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Political Studies Postgraduate Courses Outline


POLS4012/POLS7006 - Development Theory*

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the major social, economic, and political, assumptions underpinning 'development studies', and, most importantly, to the strategies that might best be adopted to 'promote' or 'manage' development.  In this way, the 'problem of development' in three loosely defined and interconnected areas of social life - the market, the state, and the community - is placed into sharper relief.

*Compulsory Core Unit for Development Studies Honours

POLS4036/POLS7044 -  Democratic Theory

This unit examines the relationship between actually existing liberal democracy and various visions for deepening and extending democracy in democratic, and especially radical-democratic, theory. In addition the unit will consider a range of proposals for supplementing and, in the more utopian versions, replacing it with other democratic institutions and techniques. Among those are council and economic democracy, direct democracy via initiative, referendum and recall, electronic democracy and deliberative democracy. Proposals for group representation especially those arising from the claims of women, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, immigrants and the historically disadvantaged will also be considered. Attention will be given to critiques arising from various philosophical and ideological positions, including liberalism, civic republicanism, Marxism, utopian socialism and feminism.

POLS4045/POLS7050 - African Politics:  Natural Resources in Africa

As one of the world's largest sources of natural resources, the African continent has played an integral role in shaping global modernities, from the Witwatersrand gold rush to the coltan mined in eastern Congo necessary for modern electronics.  This course interrogates the complicated and fraught question of resource extraction in Africa, its legacies and potentials, from before colonisation to the present.  It aims to give students at the Honours and Master's level a critical overview of the political, historical, sociological, and anthropological debates surrounding natural resources on the continent.  We will work through cases from Southern, West, Central, and East Africa, exploring topics such as: nationalisation, the resource curse, conflict minerals, resource futures, artisanal and small-scale mining, and petro-states.  By using an interdisciplinary approach, we will examine both the large-scale political and economic impacts of resource extraction, as well as the social and cultural worlds created by, and surrounding, mining activities.   

POLS4044/POLS7049 - Justice and Democracy: Freedom in South Africa

Justice, democracy and freedom are three of the most central and contested concepts in politics and political theory.  They also have deep and trenchant roots in the history of politics and political thought across the globe.  In this course we will undertake: 1) to analyse the origins and development of our current conceptions of justice, democracy and freedom; and 2) to study their institutional forms and affects in modern politics with particular focus on the context of freedom in contemporary South Africa.  In the first half of the course we examine the intellectual, institutional and conceptual history of justice, democracy and freedom and how, if at all, they relate to one another.  In the second half of the course, we analyse how these ideas relate to the ideological and institutional realties of the acquisition of freedom in African and South Africa, and how these have been played out in various post-colonial contexts, particularly that of post-apartheid South Africa.  The course includes analysis of the ideas (and intellectual and historical contexts) of the following core thinkers, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, Fanon, Biko, Mandela, Sen and Geuss, amongst others.

POLS4047/POLS7052 - Politics and Utopia

This course will provide graduate students with an introduction to key ideas and theories in the development of political thought.  We will study utopian visions, and their impact on political thought and practice.  These include Plato's Republic, Thomas Moore's Utopia, the visions of St-Simon and Fourier in the runup to the French Revolution, as well as contemporary visions of Marxist, feminist, and technological utopias.  The course will provide a focused discussion of the relationship between political theory and political practice through an examination both of imagines utopias and the attempts, throughout history, to put these utopia visions into practice.

POLS4052/POLS7052 - Research Methods and Research Ethics in Political Studies

This course introduces a range of debates and approaches regarding the how's and why's of research methods.  The specific focus of the course is political studies, but the social sciences more generally also provides a larger backdrop to a number of topics and debates.  In addition to providing and introduction to research methods and research ethics, this course will provide targeted instruction on how to develop a research proposal to guide the completion of your donors dissertation/research essay.  We begin the course with a consideration of the role of empirical research in political studies, and then critically engage with notions of method and science when planning research projects.  This in turn helps to introduce a series of discussions around the use of common research methods, including case studies, discourse analysis, comparative analysis, ethnography, archival sources, research ethics, and quantification and statistic analysis.  In each session we will examine prominent examples of methods, and consider their strengths and weaknesses.  Towards the end of the course students will present their plans to their peers and other members of the department, building upon ideas put together in a research proposal.


POLS4027/POLS7030 - Selected Topics in Political Studies: Afro-politics and Religion

The various strands of mainly African Traditional Religions, Christianity, and Islam (but also new religious movements) are identified and studies in the context of the broad Afro-political and social environment.  The course aims to engage students in examining religion's role in shaping African society through tis complex political relationship with colonial administrations, anti-colonial movements, post-colonial rule (especially the wave of democratization), and global capital's indirect rule.  Part of the aim of the course is to critique contemporary conflict theories and narratives of nation-states in their failure to account for religion's influence on the development of the African state and society.  The course examines broad questions such as:  How does religion affect the political orientation of a society?  How are religious differences and conflicts confronted and resolved?  What roles do religious play in the organisation of social, political and economic life?  The course also focuses on the interaction between the various religious outlooks available in the continent and the constant invention of what might be described as new belief systems.

POLS4033/POLS7036: The State in Africa: Democratisation and Crisis

This unit will take as its starting point debates about the genesis and the development of the African state. It has been variously viewed as the main vehicle of modernization, as the instrument of a new ruling class, as underdeveloped, overdeveloped, kleptocratic, patriarchal, predatory, collapsed and ineffectual. Most views about the state are unflattering - yet it is this poorly regarded phenomenon which in recent years has been the focus of attempts at democratization. This unit will explore the tensions which exist between those views of the state in Africa that perceive it to be inherently authoritarian and moreover disengaged from society and those arguments which support the adoption by African countries of liberal democratic constitutions derived from advanced industrial societies. Our theoretical explorations will be routed in the investigation of particular national case studies which are to be decided upon.

POLS4038/POLS7072 - Violence, Identity and Transformation

This is an interactive research seminar designed as a laboratory for mutual learning and collective transdiscipinary research. The project character of this course requires dedication, active engagement and fulltime presence.  We will partner with the KOSMOS Summer School "Learning from Changes" at Humboldt University (Berlin, Germany).  We will access archives of the global South And North in order to explore key questions dealing with the politics of violence.  This includes selected theoretical, conceptual, practical approaches to violence versus militancy and the analysis of the interrelatedness of violence and gendered and racialised collective identity politics.  Violence during conflict and especially in post-conflict societies is analyzed in the light of collective identity politics and their relations to power and systems of privilege. In which ways have progressive, inclusive and diverse new social orders been imagined and how could we or should we (not?) imagine them today?  Where do progressive movements/projects/communities become implicated in dominant forms of structural and habitual violence, ex-and inclusions; implicated into practices they do denounce and fight against.  What are the consequences of state repression on progressive political projects and what are the challenges and chances of decolonizing, diversifying and transforming individual and collective identities as well as institutions who shape these.  

POLS4054/POLS7059 - An Introduction to Biopower

This course begins by tracing the development of the concept of biopower in the work of Foucault (while also underlining some of the sources of inspiration for his formulation).  Here focus will be on the development of Foucaul'ts perspective on a disciplinary power focused on the individual body, as well as his later emphasis on a biopolitics of population.  It will then move on to discuss the ways in which the concept of biopower has been appropriated and developed by other important theorists.  here the course will look at some of the major interventions around the concept of biopolitics in writers like Hardt and Negri, Agamben, Mbembe, Esposito and others.  It will also look at some of the critiques that have emerged in relation to usage of this concept.  

POLS4050/POLS7055 - Institutions, Governance and Violence in Africa

Institutional economics is one of the most significant and fruitful contributors to recent debates on governance and development, and this course incorporate this in a way that is accessible to social scientists.  Drawing on a muli-disciplinary literature on the role of institutions in development, with important contributions from economic historians, development economists, and social historians, the course explores the way in which institutions shape the development of financial, social, political, and legal structures, and how these affect and help explain development trajectories.  Drawing on the concept of 'limited access orders', where power is personalised, relationships effective, and struggles to preserve rent-seeking relationships explain high levels of violence and factional struggle, the course pays particular attention to the development and impact of pre- and post-colonial institutions in Africa.

POLS4037/7043 - Debates in Feminism, Politics and Society  (not yet confirmed for 2017)

The debates covered in this course seek to introduce students to the challenges posed by feminist theory and feminist politics to the discipline of political studies - both theoretically and empirically.  It considers critical contemporary and historical debates in feminism, covering liberal, socialist, cultural theory, post-structuralism and post-modern perspectives.  Our objective is both to understand the importance of gender perspectives in analysing the political world of the past and the present and to integrate gender concepts into our own theoretical approach to politics and to life in general.