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IR4563   Rebels, Terrorists, Militias: The Comparative Analysis of Armed Groups

Academic year(s): 2023-2024

Key information

SCOTCAT credits : 30

ECTS credits : 15

Level : SCQF level 10

Semester: 1

Availability restrictions: Not automatically available to General Degree students

Planned timetable: Tues 10am

This module introduces students to the comparative analysis of armed groups, such as the Taliban and the so-called Islamic State. The first part addresses important conceptual issues, including the differences between rebel groups, terrorist organisations, and militias. The second part then brings together the study of these different types of groups by investigating the organisational challenges that they all face to varying degrees: recruiting and controlling their members, governing civilians under their control, and using violence effectively. The third part focuses on alliance politics both among armed groups and between them and sovereign states. The fourth part analyses different outcomes, asking why some groups remain cohesive while others split into rival organisations, and why some groups succeed whereas others fail. In each tutorial, students apply conceptual and theoretical insights from the lecture by comparing two or more different groups from the same country.

Relationship to other modules

Pre-requisite(s): Before taking this module you must pass IR2006

Learning and teaching methods and delivery

Weekly contact: 1 x 1-hour lecture (x 10 weeks), 1 x 1-hour tutorial (x 10 weeks), 2 consultation hours with Coordinator (x 12 weeks). 2 hours examination feedback in week 1 of following semester.

Scheduled learning hours: 20

Guided independent study hours: 280

Assessment pattern

As used by St Andrews: 3-hour Written Examination = 50%, Coursework = 50%

As defined by QAA
Written examinations : 50%
Practical examinations : 0%
Coursework: 50%

Re-assessment: 3-hour Written Examination = 100%


Module coordinator: Dr H Tamm
Module teaching staff: Dr H Tamm

Intended learning outcomes

  • critically assess how and why journalists and academics use different labels for armed groups
  • recognize that armed groups face organizational challenges that are similar to those any kind of organization faces
  • understand why armed groups form alliances and how those affect their organizational cohesion and level of success
  • develop an ability to systematically compare two organizations
  • apply general conceptual and theoretical insights to specific case studies