Department of Political Science


Governing Divided Societies

Course Code


Course Tutor

Dr Sherrill Stroschein (Department of Political Science) and Dr Melanie Garson (Department of Political Science)


One 3,000 word essay

Credit Value


About this course

This course addresses options in the design of governing institutions for societies that are divided along lines of ethnicity, religion, language, or culture. It will cover both states with historic minorities and states that have experienced waves of immigration. The course will address issues of citizenship and membership in a community, as well as notions of group versus individual rights. 

It will also cover options for various democratic designs, including institutional systems and electoral structures intended to minimise conflict between identity groups. In addition, it will examine successful and unsuccessful attempts to move from civil conflict to institutionalised politics. Case studies will be introduced as examples throughout the course.

By the end of this course, students will be able to critically evaluate the successes and failures in divided societies throughout the globe. They will be able to produce informed answers to the question of how some governance structures can preserve stability in divided societies, and how other governance structures can worsen political relations between identity groups. With this background, students will be able to assess both academic and policy arguments regarding governing arrangements for divided societies.