CCHU9026 Humanities
Cultures of Violence: Making Sense of the Human Fighting Instinct

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]

Course Description

This course tackles violence as a fundamental aspect of human nature as seen in war, combat sports and criminal gangs. Human violence has been codified into combat philosophies and fighting systems since the beginning of civilization, and is the driving force in modern armies as well as organized crime syndicates. Through an interdisciplinary, critical analysis of conflict and, other forms of organized violence students are led to reflect on the evolutionary foundations, ethical values, and pervasive social functions that underlie fighting cultures. Some of the questions this course attempts to answer include: Why do humans fight? Why are males, rather than females, predominantly involved in violent acts? How do different social groups justify violence? How can the fighting instinct be controlled? Is today’s world a more or less peaceful place? If so, why?

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate awareness of the significance of violence and combat in human history and society.
  2. Describe and explain the relationship between mind and body central to the fighting instinct in different cultures.
  3. Critically discuss the ethics of aggression and defence in different cultures and eras.
  4. Discuss the relationship between gender and violence.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 22
Tutorials 12
Fieldwork / Visits 6
Reading / Self-study 40
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 20
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 20
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Individual essay 40
Group project 25
In-class quizzes 15
Tutorial participation 20

Required Reading

  • Mailer, N. (1948). The naked and the dead. New York: Rinehart.

Recommended Reading

  • Gat, A. (2006). War in human civilization. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press
  • Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature. London: Penguin.

Recommended Website

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor U. Ansaldo
School of Humanities (Linguistics), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2872
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor U. Ansaldo
School of Humanities (Linguistics), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2872