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Comparative and Regional Studies | SIS



Marianne Menius
Program Coordinator
SIS 335B


Required Core Courses

SIS 672: Theories of Comparative and International Studies 

Unlike the dominant tradition which divides comparative and international politics into separate areas of inquiry, this course bridges these two fields. Includes the rise of the modern state and its relation to historical capitalism and the nation; interactions between the state and the market; democratization and civil society; social movements; and global culture. Usually offered every fall.

SIS 619: Global Political Economy

This course is concerned with the scope of political economy. The focus is on the origins of the modern global political economy and its institutional structure. It examines contemporary issues in political economy, using the division of labor as an organizing concept, and explores the prospects for global restructuring at the turn of the century.

ECON 603: Introduction to Economic Theory

An introduction to the major analytical tools of micro and macro economics, including models of employment, inflation, economic growth and development, international trade, the derivation of supply and demand, the operation of firms under perfect and imperfect competition, and the role of government in society.

SIS 619: International Economics

This course examines comparative advantage and neo-classical trade theory, contemporary trade theories, balance of payments, accounting, exchange rates, and open economy macroeconomic and economic development.

Research Methodology

SIS 600: International Affairs Statistics and Methods (Required)

Introduction to research design and research methods with particular focus on quantitative measurement, statistical analysis, and computer use for international relations research. 

SIS 619: Political Risk Analysis

Political risk analysis techniques allow practitioners to gauge the political conditions that would be beneficial or harmful to investment and other activities. This methodology course approaches to political risk analysis and applications.

SIS 680: Qualitative Methods and Methodology

This course examines three leading qualitative approaches to the production of knowledge about world politics: comparative case studies, participant observation, and the analysis of social networks. It considers theoretical and application issues, as well as reading and discussing exemplary work in each of these different approaches. The course provides students with a "toolkit" for the analysis of questions and issues not amenable to quantification. 

Regional Courses: Africa

SIS 619: Conflict in Africa

This course is a historical and analytical overview of conflict in Africa. The course begins with conflict in pre-colonial Africa and the advent of colonialism. The bulk of the course is concerned with an exploration of theories regarding the causes of conflict in Africa, ranging from the economic and social impact of colonialism, political culture, ethnic divisions, greed and grievance, etc. Recent major conflicts in Africa are analyzed with respect to these theories. Finally, possibilities for peace in Africa are addressed.  

SIS 676: Political Economy of Africa

This course provides an in-depth overview and analysis of both the economic and political factors which have helped to condition Africa's position within the global economic system. Political independence by the various African states launched into the global economic system a group of the world's poorest, weakest, and most artificial states. How have such states managed to survive politically and to shape their economies and to what extent is their survival now threatened by the global economic meltdown? Are the African countries competing successfully within the world's economic system? The course comprehensively treats the interplay between politics and economics as African states attempt to effectively manage their affairs within an era of globalization and also identifies patterns of change, examines constraints, and give careful attention to some of the processes that influence economic policy outcomes. 

SIS 676: International Relations of Africa

This course provides an in-depth overview of the historical and contemporary interstate relations in Africa and situates Africa within world affairs. Political independence by the various African states launched into international politics a group of the world's poorest, weakest, and most artificial states. How have such states managed to survive and to what extent is their survival now threatened? This course comprehensively treats the interplay between domestic and international politics while also analyzing the efforts by African states to manage their external relations amid seismic shifts in the internal, regional, and global environments. The class also identifies patterns of change, examines constraints, and gives careful attention to some of the processes that influence policy outcomes.

Regional Courses: Americas

SIS 658: Financial Issues in Latin America

Systematic financial problems--fiscal banking currency and debt crises often in highly damaging combination--have loomed large in the economic history of Latin America. This course analyzes both the fundamental and precipitating causes of these financial crises, focusing on economic policy and institutional shortcomings as well as on other domestic and external forces that generate financial instability. Case studies are used to illustrate particular situations encountered in recent years.

SIS 676: Americas in Comparative Perspective

This course examines Latin American development in a historical and conceptual perspective. These include the origins of import-substitution, the rise and fall of military regimes, the adoption of democratic forms of political organization, the introduction of sweeping market-oriented reforms, the persistence of political and social violence, and the growing importance of global issues, trade and finance as much as democracy and human rights. Country cases are introduced in order to understand the fundamentals of the histories of particular nations, as well as to explain the significance of competing theoretical frameworks that have shaped the debate in the field.

SIS 676: Government and Development in Latin America

Over the last decades, most developing countries have undergone major reforms that devolved administrative responsibilities, fiscal resources, and political authority from the central governments to the states and municipalities. As a result, political, institutional, societal, and economic dynamics have increasingly become independent from nationally-led processes. The goal of this course is to study and analyze these dynamics and processes, which to a great extent shape the daily lives of citizen living beyond the country capitals. Some of the topics addressed in the seminar are: advancement and setbacks of subnational democracy, the prospects of social policy design and implementation at subnational levels of government, the possibilities of crafting autonomous subnational judicial institutions, the politics of subnational service delivery, among others. While the primary focus of the course is on Latin America, other regions of the world are studied.

Regional Courses: Asia-Pacific

SIS 655: East Asia in Transition

This is a course in the field of comparative and regional studies designed for graduate and advanced undergraduate students to conduct highly developed research on cross-country comparative study. As an interdisciplinary course, this seminar will introduce a variety of perspectives as analytical tools for research. Concentrating on East Asia (China, Japan, and Korea), it also discusses Southeast Asia and South Asia, as well as the United States. We will first familiarize ourselves with the basic settings and general trends in the Asia-Pacific region including major powers and local powers, focusing on the economic and political transitions, and international relations in the region. Then we will move to other perspectives, such as economic strategy, social dynamics, international security, political culture, politics, democratization, and foreign policy analyses, to conduct theoretically informed empirical research. 

SIS 676: U.S.-China Relations

This course begins with an overview of U.S.-China relations from historical and theoretical perspectives, providing the background necessary to comprehend the domestic foundations of foreign policy. It then examines politics and foreign policies of China and the United States, and interactions between the two powers. Includes security, economic, and diplomatic relations as well as their impact on international relations in Asia-Pacific including Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia. The course also introduces a variety of perspectives as analytical tools for research, and analyzes significant controversies as a way of participating in the field's theoretical and policy debates.

SIS 676: Southeast Asia, U.S. & Regional Powers

This course examines the roles and impact of the United States, Japan and China, and other regional powers on the transformation of security and economic frameworks in East and Southeast Asia from the end of the Second World War to the present. The security analysis treats developments during the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and issues in the post-Cold War era, particularly those pertaining to militant Islamic movements and non-traditional/human security challenges such as transnational labor flows, trafficking in persons, environmental degradation and natural disasters. The economic dimension highlights the impact of globalization on the region, and the emergence and evolution of regional economic cooperation. A major theme is the manner in which growing Chinese political influence and trade initiatives in recent years have impacted on long-standing American security and commercial interests, as well as on Japanese economic interests in the region.

Regional Courses: Europe and Eurasia

SIS 629: Comparative European Politics

This course examines the major political, economic, and social issues shaping contemporary Europe. The first portion of the course covers the concepts and theoretical approaches that make up the analytical toolkit for understanding and analyzing European politics. The second part covers the overarching themes of European politics, including state formation, governments and institutions, political parties and elections, welfare state development and reform, and European integration. The final segment consists of country and issue case studies as opportunities to apply the theoretical, methodological, and analytical tools, and looks at lessons that can be learned from the diverse ways European societies have answered the basic questions of economic, social, and political organization confronting all societies. 

SIS 653: U.S.-Russia Post Cold War Relations

This course examines recent history and the current state of relations between the United States and the Russian Federation, focusing on enduring themes, ideas, and strategic cultures of each country in order to develop a deeper understanding of the existing tensions and future tendencies. The course covers issues of nuclear arms control, non-proliferation, expansion of NATO, trade relations, energy and environmental security, regime change, and human rights. Conflicts over Kosovo, Chechnya, and most recently Georgia are analyzed in their historical context. The course emphasizes the role of ideas, leaders, and empathy in international relations.

SIS 676: Energy and Security in Europe and Central Eurasia

This course explores an important driver of international relations and national security, the connection between energy and security. Europe is a large and growing energy market, increasingly depending on imported resources. The course provides a strategic overview of European energy security, the current and potential future role for Eurasian energy supplies, as well as different scenarios for long-term energy solutions.

Regional Courses: Middle East

SIS 619: Understanding Conflict: Syria and Iraq

This course discusses the historical, political, social, and identity based foundations for the current conflicts in Syria and Iraq. It analyzes the main groups involved in these conflicts and their grievances. It also analyzes the rise of radical groups, such as ISIS, and the regional consequences of such radicalism. Finally, the course reviews regional and international attempts aiming at the peaceful resolution of the conflicts, and avenues for constructive U.S. engagement. 

SIS 619: Democratization and Political Change in the Middle East

This course examines both various aspects of the recent push for democratization in the Middle East and the formidable obstacles and setbacks with which it has been faced. In pursuing its inquiry, the course considers the Middle East's authoritarian structures and their resilience; shifting societal norms and demographics; emerging social movements including women and youth movements; the role of moderate Islamist politics and its relationship with secular political forces; the rise of radical Islamist politics and violence in Iraq, Syria and Libya; and the role of Western hegemony in the region. The course looks extensively at the roots, and trajectories of the Arab Uprisings of 2011 and Green Movement protests in Iran which preceded them, for example by juxtaposing the politics of the Egyptian and Tunisian democratic transitions and the diverging paths towards renewed authoritarianism and significant democratic gains each has taken. Through the course students gain considerable insight into the current predicament and prospects for long-term political change in select Middle Eastern countries and the region as a whole.

SIS 676: Oil, Islam, and Politics in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf

The September 11th attack, the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the recent oil boom focused increasing attention to the strategically important region of the Arab Gulf. The significance of Saudi Arabia to global terrorism and Dubai to global markets demands greater attention be paid to the political dynamics of these states. Meanwhile, the past decade has seen the Arab states of the Gulf experimenting with new means of broadening political participation and renegotiating state relations with private business. This course surveys the domestic and international pressures for these actions to assess both the potential for and implications of reform in the Arab Gulf states. By building an analytic framework based on the nexus of economic, social, religio-political, and geo-strategic forces at work in the Gulf, students are able to recognize the different choices made by each Gulf state, and to address the broader consequences of the global war on terror, unrest in Iraq and Iran, and the oil windfall and credit crunch in the Gulf.

Regional Courses: Islamic Studies

SIS 619: Islam and Democracy

This course considers how the broad categories of "Islam" and "democracy" can intersect in contemporary world politics. After laying a historical foundation, questions of Islam and democracy are examined in the context of Islamist parties vying for power through elections, self-proclaimed Islamic States, contemporary Muslim democracies, and Muslim states grappling with democracy as a result of Western occupations. The course also highlights a variety of Muslim perspectives on the topic of democracy. 

SIS 619: Human Rights and Islam

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this course considers the different ways in which invocations of Islam and questions of human rights converge in the Muslim world. In addition to an overview of prevailing human rights conditions, the course examines the ways Islam and the human rights come to be formulated as compatible or incompatible, or somewhere in between. Students become familiar with the spectrum of Muslim perspectives on the international human rights framework and its applicability to the Muslim world. Particular attention is paid to the social and political dynamics behind differing views of human rights in the Muslim world and how these dynamics are in flux as a result of the wave of protest and change sweeping the Middle East. The course concludes with several contemporary case studies including human rights in the Egyptian revolution/post-revolution, Islamic feminism in Iran, the impact of the War on Terror on views of human rights in the Muslim world, and human rights under occupation in Iraq. 

SIS 619: Dialogue or Clash of Civilizations 

After September 11, 2001, scholars and commentators analyzed our world as divided by those who believe that the “Clash of Civilizations” was predictable and those who still held to the idea that a Dialogue of Civilizations was inevitable. In light of these two contradictory points of view, this course asks the following questions: What impact do these perspectives have on international affairs? What is the role of religion within these emerging discourses? And how are we to relate an impartial understanding of the Divine to the violence we often see on our television screens?

We will explore the unity of faith in the diversity of culture, the meeting points of groups within cultures, and the sustainability of economics. We will look at how an understanding of civilizations in all their multiple-aspects can lend to a more harmonious existence in the 21st century. The exploration of these questions and issues will be aided by standard literature as well as guest lectures by some eminent speakers and authorities in the field who are already confirmed. 


Practicum Program

SIS 793- China in Africa

China's presence in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown dramatically in the last decade. Its economic, political, military, cultural and diplomatic ties with the countries of the region have mushroomed. China has become an important alternative partner (to the U.S. and Europe) for African governments and businesses alike. This practicum will study whether China's new role threatens the extremely important U.S. national interests in Sub-Saharan Africa. The practicum's client will be the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Students on the practicum team will meet periodically with senior officials in that Bureau and will research the issues identified by the Bureau as the U.S. Government's most pressing concerns with regard to China and Sub-Saharan Africa. Students will study how the U.S. Congress views China's expanding role in Africa and how the Congress influences the Executive Branch's policymaking process. Students will also study non-profit organizations –those focused on human rights, national security, business, labor, and ethnic groups –and how they influence the decision-making process on Sub-Saharan Africa. Students will provide the client with a jointly researched and written paper and will make recommendations on U.S. policy changes that could strengthen U.S. interests in Sub-Saharan Africa vis-à-vis China. 

Client: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs

SIS 793- U.S. Policy Towards Egypt: Understanding the Need to Balance Divergent Interests

The practicum will examine the intricacies of U.S. policy toward Egypt and the dilemmas U.S. policymakers face as they try to balance often contradictory interests in the strategic, political, economic and human rights spheres. Students will understand the importance of Egypt as a lynchpin country in the region and how various U.S. government agencies, the Congress, and outside players such as NGOs and think tanks try to influence policy. Students will also analyze the Obama administration's current policy of resuming full military assistance to Egypt while continuing to press for a more open political environment in the country, and will assess whether such policies are working or not. The end result of the course will be a student-prepared, major policy paper that will be presented and briefed to the course's "client"--a State Department official who is policymaker on Egyptian affairs. The client will want original ideas in the student's policy paper, not a repackaging of think tank reports, that will help the State Department to pursue U.S. policies that cover the breadth of the bilateral relationship and one that strikes a proper balance between divergent U.S. interests. After the initial meeting with the client, the students will be responsible for obtaining client feedback on their preliminary recommendations, gaining insights on the policy process by meeting with various interested parties in Washington, and critically assessing previously-held assumptions. Students will develop the skills of writing a policy paper, interacting with a policymaker and understanding the policymaker's needs, and learning how to deliver a concise oral briefing to a client.  

Client: Office of Egyptian Affairs at the State Department.