The political science department invites Honors students to consider taking one of the following graduate seminars. With your advisor’s approval, graduate courses may be included in your Honors Final Plan of Study for graduation. They also count toward your Honors participation requirements.
POLS/HRTS 5115: Theories of Human Rights
Description: It is often argued that since the Second World War we have been living in the “age of human rights.” Universal human rights have been articulated in and protected by proliferating international treaties, various demands for peace, justice and equality started to be framed as human rights issues, and the advocacy of human rights became a “full-time” job at bourgeoning institutions and organizations. The study of human rights has not only permeated many fields, it has become an interdisciplinary field of study. But, what are human rights? Where do they come from? Who has them? Who can enjoy them? Are there duties? What comes first, rights or duties? Who are the duty bearers? The course examines a range of answers presented since the ancient times and offers a survey of some major classical and contemporary theoretical debates. It also links theoretical arguments to certain articulations of rights and responsibilities in international law or policy proposals.
Readings and requirements: The reading assignments will include a number of books and articles that should be read prior to the class session. As a graduate seminar, the course relies on students’ participation and engagement in class discussions, and the quality and quantity of class participation will constitute at least 25 % of the final grade. Two or three members of the class will serve as discussion leaders for each session. The writing assignments will entail reflection essays and research papers of various lengths.
POLS 5235: Comparative Democratization
This seminar is designed to provide students with an overview of the expansive literature on democratization. We will examine the literature on democratization to discern the major approaches, themes, debates surrounding regime change away from authoritarianism. We will focus on transitions to democratic rule in countries that have recently been ruled by authoritarian regimes, rather than the problems of insufficient democratic practices in advanced democracies. The seminar will be organized thematically rather than regionally with empirical cases drawn primarily from Latin America, Southern Europe, and post-communist states of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union (my area of interest). We will investigate the meaning of democracy; the risks of reversion to authoritarianism; the factors that facilitate or impede democratic transition; the roles and strategies of elites and civil society organizations; problems with religion and interethnic conflicts in transitions; the role of institutions; the relationship between democratization and economic transformation; the effects of globalization on democratization etc. This is a survey course with the aim of helping the students identify the kinds of questions they may want to pursue in greater detail in the future.
POLS 5240: Research Seminar – Social Movements in an Age of Globalization
C. E. Zirakzadeh
Scope: This research seminar has three goals: (1) to introduce graduate students to various theories about social-movement politics, (2) to give students a chance to hone their research skills in a supportive environment, (3) to give students who specialize in different subfields of political science opportunities to exchange knowledge and ideas (this is not intended to be a “comparative politics” course, a “political theory” course, or even a “political science” course in the narrow sense of the term – graduate students in all subfields and all departments are welcomed!).
Readings: We will read eleven books – some quite old, some hot off the presses – that offer different theories about the origins, the nature, and the consequences of social-movement politics.
Format: At our weekly seminars, I will lecture occasionally. But, we will mainly discuss the meaning and significance of the assigned readings. At the end of the term, every student will have an opportunity deliver a 15-20 minute presentation at the sixth biannual UConn Graduate Student Social-Movement Research Conference (Yippee!). In addition, to receive credit each student must submit a 20-30 page research paper that will be due during finals week.
Grading Formula: 65% of each student’s grade will be based on the final research paper; 20% on the conference presentation (including pre-presentation drafts); and 15% on contributions to seminar discussions. Students can boost their conference-presentation and seminar-contribution grades by serving as a discussant at our end-of-the-term conference.
Undergraduate Enrollees: There will be space reserved for a maximum of three senior undergraduates. Such students must either be in the Honors Program or have previously taken a course with Dr. Zirakzadeh. Dr. Zirakzadeh will give permission numbers to the three students who are accepted into the class.
POLS 5408: An Introduction to American Public Opinion and Political Behavior
This course is an advanced undergraduate and graduate seminar serving as an introduction to American public opinion and political behavior. We will read, discuss, critique, and expand past and current research on American public opinion and political behavior through the lenses and experiences of multiple social groups in American politics. As such, special attention will be paid to debates about theories and methods implemented to study, explain, and document American political behavior. Major topical themes will include the study of cognition, affect, and psychological processing in identity, group attachments, opinion formation, ideologies, and political participation, along with mass public opinion (and opinion change, over time) about political actors, political institutions, and public policies in American politics. Additional emphasis will be paid to the creativity and development of innovative public opinion/political behavior studies.
POLS 5610: Research Design in Political Science
This course provides an initial overview of the variety of approaches used to structure research in political science. It will expose students to both qualitative and quantitative methods, including Interpretivism, Feminism, Intersectionality, Case Studies, Comparative Approaches, Textual Analysis, Historical Approaches, Field Research, Ethnography, Participant Observation, Surveys, Elite Interviewing, Focus Groups, and Experiments. We will also discuss Causation and Explanation, Concepts and Measurement, Multi-method Research, and Research Ethics. I hope that students walk away from the course with:
- an appreciation for the wide variety of research design options that are available;
- a respect for, and an open-mindedness to, a variety of approaches;
- a willingness to judge the application of different approaches based on the quality of the work;
- an understanding that no single approach is superior to any other approach simply because of the nature of that approach; and
- an understanding that all approaches have strengths and weaknesses, and involve tradeoffs and choices.
Honors Enrollment: I will reserve space for up to three honors undergraduates to enroll in the course. This course is especially appropriate for junior honors students who will be completing a thesis next year that utilizes empirical research methods. You should contact me if you are interested in taking the course and include a brief explanation of the research project that will guide your senior honors thesis. I will give permission numbers to those students for whom the course is most appropriate.