Sociology

Crimes against Humanity (Aut)

Module code: L5103A
Level 6
30 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

Why are human beings capable of extreme forms of cruelty and violence? The module takes an interdisciplinary approach to reflect on how, in times of conflict, it is possible for previously law abiding people to commit the most atrocious acts of cruelty and violence.

Crimes against humanity have only recently caught the attention of criminologists and the module provides you with in-depth information on the origins and dynamics of such crimes.

During the module, you will discuss the work of influential social theorists, psychologists, criminologists, psychoanalysts and philosophers and particular attention will be focused on the work of Erich Fromm (Escape from Freedom), Hannah Arendt (Eichmann in Jerusalem), Zygmunt Bauman (Modernity and the Holocaust) and Ernest Becker (Escape from Evil).

In addition to contemplating the driving force of aggression, conflict and mass violence, you also address the psychological trauma experienced by victims as well as considering the role of both internal and external bystanders.

The overall aim of this module is to introduce you to a range of psychoanalytical, psychological, sociological and criminological reflections on mass violence, psychological trauma and atrocity. 

Module learning outcomes

  • Systematically understand the main fundamental insights produced by philosophy and social theory into the phenomena of crimes against humanity.
  • Develop and sustain theoretical and conceptual arguments about crimes against humanity and reconciliation
  • Review and make independent judgements about the strengths and weaknesses of different perspectives, critically evaluating their uncertainties and ambiguities.
  • Explain and critically evaluate connections between different theoretical approaches
  • Assimilate and evaluate evidence from case studies of mass atrocity in order to comment on current research in relation to these.
  • Critically evaluate literature on crimes against humanity to make judgments about how these can be reconciled or restituted.