Crimes against Humanity (Spr) (L5103B)

30 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

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.

This module provides you with in-depth information on the origins and dynamics of such crimes. You’ll be introduced to a range of psychoanalytical, psychological, sociological and criminological reflections on mass violence, psychological trauma and atrocity.

You will discuss the work of influential social theorists, psychologists, criminologists, psychoanalysts and philosophers. 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)
  • Ernest Becker (Escape from Evil).

In addition to contemplating the driving force of aggression, conflict and mass violence, you’ll look at the psychological trauma experienced by victims. You’ll also consider the role of both internal and external bystanders.

You’ll explore a variety of perspectives, which will be discussed in relation to particular case studies and empirical research.


33%: Lecture
67%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: