Module descriptions for International Relations and Politics

  • As courses are reviewed regularly the module list you choose from may vary from that shown here.

  • Compulsory Modules

    Introduction to International Relations I: Perspectives
    This module provides an introduction to the theory and history of international relations. The module will give a broad overview of the discipline of international relations, engaging with the scope of study, key theories and concepts, and ground these in an historical overview of the international system since 1945.

    Introduction to Politics
    An investigation of the nature of political study and of politics through examination of political behaviour (processes of political socialisation, the nature of political culture and the ways in which individuals participate in a democratic society) and the role of ideas and ideologies in informing individual and collective behaviour.

    Introduction to International Relations II: Themes and Issues
    This module provides an introduction to the field of international relations by examining some of the key issues in contemporary world politics. After introducing core concepts and themes – for example, the idea and history of the international system of states and international society, transnational and global society, along with the concepts of conflict and co-operation among states and non-state actors – the module examines a number of immediate and chronic issues in world politics.

    Politics in Comparative Perspective
    This module examines and compares the nature of democratic politics, including governmental institutions and political processes, in a number of systems including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the USA and the European Union.

    Social Differences and Divisions
    This module is designed to provide students with an introductory knowledge of sociology and the different ways in which sociological analysis makes sense of the social world. Key concepts and approaches in sociology will be introduced through a focus on the relationship between individuals, groups and social institutions. Core areas of sociological analysis, including gender relations, class divisions, and ‘race’ and ethnicity will be considered in light of contemporary sociological debates.

    Academic Literacy in Politics and International Relations
    This module aims to develop and enhance the academic literacy of Politics and International Relations students through an exploration of the art, craft and science of these two disciplines. The aims of the module are to provide students with the opportunity to develop key academic skills through a consideration of the concerns and practice of these two disciplines. Through practical and analytical activities and content students are invited to explore what the nature and scope of these two disciplines are, what critical issues they explore, what questions they seek to answer and what the academic, educational and social value of these disciplines are.

    The module will help students develop their key academic skills to equip them for their undergraduate studies while challenging them to consider the reasons they are studying these subjects. In short, the module asks what do students of Politics and International Relations do, how do they do it, why do they do it and why is it important.




    Compulsory Modules

    Political Thought 1
    A historical and critical examination of political thought and international theory, beginning with Machiavelli and concluding with Bentham. Students will reflect on how historic theories of international and national politics are to be understood and assessed conceptually.

    Political Thought 2
    This develops from Political Thought 1, beginning with Kant and concluding with de Beauvoir. Specific theorists such as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Mill, Nietzsche and de Beauvoir will be examined and general themes such as gender, sovereignty and the end of history in relation to the politics of states and the international arena will be investigated.

    Researching Politics and International Relations I: Analytical Modes
    The aim of this module is to locate political science and international relations with reference to debates about the nature of social science, so that students may begin to make informed choices about their own modes of inquiry. Students will be introduced to debates about the nature of ‘the political’ (ontology), what we can know about it (epistemology) and how different modes of inquiry are derived from these debates

    Researching Politics and International Relations II: Methods
    Introduces students to the ideas underpinning the design and conduct of research in politics and international relations, starting with the big questions of ‘what exists?’ and ‘how can we know about what exists?’ before moving to consider the practice and implications of different research methods.

    Alternative Compulsory Modules

    Contemporary Security Studies
    The topic of ‘security’ – what it is, how to achieve it, who should provide it, and even who and/or what should ‘be secured’ – is hotly contested by policy makers, the academic community, and members of civil society. This module examines some of the different ways that security and its objects of protection (whether these are the nation-state, the environment, the economy, a ‘way of life’, and/or the individual) have been conceptualised and the implications for peace and global conflict as well as for everyday forms of violence and exclusion.

    The Global Political Economy
    Examines the global economic order and the interaction of economics and politics in shaping world affairs. The module is divided into two parts. Part one offers a historical overview, and a range of theoretical tools through which to understand recent changes in the world economy. Part two looks at a number of substantive debates by discussing how politics and economics are entwined in the areas of production, finance, and trade.

    Global Governance and Civil Society
    The module examines the web of governance structures in a world no longer dominated by state actors. It explores the changing ‘architectures’ of statist governance and the variety of inter- and trans-societal, as well as global structures and processes.

    Russia and East Europe after Lenin
    Explores the attempt to build a radical alternative political, social and economic model in Europe during the 20th century. The module will be substantively concerned with questions of state-building, governance, security and legitimacy in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Taking a comparative approach to the region, students will consider the appropriateness of Western concepts for understanding the political system, particularly socialism, totalitarianism, pluralism and democracy.

    State and Society in Europe
    Offers an exploration into the social and political foundations of European states and societies. It looks at the processes of nation and state-building and the relationship between state, markets and society, consolidation of European models of capitalism and the construction of European concepts of citizenship.

    American Politics and Society
    An analysis of the governmental and political institutions in the United States, the policy-making process, and contemporary issues in American politics.

    Modern British Politics
    An analysis of contemporary British politics and the wider movements contributing to the making of modern British politics, and an assessment and evaluation of political change in Britain within a global and historical context.

    Democracy, Autocracy and Regime Change
    This module explores the theoretical approaches to regime change and regime consolidation and their relevance to real life cases. It will first acquaint students with the complex concepts of (various forms of) democracy and (various forms of) authoritarianism, before introducing them to competing structure and process-driven explanations of regime change. It will offer a critical perspective on the notion of regime change as a linear progression from authoritarianism to democracy by providing illustrations of other regime trajectories. From here it will go on to evaluate the impact of globalisation on both 'consolidated democracies' and on regimes that are generally considered to be non-democracies. Finally, it will focus more concretely on carefully selected real life cases from three regions within which there is especially large divergence in regime types: the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.

    Nationalism, Identity and Ethnicity
    This module examines the competing and contrasting theoretical approaches to understanding nationalism and ethnicity. Using a range of case studies from pre-modern Europe to the global present the module assesses the different ways in which nationalism can influence state (and sub-state) development, economic relations, democratic practice and institutional arrangements. The module also explores the intersection between nationalism, ethnicity and other key categories in political science such as: political mobilisation, conflict, culture, gender, religion and globalisation. The last two themes in particular look at challenges to nationalist ideologies, movements and the nation-state. These sections will draw on a broad range of comparative case studies including, but not limited to, European nation-state formation; 19th Century imperialism, nationalist parties in Europe (and beyond); nationalist and ethnic violence in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; the Holocaust; Hindu Nationalism; Zionism; the rise of jihad ideology; and the role of cinema and literature in creating 'shared imaginations' of national identity and nationhood.

    Current Issues in Politics and International Relations
    The content is to be decided on each occasion this module runs by International Relations and Politics staff in conjunction with the Subject meeting and External Examiners.

    Work-based Learning in Politics and International Relations
    This module offers students the opportunity to build on the skills and knowledge gained in the Politics and/or International Relations level 4 modules in order to undertake a with organisations that are engaged in areas relevant to the study of Politics and/or International Relations. Students will be able to evaluate and reflect critically upon this experience in a module that links theory and practice of Politics and International Relations in a professional context. The content of the module is negotiated between the student and the work placement provider and must be approved by the module leader in advance of the commencement of the placement.

    International Trade and Migration
    This module combines the study of international migration with a specific aspect of global governance - trade agreements and organisations. Developing a historical sociology approach, it traces key events and social processes defining the imbrication of international migration and trade governance since the mid-19th Century. These two phenomena are becoming more prominent in contemporary elite and everyday politics as crises and/or opportunities for resistance. Through them, the module provides an alternative history of international relations, while showing that their imbrication is not as recent as popular ideas may assume.

    Sex, Gender and Politics
    In this module, we will critically explore how structures and ideas of sex and gender shape the political worlds we inhabit: both formal and informal. We will be asking whether the gender of our political representatives makes a difference to the way that politics is conducted, as well as analysing the gendered power relations that permeate multiple spheres of life including work, home and social spaces. Topics will include the politics of reproduction and the body, gendered divisions of labour, cultures of sexual violence, gay rights and sexual citizenship, and the relationship between feminism, racism and imperialism. The module will consider a range of theoretical perspectives from within feminist, gender and queer theory, as well as broader traditions of political theory such as Marxism, anti-colonialism, and liberalism.




    Honours Components

    State and Society in Contemporary Russia 
    Russia has been undergoing enormous political, economic and social transformation since the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War. The module will analyse the emergence of the contemporary political system in light of the historical, global and socio-economic context, exploring the nature of the state, the significance of political institutions and the applicability of western political science concepts such as liberal democracy.

    Political Sociology of Crime and Disorder
    This module will explore contemporary issues in the politics and sociology of crime, disorder and control. This will include an overview of some of the key theories and theorists and current practices of crime and social order. The aim of the module is to provide students with an understanding of the key debates and issues in relation to crime and disorder, the sociological analysis and understanding of these issues and an opportunity to explore the politics of crime, disorder and social control.

    Theory and Practice of Human Rights 
    Offers students the opportunity to develop both a comprehensive understanding of theoretical debates on human rights and an awareness of the myriad practices, actors, institutions, and issues surrounding the concept of human rights, and from a broad range of perspectives

    Conflict and Peacebuilding
    This module addresses the major issues at the heart of conflict and post-war reconstruction: What is peace? What are the common causes of violent intra-state conflicts? What are the dynamics and challenges of peace processes? Why are peace accords often likely to break down? What role do local and international actors play in reconstruction efforts? Why do reconstruction efforts often fail? Students will evaluate the dynamics of violent conflict, peace and post-war reconstruction through the examination of case studies; a conflict simulation exercise and a critical engagement with the literature.

    Violence, Resistance and Identity Politics 
    This course probes the links between identity as a localised practice and globalised forms of domination, exclusion and violence. It explores a wide range of foundational and contemporary literature from international relations, feminist, postcolonial and poststructural theory to ask questions about the ways in which particular bodies are raced, classed, gendered and sexualized, and the personal/political implications of this.

    International Development
    This module examines both the theory and practice of the international politics of development. The first half of the module looks at key theoretical debates and how these have related to practice. Various contemporary issues in development are then explored to illustrate the theoretical debates.

    Counter Terrorism in Comparative Perspective
    This module aims to compare and contrast the shifting and different ways in which states respond to terrorism. It will conclude by considering how these various responses impact upon both human rights regimes and norms and citizenship rights, behaviours and practices.

    Freedom, Justice and Political Theory 
    An examination of key political concepts, freedom, justice, and the community, taking account of affiliated concepts including rights and equality. In considering these concepts, differing theoretical treatments of them will be related to the roles they play in the practical world of politics.

    South African Politics: From Apartheid to Democracy
    This module will provide students with a detailed examination of the political economy of South Africa. It begins with an analysis of the legacy of South Africa’s history before surveying some of the key issues in the political economy of post-apartheid South Africa. It assesses the links between the historical legacies of apartheid and the unique nature of some of the problems encountered in South Africa today.

    Global Environmental Politics
    This module is concerned with the global environmental issues in a broad, interdisciplinary framework. Beginning with an investigation into the international legal and institutional apparatus for dealing with environmental issues, it goes on to consider the wider socio-cultural and ideological aspects, as well as the global political economy of environmental governance and sustainable development.

    International Human Rights Law
    The module will introduce the history and philosophical foundations of human rights and international human rights law, the context of international human rights in international law more generally, and the universal and regional mechanisms for the protection of human rights at an international level.

    International Law and Institutions
    Focuses on the law and legal framework governing the international community. Examined in depth are the underpinnings of international law including the nature, origins and basis of international law, the sources of international law, including treaties and customary norms. Special focus is given to the nexus between international and municipal law, subjects of international law and the concept of territory/jurisdiction.

    Central Asia in Global Politics: Beyond Oil and Islam
    This module examines Central Asia’s domestic post-Soviet development within the context of its geostrategic importance to international actors. It will explore issues central to the region’s development including nation-building, conflict and revolution, political Islam, the political economy of oil, transnational organised crime and ‘great’ power play in the region.

    Dissertation in International Relations and Politics – Compulsory (Double Honours)
    This module provides the opportunity for independent research under supervision. Students choose a dissertation topic under advice from staff in the International Relations field.

    Postcolonial Perspectives on Western Culture and Politics
    This module sheds light on how Western culture and politics rely on the construction of particular narratives about people in the postcolonial world. The module will highlight the diffuse nature of what constitutes ‘oppression’, and will show how what we ‘think’ about other people matters for how we understand ourselves, as well as our own culture and politics.

    Independent Study in International Relations and Politics
    Offers students the opportunity to undertake independent study and research under supervision. Students can submit a proposal for independent study, and provided that supervision is available, an agreed programme of work and assessment schedule is constructed.

    Militarism and Society
    Seeks to examine the multiple ways in which military logics and goals come to be prioritized within political, social, cultural and economic realms (with a focus on the U.K., U.S. and Canada) and, by extension, the processes by which the 'social' and 'cultural' become militarized - i.e., the processes by which military values and ideas extend into and shape 'the socio-cultural' and 'the everyday'. It will examine concepts and practices associated with militarism and militarisation through various lenses and theoretical perspectives and across several diverse sites - such as film, news media, sport, fashion/branding and peacekeeping. It will also examine practices of resistance. Throughout there will be a focus on the ways in which militarism, militarisation and resistance are shaped by and, in turn, shape identities across the intersecting markers of nationality, race, gender, sexuality and class. Students will be encouraged to discuss and evaluate contending theoretical perspectives and to bring theory and practice together to form their own arguments and perspectives.

    The European Union: Integration and Disintegration
    By adopting a sociological lens to the study of the EU, this module will overview different perspectives that are topical for understanding the process of European integration. It seeks to develop students' understanding of the social, political and cultural dimensions of the European project and the debates associated with these. More specifically, it explores the impact of Europeanization by looking at both top-down and bottom-up perspectives. It uncovers the complexities of social, political and cultural dynamics that determine the boundaries of the European project. The module will assess the social and political framework underpinning the development of the Europeanization process thus raising important questions about the overall aims of the EU vis-a-vis its member states but more importantly towards its citizens. By overviewing factors of disintegration - besides of integration - the module will evaluate the current state of Europeanization, and in particular the impact of various crises (democratic, financial, cultural) on its development.