Below are descriptions and syllabi for four courses that I designed and taught as the sole instructor at the College of the Holy Cross and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A full list of my teaching-related experience and awards can be found in my CV.
Comparative Political Ecology
What does it mean to be a citizen on a deeply damaged, perhaps dying planet? What does environmental justice require of us? Political ecology is the study of how human and non-human forces shape one another in ways that impinge on political power, security, and inequality. In this course, students will learn a variety of analytic tools that such a perspective provides, and apply them to case studies around the world. We will begin by analyzing some key puzzles of political ecology: Why do so many people live in hazard-prone areas that are subject to the harm of pollution or increasingly destructive forest fires and hurricanes? Why have attempts to either exploit or preserve “nature” ended in catastrophe for some, while at the benefit of others? Why are so many resource-rich countries still “cursed” with endemic poverty, corruption, instability, and authoritarianism? How have political movements sought to change the way that we think about and govern the natural world? We will then turn to the most pressing debates in the field of political ecology as we consider our current ecological crisis. Students will draw from their new analytic tool-box to evaluate different theories that seek to explain the destruction of the planet, and what must be done to address it.
Government and Politics of the Middle East
This course introduces students to contemporary politics in the Middle East. The goal is to provide students with the theoretical and empirical knowledge necessary to address the following questions about Middle Eastern countries: How were states formed during and after colonization? How has this history influenced conflicts between different religious and ethnic groups? Why is authoritarianism so persistent in the region? How is Islam mobilized for different political agendas, and why have Islamic activists become so influential? What does the fight for equality between genders and sexual minorities look like? What was the Arab Spring, why did it happen, and what hope is there for people’s movements in the region?
Introduction to Comparative Politics
This course is an introduction to how scholars have tried to answer some of the most vexing questions of our age: Why are some countries rich, and others poor? Why are some governments wracked with corruption and instability, while others appear permanent and rational? Why are some regimes democratic, and others authoritarian? What is the relationship between capitalism and democracy? And finally, can democracy survive in a warming globe? We will explore these questions comparatively, examining how power has changed over time and across space. We begin our study prior to the modern age in order to examine the historical processes and accidents that have shaped the states, nations, economies, and natural environments around us. We then shift to examine nation-states comparatively, studying the variety of forms that democracy, authoritarianism, and capitalism take around the world. Finally, we examine theories that consider the future of democracy on an increasingly interconnected and warming planet.
Interpretation and Analysis
This course is designed to develop students’ hard skills of communication and analysis in the social sciences. It is practice-oriented. That is, students will improve upon these skills through exercises focused on writing, reading, and revision. This will include analyzing and evaluating arguments and evidence of assigned readings. But most of the class will be devoted to producing original material, including an op-ed, literature review, and a resume and cover letter for a job or graduate school application. Students will also conduct political science research and present their findings in both a final paper and an in-class presentation. The course satisfies the University’s junior year writing requirement.