Students take one course from the following.
Critical Approaches to African Politics
There is a long history of misunderstanding the politics of African countries. This course challenges these myths and introduces a range of critical approaches to understanding governance and development-related issues, with a particular focus on South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, and the countries of the Great Lakes and the Horn. Seminars are designed to debate issues such as:
- the politics of race and ethnicity;
- development, aid and the ‘resource curse’;
- colonialism and its legacies;
- nations, post-colonial states and civil conflict;
- democratisation since the 1990s;
- land, land reform and agrarian issues;
- climate change, land reform and conservation;
- the politics of epidemics, outbreaks and disasters.
Tutor: Dan Hodgkinson is a Lecturer in African History and Politics and Leverhulme Research Fellow at the Department of International Development, Oxford. His research interests include histories of protest and dissent in Zimbabwe as well as political histories of African cinema. He focuses on Southern Africa, specifically Zimbabwe, but has a wider interest in Anglophone Africa, specifically Ghana. He is the author of Zimbabwe’s Student Activists: An Oral history from Colonial Rule to the Coup and has published in Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, the Journal of Southern African Studies, and The Oxford Handbook on Zimbabwean Politics among others. His current project, Visions of Life, is a film-project that explores the political aims of the continent’s first generation of film-makers.
The Politics of the Chinese Party-State
As the Chinese Communist Party installed the next generation of the country’s leaders at the 20th Party Congress in autumn 2022, this course explores the anatomy of the Chinese Party-state. It considers both the organisational structure and ideology of the Chinese Party-state and explores the dynamics of contemporary Chinese politics and the many challenges its leadership faces. It will focus on questions such as:
- Does Xi Jinping matter in how Chinese politics is being run?
- What role does ideology play in contemporary China?
- How can we understand the relationship between the Communist Party, the state, society, and the economy?
- To what extent is “law” autonomous from the Party?
- What are the prospects for liberal political reform?
- How can we understand China’s role in the international order?
Tutor: Jean Christopher Mittelstaedt is a Departmental Lecturer in Modern Chinese Studies at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Oxford. His work explores how the Chinese Communist Party governs itself and structures Chinese politics, with a focus on law, social management, and ideology. This research has been published in journals such as the China Quarterly and China Information.
European Union Politics
The creation of the European Communities in the 1950s marked the beginning of a bold new experiment in Europe. Today the European Union represents the most advanced example of regional integration. The EU has not only transformed policy-making in Europe in profound ways, it has also emerged as an important international actor. This course explores the history of European integration, the institutional set-up of the European Union and key policies including EU Enlargement and Common Foreign and Security Policy. It also focuses on democratic backsliding in the EU and the future of European integration. It will examine questions such as:
- What role do treaties play in developing European integration?
- Is there a democratic deficit in the EU?
- What kind of power is the EU?
- What are the limits to the EU’s transformative power?
- Can the EU counter democratic backsliding?
Tutor: Eli Gateva is a Lecturer in European Union Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford. She has held academic posts at the University of Manchester, Queen Mary University of London, University of York and University of Nottingham. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is the author of European Union Enlargement Conditionality and Eli recently contributed to The Oxford Encyclopedia of European Union Politics. Her current research explores if and how the EU can enhance the quality of democracy in EU member states.
Latin American Political Economies: Past, Present, and Future
Inequality, violence, and corruption are but a few of the economic, social and political challenges faced by countries across Latin America. Adopting a multidisciplinary perspective, we will examine how politicians, institutions and the international arena have shaped past and contemporary social outcomes in the region. As such, the course provides the analytical tools to examine topics such as:
- colonial origins and post-colonial development;
- Latin America after independence: the roots of institutional weakness;
- democracy and autocracy in the 20th century;
- developmental models, volatility, inequality, and the aftermath of Covid-19;
- territorial unevenness: subnational units, a new frontier?;
- party systems and party collapse;
- populism, radicalisms, and democratic backsliding;
- governance and corruption;
- security, violence, and organized crime;
- Latin America and world politics.
Tutor: Javier Pérez Sandoval is the Departmental Lecturer in Latin American Studies at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA). He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford and Javier’s research looks at the dynamics linking socio-economic development and political regimes at the subnational level. His work has been recognized by the American Political Science Association (APSA), the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) and has been published in Agenda Política and Perfiles Latinoamericanos.
Politics in the Middle East and North Africa
It is not uncommon to encounter discourses presenting the Middle East and North Africa as an exceptional region, whose politics stands out from ‘regular politics’. This course studies politics in, rather than of, the Middle East and North Africa. It explores the modern history of this region, notably the debates on the resilience of authoritarianism, through a conceptual and interdisciplinary approach. It invites students to question what is behind exceptionalising discourses by looking at the development of various ideologies, national and transnational movements, ethnic conflicts, political institutions, and economic policies. The course encourages students to engage in theoretical debates and aims to empower them to use, challenge, and redefine political concepts to best describe the political realities of the region. The course adopts a thematic approach, examining topics such as:
- colonialism and its legacy;
- nation, nationalism, and nation-building;
- the state and its political and economic institutions;
- civil society;
- the Arab Uprisings and the counter-revolution;
- rethinking the Middle East and North Africa.
Tutor: Kaoutar Ghilani is a postdoctoral fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. She completed her DPhil at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, as an Ertegun Scholar. She was a tutor of ‘Politics in the Middle East’ at Oxford and a visiting researcher at the Centre Jacques Berque in Morocco. Kaoutar is currently preparing a monograph on language politics and nation-building in Morocco and her research has been published in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, the Journal of North African Studies, the Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies, and the Review of Middle East Studies.
Power, Resources and Political Identity in Russia and the Former Soviet Union
The fifteen post-Soviet states that emerged from the collapse of communism faced similar challenges in 1991. Yet, their political trajectories have differed significantly over the last quarter of a century. This course explores the reasons for this variation in post-communist political development. Focusing on the non-EU states of the former Soviet Union – Russia and the Eastern European (Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine), Central Asian and Caucasus states - it will explore topics such as:
- the factors that determined the collapse of communism and their legacies;
- the types of political regimes that have emerged and their institutional dynamics;
- the nature of property ownership;
- the sources of conflict: elite, ethnic and clan;
- the political consequences of the oil curse and corruption;
- the influence of Russia on regional political developments.
Tutor: Paul Chaisty is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at St Antony's College, Oxford. His publications include Legislative Politics and Economic Power in Russia; Coalitional Presidentialism in Comparative Perspective: Minority Executives in Multiparty Systems; and articles in journals such as Electoral Studies, Europe-Asia Studies, European Journal of Political Research, Government and Opposition, The Journal of Legislative Studies, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Party Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Political Studies and Post-Soviet Affairs.
People, Power and Politics in Contemporary South Asia
How should we go about studying the political aspirations and agency of almost two billion people in South Asia, governed by contradictory and unstable regimes, where religion, language, caste, class, gender, and other identities unite and divide such vast populations? This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to learning about South Asia’s politics, societies and relationship with the world. We will examine key topics of contemporary relevance in South Asian politics such as:
- drivers of democratic backsliding and authoritarianism;
- variation in, and evolution of, ethnic and religious nationalism;
- rule of law and judicialization of politics;
- the impact of domestic politics on inter-state rivalries;
- the role of external powers in regional and domestic politics;
- social movements and popular mobilization.
Tutor: Yasser Kureshi is a Departmental Lecturer in South Asian Studies at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies. His research is focused on judicial politics, comparative authoritarianism, constitutional formations and civil-military relations, with a focus on South Asia. His publications include the 2022 monograph Seeking Supremacy: The Pursuit of Judicial Power, and articles published in Comparative Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution and Democratization.