Peace from Below

7.5 credits

Syllabus, Master's level, 2FK059

A revised version of the syllabus is available.
Education cycle
Second cycle
Main field(s) of study and in-depth level
Peace and Conflict Studies A1N
Grading system
Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
Finalised by
The Department Board, 27 October 2022
Responsible department
Department of Peace and Conflict Research

Entry requirements

Fulfilment of the requirements for a Bachelor's degree, from an internationally recognised university. Proficiency in English equivalent to the Swedish upper secondary course English 6.

Learning outcomes

After the course, students should be able to:

  • Identify and critically discuss the central dilemmas that appear when international actors support peace- and state-building initiatives in post-civil war countries.
  • Trace how local elites are able to govern without formal institutions.
  • Identify the conditions under which informal modes of governance can have a positive respectively negative effect on post-war security.
  • Gain a clear understanding of how local groups and communities may perceive and respond to international peace- and state-building initiatives.
  • Independently write an assignment within a given time frame.


How do local actors - such as governing elites, local communities, ethnic minorities, ex-combatants and other war-affected groups - perceive and react to international interventions to build peace and state institutions in the aftermath of war? This course seeks to address this question. During the last decades the international community has invested considerable time and energy in assisting conflict-ridden countries in making the difficult transition from civil war to peace. The stated objective of such interventions - often referred to as peace- and state-building initiatives - is generally to (re)construct formal state institutions and foster collective identities and norms based on democratic and inclusive ideals. International actors thereby hope to prevent the outbreak of new violence. Recent experiences have, however, shown that such interventions seldom achieve their stated objectives. Not only do peace- and state-building initiatives often generate façade institutions - whereby much power continues to be concentrated in informal networks - many local communities perceive the former as foreign and oppressive interventions that marginalise their political and economic influence.

The aim of the course is to provide an alternative perspective on contemporary peace- and state-building processes, where the experiences and actions of local actors and groups are put in focus. The course will, more specifically, address the following questions: Why is it so difficult to construct formal, functioning state institutions in the aftermath of civil wars? How do local elites govern without institutions? Do informal modes of governance sow the seeds of new violence, or can they also be used to further peace? How do local groups and communities view and respond to international peace- and state-building initiatives?

The course is carried out through lectures and seminars where the students discuss and critically assess the course literature. The acquired knowledge, as well as the ability to integrate knowledge and skills and independently formulate and solve problems, is accounted for a in final academic paper.


Instruction/teaching is given in the form of lectures and various seminars.


Examination and final grading is based on student performance in two respects:

  • A final course memo in the form of a written academic paper
  • Active participation during seminars and lectures

Grades: Pass with distinction (VG), Pass (G), Fail (U). Two retake opportunities are offered every year the course is given.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.