HUWISU | Winter on Campus
Subject Course

Understanding International Conflict: Debates on Identity, Power, and War

This course examines the importance (and challenges) of incorporating social identities as a crucial variable in understanding conflict in International Relations. It combines multidisciplinary theoretical discussions with current empirical cases to assess the significance of social identities in interest formation and power struggles leading to war. Ultimately, the course sheds light on the intersection between identity, power, and war in our globalized, interconnected, yet highly fragmented, world.

Course Period
Jan. 8, 2024 – Jan. 26, 2024 
Social Sciences, Politics & History
Course Levels
Class Size

max. 18 participants

Credits and Certificate

Participants will receive 6 ECTS credit points and a certificate if they attend regularly (at least 80% attendance) and participate actively. Additionally, six weeks after the end of the course a Transcript of Records is issued by Humboldt-Universität.

Application Deadline
Nov. 15, 2023, or when participant quota is reached
Course Fee

What motivates people to fight and die? What constitutes power in society? Why and under what conditions do different groups resort to violence against each other?

This course invites a reflection on these fundamental questions by considering multidisciplinary debates on social identities. 

It familiarizes students with different theoretical discussions on the origins and sources of identities (self, group, society, State, and combinations), their reproduction, maintenance, and challengers; as well as the different understandings of what constitutes power (material, institutional and symbolic/ideational) and its consequences (coercion and/or consensus).

Alongside the theoretical discussions, current empirical cases will be used to critically assess and debate the significance of social identities in interest formation and power struggles leading to conflict.

This course’s objective is to expose students to a heterogeneous discussion of identity, so they can challenge deterministic and essentialist views, and establish its intersection with power relations and war in our times. While it does not privilege an in-depth approach to a single topic, it serves as an entry point, providing crucial building blocks to account not only for the causes of conflict, but also the pillars for peace – in our globalized, interconnected, yet highly fragmented, world.

Course structure
  • You will receive a total of 45 hours (one lesson equals 45 minutes; 11 hours per week)
  • The lessons are held four times a week
  • Lessons will comprise lectures, group work, discussion sessions, excursions


The courses are grouped into different time tracks.
Your course will take place in "Track B".

Monday: 1.30 pm – 3 pm & 3.20 pm – 4.50 pm
Tuesday: 9.00 am – 10.30 am & 11.00 am – 12.30 pm
Wednesday: 9.00 am – 10.30 am & 11.00 am – 12.30 pm
Friday: 1.30 pm – 3 pm & 3.20 pm – 4.05 pm


Cultural activities
HUWISU offers a fine selection of interesting extra-curricular activities and aims to give all participants an unforgettable stay in Berlin. Your program includes excursions, sport activities and social gatherings providing you the opportunity to get to know the city, the university and to meet students from all parts of the world. The costs for these offers are included in the course fees.

Activities and tours we offer regularly: Federal Chancellery, German Parliament, House of Representatives, Topography of Terror, Political Archive, Museum Island, Kreuzberg Tour, Daytrip to Potsdam, Exhibitions…


Language Skills
English B2
Motivation Letter
About one page in English
Student Profile

Undergraduate students of all subjects with an interest in German social sciences, politics, economy, and history.

This course is taught in English, including readings in English. For the understanding of the texts and the discussions in class a language level B2 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) is required.

The minimum age requirement is 18 years.

Dr. Isabella Franchini

Dr. Isabella Franchini is a Lecturer at the Chair of War Studies at the University of Potsdam. She received her PhD with highest distinction from the Department of Political Science of the National University of Singapore and the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. Her research interests include political and international relations theory, international conflict, national identities, Latin America, and Linguistics. She is a passionate teacher, a cosmopolitan person, and an animal lover, currently living in Berlin with her husband and their two cats.

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