Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TeachIRCPPS: Doom and Gloom 101: Making Weak and Failed States Teachable

Duck of Minerva features a post tackling how to teach about weak and failed states with nuance and finesse:
Nothing risks inviting cynicism and despair like teaching and learning about failed states. For the second year I'm teaching an upper level International Relations course titled "Weak and Failed States" in the Poli Sci Department at UMass Amherst. Much to the confusion of my students, I introduce the course by explaining that "weak and failed states" is a highly contested concept, driven more by policy agendas than empirical consistencies, and analytical re-conceptualized so many times over that it's almost entirely useless. In other words, welcome to Political Science! But, as a catch-all concept it does manage to frame different types of governance challenges and threats and introduces students to case studies, like Haiti and DRC, that tend to fall off the radar for issues that matter in traditional IR. And surprisingly, the course went very well last year and so far, so good, this semester.