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Topics in Political Science

Course Number: POL 110
Credits: 2
Offered: Every Semester
Instructors: Dr. Beard, Dr. Dandavati, Dr. Polet, Dr. Ryden

Overview:

This eight week course is offered to fulfill the General Education Social Science requirement. It provides a brief introduction to contemporary political issues, debates, and challenges facing America, other nation-states, and international political institutions in the making of public policy. Themes and course activities will vary depending on the instructor.


Dr. Holmes'
"Political Campaigns"

When the United State faces difficult decisions, the path chosen often depends on the results of a general election. How well does this method work in practice? Do voters understand the issues? Do candidates encourage them in this regard? Do the nuts and bolts of winning the election overshadow the issues to the point it becomes difficult to determine what is actually being decided? In addition to reading and discussions, students will volunteer a total of 16 hours for the Republican or Independent candidate of their choice (times dependent on students’ schedule, locations are walking distance; one pre-election Saturday – transportation provided – also possible). Special attention will be paid to the 2012 general election taking place during the time of the seminar.

This introductory course is designed to introduce students to American government, campaigns, and elections, to include both classroom and experiential learning. This course will provide students with a place to discuss, research, present, and write about elections in the United States. Through volunteering with local campaigns, group discussions and presentations, as well as a paper, the students will receive firsthand knowledge and a deeper understanding of American campaigns and elections.

Dr. Beard's "Global Political Development: Whose Reality? Whose Development?"

This is a Political Science class, introducing you as a student to the discipline of Political Science by focusing on a specific topic, namely international development from the perspective of those receiving the outcomes of development policy. What does the field of Political Science through the lens of political economy along with Economics say about development? Why are so many nations and people in the so-called "Third World" poor? Why does the cycle of poverty, intertwined with poverty and forms of conflict seem endemic across the Global South? What, if anything, can the West do about it? What, if anything, can we as Western citizens of the world do about it? Political Science asks the question that frames the title of this course, “whose perspective is being considered.” That is what this course will ask you to continually query. Whose perspective is guiding the development enterprise in practice, in theory, in study, in application? Whose reality is being played out? And who is benefiting from this structure? This class will therefore implicitly and explicitly expose you to the discipline of Political Science as part of the larger field of Social Sciences, but will do so through a deeper look at very specific field of inquiries involving the politics of place, perspective and power. Students will be exposed to the major and the not-so-major concepts, theories and debates in aid and development. They will discuss the conventional and less conventional theories of poverty, growth, war, and good governance, and why there is so much or so little of it in the Global South. The aim is to help students think critically about these theories, ideas and debates and their possible role in the problem and solutions.

We will read, watch films and have guest speakers about poverty, development and possible positive and less positive attempts to overcome poverty globally. We will consider poverty in the United States, but focus primarily on the regions of the global south – Africa, Latin America and Asia. Students will be given the opportunity to explore these issues from a theoretical and applied lens. Students will also have the space to consider how they fit within issues of power, poverty, and global development. Why are so many nations and people in Africa poor? Why does the cycle of poverty, intertwined with poverty and forms of conflict seem endemic across Africa? What, if anything, can the West do about it? What, if anything, can we as Western citizens of the world do about it? No course can answer these questions in full, but one can get started on the (hopefully lifelong) learning. Students will be exposed to the major and the not-so-major debates in aid and development. They will discuss the conventional and less conventional theories of poverty, growth, war, and good governance, and why there is so much or so little of it in Africa. The aim is to help students think critically about these debates and their possible role in the problems and solutions.

*Note: This course meets the GL(I) requirement.


Dr. Beard's "Gender, Conflict and Peace"

In this course we will consider gender as a powerful idea that shapes the way we see others and others see us. Social and cultural conceptions of gender—at home and around the world—have led to significant differences and disparities in economic status, education, health, legal rights and other cultural indices of success. It has been used to justify violence ranging from structural to direct violence, including sexual and physical abuse, rape, mutilation, imprisonment, warfare and murder. Given that gender is so foundational to human behavior, it is important for students interested in peace and conflict studies to understand how notions of sexual difference, whether viewed as essential to human nature or constructed according to social and environmental factors, are utilized in the rhetoric and strategy of warfare as well as to further peace efforts.We will consider these many implications of the social construction of gender and how gendered language and beliefs both shapes and reflect gendered attitudes, behaviors, expectations, and norms that translate into societal and individual realities. We will examine our own relationships to gender at the micro, meso and macro levels including an individual, interactional and structural analysis. Themes of power, performance and privilege—and their implications—will be woven throughout the course. Theoretical literature and case studies will be used to explore how the discourse and enactment of war and peace, conflict and reconciliation, and discord and restoration are influenced by societal constructions of gender, both historically and in the present.

*Note: This course meets the GL(I) requirement.

Dr. Dandavati's "Gender, Islam & Democracy"

This 8-week course provides a brief introduction to the complex relationship between Gender, Islam & Democracy. Through the use of a literary text, in-class discussions, readings and films, we will try to make sense of these ever changing issues.