PSTD xxxx

Introduction to Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution

 Course Description: This course explores major thinkers and themes within the field of peace studies and conflict resolution by focusing on philosophical and religious foundations of 20th century peace and justice movements. This course further examines peace and conflict through an interdisciplinary lens and on personal, local, and international levels. Please remember: PSTD xxxx is not a survey of public policy, but rather an exploration into the meanings of peace and conflict as part of the human experience.



Course Goals:

During this course, students will:

  1. Develop a knowledge and understanding of relevant traditions, teachings, practices, and figures involved with peace studies and conflict resolution;
  2. Explore historical events that demonstrate various approaches to peace and conflict resolution;
  3. Engage modern writers to understand contemporary thought and application of traditions and methods peace in the context of conflict resolution;

Learning Goals:

At the conclusion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify major teachings, figures, and methods of peace and conflict resolution;
  2. Recognize methods of peace activism and conflict resolution at work in current events;
  3. Reflect critically on the interrelationship of world religions, peace studies, and conflict resolution;
  4. Articulate the difficulties inherent in peacefully resolving contemporary conflict;
  5. Detect misinterpretations and/or misapplications of methods of conflict resolution in contemporary events.


Instructional Methods:

This course will consist of a combination of class discussion, group work, lecture, and film clips that draw upon class readings and materials prepared by students.


Required Texts:

Readings marked with an ** on the course schedule are located on Blackboard under their respective module tab. The following required texts should be purchased from  the GW bookstore:


  • Daniel Smith-Christopher, Subverting Hatred: Nonviolence in Religious Traditions, 10th edition
  • Mohandas Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha)
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Calming the Fearful Mind
  • Albert Einstein, Ideas & Opinions
  • Leo Tolstoy, Last Steps
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., Testament of Hope



  1. Discussion Participation (15%)

Because this course fulfills the GPAC oral and written communication requirement, your participation in class discussions will be graded. Total discussion participation will be calculated on a 10-point scale (see RUBRICS in the COURSE PACK on Blackboard). Your final grade will be an average of every participation grade you accumulate over the number of class days held (x/28). For those of you who are on the quieter side: aim to make at least one, thoughtful comment during each discussion. Remember: quality trumps quantity. Talking a lot is not necessarily the same as contributing constructively.

NOTE: Chatting amongst yourselves while I am speaking or while a classmate is speaking is rude and unproductive discussion time. If I have to stop class to speak to you, this will influence your participation grade (there is such a thing as “negative participation” so be aware). Playing on your phones, etc. is also grounds for a lower participation grade.


  1. Homework (18%)

Homework (HW) for specified classes will be completed for respective modules on Blackboard and is due by the time class starts (i.e., 3:45pm/11:10am); NOT DURING CLASS. The purpose of homework at the beginning of the semesters is to make sure everyone understands basic concepts from our reading material. The purpose of homework during the last third of the semester is to prepare you for discussion. The more prepared everyone is for discussion, the better our class discussions will be. Please see the COURSE PACKET on Blackboard for homework instructions and grading rubrics. Please see syllabus section on Late Policies for information on late homeworks.

NOTE: I will drop the lowest homework grade for students who complete every assignment (homework and Journal) on time (i.e., no assignments are late or missed).

WARNING: There is a time stamp on everything submitted to Blackboard. If I notice that assignments are being submitted DURING class, I will suspend computer privileges for the entire semester.


  1. Reading Journals (20%)

Instead of writing a paper, students will write Journals on all primary source readings excluding background readings during the first third of the semester. Entries should be 400-500 words (no longer than 550 words) in 12-pont serif font. If you would like to handwrite your Journal: roughly two pages, double spaced (1.5 page single spaced). Journals are graded according to criteria that assess the entry’s readability, analytical quality, completeness, length, and content.

With the exception of the first journal entry, I will collect Journals three times over the course of the semester. Be sure to keep up with your Journal writing in the meantime as you will be asked to express the contents of your Journal in class. Review the prompts and at least make an outline while you are reading. This makes it easier to write for the collection days. Bring your Journals (entries or outlines) to class with you for reference during discussions. Think of it this way: you have already thought about the material AND written a comment about it. That means, in a discussion all you have to do is look at the paper and there’s your class participation!

NOTE: Journal are not summaries of the readings but are analytical, critical, and constructive responses to the readings.

Please see the COURSE PACK for further information on journal specifics. Here is a quick overview:

  • Journals will span readings from the first two thirds of the course. You will see “(Journal #)” along with the readings on which you will write.
  • I will post Journal questions on BB for each Journal. (See COURSE PACK for further details.)
  • With the exception of Journal 1, Journals will be collected in groups (see Course Schedule for dates). You may either post the Journals as you write them in BB, post all your entries on the collection day, or handwrite your entries and turn these in on collection day.

NOTE: I will drop the lowest journal grade for students who complete every assignment (homework and Journal) on time (i.e., no assignments are late or missed).


  1. Evaluation Paper (12%)

Students will write one 4-6 page paper (see Course Schedule below for due date) that evaluates material covered during the first portion of the semester. Further instructions for the paper will be posted on Blackboard under PAPER a minimum of two weeks prior to the paper’s due date.


  1. Final Exam (35%)

Students will complete one final 2-hour take home exam on Blackboard. The due date is TBD based on the final exam time as scheduled by GWU. The exam will be based on a case study of your choosing (“Introduction to Negotiation and Conflict Management” or “Introduction to Interfaith Conflict Resolution”) and will consist of 20-25 multiple choice questions, plus one short essay (you may chose from given options). The purpose of this exam is to demonstrate knowledge and mastery of material that deals with peacebuilding and conflict resolution. For detailed instructions on the exam see FINAL EXAM in BB where I will post more information later in the semester.


Extra Credit Opportunity +5%

Students may elect to write one 5-7 page paper for extra credit. Extra credit will be applied to the Attendance/Participation grade. See the EC tab on Blackboard for more details. The EC paper is due the last day of class.

* * * * *




Readings designated with ** are located on Blackboard.

[This course schedule is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor.]


Week 1: Introduction

Tuesday: Introduction to Course & Syllabus

Thursday: What is Peace & Nonviolence?

READ: **Webel, “Introduction: toward a philosophy and metapsychology of peace”; **Johansen, “Nonviolence: more than the absence of violence”


Week 2:

Tuesday: Hinduism Intro

READ: Subverting Hatred, chapter 4; Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance: #8 (sections I &II), #68, #124


Thursday: Gandhi & Satyagraha I

READ: Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance: #1, #2, #5, #6, #7, #11, #26

DUE: Journal 1

Week 3:

Tuesday: Gandhi & Satyagraha II

READ: Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance: #37, #47; #126; #141, 142, 143, #182 , #152, #157; **excerpt from Gandhi’s Way

(Journal 2)

Thursday: Buddhism Intro

READ: Subverting Hatred, chapter 2 ; **excerpts from Engaged Buddhist Reader


Week 4:

Tuesday: Thich Nhat Hahn & Living Mindfully

READ: Thich Nhat Hahn, Calming the Fearful Mind: Chapters 3, 4, 5 (all)

(Journal 3)


Thursday: The Dalai Lama & Universal Responsibility

READ: **The Dalai Lama, select messages on World Peace; **The Dalai Lama, Five Point Peace Plan; **Tibetan Conflict

OPTIONAL: **Tibet-China Timeline, **Tibet Background

(Journal 4)

DUE: Journal collection, Entries 2-4.

Week 5:

Tuesday: Judaism: Intro

READ: Subverting Hatred, chapter 9; **Waskow, “Swords and Ploughshares as Tools of Tikkun Olam”


Thursday: Elie Wiesel & Torah Study

READ: **Wiesel, Nobel Lecture; **Wiesel, “The Sacrifice of Isaac” from Messengers of Peace

(Journal 5)

Week 6:

Tuesday: Einstein, Pacifism, & Disarmament

Einstein, Ideas and Opinions: (from Part II): “The Disarmament Conference of 1932,” “The Question of Disarmament,” “The Pacifist Problem,” “Active Pacifism,” “The War is Won But the Peace is Not,” “Atomic War or Peace,” “On the Abolition of the Threat of War”; **Sharp, Making the Abolition of War a Realistic Goal

(Journal 6)

Thursday: No Class. Instructor @ Conference

Week 7:

Tuesday: Christianity: Intro

READ: Subverting Hatred, chapter 10; **New Testament, “Sermon on the Mount”; Tolstoy, The Last Steps: “Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer,”


Thursday: Tolstoy & Non-Resistance to Evil

READ: Tolstoy, The Last Steps: “From The Kingdom of God is Within You,” “Letter on Non-Resistance to Ernest Howard,” “From The Law of Love and the Law of Violence

(Journal 7)

Week 8:

Tuesday: MLK & Civil Rights in America

READ: King, Testament of Hope, Chapters: 1, 10, 11, 46

(Journal 8)

DUE: Journal collection, entries 5-8.


Thursday: Islam: Intro

READ: Subverting Hatred, chapter 7; **Abu-Nimer, “An Islamic Model of Conflict Resolution: Principles and Challenges”


 Week 9:

Tuesday: Badshah Khan & Jihad

READ: **Kurtz, “Abdul Gaffar Khan’s Nonviolent Jihad”; **Johansen, “Radical Islam and Nonviolence”; **excerpt from Nonviolent Solider of Islam

(Journal 9)


Thursday: Muslim Women & Peacemaking

READ: **Kadayifci-Orellana and Sharify-Funk, “Muslim Women Peacemakers as Agents of Change”; **”Underground Woman: Sakena Yacoobi & The Afgahn Institute of Learning,” from Peacemakers in Action; **Dekha Ibrahim, “Transforming Our Woundness for Peace”

(Journal 10)

Week 10:

Tuesday: American Civil Religion: Intro

READ: **Bellah, “Civil Religion in America”; **Albright, “The Eyes of All People are Upon Us”


Thursday: Alice Paul & Woman Suffrage

READ: **Dodd, “Parades, Pickets, and Prison,” sections IV, V, and Conclusion; **Graham, “Woodrow Wilson, Alice Paul, and the Woman Suffrage Movement”

(Journal 11)

DUE: Journal collection, entries 9-11.

Week 11:

Tuesday: Evaluation Essay Due (by start of class)

In Class: Game Day

Thursday: Religion, Peace, & International Affairs I

READ: **Fox, “Religion as an Overlooked Element of International Relations”; **Albright, “Faith and Diplomacy”


Week 12:

Tuesday: Religion, Peace, & International Affairs II

READ: **Smock, Religious Contributions to Peacemaking (all)


 Thursday: Terrorism I:

READ: **Smock, “Building Interreligious Trust in a Time of Fear”; **Cronin, “When to Talk to Terrorists”

DUE: HW 10


Week 13:

Tuesday: Terrorism II

READ: **Osama Bin Laden, “Truce Offer to the Americans”; **Osama Bin Laden, “Why We Are Fighting You”; **”What We’re Fighting For: A Letter from America”; **USIP, “Islamic Perspectives on Peace and Violence”

DUE: HW 11

Thursday: Terrorism III

READ: **Sorenson, “Nonviolent Resistance and Culture” (Skip sections on Abdul Khan, pp. 452-8: feel free to read them if you would like); **Holmer, “Countering Violent Extremism”; **Onuoha, “Why Do Youth Join Boko Haram?”

DUE: HW 12


Week 14:

Tuesday: Casualties of Conflict: Gender & Peacebuilding

READ: **USIP, “Gender, Conflict, and Peacebuilding,” pp5-30.; **Leymah Gbowee, “Child Soldiers, Child Wives”; **Ferstman, “Criminalizing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by Peacekeepers”

Optional Reading: **UN Security Council Resolution 1325; **UN Security Council Resolution 1325–annotated version

 DUE: HW 13

Thursday: Thanksgiving Break; No Class

 Week 15:

Tuesday: Conclusions

DUE: EC papers; Journal Rewrites

FINAL EXAM: Take home exam. Further instructions to come. Dates TBD.