teaching-banner
Graduate Classes Undergraduate Classes Resources
Resources
Graduate Classes

Civil Wars and Peace Settlements

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 so many 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 seminar focuses on recent conflict and post-conflict situations and uses studies of these conflicts as a lens for understanding the distinct dynamics of violence and peace settlements in civil wars.

The course has three goals. First, to provide participants with the intellectual tools to understand and analyze civil wars and peace settlements. Throughout the course, participants will acquire a broad knowledge of the concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates in the study of civil war and peace settlements. The course will also introduce participants to new issues in the field, such as the micro-foundations of peace implementation.  Second, the course will provide participants with an in-depth understanding of the most salient civil conflicts and peace processes in recent history. Third, the course will develop students’ research, analytical, and writing skills through assignments and papers.

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 of lectures, discussions, and small-group exercises.

Program And Institution

Graduate seminar, SIPA,
Columbia University.

Semesters Offered
Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Spring 2014
Resources

Syllabus

Evaluations 2014 (full)

Debates on International Peace Interventions: Constructivists, Critical Theorists, Post-Structuralists, Feminists, and their Critics

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.

Program And Institution

Graduate seminar,
Political Science Department,
GSAS, Columbia University.

Semesters Offered
Spring 2013, Fall 2014
Resources

Syllabus
Evaluations 2013 (summary)
Evaluations 2013 (comments)

Civil Wars and Peace Settlements in Africa

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 a 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.

Program And Institution

Graduate Research Seminar, Yale University.

Semester Offered
Spring 2007
Resources

Syllabus
Evaluations (summary)
Evaluations (full)

Undergraduate Classes

Building Peace

How can we build peace in the aftermath of extensive violence? Is that even possible? Wars often destroy existing governance structures. They create deep resentment over past injustices and human rights violations. They divide couples, families, communities, and societies, pitting members against each other. These challenges are so significant that many countries that emerge from war lapse back into violence within a few years. However, certain communities manage to maintain some stability and eventually escape the cycle of war and violence. How do they do that?

One key element in this process is the presence of international peacebuilders. International 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. These external contributions can mean the difference between war and peace: Regardless of local conditions, foreign peace interventions increase the chances of establishing a durable peace. However, international peacebuilding interventions face multiple challenges, and sometimes they actually worsen the problems that they mean to address. Why do so many international interventions fail to bring about peace? Why do others succeed? What are the most useful frameworks for analyzing international peace efforts?

This colloquium focuses on international peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding in recent conflicts. It adopts a critical, social science approach to the topic of building peace (it is not a class on how to design and implement peacebuilding programs, but rather a class on how to think about such initiatives). 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 highly theoretical works and case studies. Guest speakers will be invited for several class sessions to interact with students and explain how the debates studied in class play out in the “real” world.

Throughout the course, students will develop their knowledge of international relations theories. They will acquire a broad understanding of the concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates in the study of peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. The course also will introduce students to new issues in the field, such as the micro-foundations of peace settlements, the importance of local perceptions, and the attention to the everyday in the study of conflict-resolution. Furthermore, by the end of the semester, students should have an in-depth understanding of some of the most salient peace processes in recent years, including those in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the former Yugoslavia.

Class discussions and written assignments will help students develop their research and analysis skills as well as their ability to understand, criticize, and create scholarly arguments. In addition, this class puts a lot of emphasis on developing students’ leadership and oral presentation skills. We will do so through various activities in the classroom (class discussions, oral presentations, role play, student-led discussions, and interactions with guest speakers) and outside the classroom (through three workshops with the Barnard Speaking Fellows, the first on oral presentation skills, the second on how to lead a meeting, and the third on negotiations).

Program And Institution

Undergraduate Colloquium,

Barnard College, Columbia University.

Semester Offered
Spring 2014
Resources

Syllabus

Evaluations 2014

Aid, Violence, and Politics in Africa

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 colloquium 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 interact 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, we critically examine the relationship between aid and peace. We study how emergency aid can unintentionally fuel war, how it can contribute to peacebuilding, and the debates and dilemmas involved in both cases. To conclude, we review the most radical criticisms of humanitarian aid.

Throughout the course, 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.

Program And Institution

Undergraduate Colloquium,
Barnard College, Columbia University.

Semesters Offered
Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009,
Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2014
Resources

Syllabus
Evaluations 2007-2010
Evaluations 2013

Civil Wars and International Interventions in Africa

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 and uses studies of these conflicts as a lens for understanding the distinct dynamics of violence and international interventions in civil wars.

The course has three goals. First, to provide participants with the intellectual tools to understand and analyze civil wars and international interventions. Throughout the course, participants will acquire a broad knowledge of the concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates in the study of civil war, emergency aid, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. 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 participants with an in-depth understanding of the most salient civil conflicts and peace processes in recent African history, notably the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, and Sudan. Third, the course will develop students’ research, analytical, and writing skills through assignments and papers.

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 interact with students and explain how the specific issues under consideration play out in the “real” world.

Program And Institution

Undergraduate Lecture Class,
Barnard & Columbia Colleges,
Columbia University.

Semesters Offered
Fall 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2013
Resources

Syllabus

Evaluations 2013

Evaluations 2008-2010

Senior Research Seminar in International Relations

This seminar will coach and support students throughout the design, research, and writing of their senior theses, 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 projects, 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 theses.

Program And Institution

Undergraduate Seminar,
Barnard College, Columbia University.

Semesters Offered
Fall 2007 - Spring 2008,
Fall 2008 - Spring 2009,
Fall 2009 - Spring 2010
Resources

Syllabus
Evaluations 2007-2010