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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Joel S Migdal
SIS 501
Seattle Campus

Seminar: Comparative International Studies

Focuses on comparison across geographical areas including comparative political economy, comparative cultures, and comparative institutions. Provides familiarity with the comparative method of inquiry, an understanding of the interplay between area studies and cross-regional theories, and skills in conducting comparative research and writing. Prerequisite: ECON 200; ECON 201. Offered: W.

Class description

This course explores a variety of different analytical approaches to international studies, including works by economists, political scientists, geographers, and others. Despite the diversity of approaches and topics, practically all of the readings grapple with an issue of overriding importance in international studies—an issue that constitutes the core of the discipline. That issue involves people’s sense of belonging and self-worth in a world where huge economic and political institutions, such as multinational corporations and modern states, which act to channel and control people’s behavior, seem to diminish the importance of ordinary people. In efforts to transcend their sense of individual impotence, people create extended social ties, communities, societies, nations, and common ways of behaving, all of which are infused with deep personal meaning and also have huge significance in terms of the world’s security, culture, politics, and economics. Scholars in international studies tend to begin their inquiries either from the bottom-up—with the people whose lives have been affected and their responses, ranging from migration to formation of community—or from the top-down, examining the structures that have so deeply affected peoples’ lives. We will examine how the readings explore the mindset and reactions of everyday people and the large-scale forces that serve them and weigh upon them. Some of the readings have become foundational works in social science; others are good illustrations of contemporary scholars’ striving to unravel the issue of belonging and its relation to states and transnational structures. The last week’s readings, which we will divide up, are by professors associated with the Jackson School. The readings reflect some of most the innovative thinking being done anywhere on the course’s theme. They will also help you identify for your future course work the professors doing research in the dimensions of international studies in which you are most interested. Students will be asked to read a book per week. During six of the nine weeks in which there are reading assignments, students will write a 4-5 page analysis of the assignment that week.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by M Jane Meyerding
Date: 10/16/2008