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From September to December, Amsterdam University College will host a special seminar series titled "Making sense of mass violence" featuring leading Dutch sociologist Professor Abram De Swaan. Through an initial lecture and three follow-up seminars, the series will deal with various facets of mass violence by looking at the themes of the 'perpetrator', the 'victim' and the 'bystander'.

Mass violence seminar

Originally scheduled to take place in March and April 2020, the seminar was forced to be postponed due to the outbreak of the pandemic. With no restrictions on activities in higher education currently in place, Dr. Erica Pasini and Dr. Maxim Kupovykh (lecturers at AUC) have re-organised the series for 2022. During the four seminars, Professor Abram de Swaan will allow participants to better understand how social groups come into conflict and how such conflict can translate into violence. 

From low-intensity conflict to mass violence

As recently discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, low-intensity violent disorders and social unrest are on the rise across the globe. Most often, social conflicts between groups are the drivers of this low-intensity violence and unrest. While a peaceful resolution of such conflicts can be achieved at times, the escalation into mass violence cannot always be prevented. While rare compared to low-intensity conflict, when it does occur, mass violence is unpredictable and has devastating effects on the victims, the bystanders and the perpetrators.

Understanding the actors and mechanisms in mass violence

In order to design strategies aimed at preventing conflict and addressing the realities of mass violence after a conflict has ended, it is important to thoroughly understand the mechanisms and the actors behind mass violence. Throughout this seminar series, we will look for answers to the following questions:

  • How do social conflicts become violent?
  • How does generalised violence escalate into mass violence?

In particular, we will focus on dissecting the ways and reasons by which different people become 'perpetrators’, ‘victims’ and ‘bystanders’.

Dates, location, time and event descriptions

Each event page will contain more up-to-date information on the topic. All events will take place in the Common Room from 18.00-21.00.

13 September 2022: Social groups in conflict

  • Seminar theme: Social groups in conflict
  • Format: Introductory lecture followed by a debate
  • Event details

11 October 2022: Perpetrators

  • Seminar theme: Who is ‘the perpetrator’? Who becomes a perpetrator and how/ why?
  • Format: Multimedia clips and readings leading to an academic lecture
  • Event details

15 November 2022: Victims

  • Seminar theme: Who becomes a victim and how
  • Format: Multimedia clips chosen by Dr. Maxim Kupovykh followed by an academic lecture
  • Event details

13 December 2022: Bystanders

  • Seminar theme: Who becomes a bystander?
  • Format: Chosen clips and readings followed by an academic lecture
  • Event details

View the recordings of the lectures

Recording of "Social Groups in Conflict" from 13 September 2022
Recording of "Social Groups in Conflict" from 13 September 2022


For any questions related to the lecture series, please send an email to Dr. Erica Pasini or Dr. Maxim Kupovykh.