

By Jacques Semelin, University of Columbia Press, October 2014

Consumption and Violence: Radical Protest in Cold-War West Germany

 By Alexander Sedlmaier

University of Michigan Press, September 2014

Rendering Violence: Riots, Strikes, and Upheaval in Nineteenth-Century American Art

By Ross Barrett, University of California Press, September 2014

Mass Killings and Violence in Spain, 1936-1952: Grappling with the Past

Edited by Peter Anderson and Miguel Angel del Arco Bianco

Routledge, September 2014

The Australian Association for European History (AAEH) XXIV Conference ‘War, Violence, Aftermaths: Europe and the Wider World’.

Submissions of abstracts close 1 February 2015.

Conference to be held from 14 to 17 July 2015.

For the first time the University of Newcastle, Australia, will host the 24th biennial meeting of the Australasian Association for European History (AAEH).

The themes for 2015 Conference coincide with anniversaries of a number of key events in Europe, and deal broadly with war, violence and aftermaths, including: the bi-centenary of the battle of Waterloo; the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli; the centenary of the Armenian Genocide; the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War; and the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica.

The conference encourages reconsideration of Europe’s violent past – national, regional, religious, economic, ethnic, social, cultural, generational, and international. The Organizing Committee particularly invites proposals for papers that address the history of European conflict in terms of its repercussions for the non-European world. Papers on Early Modern Europe are also welcome, as are specialists in the First World War.

The conference will be structured in parallel panels, plenary sessions and round tables. Each panel presentation should not exceed 20 minutes.

Panels may explore ideas, such as:

  • Violence in society, culture, economics and politics
  • The origins and consequences of war and acts of mass violence
  • Ethnic, racial, religious and ideological violence Violence and war from a transnational perspective
  • Cultural constructions and representations of war and violence
  • Emotions and memories of war and violence
  • Aftermaths and legacies of war and violence

For more information and how to submit, visit the AAEH Conference website




The Worlds of Violence
9th Pan-European Conference on International Relations
Wednesday 23-Saturday 26 September 2015, Giardini Naxos, Sicily, Italy
Organised by the European International Studies Association and the University of Catania

The organisers are interested in rethinking and interrogating violence as an object and a concept, in light of this proliferation of meanings and problematics across the social and human sciences, but also in parallel with the development of complementary or antagonistic worldviews grounded in discourses on ‘norms’, ‘international society’, ‘social order’, or ‘civilizing process’ (among others). We invite contributions that can speak to the ontological, interdisciplinary, political, and epistemic dimensions and implications of research on violence.
While participants are especially invited to respond to the conference theme, proposals on all aspects of the worlds of international relations will be considered, and accordingly we invite contributions from within all areas of International Studies scholarship (such as, but not only, International Relations, Global Political Economy, Political Theory, policy-oriented research). Moreover, given the rich and innovative debates taking place across the social and human sciences, we welcome sections that draw on cross-disciplinary and collaborative scholarship beyond International Studies.
Reflexive interventions that address how violence and/or violence-based narratives impact on scholarship itself as a social practice, and on academic disciplines as social orders are also welcome.


Proposals should be submitted to paneuroconf2015@gmail.com
The closing date for section proposals is Sunday 12 October 2014.
After the authors of accepted section proposals have been notified, a call for papers and panel proposals will be issued in December 2014.
For more information please see http://www.psa.ac.uk/sites/default/files/The%20Worlds%20of%20Violence%20European%20International%20Studies%20Association%20.pdf


Violence, colonialism and empire

Call for papers deadline 1 December 2014

Proposals, including a  title, institutional affiliation, email address, and  brief description of the proposed paper (up to 500 words), should be submitted by email to Professor Philip Dwyer by 1 December 2014.

The conference will be held from 29 June to 1 July 2015 at the British Academy, London, UK.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • the forceful means employed to impose foreign rule, including legal and extra-legal means used to impose imperial structures
  • forceful contestations of the land, including patterns of violence and war on colonial frontiers
  • interpersonal violence between the coloniser and the colonised
  • the gendered nature of colonial violence in the building of settler colonial spaces and polities
  • the role of violence in maintaining social order in colonial societies
  • the political dynamics of colonial and imperial violence, including ideological and political justifications of violence
  • representations of violence in either the empire or the metropole
  • resistance to the imperial enterprise by the colonised, including violent, anti-colonial struggles in exits from empire
  • the aftermaths and legacies of colonial and imperial violence

The organisers invite proposals from scholars working in all disciplines to apply.




Call for Papers below. Note the imminent deadline of 30 September:

Handa Graduate Conference on Terrorism and Political Violence

 The Future of Terrorism Studies

 4 & 5 December 2014, Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), University of St Andrews, Scotland.

 Deadline for proposals: 30 September 2014

Contact: cstpvgc@st-andrews.ac.uk

The Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence is delighted to invite you to a two day conference in December to explore and discuss the future of terrorism and political violence and the future study of these phenomenon. CSTPV was the first such research centre to be established in Europe. This year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of its foundation. This graduate conference seeks to facilitate dialogue between research students from a variety of disciplines whose work focuses on aspects of terrorism and political violence.

All abstracts (limited to 500 words) on the broad theme of ‘The Future of Terrorism Studies’ will be considered. We particularly welcome submissions on such topics as:

  • The changing nature of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism
  • The death or perseverance of ethno-nationalist terrorism
  • New technologies of terrorism and counter-terrorism
  • The role of history and historiography for the study of political violence
  • Changing discourses on political violence in the media and the arts

Research Postgraduates and PhD candidates are invited to send abstracts of no more than 500 words to cstpvgc@st-andrews.ac.uk by 30 September 2014. Please include name, email, and institutional affiliation.

For more information, visit our conference website: cstpvgradconf.wordpress.com

Information below about a major new European research project:

Print“Funded under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the 3-year, €2.9 million PRIME Project kicked off at the UCL Department of Security and Crime Science in June 2014. Bringing together researchers from six leading European institutions (University College London, Kings College London, University of Warsaw, University of Leiden, Hebrew University Jerusalem, and University of Aarhus), PRIME sets out to improve our understanding of lone actor terrorism and to inform the design of social and physical counter-measures for the prevention of radicalisation, the disruption of terrorist plots, and the mitigation of terrorist attacks carried out by lone extremists. In this endeavour, PRIME adopts an innovative multidisciplinary approach, which combines formal modelling techniques drawn from security engineering with relevant expertise from the ecological, social, behavioural and criminological sciences. The end-product will be a decision-support tool for end-users whose remit is to deal with the lone actor terrorism threat at the local, national or international level.

We are keen to involve end-users and subject matter experts at every stage of the PRIME Project. If you would like to take part in our validation activities or be kept appraised of our findings, please contact the Project Coordinator, Dr Noémie Bouhana, to express your interest (n.bouhana@ucl.ac.uk).”

On August 9, police in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis, shot an 18-year-old unarmed black youth, setting of a spate of riots in the neighborhood. The scenario was all too common, history repeating itself as tragedy in an eerie echo of the riots of the 1960s, and yet modern, an episodic response to the increasing militarization of policing in poor stigmatized minority neighborhoods.

Michael Brown had just graduated high school, and against the odds in his neighborhood was getting ready for college. His mother had worked hard to make sure Michael studied and succeeded in life. His hands were raised in the air when the police shot him, and then while Michael was on the ground and wounded the police officer delivered the fatal blow.

Ferguson is two-thirds black and the police force is, with the exception of three officers, entirely white, a racial disproportion common to those cities that exploded in the 1960s, and in European cities that have burned in the past decade. The other ingredients of a riot-prone city are a white administration and municipal authorities that are impervious to demands of minorities, where, as Stanley Lieberson and Arnold Silverman noted in their prescient 1965 study, “grievances cannot be resolved, or resolved under the existing institutional arrangements . . . such that a disadvantaged segment is unable to obtain recognition of its interests and concerns through normal political channels.” Most riots occur during a period of escalating police violence, often provoked by political candidates who win elections by playing to racial fears—in modern times disguised as wars on crime, drugs, immigration, or terrorism, or some combination of the above.

For stigmatized racial and ethnic minorities, no feature of a racially divided society is a more potent symbol of racial domination or instills the message of subjugation more forcefully than police. When police use violence against stigmatized minorities, especially when police kill minority youth with impunity, it sends the message to a community that their lives are not valued and the state does not represent them. It will not even restrain its own police forces from killing your children.

A community organizer in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, a neighborhood that burst into flames in 2005 after three minority youth were chased by police into an electric grid and abandoned to the death of two of them, vividly captured the motivations of rioting youths: “It was like they were externalizing their internal explosions. Some kids in pain cut themselves. These kids, instead of cutting themselves, set things on fire. It was like getting rid of all this pain inside and throwing it outside.”

Yet, while police violence against residents of poor minority neighborhoods is almost ubiquitous, riots are rare. They erupt only when all other avenues to justice are blocked, when residents feel impotent in the face of ongoing police violence. As the Federal Communications Commissioner Nicholas Johnson noted of the 1968 riots in Washington, DC, “A riot is somebody talking. A riot is a man crying out, ‘Listen to me mister. There’s something I’ve been trying to tell you and you are not listening.’’’

The opening of alternative paths to pursue justice, no matter how limited, makes riots unlikely. President Johnson’s Great Society programs in the late 1960s allowed cities to hire minority youth who cut their teeth on the great race riots as peacekeepers. The youths soon used their newly hewn organizational skills to create local black, Puerto Rican, and Chicano power organizations. By the 1980s they had become community activists, creating an array of community-based organizations and a standard nonviolent repertoire for dealing with police violence that included using the opening of access to the courts for minority plaintiffs. While victims of police abuse seldom win criminal convictions, they can appeal for federal intervention on civil rights grounds and sue in civil courts. Although families and communities want justice, not money, long legal processes exhaust everyone involved: community anger is channeled into the courts and off the streets.

In Ferguson, where police behave like paramilitary units, even such limited measures are unavailable, as Washington Post and Huffington Post reporters, Wesley Lowery and Ryan J. Reilly learned from experience this week after being pushed into a soda machine and glass wall at McDonalds and arrested for “not packing their bags quickly enough.” But settling police violence claims with taxpayer money is not a cost-effective method for preventing riots either. Holding violent police accountable is far more effective, as is shifting the incentive structure and system of rewards and punishment for police. Other forms of police/minority relations are possible. Residents of minority neighborhoods are much more likely to be victims of crime than predators. These communities need police, but they want police to protect them, not treat them as criminals. For police, too, it is safer and more effective to work in a community that trusts them and is willing to give them critical information.

In the 1968 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, more commonly known as the Kerner Commision Report, investigators found that those who had participated in the riots listed police violence as their number one complaint. Now, more than 45 years later, too little has changed.

+ + +

Cathy Lisa Schneider is Associate Professor in the School of International Service at American University. Police Power and Race Riots: Urban Unrest in Paris and New York is available now. Read her author Q&A about the book here.

This post was previously published for the Penn Press Log (http://pennpress.typepad.com/pennpresslog/2014/08/externalizing-internal-explosions.html)


Center on Social Movements Studies
Villa Pagliaiuola 17-19, San Domenico, Firenze
Phone (+39) 0554685700

Seminar Room (First Floor)

Organized by Lorenzo Bosi, Donatella Della Porta and Alice Mattoni

The COSMOS Talks are public discussions on cutting edge contentious politics research from across various theoretical, methodological and disciplinary traditions. They aim to provide feedback on preliminary results of current research projects, future research projects proposals and drafts of forthcoming papers, articles and book chapters. The COSMOS Talks also aim at improving synergies and networking among researchers from the COSMOS community as well as from other universities.
Scholars and researchers interested in discussing their work at one of the slots of COSMOS Talks should send an abstract to Lorenzo Bosi (talks organizer), preferably by the end of September. A program will be then circulated. We ask presenters to send a paper (of no more than 30 pages) to Lorenzo Bosi, no later than a week before the scheduled talk. Each session lasts for two hours. Paper givers are given maximum 20 minutes to introduce their works. Preselected discussants are given about 10 minutes each to give constructive feedback. The floor will then be open to the public. All participants are asked to read the paper in advance.

The COSMOS Talks will take place (preferably) on Wednesdays, 13:30 -15:30.

To be added to the COSMOS Talks listserv e-mail Lorenzo Bosi (Lorenzo.bosi@eui.eu).

Niall Ó Dochartaigh, School of Political Science and Sociology, National University of Ireland Galway. http://niallodoc.wordpress.com
Wikimedia CommonsRebellion or terrorism? Civil war or international conflict? Contentious politics or political violence? The study of political violence has been organised around a number of binary distinctions that help to define disciplinary boundaries and provide the conceptual infrastructure for databases of war and conflict. Intra-state conflict is distinguished from the international, as in Stathis Kalyvas’s definition of civil war as essentially internal (Kalyvas 2006). Terrorism is contrasted with rebellion, revolution, insurgency or guerrilla warfare, most recently in the case of Syria where many commentators insist on distinguishing between terrorists and insurgents: ‘terrorist’ being applied to Islamists but not to rebels who enjoy western support or sympathy. Finally, the violent repertoires of contentious politics (including public protest, riots and street-fighting) are distinguished from organised political violence. The latter is characterised by scholars such as Brubaker and Laitin (1998: 427) and Kalyvas (2006) as a distinctive phenomenon that needs to be analysed in its own right rather than being submerged in the broader study of contentious politics.

One of the reasons why the current escalating violence in the Ukraine is so unpredictable however is precisely because of the softness of the boundaries between those categories of internal and external, terrorism and insurgency, protest and organised violence. It is not only that the boundaries shift but that the struggle by the key parties to impose their favoured definitions and terminology is of direct strategic importance. The typologies are part of the conflict.

Russia, for example, has characterised the takeover of public buildings and the actions of armed combatants in eastern Ukraine as an essentially domestic, indigenous phenomenon within Ukraine in order to legitimise this use of force. Ukraine on the other hand has emphasized that these actions are illegitimate precisely on the basis that they are externally driven and manipulated. Both parties have a direct political interest in whether this is characterised as internal or international. While we might formally classify the confrontation as an internal one until and unless Russian combat units intervene openly and directly in eastern Ukraine, it seems like a very narrow technical distinction given the decisive shaping force exerted by the very presence of those troops on the border.

The question of whether this conflict is a rebellion, insurgency, popular protest or terrorism is similarly bound up with the struggle for political advantage. The fact that both parties seek energetically to label their opponents as terrorists is ample evidence, if more was needed, of just how politically charged the term is. If you can successfully label an armed challenger as ‘terrorist’ it brings significant and immediate advantages. It is hard to see how such an inherently condemnatory term can be analytically deployed without becoming hopelessly entangled in the disputes over the mutually exclusive claims to political legitimacy made by the key parties.

Events in Ukraine call into question too the distinction between protest and violence. Both in the Maidan and in eastern Ukraine there has been a complex and shifting relationship between organised protest, riot and the use of armed force that highlights the intertwined and inter-dependent character of public protest and armed action.

The remarkably swift takeover of Crimea by Russian troops serves as a valuable reminder too that an extraordinarily powerful deployment of force for political ends may involve very few acts of direct violence. As Thomas Schelling pointed out nearly half a century ago, capacity for violence can be used to powerful effect without violence being enacted: “…the power to hurt is most successful when it is kept in reserve… It is latent violence that can influence someone’s choice – violence that can still be withheld or inflicted, or that a victim believes can be withheld or inflicted” (Schelling 1966: 3). What does it mean then to distinguish between peaceful and violent methods when the exertion of power through the demonstration of capacity for devastating violence is ostensibly ‘peaceful’? How can the exertion of power through the threat of massive violence be captured if we measure violence in terms of numbers killed or injured?

I am not arguing here that Ukraine is exceptional. On the contrary, I am arguing that it highlights particularly starkly the weaknesses of the binary distinctions that are deployed to analyse violent conflict everywhere. What to do then? One approach that might help us to problematize these contested categories is to think more systematically about political violence in terms of the intersection between physical force, political legitimacy and territorial control and to investigate the way in which binary distinctions between inside and out, terror and war, protest and violence are intertwined with the struggle to assert political legitimacy and a monopoly of violence within a territory.



Brubaker, Rogers and Laitin, David. 1998. Ethnic and Nationalist Violence. Annual Review of Sociology 24 (1): 423-452.

Kalyvas, Stathis N. 2006. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Schelling, Thomas C. 1966. Arms and Influence. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 105 other followers