Teaching

Graduate - Undergraduate

 

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Teaching evaluations summary for undergraduate classes, 2007-2010 (see below for graduate classes and more recent undergraduate classes)

 

Graduate classes

Debates on International Peace Interventions: Constructivists, Critical Theorists, Post-Structuralists, Feminists, and their Critics - Graduate seminar, Political Science Department, GSAS, Columbia University. Spring 2013

International peace interventions have multiplied since the end of the Cold War, with United Nations operations, non-governmental agencies, diplomatic missions, and regional organizations becoming increasingly numerous and influential. Similarly, in international relations, the body of literature on international peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, development, humanitarian aid, and democratization has also grown. This literature tackles several major questions: Why do so many international interventions fail to bring about peace? Why do others succeed? What are the most useful frameworks for analyzing international interventions?

In international relations literature, the dominant approach – which is both positivist and rationalist – overwhelmingly emphasizes that vested interests and material constraints determine peace intervention strategies and account for their successes and failures. In contrast, a relatively new international relations approach focuses on the influence of beliefs, cultures, discourse, frames, habitus, identity, ideology, norms, representations, symbols, and worldviews on international peace interventions. Although the authors who work with these concepts belong to a diverse set of theoretical schools, they all reject the dominant positivist epistemology and/or the dominant rational choice methodology.

This seminar uses the literature on recent peace interventions as a lens for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of constructivist, critical, post-structuralist, and feminist approaches to international relations. The course has two goals. First, to develop participants’ knowledge of the most salient international peace interventions in recent years, and the reasons for their successes or failures. Second, to provide participants with the intellectual tools to understand, evaluate, analyze, and possibly employ non-positivist and non-rational choice approaches to international relations.

Throughout the course, participants will acquire a broad understanding of the concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates surrounding international interventions and non-positivist and non-rational choice approaches to international relations. The course will also introduce participants to new issues in the field, such as the practice turn in the social sciences and the micro-foundations of peace settlements. Readings for this course are drawn from a variety of disciplines (political science, anthropology, sociology, and others), and they include both theoretical works and case studies of recent interventions.

The course is open to all graduate students and has no pre-requisites. Familiarity with international relations theories (notably through the IR field survey course) is helpful but not required. The first part of the course will ensure that all participants have the bases necessary to perform well this semester

Syllabus    Evaluations 2013 (summary)       Evaluations 2013 (comments) 

 

Civil wars and peace settlements - Graduate seminar, SIPA, Columbia University. Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Spring 2014

In recent years, civil wars have been five times more frequent, and more than five times deadlier, than international wars. How can we understand violence in civil wars? Why do nearly half of the countries that emerge from war lapse back into violence after five years? Why do most international interventions fail to bring peace to affected populations? This research seminar focuses on recent conflict and post-conflict situations as background against which to understand the distinct dynamics of violence and peace settlements in civil wars.

The goal of the course is two-fold. First, to provide participants with background knowledge of the most salient civil conflicts and peace processes around the world. Second, and most importantly, to provide participants with the intellectual tools to understand and analyze civil wars and peace settlements. Throughout the course, participants will acquire a broad understanding of the concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates in the study of civil war and peace implementation. The course will also introduce participants to new issues in the field, such as the micro-foundations of peace settlements and the challenges of international interventions.

Readings for this course are drawn from a variety of disciplines (political science, anthropology, and others), theories (rational choice, constructivist), and methodologies (qualitative and quantitative). They include a few theoretical works and many case studies of recent conflicts. Guest speakers will be invited for most of the class sessions, to exchange with students and explain how the specific issues under consideration play out in the "real" world.

Syllabus         Evaluations 2007    Evaluations 2008

 

Civil Wars and Peace Settlements in Africa - Graduate Research Seminar, Yale University. Spring 2007

Why does violent conflict persist in post-independence Africa? Why do nearly half of the countries that emerge from war lapse back into violence after five years? Why do most international interventions fail to bring peace to affected populations? This research seminar focuses on recent conflict and post-conflict situations in Africa as background against which to understand the distinct dynamics of violence and peace settlement in civil wars. Throughout the course, the students will acquire a broad understanding of the concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates in the study of civil war and peace implementation. The course will also introduce students to new issues in the field, such as the micro-foundations of peace settlements and the challenges of international interventions. Finally, by the end of the semester, the students should have an in-depth understanding of specific cases, notably the D.R. Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Syllabus       Evaluations summary         Evaluations

 

Undergraduate classes

Civil Wars and International Interventions in Africa - Undergraduate Lecture Class, Barnard & Columbia Colleges, Columbia University. Fall 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2013

Why does violent conflict persist in post-independence Africa? Why do nearly half of the countries that emerge from war lapse back into violence after five years? Why do most international interventions fail to bring peace to affected populations? This class focuses on recent conflict and post-conflict situations in Africa as background against which to understand the distinct dynamics of violence and international interventions in civil wars.

The goal of the course is three-fold. First, to provide participants with the intellectual tools to understand and analyze civil wars and international interventions. Throughout the course, the participants will acquire a broad knowledge of the concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates in the study of civil war, emergency aid, peacekeeping, and peace building. The course will also introduce participants to new issues in the field, such as the micro-foundations of peace settlements. Second, the course will provide students with an in-depth understanding of the most salient civil conflicts and peace processes in recent African history, notably the D.R. Congo, Rwanda, and Sudan. Third, the course will develop students’ research, and analytical, and writing skills through assignments and exams.

Readings for this course are drawn from a variety of disciplines (political science, anthropology, and others), approaches (rational choice, constructivist), and methodologies (qualitative and quantitative). They include both theoretical works and case studies of recent conflicts. Classes will consist both of lectures and discussion. Guest speakers will be invited for several class sessions, to exchange with students and explain how the specific issues under consideration play out in the “real” world.

Syllabus    Evaluations 2008-2010

 

Senior Research Seminar in International Relations - Undergraduate Seminar, Barnard College, Columbia University. Fall 2007 - Spring 2008, Fall 2008 - Spring 2009

This seminar will coach and support students throughout the design, research, and writing for the senior thesis, the capstone of academic work at Barnard. Students will learn how to design a creative, theoretically-informed, and doable research project; how to find and use primary sources; how to critically assess primary material and scholarly sources; how to craft a clear and persuasive argument; and how to write and structure a long research paper.

The class is structured around regular meetings, either as a class or individually with the professor. During these meetings, students will learn critical skills for their research project, get constructive feedback on their on-going work, discuss the challenges encountered and find strategies to overcome these problems. The seminar aims to create a research community for advanced undergraduates, where students can find the support needed to successfully complete their thesis.

Syllabus    Evaluations 2007-2010

 

Aid, Violence, and Politics in Africa - Undergraduate Colloquium, Barnard College, Columbia University. Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2013, Fall 2013

International emergency aid often takes place in violent contexts. Beyond the claim that humanitarian aid is and should be neutral, what exactly are the relationships between aid, politics, and violence? What are the political and military impacts of humanitarian and development assistance? Aid is aimed at healing suffering, but it can also fuel violence or be an instrument of war. Should humanitarian aid promote the imperatives of conflict resolution and democratization? If so, does it compromise the humanitarian ideals? Does aid contribute to perpetuating subtle forms of domination?

This research seminar adopts a critical, social science approach to humanitarian and development assistance (it is not a class on how to design and implement aid programs, but rather a class on how to think about aid). It focuses on aid in Africa as a background against which to understand the political implications of aid in complex emergency situations. It has a majority African focus, but it includes some non-African cases for comparative purposes, to elucidate the important theories on the subject. Readings include both highly theoretical works and case studies. Guest speakers will be invited for several class sessions, to exchange with students and explain how the debates studied in class play out in the "real" world.

The course is structured as follows: first, we complete some background readings on aid and politics; second, we look at the relationships between aid and violence; and third, at the relationship between aid and peace. We study how emergency aid can unintentionally fuel war, how it can contribute to peace building, and the debates and dilemmas involved in both cases. To conclude, we review the most radical criticisms against humanitarian aid.

Throughout the course, the students will acquire a broad understanding of the concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates in the study of development and humanitarian aid. The course will also introduce students to new issues in the field, such as the securitization of emergency aid and the interplay between aid and micro-local politics. In addition, the class discussions and written assignments will help students develop their research and analysis skills as well as their ability to understand and criticize causal arguments. Finally, by the end of the semester, the students should have an in-depth understanding of specific cases, notably Sudan, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Syllabus    Evaluations 2007-2010   Evaluations 2013

 

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