• Offered by Department of Pacific Affairs
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject Asian Studies
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Anthony Regan
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2023
    See Future Offerings

Violent conflicts over natural resources are an enduring feature of social and political life at different scales and levels of organisation. The inter-state and geopolitical dimensions of conflicts over resources such as oil and water loom large in the popular imaginary. However, resource conflicts in the global South are predominantly fought internally, within the boundaries of the nation-state. Indeed, according to the United Nations, at least 40 percent of internal conflicts globally are related to natural resources. It is these sorts of conflicts that are the focus of this course.

A striking conundrum lies at the heart of the inquiry: rather than  contributing to peace and prosperity, empirical research demonstrates that natural resource wealth increases the likelihood that a country will experience internal armed conflict. How and why is this the case? What about the role of resource scarcity as driver of violent conflict in developing-country contexts? What sort of policy responses and interventions are available? How might natural resource wealth contribute to peace rather than to conflict? What is the role of political and economic contestation in these struggles over land and natural resources?

The course will be structured around a series of case studies drawn from Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. A political ecology framework will be applied to the analysis of how land and different types of resource complexes  - including mining, oil and gas, forestry, and oil palm - can be implicated in violent conflict. Alongside these case studies, students will undertake their own analysis of a natural resource conflict in which they will be attentive to the role of different actors - especially the state, communities and corporations - and to questions of scale, power and identity.

The course will have a very strong research-led approach to teaching and learning. In addition to core expertise housed in SSGM, it draws upon expertise from other parts of the Coral Bell School and the Crawford School. In addition to the involvement of some of these scholars in class room teaching, the assessment for the course will enable students to engage with them in innovative ways.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Demonstrate an awareness of the diversity and complexity of perspectives on natural resource exploitation in developing-country settings;
  2. Describe and critique key theoretical perspectives on natural resource-related conflicts in developing-country settings;
  3. Describe and critique key policy approaches to managing and mitigating natural resource conflicts;
  4. Apply some of the methodological and conceptual tools of social sciences, especially political ecology, to the analysis of natural resource conflicts;
  5. Critically reflect upon how their conceptions and understandings of natural resource conflict have changed and evolved.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Participation (10%) (10) [LO null]
  2. Reflective writing (30%) (30) [LO null]
  3. Group project/conflict analysis (30%) (30) [LO null]
  4. Essay (30%) (30) [LO null]

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1x two hour lecture and 1x one hour tutorial per week

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course, you must have successfully completed 24 units of university courses.

Prescribed Texts

Peluso, N.L. and Watts, M. (eds.). 2001. Violent Environments. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

Lujala, P. and S.A. Rustad.  (eds).  2012. High-Value Natural Resources and Peacebuilding, London: Earthscan.

Hall, D, Hirsch, P. and Li, T. 2011. Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia. National University of Singapore Press, Singapore.

Ballentine, K. and Sherman, J. Eds. 2003. The Political Economy of Armed Conflict: Beyond Greed and Grievance. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner.

Preliminary Reading

Allen, M.G. Melanesia’s Violent Environments: towards a political ecology of conflict in the western Pacific. 2013. Geoforum 44:152-161.
Auty, R.M. 1993. Sustaining Development in Mineral Economies: the Resource-Curse Thesis. Routledge, London.
Ballard, C. and Banks, G.  2003. Resource Wars: the anthropology of mining. Annual Review of Anthropology 32:287-313.
Ballentine, K. and Sherman, J. Eds. 2003. The Political Economy of Armed Conflict: Beyond Greed and Grievance. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner.
Banks, G. 2008. Understanding ‘resource conflicts’ in Papua New Guinea. Asia Pacific Viewpoint 49(1):23-34.
Bannon, I. & Collier, P, (eds.) 2003, Natural resources and violent conflict: Options and actions, The World Bank, Washington.
Bruch C, Jensen D, Nakayama M, Unruh J, Gruby R, Wolfarth R. 2008. Post-Conflict Peace Building and Natural Resources. Yearbook of International Environmental Law 19(1): 58-96. DOI: 10.1093/yiel/19.1.58 
Collier, P. and Hoeffler, A. 2004. Greed and Grievance in Civil War. Oxford Economic Papers, 56:563-595.
Cramer, C.  2002. Homo Economicus Goes to War: Methodological Individualism, Rational Choice and the Political Economy of War. World Development, 30(11):1845-1864.
Elmhirst, R. 2001. Resource struggles and the politics of place in North Lampung, Indonesia. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 22(3):284-306.
Filer, C. 1997. Compensation, Rent and Power in Papua New Guinea. In S. Toft (ed.), Compensation for Resource Development in Papua New Guinea. The Australian National University, Canberra, pp. 157-189.
Hall, D, Hirsch, P. and Li, T. Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia. National University of Singapore Press, Singapore.
Homer-Dixon, T.F. 1999. Environment, Scarcity and Violence. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Koczberski, G. and Curry, G.N. 2004. Divided communities and contested landscapes: Mobility, development and shifting identities in migrant destination sites in Papua New Guinea. Asia Pacific Viewpoint 45(3):357-371.
Korf, B. 2011. Resources, violence and the telluric geographies of small-wars. Progress in Human Geography 35(6):733-756.
Le Billion, P. 2001. The political ecology of war: natural resources and armed conflicts. Political Geography 20:561-584.
Le Billon, P 2008, ‘Resources for peace? Managing revenues from extractive industries in post-conflict environments’, PERI Working Papers, no.167, viewed on 31 October 2013, <http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1138&context=peri_workingpapers
Li, T. M. 2000. Articulating Indigenous Identity in Indonesia: Resource Politics and the Tribal Slot. Comparative Studies in Society and History 42(1):149-179.
Lujala, P. and S.A. Rustad.  (eds).  2012. High-Value Natural Resources and Peacebuilding, London: Earthscan.
McCarthy, J.F. 2007. The Demonstration Effect: Natural Resources, Ethnonationalism and the Aceh Conflict. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography (28) 314-333.
McKenna, K 2014, 'Business and Peace: Lessons from Bougainville', Business, Peace and Sustainable Development (BPSD), vol. 2014, no. 2, pp. 28-55.
McKenna, K & Braithwaite, J 2012, 'Large Corporations and Obstacles to peace in Papua'. In P King, J Elmslie & C Webb-Gannon (eds.), Comprehending West Papua, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney, Sydney.
Oetzel, J, Westermann-Behaylo, M, Koerber, C, Fort, T.L, & Rivera, J 2009, ‘Business and peace: Sketching the terrain’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol.89, no.4, pp. 351-373.
Peluso, N.L. and Watts, M. (eds.). 2001b. Violent Environments. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
Ross, M.L. 2001. Timber Booms and Institutional Breakdown in Southeast Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ross, M. L. 2004. What Do We Know About Natural Resources and Civil War? Journal of Peace Research 41(3):337-356.
Rustad, S. A, & Binningsbø, H. M 2012, ‘A price worth fighting for? Natural resources and conflict recurrence’, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 49, no.4, pp. 531-546.
The Natural Resource Charter 2010, Natural Resource Charter, viewed 30 October 2013, <http://naturalresourcecharter.org/sites/default/files/NRC%20Eng_2011.pdf>
UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) 2009, ‘From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment’. United Nations Environment Programme, viewed 31 October 2013, <http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/pcdmb_policy_01.pdf>
Watts, M. 2004. Resource Curse? Governmentality, oil and power in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. Geopolitics 9:1:50-80.
Watts, M and Peet, R. 2004. Liberating Political Ecology. In R. Peet and M. Watts (eds), Liberation Ecologies. Second Edition. Routledge, New York, pp. 3-47.




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2023 $4320
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2023 $5820
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Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
6478 24 Jul 2023 31 Jul 2023 31 Aug 2023 27 Oct 2023 In Person View

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