In your final year, you have the option to complete a dissertation on a topic of your choice in international relations and Asian studies. You'll be allocated a dedicated supervisor to support you.
You will also select from a wide range of optional modules that allow you to specialise in the areas that interest you.
This module explores key themes and debates in the study of African politics. It aims to provide a broad introduction to African domestic and regional politics as well as Africa’s evolving position within an international political arena.
The Battle for Democracy
At the dawn of the 21st century, the status of democracy across the world is uncertain. In Central and Eastern Europe, it has become the only game in town, but in other regions like Russia or the Arab World it has suffered reversals. To make sense of these events, this module examines and is structured around some of the big, important questions that have long interested political scientists around the questions of democracy.
What is democracy? Why are some countries democratic and others not? How did democracy emerge in different countries? What difference does democracy make for people's lives? The module adopts a global and comparative perspective, by focusing on countries in specific regions and by studying different data-sets on the design, functioning and influence of democratic institutions.
Crisis: Death or Survival of Democracy
This module studies the politics of democratic backsliding in East and Central Europe. During the last three decades the region of East and Central Europe has undergone a historically unprecedented development of democratic transition from communism, the establishment and consolidation of democratic institutions, political parties and party systems, as well as the integration into Western political, economic and security alliances, most notably the European Union. Recent trends towards democratic backsliding in the region have cast doubt on the success of post-communist transformation.
This module focuses on the politics of democratic backsliding in East and Central Europe in the context of contemporary debates surrounding the de-consolidation of democracy across the globe.
Disasters, Politics and Society
Disasters are defined by the United Nations as ‘a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope with using its own resources.’ The failure successfully to reconcile human behaviour with environmental threats has, throughout time and in different places, led to multiple disasters.
This module will examine the relationship between natural hazards and human society, how and why disasters happen and how the impact of disasters can be ameliorated. With reference to cases across the globe, there will be a focus on how social life has mitigated, adapted and evolved in the face of environmental hazards.
We will examine the social, economic and technological processes that mediate the relationship between human society and the natural world. We will examine key themes such as governance, technological innovation, urbanisation and migration, gender, culture and identity, global patterns of production and consumption, health and pandemics, race and class to understand why disasters impact on different people in different ways.
Dissertation in Politics and International Relations
This module enables you to undertake a sustained piece of research and analysis into a subject within the discipline of politic and international relations.
The EU as a Global Power
Against the backdrop of increasingly tense EU-US relations, Brexit, and rising nationalism in Europe, this module analyses the European Union's international role. It first introduces concepts and decision-making processes related to EU foreign policy both, by Member States and EU institutions. In particular, we analyse the processes within the European Communities, and the CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policies) / CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policies) frameworks.
The module then critically assesses security and economic policies towards Africa, the Middle East and China. Themes to explain the nature of contemporary EU foreign policies include: European integration, intergovernmentalism and supranationalism, neoliberalism and ethical foreign policy, development aid (including for health and education) and diplomacy, post-colonialism, as well as military and civilian means for conflict-management.
Gender and Political Representation
What does it mean to be represented in politics? This module uses gender as a prism through which to view intersectional debates on political representation. We ask what women’s representation is, what it looks like in political institutions, how gender norms shape access to and participation in political institutions, why women's representation matters for policy outcomes, how it impacts on social movements and voting behaviour, and how it matters in global governance.
Our approach is broadly comparative, focussing on theories and case examples from both high-income countries in the Global North and low- and middle-income countries in the Global South. Our wide selection of countries also allows us to consider what role women’s participation can have in quality of governance and democracy. We recognize that global norm diffusion is key to boosting women’s representation, from gender quotas and gender mainstreaming in the UN's Beijing Platform for Action to the gender equality provisions in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and our discussions will also be of interest to students of international relations. The module engages with diverse perspectives and methodologies and will enable students to develop transferable skills in analytical literacy that can be applied across the social sciences.
Ideas and Politics in Contemporary Britain
The aim of this module is to explain and assess the nature and role of ideas and ideologies in British politics. It examines how and why the policies of the 'mainstream' British parties (Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) have been affected by ideas and ideologies, on the one hand, and by political pragmatism, on the other.
It also explores the ideas, ideologies and policies of minor parties and 'new social movements' (ecologism; fascism, Nazism and racism; feminism; multiculturalism, and nationalism) and their significance for the study and practice of politics in Britain today.
Middle East and the World
This module covers:
- Introduction – background history, empire and its importance, Sykes Picot
- 1910-20s - WW1 and Balfour Declaration
- 1930-40s inc. Palestine, WW2, beginning of the Cold War and creation of Israel
- Cold War and the Middle East - Egypt and Suez, and Arab-Israel conflict
- Turkish history and politics – including foreign policy
- Nationalism – Kurdish and Pan-Arab
- “Terrorism” – Iranian revolution, Iranian hostage crisis, Palestinian issue, Lebanon, Libya, plus the end of the Cold War – USSR to Russia, Chechen wars x2, Arab-Israel again. Islamic state - religion/terrorism/nationalism nexus
- 1990s - First Gulf War and policing Iraq (including Iran-Iraq war 1980s). Authoritarianism as a legacy of the Cold War – Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya
- 2000s - Iraq War
- 2010s: The Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil war
- Legacy and contemporary issues – Iran nuclear issue, Yemen, Saudi Arabia
Political Challenges and Multiple Crises in the Global Economy
The global economy presents a wide variety of political challenges and can create multiple types of crisis for states and the actors within it. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the whole system under pressure and revealed its fragility.
This module analyses some of these challenges and crises, which range from sovereign default to the global free trade system and the impact of climate change, to help us understand and explain the international political economy. It draws on scholarship from the fields of international relations theory, international political economy, security studies, and economic history to provide students with a more nuanced understanding of global politics.
This module will offer a typology of political violence perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. It will outline the conditions or the escalation or de-escalation of political violence, as well as analysing the general efficacy of different manifestations of political violence.
The Politics of Ethnic Conflict
Questions relating to nationalism and ethnic conflict have become more prominent in political debate since the end of the Cold War, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated the continuing importance of constitutional crafting as a means to manage ethnic diversity within states.
This module evaluates differing definitions of the 'nation' and 'ethnic group', examines different state strategies to manage diversity such as multiculturalism, assimilation and integration, and considers different explanations of conflict between different ethnic groups.
It then examines in more detail strategies adopted by particular states to manage their diversity. The countries of India, America, France, Afghanistan, the UK, and Germany are focused upon, but students are encouraged to use material relating to other countries if they have particular knowledge of these cases.
The Politics of Human Rights
Why are some states better at protecting, respecting, and fulfilling their human rights obligations, while others are not? Understanding the conditions under which governments protect human rights is crucial for the field of International Relations and policy makers alike. This module will discuss cutting-edge research within and beyond the human rights field.
You will learn about autocratic state behaviour, safeguards within democratic systems, the campaigns and challenges of NGOs and international organisations, and the wide-ranging effects of globalisation across the different categories and dimensions of human rights. The module will apply theory and empirical insights from these different fields of inquiry in order to understand the relative protection and enjoyment of human rights across different country contexts.
By the end of the module, you will have a clear understanding about human rights research and its effects on the real world.
This module involves a part-time placement (one day a week) in an external organisation, and is aimed at developing hands-on work experience and employability skills in a workplace relevant to students of politics. Pre-placement training will be provided via three half-day workshops at the beginning of the module.
Each placement will be arranged by the work placement officer. Placements will be provided by organisations involved in private, public and third sector organisations, such as the civil service, charities and political parties.
Departmental mentoring will take the form of a weekly drop-in tutorial with the module convenor, in which experiences are shared and work is undertaken on the assessment tasks. Group presentations will occur during the final four hour workshop, at which time each group will critically reflect on their experiences of the ethos and goals of their host organisation.
Populism, Elites and Democracy
Populism is a contentious term. Over the last few decades we have witnessed a surge of ideologically diverse populist movements with strong democratically elected leaders acting in the name of ‘the people’ across the globe. For some, populism is illiberal, anti-pluralist and a danger to democracy; for others, it is the ultimate democratic act of popular sovereignty.
This module examines the controversial relationship between populism and democracy. It surveys key theoretical developments in democratic theory and the populist literature to compare mainstream and alternative definitions/conceptualisations of populism. The modules examines the problematic relationship of elites (‘the 1%’) – whether financial, social or political – in relation to liberal democracy and the masses (‘the 99%’). It explores concepts and events key to the populist surge, such as ‘post-truth’ politics, the polarisation of politics, the ‘friend/enemy’ relation, ‘us versus them’ relation, ‘elites’, ‘democratic leadership’, ‘representation’, the 2019 prorogation of the British Parliament, and ‘identification’.
You will have the opportunity to examine a range of different progressive and regressive populist leaders/associations, such as: Donald Trump, Vikor Orbán, Hugo Chávez, Brexit 2016, the UK general election 2019, the Yellow vests movement, the Danish People’s Party, Fidesz, the People’s Party, Occupy, Syriza, Podemos, Jobbik and Alternative for Germany.
Race and Politics
This module seeks to introduce you to theories of race and racialisation, including, but not limited to, postcolonial theory, orientalism, and intersectionality. After learning about these theoretical lenses, you will study the politics of race in different country contexts through countries’ histories of colonialism and imperialism as well as contemporary racial and ethnic disparities.
Responding to Violent Extremism
This module will bridge the gap between academic study and pragmatic policy. It will consider how extremist ideas come into politics through extremist versions of ideology and religion, based on theories of prominent writers in the field.
It will consider political ideologies’ reliance on power and the role of violence through past case studies such as anarchism, Nazism and religious extremism. The module will also look at responses to terrorism utilising a case study approach that explores the United Kingdom’s and United States of America’s methods.
Russia and Great Power Politics: From Lenin to Putin
"Russia is a Great Power or it is nothing” – this belief has dominated Russian foreign policy thinking in the past as it does today. The module develops an understanding of Russia’s international politics in historical perspective – from the October Revolution in 1917 until today. Why is being a Great Power so important to Moscow and how successful has the country been in achieving and maintaining this status in the international system? What is Russia’s self-perception as an international actor and how does this contrast with the country’s international image?
Within the framework of relevant theoretical approaches to the study of international relations, the module will focus on a wide range of historical events and developments that will lead to a better understanding of Russia’s role in the world today. Themes to be discussed will include, amongst others:
- Stalinism and Soviet foreign policy
- Gorbachev’s ‘New Thinking’
- Military power and foreign policy
- Russia and its neighbours
- The annexation of the Crimea
- Human rights and international relations
Secret Intelligence and International Security
This module is an introduction to the concepts and practices of secret intelligence and its place within international security. The module is split into three sections.
The first examines conceptual issues and models; the second explores some of the roles of intelligence in the 21st century; and the third examines how intelligence actors can actively shape international relations. These are highly relevant issues, which are regularly in the media.
Special Relationship? Anglo-American Security Relations
The Anglo-American so-called 'Special Relationship' has provoked controversy since the term was coined after World War Two. To some commentators it has represented an attempt by the UK to hide its decline by lofty rhetoric and becoming the 'poodle' of a Superpower. To others, it has been a relationship that has served the interests of both countries and provided a foundation for Western cooperation.
This module explores the salient aspects of a relationship that has been built around security, conventional and nuclear. On the one hand, it investigates areas of collaboration, such as nuclear and intelligence sharing, where the US and the UK have worked closely together. On the other, it uncovers issues that have provoked tension between the two sides and it seeks to understand the depth of these disagreements.
The first part of the module looks at the period of the Cold War, when both countries were focused on the threat from the Soviet Union. The second part of part of the module looks at the post-Cold War period and how the relationship has fared amidst the US-led War on Terror and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Theories of the Modern State
The state is the predominant site of power and authority in the modern world. Where modern states do not exist there is usually civil war or occupation; where they are ineffective, politics, society and economy tend to be unstable. But the modern state is also itself a site of violence and coercion in the name of which much suffering has been inflicted on those subject to its power, at home and abroad. Modern politics, then, simply cannot be understood unless we also understand the modern state.
By taking this module, you will become familiar with some of the most important theories of the modern state in the history of political thought, from Bodin and Hobbes, through Hegel and Weber, to Lenin, Robert Paul Wolff and Carole Pateman. You will come to appreciate how the power and authority of the modern state have been characterised, justified and repudiated during the modern era.