The Micro-Dynamics of Violence: A Violence Studies Oxford Mini-Conference

A Violence Studies Oxford Mini-Conference: 18 -19 October, The University of Oxford.

Key Note Speakers: Professor Richard English (Queen's University, Belfast)  and Professor Stathis Kalyvas (University of Oxford)


Wars, conflicts, and genocides, are not indivisible events. Rather, they are the aggregate of many distinct acts of violence, each with its own causes and contexts. At Violence Studies Oxford, it is our contention that to best understand the aggregate of mass violence, we should first examine these micro-dynamics.

Examining violence as a separate phenomenon to war allows the researcher to ascertain how and why violence happens, the elements which contain or constrain it, and the factors which determine its nature and intensity. A micro-level or act-centric focus reveals the many different kinds of violence that occur within the aggregated phenomena named above: from cold-blooded assassinations, to personal vengeance, to the symbolic destruction of property. This approach also reveals the subtleties that question aggregate-derived assumptions about intent and responsibility.

The micro-dynamics of violence can also nuance our understanding of the nature of violent practitioners. The organisations that are party to conflict are the sum of their individual, human parts; whether they be cohesive and aligned, or disparate and disconnected. Groups or armies can evolve, change tactics, make mistakes, experience dissention, split, decline, disappear, or transition into the political sphere, and all of this is reflected in their violence. Similar differences emerge depending on whether their members volunteered, were agreeably enlisted, or were forcibly recruited. By examining the violence perpetrated by such organisations on the micro-scale, we can show how individual motives interact with organisational imperatives, and offer the chance to question narratives which make sense on the large scale, but on the small, may start to break down.

Call for Papers:

Taking place in October 2018, the Violence Studies Workshop invites papers from scholars across all different disciplines and subject matters. Here we will present and discuss our works in progress, and in doing so share and benefit from the alternative perspectives and methodological approaches of our various disciplines. From this meeting of minds, we aim to produce a publication, ideally a special issue of a journal article, that will present the benefits of studying violence at a micro level.

Suggested panels include:

  • Talking to perpetrators and victims? The role of oral testimony in the study of violence
  • Can guerrilla violence be ethical?
  • Reflections on transitional justice and Post-conflict resolution.
  • Religion as a shaping factor in the perpetration of violence
  • Understanding atrocity
  • The role of ideology in conflict
  • Gender and identity-based violence
  • The portrayal of violence in the arts
  • State sponsored violence
  • Understanding gang violence
  • Quantitative and qualitative approaches to the study of violence

Panel suggestions are also warmly invited.


Please submit a short biography and a 250-500-word abstract to by 1 July 2018.


Funding is available from TORCH to facilitate reasonable transport and accommodation costs of speakers, so please indicate what costs your home institution is unable to cover.

And, funding has been made available to cover the transport and accommodation costs of an early career researcher or PhD student who is presenting on a topic related to Irish Politics by the Political Studies Association (PSA) Irish Politics specialist group, as well as donations towards the transport costs of two PhD students who are hoping to attend the conference without presenting. 

Violence Studies Oxford