Introduction to Comparative Politics
This course is designed to introduce students to comparative political analysis. Comparative politics is premised on the idea that we can better understand, explain, and interpret political processes and outcomes by comparing and contrasting different political systems, either in whole or in part. Over the course of the semester students will learn not only about politics in a select group of countries, but also about some of the major concepts, ideas, and debates in the field of comparative politics.
Our readings are organized around five thematic units. We begin with an overview of the “world system” and investigate the conditions under which states are created, consolidated, and exercise their power. Our first set of readings address the imbricated histories of state formation, capitalism, and colonialism in an effort to make sense of the lasting legacies and uneven impacts that these processes have had on different regions of the world. We then explore the relationship between states and political membership and analyze why and how certain groups are incorporated into and/or excluded from the “imagined community” of the nation. The third unit focuses on the political economy of development. We interrogate various definitions of “development” and evaluate how the economic, cultural, and political processes subsumed under the broader heading of globalization have helped facilitate and/or hindered development across the globe. Our fourth unit investigates the meaning of democracy and the driving forces behind social movements and political change. We consider the challenges of political representation and participation, and evaluate the successes and failures of contemporary social movements for racial and economic justice. We conclude by examining the concept of human rights and ask whether it provides a viable framework for securing enough for everyone in an unequal world.
This class is meant to serve as a foundation for advanced undergraduate study in political science and related social sciences by providing students with the intellectual tools to analyze, compare, evaluate, and develop arguments about complex socio-economic, cultural, and political phenomena around the world.
Borders and Migration
This course offers an introduction to the causes and consequences of international migration and examines the political responses of different national communities to the phenomenon. In the first half we consider why people leave their homes for a different country and analyze the strategies through which states claim and exercise control over a particular territory and attempt to exclude non-citizens by managing mobility. We examine patterns of regular and irregular migration, including economic and undocumented migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers and interrogate the efficacy of border walls and other strategies of containment and control. Students will learn about human displacement caused by wars, natural disasters, and climate change and evaluate state and NGO-led efforts to identify, resettle, and defend displaced populations.
The growing ethnic, racial, religious, and linguistic diversity generated by international migratory flows has spawned fierce debates over national identity, social cohesion, and political stability. In the second half of the course, we investigate how migration transforms both sending and receiving societies and consider how states accommodate (and fail to accommodate) ethnic and religious minorities within their territories. We explore different regimes of immigrant integration, incorporation, and assimilation as well as debates over citizenship, social membership, and the politics of belonging. We conclude by examining the ethics of immigration and the debate over open borders.
Islam and Muslims in the West
In the post-9/11 West, the figure of the Muslim has become central to contentious political conflicts over the meaning of secularism, democracy, citizenship, and national identity. From Donald Trump’s Muslim ban to feminist critiques of the Islamic headscarf, politicians and pundits across the political spectrum have questioned whether Islam is compatible with Western values and ways of life. This class offers a critical survey of contemporary debates on Islam in the West and examines the diversity of lived experiences of Western Muslims in Europe and the United States. Our readings interrogate what it means to be an American or European Muslim in the 21st century and address the role that Islam plays in current political debates about immigration, religious freedom, gender equality, gay rights, free speech, multiculturalism, education, racism, xenophobia, security, radicalization, and terrorism.
Middle East Politics
This course offers an introduction to the politics of the Middle East and North Africa from World War I to the present. Throughout the semester, students will learn about political, economic, social, and cultural developments within and across a number of different countries in the region. Topics covered include colonialism, nationalism, and state formation; political Islam, revolutions, social movements, and the Arab Spring; the Kurdish question; the Syrian conflict and the rise of ISIS; and U.S. involvement in the region. Classes will be supplemented with outside lectures, workshops, and film screenings. No prior knowledge of the Middle East is necessary.
Democracy and Populism in Europe
“A spectre is haunting Europe,” wrote Karl Marx in 1848. For Marx, this spectre was communism but in our own time, new spirits and social forces threaten to undermine the fragile political balance of the European continent. From “Brexit” and the Eurozone crisis, to the electoral victories of far-right, anti-establishment, and populist parties, to the socio-cultural and economic concerns raised by the arrival of more than one million refugees and asylum seekers, and the de-stabilizing effects of a resurgent and belligerent Russia, Europe today is a region characterized by great political uncertainty.
This course offers students an introduction to contemporary issues in European politics. Over the course of the term, students will learn about the political structures, institutions, policy challenges, and domestic debates in a number of European countries including Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Sweden. Topics covered include the question of European identity and the history of European integration, the role of supranational institutions like the European Union, European Central Bank, and NATO in shaping domestic political and economic outcomes, the politics of immigration and immigrant incorporation, varieties of capitalism, transitions from socialism, and the crisis of the Eurozone, “Brexit,” and the rise of populism.