PLSC 378, SOCY 170, LAST214: Contesting Injustice

Why, when and how do ordinary people organize collectively to challenge political, social and economic injustice? Drawing on films as well as social science theories and relevant case studies, we analyze popular mobilization against injustice in international as well as US settings.  We will analyze the conditions that lead ordinary people organize to contest injustice, the various forms of mobilization (including demonstrations, land occupations, strikes, boycotts, and violence) in which they may engage, the moral, political, and strategic dilemmas that activists face, and the conditions for success in altering the norms and institutions that sustain injustice. Films that document the experience of injustice as well as the process of mobilization are an integral part of the course. As the course proceeds, we will explore various theoretical approaches to understanding mobilization against injustice, including those centered on self-interest, moral outrage, social preferences, social networks, political opportunity, and movement culture.

PLSC 505a Qualitative Field Research

In this graduate seminar we will discuss and practice qualitative field research methods. The course will cover the basic techniques for collecting, interpreting, and analyzing ethnographic data, with an emphasis on the core ethnographic techniques of participant observation and in-depth interviewing. Course reading will draw on works in sociology and anthropology as well as political science. Throughout the course we will discuss the politics and ethics of field research.
In addition to participating in the seminar, participants will carry out a local research project in order to practice research skills.

PLSC 779a, Anthropology 541a, History 965a, Forestry and Env. Studies 80054a.   Agrarian Societies:  Culture, Power, History, and Development

This seminar presents a multi-disciplinary perspective on the transformation of the countrysides of the world, from ancient times to the present. The rise of a capitalist mode of production as the engine of a world economy, the emergence of a contentious international polity of nation‑states, and the propagation of rationalizing religions and standardizing education are three distinct yet intersecting processes in the modern transformation of the world since the 1500s. These processes have not been inevitable, or irreversible, or complete. However, they have been compelling, in so far as they have come to frame both our acceptance of and resistance to the modern order in which we find ourselves.

Humans, however, have cultivated the soil to sustain themselves for at least 10,000 years. In addition to the transformation of the world by modern capitalism, we have a longer story to tell, describing how homo sapiens transformed landscapes, built cities, domesticated and exterminated species, and moved materials, humans, and living things across the globe in the service of power, profit, and ideals. Some scholars have argued that the modern era should be called the Anthropocene, because of the overwhelming dominance of our species on the planet today. But others argue that we need to understand a deeper and broader history which, by revealing alternatives to global capitalism, can provide resources for serious critique of how we live today. This course examines not only modern changes, but other processes entangled with the analysis of how humans in the distant past, most of whom were peasants, lived through the big changes they created.

PLSC 777b Seminar in Comparative Politics

This course, the second in the year-long introduction to the study of comparative politics for Ph.D students in political science, examines the purpose and methodology of comparative inquiry. Designed to introduce students to the study of comparative politics and to assist students in developing research topics and strategies, the course explores key themes – the origins of political regimes, the building of nations and states, ethnicity and nationalism, collective action, the politics of welfare states, and the logic of institutional change – through the critical reading and discussion of classic and contemporary works.

PLSC 720/406 Sexual Violence and War

In this seminar we will analyze patterns of sexual violence in war. While sexual violence occurs to some degree in most wars, armed groups engage in it to sharply varying extent and in radically different patterns. Ethnic cleansing and genocide may include widespread rape.  Some armed organizations, including many state forces, engage in sexual torture of political dissidents. Some abduct girls for the purpose of sexual slavery. Yet other armed groups engage in little sexual violence in any form.  We will study the violence wrought by several armed groups, including both state militaries and rebel groups. We will analyze patterns of targeting (including male victims), the frequency of different forms of sexual violence, and the challenges of ascertaining whether a particular pattern of sexual violence was a strategy by the group.  After assessing the documented variation in these patterns, we will explore what accounts for it through a focus on armed organizations. We will analyze how well the relevant literatures in various disciplines — as well as recent unpublished works by scholars — account for these patterns. We will also discuss policies to limit wartime sexual violence.


PLSC 356a and SOCY 346a Collective Action and Social Movements
In this course we will analyze demonstrations, land occupations, strikes, abortion clinic blockades, suicide bombing, revolutions, and other forms of collective action. We will explore why people engage in collective action and how different forms of collective action emerge and evolve. We will study several cases and also discuss various theoretical approaches to the understanding of social movements, including the political process, rational choice, social network, and social preference models. The methodical approaches will range from ethnographic field research to mathematical models.

PLSC 355/741: Armed Organizations and Patterns of Violence

Why do some insurgent groups and some state militaries engage in broad repertoires of violence, including selective assassinations, massacres, sexual violence, torture, forced displacement, etc., while others limit their violence to selective assassinations?  Why do some insurgent groups and some state militaries target civilians indiscriminately or according to civilians’ political or ethnic identity while others target civilians only because of some prohibited behavior? Why does the technique by which, say, killing is carried out vary as well? In this seminar we will analyze the differences in the patterns of violence against civilians by armed organizations. Participants will discuss various theoretical approaches, including the role of territorial control and combat in patterns of selective vs. indiscriminate violence in civil war, the wielding of violence by combatants as a principal agent problem confronting the organization, the role of internal group institutions in controlling violence, the contrast in recruits to groups controlling economic vs. social resources, the role of socialization both formal and informal, the consequences of witnessing and wielding violence in terms of the brutalization of combatants, and the origins of leaders choices concerning violence.