17.516 | Transitional Justice

This class provides students with a broad overview of the major theories and topics in the comparative study of "Transitional Justice." The transitions from authoritarian rule to democracy in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa have raised profound political and normative questions about how to address the abuses of former regimes. Incoming regimes, sometimes with the assistance of international institutions, have developed several mechanisms. This class examines the political, legal, social, and ideational determinants of these mechanisms and assesses their efficacy. The class is organized into two sections. The first section introduces theoretical approaches to study of transitional justice. The second section analyzes the most frequently used mechanisms, focusing on their potency in furthering the stated aims of democratization and reconciliation.

Syllabus | Taught in Fall

17.504 | Ethnic Politics I

This course is designed to provide students with a broad overview of the major theories about the relationship between ethnicity and politics. Graduate students from all subfields and methodological backgrounds are encouraged to take the course regardless of their level of acquaintance with ethnic politics. The course is comprised of three sections. The first section addresses definitions of ethnicity and lays out the broader contours of debate. The second section covers processes of identity formation. The third section addresses several of the most important topic areas of ethnic politics.

Syllabus (Fall 2012) | Taught in Fall


17.523 | Ethnic Conflict in World Politics

Discerning the ethnic and racial dimensions of politics, particularly violent conflict, is considered by some indispensable to understanding contemporary world politics. This class seeks to answer fundamental questions about racial and ethnic politics. The class begins with a brief examination of the bases of ethnic and racial identities. Are they best understood as primordial or constructed? The second, and largest, section of the class is devoted to understanding the sources of contestation between groups, and how such contestation can lead to violence. Scholars have identified various, and not necessarily, mutually exclusive determinants of contestation and violence. We will examine the most important of these, which include economic and electoral competition, political elite manipulation, emotions, and civil society relations. Finally, the course concludes with a consideration of solutions to conflict, which have been variously successful in the past. These solutions can be domestically based, such as state policies and rules of governance, or internationally derived, such as third-party intervention and territorial partitioning.The main goal of the class is to familiarize students with the prevailing schools of thought and broad generalizations about ethnic politics and conflict.

Syllabus (Spring 2013) | Taught in Spring

17.50 | Introduction to Comparative Politics

This class first offers basic analytical frameworks -- culture, social structure, and institutions – that students can use to examine a wide range of political outcomes. We will use theoretical arguments and empirical evidence from several case studies to address a number of broad questions in political science: Why are some countries democratic and others not? How does democracy affect economic development and political conflict? Why do some countries centralize power while others threaten to fall apart through secession and civil war? Country examples include Germany, Iraq, Italy, Mexico, and the United States, with regular references to countries in other regions (e.g., Africa, South Asia, and East Asia). At the end of the class, students will understand and discuss a range of political events around the world, drawing on the theoretical explanations provided in class.

Syllabus | Taught in Spring

Melissa Nobles (photo by Lynn Barry Hetherington, 2013)