Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 20 Hours (10 x 2 hours)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,000 word book review  25%
Semester Assessment 1 x 4,000 word essay  50%
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,000 word case study report  25%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,000 word book reivew, if book reivew element failed  25%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 4,000 word essay, if essay element failed  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,000 word case study report, if report element failed  25%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1) identify central knowledge-related issues in the study of international politics,
2) critically discuss theoretical literatures on different aspects of knowledge and politics,
3) analyse the role of knowledge-related issues in the formulation and implementation of peacebuilding policies in different arenas of peacebuilding,
5) identify, describe and account for the role of power in processes of knowledge production,
6) identify, describe and account for dominant and subordinate actors in conflict-related knowledge production,
7) demonstrate grounded empirical knowledge of a range of specific case studies,
8) develop appropriate research methods to study knowledge-related issues in international (peacebuilding) politics.

Brief description

'The reality of politics is a politics with "realities"', wrote Friedbert W. Rüb in 2006 to summarise the underlying assumptions of the 'politology of knowledge', a relatively young field of academic inquiry. Academics that in the widest sense can be subsumed under this heading share the assumption that all politically relevant knowledge is socially constructed, and that this knowledge is object and resource of political power struggles. Taking this as a starting point, the module zooms in on the processes, logics and outcomes of knowledge production in the specific field of international peacebuilding.
In international intervention politics, the dynamics of knowledge production seem even more convoluted and opaque than in politics in general: international decision-makers and peacebuilders have to establish a roughly shared understanding of the nature of conflict and the social realities in the societies concerned, but struggle with lacks of information or difficulties to de-code cultural meanings. Struggles emerge with regard to the establishment of recognised knowledge as a basis for legitimate political action. Often, experts, authorities and other powerful voices gain key positions in this process by successfully claiming the prerogative of interpretation; however, at times subordinate voices find ways to resist dominant interpretations. This module asks how politically relevant knowledge in the context of conflict and peacebuilding is produced, and examines how this process of knowledge production can be assessed analytically.

To this end, the module discusses different knowledge-related theories from sociology and political science - including discourse analysis, concepts of silences in public discourse (policy and organisational myths), concepts of expert knowledge, approaches to knowledge production and processing in organisations, incorporated knowledge (habitus), and subordinate/informal knowledge (hidden transcripts). These approaches will be used to analyse empirical examples from the field of international peacebuilding interventions. The aim is to raise awareness of knowledge-related problems in analysing political issues and of the specific challenges to knowledge production in international politics regarding violent conflict and peacebuilding.


1. Introduction: knowledge and politics
2. Arenas of knowledge production in international peacebuilding

Part I: Discourse and knowledge

3. Theories of knowledge and discourse: Foucaultdian and competing views
4. Discourse analysis in practice: assessing an example of conflict- and intervention-related discourse
5. Silences in public discourse: organisational and policy myths in peacebuiding
6. Critique of public discourse: hidden transcripts in peacebuilding

Part II: Trading, performing and embodying knowledge

7. Experts and knowledge markets: the role of the International Crisis Group in conflict-related knowledge production
8. Enacting messages: politicians' troop visits and the theatrical performance of interventions
9. Incorporated knowledge: field, capital and habitus in analysing international interventions in the Balkans

10. Conclusions


The module adds to the department/s provision in the fields of International Relations, Security Studies, and Critical International Politics. By focussing on basic questions of knowledge and its social construction, it enables students to develop a critical understanding of the underlying foundations of politics and to push their theoretical and empirical analyses beyond the boundaries of mainstream approaches. In order to sensitise students for knowledge-related issues, the module introduces them to a range of knowledge-focussed approaches, which are discussed with reference to the example of international peacebuilding. The approaches include: discourse theory and analysis, policy myths, public and hidden transcripts, knowledge markets, theatrical social performance, and incorporated knowledge. The module's aim is to provide students with a basic understanding of the following question: In how far does a reflection of knowledge-related issues enhance our critical understanding of international politics?

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N.A.
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to assert themselves to advantage. They will understand the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to the best advantage. They will learn to be clear and direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Seminars will be run in groups where oral discussion and presentations will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication. Fellow students will be encouraged to question the paper-giver to critique their approach or to suggest areas for the development of the chosen topic; in turn each will discuss the contributions and ideas of the other.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context of assistance from both the convenor and the fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their essay and case study report. The need to prepare for seminars and to meet an essay deadline will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time and resources well.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as BIDS and OCLC).
Personal Development and Career planning The seminar discussions in particular will help to develop students' verbal and presentation skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay and a case study report, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing through to completion will contribute towards their portfolio of transferable skills
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; the submission of an essay will require that the student develops independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The need to research and prepare seminar contributions will also enable the student to develop independent project skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; engage with theory; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems.
Research skills The submission of a book review, an essay and a case study report will reflect the independent research skills of the student. The report will require some (directed) independent research on a case study of the student’s choice. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills. Research preparation for seminars will also enable the student to develop independent project skills.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: • Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module • Ability to critically evaluate competing perspectives • Demonstrate subject specific research techniques • Apply a range of methodologies to complex strategic problems
Team work Seminars will consist in part of small-group discussion where students will be obliged to discuss as a group the core issues related to seminar topics. Such classroom debates and discussions are a vital component of the module.


This module is at CQFW Level 7