Global Politics, Law and Culture

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Global Politics, Law and Culture

Prof: Dr. Geoffrey Whitehall

Course: Political Science 1403

Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00-11:30 in BAC 244

Office: BAC 215

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 11:30-12:00, Thursday 1-4 pm or by appointment

Contact: Phone: 902-585-1288


Course Overview:
POLS 1403 is an introduction to the study of Political Science that focuses on contemporary global politics. The objectives of the course are threefold: First, you will be introduced to the key concepts that provide the foundation for subsequent courses in International Relations and Comparative Politics. Second, you will be introduced to contemporary global issues and have the opportunity to discuss them. Third, you will develop the core academic skills of critical reading and writing. In general, the course is designed for majors who seek a future in global activities and non-majors who are simply interested in finding out more their world.

Course Expectations:
I hope to use an interactive format for this course. This is a performative space that I find most comfortable and students have found most open, flexible and rewarding. What this means, however, is that each class will, to varying degrees, rely on your participation. Generally, I will give an introductory lecture on the topic that we are examining and explore some of the controversies that provide the context for the week’s readings. Since we are engaging with the world(s) around us, I hope to provide an atmosphere that is sensitive to interests that emerge in the class and are not limited to any pre-defined topics or problems. Therefore, the second half of the class commonly requires that I move into a facilitating role, encouraging questions, helping develop your arguments further and taking up missed opportunities etc.…

The amount of reading in this course might seem onerous to some; however, the texts have been chosen because of their accessibility and with non-sadist intentions. For starters, we are starting from a place of respect. I respect your abilities. All these texts have been chosen because they are written by public intellectuals or are written by academics for a public audience. We have tried to keep the books to about 200 pages. More importantly, we want you to be able to do a couple of things after your first year at University. First, we want to expose you to current issues and contemporary authors so that in upper level courses you will have some context from which to draw. In other words, we want you to be able to get behind a contemporary issue and look at its historical, cultural economic social and political complexity. This cannot happen from excerpts from books or from abstractions and generalizations. To this end, the textbook industry is failing you. Second, we want you to be able to read with intent. That means that we want you to learn how to read a text with ease. This means that you should not think that you need to know everything in it. A book is an invitation into a conversation, read with a purpose or question in mind. You should not be afraid of a book, and the best way to improve your reading and writing skills is by reading.

This course aims to develop your skills of critical reading and critical writing. Critical reading and writing implies reflecting upon the background workings in order to develop your political understandings. This means, as you will see, more than simply reading a text or writing a paper. It means critically engaging with the text, pulling it apart and putting it back together (sometimes in new ways). You should, therefore, always be striving in your written work, and coming to class prepared to: 1) propose an interpretation of the texts; 2) identify the central issues, concepts or conflicts that exist in the texts; 3) evaluate the "authors" tactics; 4) investigate the implications of the arguments; and 5) relate your ideas to ideas presented by other students and to the world(s) around you. Your success in this course, and the success of the course for everyone else, depends on your readings of the texts.

In order to make this class work, everyone must enter these classes with an ethic of mutual respect and openness. The point of the class is neither to "win" arguments nor to "passively" receive information. Given this course will raise peoples emotions please remember that we are all trying to figure things out and that NO personal attack will be rewarding or helpful. We all have differing degrees of shyness, different reading speeds and differing approaches to engaging with issues, so it is important that we all participate in active listening and active participation. We all have things to teach and learn from each other.

Required Reading:
All of these texts are available for purchase at the Campus Bookstore but may be found cheaper elsewhere.

  • Stephen Lewis, Race Against Time: Searching for Hope in AIDS Ravaged Africa. (Toronto: House of Anans Press, 2006) #*

  • Janice Gross Stein and Eugene Lang The Unexpected War: Canada in Kandahar (Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2007) #

  • Benjamin Dangl, The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. (Oakland: AK Press, 2007). #*

  • Fareed Zakaria, Post-American World (New York: Norton, 2009)

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus (Toronto: Random House, 2003)

  • Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts (London: Verso, 2002)

  • Slavlov Zizek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (London: Verso, 2009)

  • Wade Davis, The Wayfinders (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2009)

  • Gwynne Dyer, Climate Wars (Toronto: Vintage, 2009)

  • Somaly Mam, The Road of Lost Innocence (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2009)

FYI: All books from last year (excluding carryovers #):

  • David Batstone, 2007. Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade—and How We Can Fight It. New York: HarperOne. *

  • Robyn Meridith, 2008. The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What it Means for All of Us. New York: Norton

  • Michael Pollan, 2008. In Defense of Food. New York: Penguin.

  • Tariq Ali, 2008. The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Plan of American Power. New York: Scribner.

  • Chinua Achebe, 2000. Things Fall Apart. New York: Heinemann.

  • Judith Butler, 2004. Precarious Life. New York: Verso.

  • Thomas King, 2003. The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press. *

FYFI: All books from the year before (excluding carryovers *):

  • Mary Anne Weaver, 2003. Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

  • Thomas Turner, 2007. The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth, and Reality. New York: Zed Books

  • Michael Pollan, 2007. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin.

  • Luis Alberto Urrea, 2004. The Devil’s Highway: A True Story. New York: Back Bay Books.

  • Jimmy Carter, 2007. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. New York: Simon and Schuster.

  • Paul Gilroy, 2005. Postcolonial Melancholia. New York: Columbia University Press.

  • Margaret Somerville, 2006. The Ethical Imagination. Toronto: House of Anansi Press.

Course Assignments:

Final grades in the course will be based on the following components:

  • Weekly journals (20%). On Tuesday of each week, you will hand in an engaging one-page (typed, single spaced) analysis of the assigned book for that week. The first half of the journal should be a brief summary of the major argument(s) of the book. In the second half of the journal, apply last week’s theme to this week’s text. Journals are marked with a  (excellent, equivalent to 100%), ~ (average, equivalent to 60%), or  (unsatisfactory, equivalent to 0%). Late or emailed journals will not be accepted. Journals will be handed back on Thursday – as a way of acknowledging attendance, if you are not there to pick it up, it will be devalued by one level.

  • Class Participation (10%). Thursdays will be devoted to large group discussions of the assigned text and how it illustrates the week’s concept. You will be expected to participate regularly in these discussions. Participation is not simply about being present or giving your opinion, although both are valuable to the class. Rather, quality participation involves demonstrating that you have read and engaged with the text, have critical questions about it, and have given thought to how it relates to lecture material. It is difficult for some of us to engage in large discussions because we are easily intimidated by others or shy about speaking in public. If this sounds like you, please talk to me about strategies you can use to become more comfortable speaking in class, but most importantly, make an effort to become engaged.

  • TA Workshops (5%) We are lucky enough to have TAs for this course, which means that you can get extra help with the your core skills. The workshops are designed to help you learn the skills of critically reading and writing that are essential to doing well in this course and in future university courses. You attendance and participation in these workshops will be mandatory.

  • Reflective Paper (25%). This research paper will require you to analyses a movie, song, or novel that you think touches on the course content the best. In your analysis you will be required to use three course concepts and three course texts to create an argument. For example, I might use the concepts of sovereignty, gender and power to analyze the film “Good Night and Good Luck” by making the argument that in contemporary global debates (like those surrounding the War on Terror, UN reform, and World Bank Policies) freedom of speech and open dialogue is paramount. The paper should be 5 pages and double-spaced. You should choose a citation and bibliography style like the Chicago Manual of Style that is recognized in the social sciences (see The paper is due on Feb. 15th. Emailed papers will not be accepted. Late papers will be devalued by one grade point per day.

  • Final Exam (40%). In the final exam, a series of essay questions will provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to apply the key concepts discussed in class and develop your knowledge of the issues presented in the required texts. It is important that you do not make any summer travel arrangements prior to the release of the final exam schedule by the registrar.

Grading Matrix:















Letter Grade















Outstanding in every way

Exceeding expectations

Excellent work

Very good

Good work

Solid performance



Barely satisfactory


Marginally passable

Barely passable


An Unpleasant Note about Plagiarism:
Acadia does not tolerate plagiarism; instead, it recognizes the responsibility of the individual student for her/his own education and assumes honesty and integrity in all academic work at the University. This assumption is the foundation of all intellectual efforts and rests at the heart of this community. In matriculating at Acadia, each student accepts the responsibility to carry out all academic work with complete honesty and integrity and supports the application of this principle to others. Plagiarism and other violations of this principle invite punishment. The adoption or reproduction of ideas or words or statements of another person as one’s own, without due acknowledgment, is considered plagiarism and violates this principle. Citing of false or non-existent sources is also a violation. Submission of the same or similar papers or academic exercises to two different courses for a grade without the explicit permission of the instructors in both courses is prohibited. If you are suspected of either cheating or plagiarism and you cannot prove otherwise, you will receive and “F” in the course. All incidences of plagiarism and cheating will be sent to the University administration and may result in expulsion.

Writing, Tutorial and Disability Services:
The mission of the Acadia Writing Centre, a key component of the new Fountain Learning Commons, is to help students become the best writers they can be.  The Acadia Writing Centre offers a range of services geared to your particular needs and you are encouraged to use the Centre as often as you like. Sign up for tutorials, workshops and presentations, browse through our resource library, and hang out in the Great Hall. Writing tutorials begin at the beginning of term so book early to make sure you get the help you need to succeed in your courses! The Acadia Tutoring Service strives to ensure that all Acadia students have access to the services to enable them to achieve academic success.  They help by connecting them with peer tutors who have a strong background in the areas where they need assistance. They offer both one time (i.e. help with a particular assignment) and long term (i.e. week/biweekly) tutoring sessions.  Acadia tutoring services also acts as a referral service to additional academic resource that are available to students. If you are a new student with a disability at Acadia, make an appointment to meet the Academic Support Coordinator at the Student Resource Centre. If you have not already done so, bring a copy of your assessment. You may also want to visit the Disability Resource Facilitator to discuss external funding, equipment loans and on site services such as tutors, note takers, scribes or assistive technology.

Email Policy:

I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions about the course and will typically answer your email within 24 hours (except on weekends). You should not use email to ask substantive questions about topics or readings. If you need help understanding a reading or topic, please come see me during my office hours or make an appointment.

Course Schedule:
Week 1 (Jan. 12~14) – Introduction

Introduction to the course and its objectives.

Week 2 (Jan. 19~21) – Politics

Required text: Stephen Lewis, Race Against Time: Searching for Hope in AIDS Ravaged Africa. (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2006)
Week 3 (Jan. 26~28) – Methods

Required Text: Janice Gross Stein and Eugene Lang The Unexpected War: Canada in Kandahar (Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2007)
Week 4 (Feb. 2~4) – Power and Hegemony

Required Text: Benjamin Dangl, The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. (Oakland: AK Press, 2007).
Week 5 (Feb. 9~11) – Sovereignty

Required Text: Fareed Zakaria, Post-American World (New York: Norton, 2009)
Week 6 (Feb. 16~18) – Gender, Race and Identity

Required text: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus (Toronto: Random House, 2003)
Week 7 (Feb. 23~25) – Study Week

Start reading Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts (London: Verso, 2002)

Week 8 (Mar. 2~4) – Alienation

Required text: Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts (London: Verso, 2002)
Week 9 (Mar. 9~11) – Borders

Movie Week
Week 10 (Mar. 16~18) – Security

Required text: Slavlov Zizek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (London: Verso, 2009)
Week 11 (Mar. 23~25) – Progress

Required text: Wade Davis, The Wayfinders (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2009)
Week 12 (Mar. 30~Apr. 1) – Neoliberalism

Required text: Gwynne Dyer, Climate Wars (Toronto: Vintage, 2009)
Week 13 (Apr. 6~Apr. 8) – Justice

Required text: Somaly Mam, The Road of Lost Innocence (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2009)

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