Course catalogue

Name224E19 Evolution and Conflict Behaviour: Aggression, Intergroup Violence and Armed Conflict
Language Engelsk
Course levelKandidat
Department Institut for Statskundskab
Related educations
Course code431192U026
TeacherHenrikas Bartusevičius
Course type Tomplads Ordinær Udveksling
FacultyAarhus BSS
Course catalogue id94343

Description of qualifications:

<p>Armed conflicts among states, ethnic groups and ideology-based organisations are commonplace in today&#8217;s world. There has not been a single year void of armed conflict over the last two hundred years, and perhaps for much longer than that. Since 1946, researchers have recorded at least 280 state-based armed conflicts. The toll, according to conservative estimates, amounts to 20 million dead. These numbers exclude victims of terrorist attacks, genocides and mass political executions &#8211; events that often accompany armed conflicts &#8211; as well as victims of poverty, malnutrition and the spread of diseases occurring long after the shooting stops.</p> <p>Given such enormous costs, why are armed conflicts so ubiquitous? Why do rational individuals take part in such a risky and costly action as collective armed violence? This &#8220;war puzzle&#8221; has preoccupied political scientists for decades. Researchers have argued that armed conflict is a consequence of grievances over unmet socioeconomic needs, cultural differences between ethnic groups or an estimation of potential costs and benefits accruing from participation in violence. This course looks at today&#8217;s conflicts from a different perspective: evolutionary theory.</p> <p>Modern armed conflict is a special form of human intergroup or coalitional aggression. Archaeological evidence suggests that coalitional aggression existed among prehistoric hunter-gatherers and was widespread among pre-state agriculturalists. Indeed, studies suggest that pre-historic &#8220;warfare&#8221; was ubiquitous, with the fraction of mortality due to coalitional aggression larger than that of modern societies. Intergroup aggression is also prevalent among historic small-scale societies and even chimpanzees. Such ubiquity of intergroup violence suggests that human coalitional aggression is potentially an evolved adaptation. This implies that an application of an evolutionary thinking to intergroup aggression could generate new insights into the causes and dynamics of modern armed conflicts.</p> <p>This is the primary aim of this course. Specifically, this course aims to help you develop (i) knowledge of evolution in general and evolution of human coalitional aggression in particular, (ii) competences needed for the application of evolutionary analysis to modern forms of human coalitional aggression and (iii) original hypotheses and explanations of modern forms of human coalitional aggression. Accordingly, the course is divided into three main parts.</p> <p><em>Human evolution</em>. This part covers topics that form the basis for the subsequent parts of the course: the theory of evolution by natural selection, evolution of <em>Homo sapiens</em>, the environment of evolutionary adaptedness and the evolved architecture of the human mind. This part of the course mainly draws on evolutionary biology, biological anthropology and evolutionary psychology.</p> <p><em>Evolutionary analysis</em>. The second part of the course covers adaptationism and reverse-engineering framework and aims to help you develop competences and skills needed for an evolutionary analysis of human coalitional aggression (&#8220;How can we design research to test hypotheses on modern armed conflicts derived from evolutionary theories on coalitional aggression?&#8221;; &#8220;What are the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary analyses in explaining contemporary armed conflicts?&#8221;). This part of the course mainly draws on evolutionary psychology and political science.</p> <p><em>Coalitional aggression</em>. The third part focuses on contexts in which coalitional aggression occurs. It aims to help you develop original hypotheses and explanations of modern forms of human coalitional aggression (&#8220;What motivates people to support or take part in armed conflicts, and how can evolutionary theories on intergroup aggression help account for this?&#8221;). We will examine warfare in modern societies, coalitional aggression among chimpanzees, warfare among ethnographic societies and warfare in prehistory. This part of the course draws on primatology, ethnology, archeology and political science.</p> As can be seen above, this course is highly interdisciplinary. The students should note that the course is as much about evolution (and evolutionary analysis) as it is about armed conflict. Therefore, the course (particularly, the first part) involves significant engagement with the biological literature (although, there are no prerequisites regarding knowledge of the biology-related topics to enter this course, and the seminar starts from the very basics). Also, it should be emphasised that the primary aims of this course are not simply to help the students develop knowledge on the above-indicated topics (or particular cases of armed conflicts, e.g. the Syrian civil war), but to develop skills/competences in the application of theories, concepts and analytical tools in empirical and theoretical analyses of modern forms of human coalitional aggression. The course should therefore prepare the participants to be able to use the developed skills and competences to study any topic within political science from an evolutionary point of view.


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