Courses Taught at Boston College

International Relations of the Middle East (POLI4593)

Media coverage of the Middle East increases by the day, but in-depth knowledge of the region and its politics remain in short supply. Why has the Middle East seemingly experienced so much conflict? How do ethnic and religious identities, domestic politics, and the balance of power between nations help explain state behavior in the region? What explains variation in the political situation of Middle Eastern states since the beginning of the Arab Spring? This course will address the international relations of the Middle East from World War I to today.

 

The course will focus on the most powerful states in the region—Egypt, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey—in addition to foreign powers that have historically played a significant role in the Middle East, such as the United States and Great Britain. As international relations theory suggests, these states have collectively driven the structure and politics of the modern Middle East. They are the key actors in the past and present wars, negotiations, alliances, revolutions, movements, interventions, and peace treaties that are the focus of the course.

 

In addition to its topical focus, this course could rightly be called a methods course. Students in the class will learn how to improve their analytical thinking, conduct high quality research, and present an effective argument, both orally and in writing. They will learn the potential and pitfalls of theories of international relations through constant analysis and engagement with the modern history of the Middle East. By the conclusion of the course, students will emerge not only with a far richer understanding of the region and its politics, but also as more sophisticated consumers, analysts, and producers of knowledge.

Terrorism, Insurgency, and Political Violence (POLI3527)

Terrorism and insurgency dominate the headlines today, but how much do we really know about these forms of political violence? Are they inventions from the modern era, or do they have a deeper past? What drives an individual to join an armed group? Why do some groups choose to employ violence, while others do not? Are terrorism and insurgency effective political tactics? Just how significant is the threat of terrorism? This course will address these and other questions, while introducing students to relevant analytical frameworks, theories, and cases concerning terrorism, insurgency, and related forms of political violence.

 

In addition to its topical focus, this course could rightly be called a methods course. Students in the class will learn how to improve their analytical thinking, conduct high quality research, and present an effective argument, both orally and in writing. They will learn the potential and pitfalls of theories of political violence through constant analysis and engagement with the history of terrorism and insurgency. By the conclusion of the course, students will emerge not only with a far richer understanding of these issues, but also as more sophisticated consumers, analysts, and producers of knowledge.

Introduction to International Studies (INTL2500)

This course provides an introduction to international studies. It is designed for students who intend to pursue further courses in the major and assumes no prior coursework in related disciplines. This course lays the groundwork for understanding the ways in which international influences shape the world's economies, polities, societies, and cultures, as well as the consequences of international interactions for global conflict and cooperation.

 

Topics covered in the course include the international causes and effects of war and peace, nuclear proliferation, globalization, trade, international institutions, immigration, women’s rights, humanitarian intervention, the environment, terrorism, and U.S. foreign policy. Students will learn to analyze the key mechanisms and generalizable characteristics of these issues using abstract paradigms and theories, while they will also grapple with the unique aspects of each topic by analyzing historical accounts of significant international events.

 

In addition to its topical focus, this course could rightly be called a methods course. Students in the class will learn how to improve their analytical thinking, conduct high quality research, and present an effective argument, both orally and in writing. By the conclusion of the course, students will emerge not only with a far richer understanding of international studies, but also as more sophisticated consumers, analysts, and producers of knowledge.

International Studies Senior Seminar (INTL4941)

The first goal of this course is to have you write the best paper you have ever written. An extended process of research and writing is not only the best way to learn about a topic in depth, but it is also the best way to hone the skills that are the sign of an advanced scholar. We will build those skills in class each week, which will provide a strong foundation for you to craft your paper through multiple drafts over the course of the semester. The class will teach you how to think and how to write; you will decide what to think and what to write.

 

The second goal of this course is for you to develop a sophisticated understanding of three of the most significant and complex topics in international studies today: terrorism and political violence, U.S. foreign policy, and the international relations of the Middle East. Each week, you will read and discuss books, articles, and ideas on these topics, as well as the research methods that can best help you to analyze them.

 

This course will be conducted in a different fashion from most classes you have taken in International Studies and related subfields. First, instead of starting the class with me lecturing and you listening, every class will start with you offering your own ideas and insights to key substantive and methodological questions. One of the central objectives of a senior seminar is to have you develop your own unique and powerful ideas; the best way to achieve this is to lead with your thoughts, rather than you getting tracked by what I or others have previously said. Second, everything in this class will be hands on. After our discussion of your initial ideas, I will lead a lecture and discussion on the topics and methods for the week. We will then analyze examples of others employing these methods from the readings we prepared for class, we will conduct various exercises to practice them, and then we will creatively employ them ourselves on your chosen paper topic. Each of these methods—from asking good questions, to defining concepts, to engaging competing arguments, to creating theories, to making predictions, to selecting, analyzing, and comparing cases, to weighing evidence, making strong conclusions, and identifying implications for scholarship and policy—will be practiced and employed amidst our study of terrorism and political violence, U.S. foreign policy, and the international relations of the Middle East. This will allow you to get regular feedback on all aspects of your research project and build something substantial in every class.

Research Methods and National Movements (POLI1202)

This is a hands-on course designed to provide students with training and experience in serious political science research. The course is the latest outgrowth of the Project on National Movements and Political Violence. Existing studies and data sets lack adequate information on the strength, strategies, and successes and failures of national movements and their constituent groups. Finding and analyzing this information from primary and secondary sources lays the groundwork for new scholarly books and articles, the creation of original datasets, and an improvement of our understanding of the causes and effects of violence, national movements, and collective struggles during periods of state formation. This course will teach the history and skills necessary for students to make a significant contribution to a shared research project and to their own intellectual development.

Politics and Society in the Middle East (POLI7804)

This graduate seminar provides a comparative survey of the Middle East and North Africa, with emphasis on the international relations of the region. After a broad historical introduction, it explores the contemporary patterns of war and peace, authority and governance, the persistence of authoritarianism and the quest for democracy, ethnicity and identity politics, natural resources and economic inequality, and the role of religion in politics. A special focus in the latter part of the seminar will be on the causes, dynamics, and consequences of the recent revolutionary and protest movements in the region.