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Comparative and Regional Studies | SIS

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Contact:

Caleb Schmotter
Program Coordinator
SIS 335B
202-885-1760
crs@american.edu

 

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 673: Comparative Political Economy

In this course, political economy is examined by comparing countries and regions. Students will consider the possibilities and limits of transposing models of state and society from one region to another, with a focus on the division of labor, class and identity, the state, industrialization strategies, technology policy, cultural formation, and identity. 

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 616: 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 750: 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 619: Peacebuilding in Africa

This course examines problems of peace and security in Africa in the post-independence period, focusing on the past 15 years. It analyzes cases from different subregions of the continent, including Liberia, Sudan, and the Congo, and assesses the efforts of regional institutions, the United Nations and outside powers to find peaceful solutions. 

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. 

Regional Courses: Americas

SIS 619: Latin America Political Economy

Over the past century, Latin America has been a fertile testing ground for a variety of economic and political theories of development. Economic experiments have ranged from liberalism through socialism, passing through various forms of state-led capitalism along the way. Political experimentation has included everything from populist authoritarianism to military rule, and from hybrid democracies to vibrant multiparty presidential democracies. The remarkable variation in these forms of economic and political organization has been matched by the breadth of actors and ideologies present in the fabric of Latin American states. Drawing on the rich toolbox of comparative political science, this course examines how political and economic organization influence each other, the foundations of the ideas and beliefs that underpin political and economic institutions, and the evolution of Latin American states and economies since World War II.

SIS 676: Contemporary Latin America

This seminar provides an overview of the major contemporary themes debated in the Latin American politics scholarly literature. Students gain substantial empirical knowledge on the region's political systems, models of economic development, political institutions, welfare regimes, indigenous movements, political parties, and social actors, among others. They study both broad trends and cross-country diversity through the study of select cases, including Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela, among others. In addition, students become familiar with the major analytical debates and approaches to the study of Latin American politics and society. The seminar provides students with empirical, theoretical, and analytic tools to critically assess the unfolding of past, current, and future economic, social, and political events in Latin America.

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 676: North Korea and International Security

This course is an in-depth examination of the North Korean regime, in conjunction with various theories and practice of international security. The focus is to think critically about some of the most pressing challenges that North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs pose to non-proliferation and regional stability. The course investigates sources of North Korean foreign policy behavior at the individual, domestic, and international levels of analysis before evaluating several policy tools available to denuclearize North Korea. Other specific debates to be addressed include North Korean human rights issues, the Obama administration's "strategic patience" policy, the question of unification of the two Koreas, China's evolving relationship with North Korea, and Pyongyang's illicit activities.

SIS 676: Japan, China, the United States and East Asia

This interdisciplinary seminar introduces a variety of perspectives as analytical tools for research. Students conduct highly-developed research on cross-country comparative studies. Concentrating on East Asia (China, Japan, and Korea), it also discusses Southeast Asia and South Asia, as well as the United States. Students gain familiarity with the basic settings and general trends in the Asia-Pacific region, including major powers and local powers, and focusing on the economic and political transitions and international relations in the region. The course also includes perspectives on economic strategy, social dynamics, international security, political culture, politics, democratization, and foreign policy analyses, in order to conduct theoretically informed empirical research.

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 619: Nationalism and Identity

This course explores the sources of our most basic and powerful feelings of political loyalty? Our ideas about who we are, who has the right to rule over us, who we are willing to kill and for whom we are willing to die. After exploring what nationalism is, why it is so powerful, and some of the different explanations of nationalism and identity-formation, the course looks at the role of nationalism and identity in a wide range of political phenomena: insurgency and resistance to occupation, the collapse of multi-ethnic states and empires, civil and international wars, and distinctive patterns of voting and violence. The course culminates in a research or policy paper.

SIS 653: U.S. Foreign Policy toward Russia

This course examines the trajectory of U.S. policy toward Russia in the last 100 years, from the U.S. intervention in the Russian civil war to today. Focusing on contemporary policy, the course provides students with a basis to appreciate the alternating ways that U.S. policy has framed Russia: as a threat and competitor to U.S. interests, as an opportunity to enhance them, and as a partner in fighting Hitler and ending the Cold War. Special attention is given to current issues in U.S. policy toward Russia and future opportunities. Students are also guided in the use of primary documents on the subject.

SIS 676: Integration and Disintegration in Europe

Europe now faces a series of political and social challenges that threaten the post war integration project. From being lauded as a model of economic integration, the project has stumbled with the euro crisis, the rise of populist parties, introduction of border controls and threats of exit, seemingly challenging the scope and direction of European integration. This course looks at the cross-pressures of integration and disintegration in the economic, social and political spheres, using different cases and issues to ask quo vadis Europe?

Europe now faces a series of political and social challenges that threaten the post war integration project. From being lauded as a model of economic integration, the project has stumbled with the euro crisis, the rise of populist parties, introduction of border controls and threats of exit, seemingly challenging the scope and direction of European integration. This course looks at the cross-pressures of integration and disintegration in the economic, social and political spheres, using different cases and issues to ask quo vadis Europe?

Regional Courses: Middle East

SIS 619: US-Iran Conflict and Reconciliation

This course provides a basis for understanding the political, economic, and security dimensions of Iran's role in regional politics, the conflict in the U.S.-Iran relations, and reconciliation as an important factor and determinant of stability in the Middle East. Organized along historical and thematic lines from Iran being a front-line state during the Cold War to it becoming the home of an Islamic revolution, the course focuses on the issues of culture and politics, thought and practice, to elucidate aspects of tension and conflict between the U.S. and Iran and its implication for the region. Students study conflict resolution theories and explore debates in the field as applicable to the U.S.-Iran relations and look at new alternatives for dialogue and opportunities for negotiation in the process of reconciliation in a comparative historical perspective. Course includes issues of reform and radicalism, Islam as a political force, Iran's role in regional politics, and the search for new alternatives in cultural engagement and diplomacy in resolving conflict.

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: Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa

This course introduces students to the dynamic politics of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Students examine the region's various political systems and societal structures, as well as aspects of the political economy and role of external actors. Students are also introduced to key theoretical approaches to explaining politics in the region, including theories on democratization and social movement formation. Through historical and contemporary case studies, the course covers a wide range of topics, including the colonial legacy, authoritarian persistence, Islamist politics, civil society and social movement formation, rentier states, and sub- and supra-national identity politics.

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 676: Contemporary Islamist Movements

This course examines the evolution of modern Islamist political and social movements using a historical and comparative lens. Students gain an empirically grounded understanding of contemporary Islamist movements as well as the analytical tools necessary to explain their ideologies and behavior.

SIS 676: Bridging the Great Divide

No two religions are closer together than Judaism and Islam, and yet ironically, no two religions are further apart. This innovative course creates an interfaith dialogue necessary for understanding critical issues in today's world. It explores the history, culture, and theology of Muslims and Jews, reflecting both on similarities and differences, as well as the major challenges. Assisted by leading scholars in the United States and Europe, the course also offers strategies for building bridges between the communities and thus for bridging the political divide in world affairs.

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.