SIS 609.01


FRIDAY 2:10 - 4:50 PM

Dr Michael Salla
Office: SIS Building Room 310
Phone: (202) 885 1497

Office Hours:
Tuesday 7-8 pm
Wednesday 2:00 - 3:00 pm
or by appointment

Course Description

This course explores a range of issues concerning how conflict resolution is conceptualized, and which subsequently impact on the practice of conflict resolution. The main aim of the course is to assist students in appreciating the significance of these issues in order to make the practice of conflict resolution more effective. Students will be expected to perform a collaborative group project whereby they observe and report on an organization, either governmental or non-governmental, working in the broad area of conflict resolution. In the final weeks of the course, students will design class activities that illustrates the organization's work through a class activity.

A further aim of the course is to encourage students to understand conflict resolution as an evolving discipline that requires an appreciation of the underlying assumptions and practices that underscore conflict in the first instance. In this sense, the practitioner of conflict resolution must be prepared to intervene in conflict while simultaneously undergoing a critical questioning of the choice, rationale and appropriateness of the conflict models and frameworks adopted, and how she/he may be part of broader societal and international processes that contribute to the conflict. The course will explore the frontiers of conflict resolution in terms of its transformational potential.

The course is divided into three parts. 1. Evolution of Conflict Resolution examines some of the key conceptual breakthroughs in the recent history of conflict resolution. 2. Methodological issues examines broad areas of debate over the scope and utility of conflict resolution. This covers questions concerning how 'gender' & 'culture' impact on the conceptualization of conflict and its resolution. 3. Conflict resolution in practice attempts to develop some of the basic skills required for effective negotiation and third party intervention in the dominant sources of post-cold war conflict.

Course Requirements and Evaluation

1. Class Participation - 25%

Your participation will be graded on the basis of three criteria: clarity; content; and context. Clarity refers to whether your comments are clear, coherent and comprehensible. Are you making yourself understood? Content refers to the substance of your remarks. Are your comments thoughtful, well-informed and to the point? Context refers to how well you integrate your comments with issues pertinent to the course or to ongoing class discussion. Do you build upon what others have said either by agreeing or disagreeing with them? Are you relating discussion to issues raised in the readings?

Class discussion comes more easily for some people than for others. By temperament or habit, some are 'talkers' while others are 'listeners'. Learn to be both. An old Ghanian proverb says that 'we have two ears and one mouth, learn to use them in proportion!' If you are a 'talker', learn to give enough space for others to speak. If a 'listener', try to participate more in discussions even if this means asking questions. Intelligent questioning is just as important as thoughtful commenting!

You are to complete five reflective papers of between two to three pages that examine readings covered in each two/three week period of the course. Papers are due: February 11; February 25; March 10; March 31; April 21. The reflective papers should not be a detailed summary of the readings but should instead be a personal response in terms of how the readings have (or have not!) contributed to your own understanding of the peace paradigm under discussion. Your paper needs to show some evidence that you have read most if not all of the set readings.

Note that reflective papers will be graded. Papers scoring less than a B+ can be resubmitted for a maximum of B+. You need to complete all five reflective papers. Regular attendance, submission of reflective papers, participation in class discussions will form the basis of your mark for this component of the course.

2. Essay - 30%

A list of questions will be handed out to the class dealing with particular issues in conflict resolution. Each paper should critically question the literature in terms of diverging approaches and perspectives taken by scholars in addressing the question. (Note: suggestions for essay writing appear at the end of this syllabus.) Papers must be between 12 to 15 double spaced pages, fully referenced & including a bibliography, and handed in on April 7.

Note: You are expected to submit a two page outline of your planned paper on March 24. The first page of the outline should explicitly state your main argument together with a description of the approach you are taking in the paper. The second page should be a bibliography of books/articles that you will use for the development of your argument.

3. Collaborative Project - 20%

You will be required to collaborate in groups of two in exploring the conflict resolution efforts of an organization, governmental or non-governmental, based in the Washington DC area. Your group needs to distribute a typed two-three page summary of the work of the mandate of the organization, the activities it carries out to fulfill this mandate, and your analysis of the viability of the organization in its conflict resolution efforts.

Your group needs to design a class activity which is both informative and illustrative of the organization's mandate and activities. The aim is to provide some exposure for your peers to the skills utilized by the organization under investigation, and to also open up for discussion some of the issues that emerge in the viability of such practices. A list of peace and conflict resolution organizations in the Washington DC area can be found on my homepage under the category of Organizations and Resources in the Washington Area.

Groups will start their presentations and class activities - total time approximately 15 mins - over the weeks beginning March 24. Your group will be assigned a collective mark for the originality and creativity of the class activity, and for the analysis contained in the report.

4. Research Proposal - 25%

You will be expected to work either as individuals or in groups of two in preparing a research proposal of between 12-15 pages for a project aimed at resolving an international conflict. Your proposal should contain, synopsis, aims, methodology, organization of any project events, timetable, resources needed, and budget. You will be given ten minute to present your proposal on April 28. Submission of the Proposal is May 5. You should hand out a two page outline of your proposal to the rest of the class.

Required Texts

Reading Packet is available in the Campus Store


Jan 28 Introduction - Understanding Conflict Resolution & the Sources of Conflict

I. The Evolving Discipline of Conflict Resolution

Feb 4 Cooperative vs Competitive Negotiating Styles

Further Reading  Feb 11 Principled Negotiation & Problem Solving Further Reading Feb 11 First Reflective Paper is Due

Feb 18 Human Needs Theory & Social Justice

Further Reading Feb 25 The Structural Dynamics of Conflict & Ripeness Further Reading Feb 25 Second Reflective Paper is Due

March 3 Conflict Transformation: Empathy & Empowerment

March 10 Conflict Transformation & Spirituality Further Reading
• Ronna Herman, “You are Shape-Shifting into a New Reality,”
• Wistancia Stone, “What on Earth is Happening to Our bodies?” (Note: these articles can be downloaded from the WWW).

March 10 Third Reflective Paper is Due

March 12 - 19 Spring Break

II. Methodological issues in conflict Analysis & resolution

March 24 Culture

Further Reading


March 24 Group Presentations Begin

March 31 Gender

Further Reading

March 31 Fourth Reflective Paper is Due


April 7 Ethnicity & Group Rights: Resolving Intra-state Conflicts

Further Reading


April 14 Mediation & Problem Solving

Video: Case Study: Community Justice Mediation (followed by roleplay)

Further Reading

April 21 Track Two Diplomacy Further Reading April 21 Fifth Reflective Paper is Due

April 28 Class Presentations

May 5 Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Reconciliation

Further Reading

May 5 Submission of Presentations


The essence of good essay writing is to be found in the quality of your argument and the level of analysis. The essay must go beyond description and narrative. It is not enough just to tell a story, nor is it enough just to produce a large number of facts related to the topic of your essay, nor is it enough to merely recount what the authors of the textbooks have to say about the topic. The essay should represent your considered perspective and your informed thoughts on the problem you have been asked to write about. Of course, you cannot begin to construct a considered perspective or develop informed thoughts unless you first have a firm understanding of the subject matter. So the first step is reading intensively and acquiring a grasp of both the factual material and the arguments, debates, and differences between those scholars who have contributed to the literature on the subject. Having done that, you are then in a position to analyse the issue and develop your own argument.

An argument, in its basic sense, is a statement, supported by adequate empirical evidence or logical inference, which addresses the question and presents a point of view or a perspective on that question. The quality of the argument will be measured by how persuasive it is, and its persuasiveness will be a function of the skill with which you have constructed that argument.

Once you have chosen your essay topic (or perhaps even as part of the process of choosing your topic) it is helpful for you to begin by thinking about what the question means and what you are being asked to do. Eventually this will become 'second nature' to you, but you might think about approaching the task in this way. Here is an example of how you might analyse a question in Peace and Conflict Resolution.

'Does the notion of 'structural violence' lead to a welcome extension to our understanding of peace or does it introduce unwelcome ambiguities?

First, you should identify the broad topic or subject of the question (this may seem obvious but it is a good starting point). In the example given, the broadly defined topic is - 'peace'.

Second, you need to identify the more specific focus of the question - in this case, the focus is the relationship between 'structural violence' and 'peace'.

Third, you need to think carefully about any directions you are given in the question. For example, here you are being asked whether structural violence leads 'to a welcome extension' or introduces 'unwelcome ambiguities' to our understanding of peace. Your answer might be yes to the first part of the question (in which case you would have to say why), and no to the second part (and again, you would have to say why).

Remember that at all times you will need to support your answer with an argument, rather than simply making assertions. The more complex your argument, provided it is clearly outlined, the more likely you will exhibit the necessary analytical sophistication and creativity necessary for a high grade.