Course objectives

There are more than 50 armed conflicts in the world today. Instructor
Juan Tellez
343 Gambrell Hall
Office hours: Sign up here.

Tuesdays, Thursdays
August 22–December 06, 2019
02:50-04:05 PM

Persistent, low-level violence is even more widespread, preventing people from living full and free lives.

In this class, you’ll learn about why violence plagues some places more than others, how strategy shape the way armed actors use violence, and what consequences violence has for civilians caught in the cross-fire.

We will draw from political science, economics, history, journalism, ethnography, fiction, documentaries, and in-class simulations to develop an understanding of political violence as a theoretical concept, and how people around the world experience it.

You should expect to do a lot of reading in this class.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Identify structural and historical drivers of violence
  2. Conceptualize armed conflict as a strategic process involving states, civilians, and armed groups
  3. Competently discuss three prominent cases of violence in the contemporary era
  4. Understand challenges faced by policy aimed at building peace and order

Course materials

All of the readings in this class are free.

Articles, book chapters, and other materials

Most of our readings will come from journal articles, book chapters, and videos.

For articles, you will have to look up and download the article on your own, either through Google Scholar or the library. I’ll make book chapters available through this website or on the course Blackboard site.

Warning on Violent/Disturbing Content

This course will require spending a significant amount of time covering violent and/or disturbing material, which can be difficult to read about or watch. I will do my best to flag especially graphic content but ask that you please consider this in deciding whether to take the course.


You should listen to podcasts, although I won’t grade you on it. Here are some of my favorite podcasts that frequently discuss conflict and political violence:

Course policies

Communicating with me

You should come to office hours. Confusion or questions about the reading are more easily cleared up in person than over email. If you have questions about your grades (see end of syllabus on grade appeals), or need to discuss absences, this should happen in person. You will get better help from me in person than over email. You can sign up for office hours here.

I also understand that some people may commute or have other difficulties coming to office hours. If you must email, please:

  1. Be curteous (include subject line, “Dear Prof. Tellez,”) and to the point
  2. I do not need to know you are missing a non-exam class
  3. Do not email to ask what you missed during an absence (it’s on the syllabus!)
  4. Do not ask for extensions on assignments. The answer is no
  5. Do not ask for extra credit opportunities. There are none

Honor Code

Be nice. Don’t cheat. The Carolinian Creed is in effect in this class and all others at the University. I will treat violations seriously and urge all students to become familiar with its terms set out here. If you have doubts, it is your responsibility to ask about the Creed’s application.

Cell Phones and Laptops

Counseling & Psychiatry Services

Life at USC can be complicated and challenging. You might feel overwhelmed, experience anxiety or depression, or struggle with relationships or family responsibilities. Counseling and Psychiatry Services provides confidential support for students who are struggling with mental health and emotional challenges. Please do not hesitate to contact CPS for assistance—getting help is a smart and good thing to do.

Assignments and grades

You can find descriptions for all the assignments on the assignments page.

Assignment Points Percent
Pop quizzes (6 to 20) 300 30.0%
Self-assessment (3) 100 10.0%
Midterm exam 200 20.0%
Final exam 400 40.0%

Grade Range Grade Range
A 93–100% C 73–76%
A− 90–92% C− 70–72%
B+ 87–89% D+ 67–69%
B 83–86% D 63–66%
B− 80–82% D− 60–62%
C+ 77–79% F < 60%

If you think you received the wrong grade, you will need to submit a memo (hard-copy, in-person) giving specific detail about why the grade should be changed. I will then re-grade the entire assignment.

Your grade might go up, go down, or stay the same, so try to be honest with yourself about whether a grade appeal is reasonable. Please note that I will only accept grade appeals up to two weeks after the posting of a grade.

War Propaganda

Soviet propaganda

Once you have read this entire syllabus and the assignments page, please email me some propaganda from any war or rebel group by September 1st (2 bonus points).


This course site is built using Hugo and Blogdown. I use the ath-tufte-hugo theme by Andrew Heiss. I also borrow a few teaching ideas from his syllabus.

In terms of content, I drew inspiration from syllabus by Laia Balcells, Chris Blattman, Victor Asal, and a few others.