States, Rebels, and Warlords

This course examines violent conflict in modern societies. It explores the role of the state as well as non-state actors in causing, escalating, and mitigating violence. We will address major questions underlying national and international security, such as: When does conflict turn violent? Under what conditions do victims become perpetrators, and perpetrators become victims? What are the causes of terrorism, and what is the state’s role in terrorist activity? Is violence the only way to bring about major political change, or can nonviolent methods work? Are private military contractors changing the way we fight? The goal of this course is to develop critical awareness of and the analytical skills necessary to evaluate the major security challenges facing countries around the world.

Politics of Modern South Asia

This course examines the politics and society of South Asian states, with a special focus on India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. South Asia is a region of remarkable diversity. We will use the tools of social scientific analysis to study the most salient problems facing South Asian societies, such as security, development, and democracy. This course has two main goals. The first is to develop substantial regional knowledge. Students will learn to apply social science reasoning to tackle the major puzzles and policy issues facing South Asia. The second goal of the course is to use the knowledge of the region to shed light on the big and enduring questions of political inquiry: What is the relationship between development and democracy? What is the role of history in shaping political outcomes? Is nonviolent resistance more effective than violence? In addressing these questions, students will engage closely with classic and contemporary social scientific texts on South Asia.

Politics of Modern Warfare

Organized violence is an inescapable reality of life for many around the world. From World War II to the War on Terror, most people alive today have experienced armed conflict in one way or another. This course examines why and how we fight. It investigates both the timeless and the distinctive features of modern warfare. We will consider how, over the past century, we have transformed warfare, and how warfare has transformed us.

Soldiers, Diplomats, and Spies: The Art of Politics by Other Means

This course explores the politics behind violence and the violence behind politics. It examines the building blocks of statecraft – the behind-the-scenes institutions and bureaucrats who collectively wield more power than we often like to recognize in a democratic society. These are the offices and officers who work the international political machinery: the soldiers, the diplomats, and the spies. Their work, which is often not meant to be observed, reshapes our world every day. In this course, we will unearth some these institutions and functionaries, and shed light on what they do and why, in order to gain a better understanding of how the international political arena actually works.

They Might Be Giants: The Global Rise of BRICS

The BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – are a new breed of economic giants. They are now the main source of economic growth in the world, and are projected soon to dominate the world economy as did Europe and the United States before them. While the BRICS countries are deemed similar when it comes to their economic success, they also exhibit remarkable political, social, and economic diversity. This course investigates the BRICS countries’ achievements and failures. We will tackle major puzzles about international relations and development: How does the BRICS countries’ rise influence the existing international system? How do we know whether a country is “rising”? What underlies economic development? What is the relationship between development, democracy, and security? Do the BRICS countries represent a new recipe for development in the twenty-first century? If so, what is this recipe?