Module descriptions for International Relations

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

  • The Compulsory Modules are:

    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 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.

    Academic Literacy in Politics and International Relations
    This module develops and enhances 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 well 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.

    The Recommended Modules are:

    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.

    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.

    Researching Politics and International Relations I: Analytical Modes (Compulsory)
    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 (Alternative Compulsory)
    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.

    Contemporary Security Studies (Alternative Compulsory)
    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 (Alternative Compulsory)
    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 (Alternative Compulsory)
    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.

    International Trade and Migration (Alternative Compulsory)
    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. 

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Work Based Learning
    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.


    Dissertation in International Relations (Double Honours Component)
    This module provides the opportunity for independent research under supervision. Students choose a dissertation topic under advice from International Relations staff, then design and conduct a piece of small scale research over two semesters, which is finally written up as a dissertation of 8-10,000 words.

    Interdisciplinary Dissertation in International Relations (Double Honours Component)
    This module provides the opportunity for independent research under supervision. The interdisciplinary dissertation combines both subjects of study. As such, students choose a dissertation topic under advice from staff on the IR subject and their other subject. No proposal will be accepted without the student having taken module U23130/U23180 Researching Politics and International Relations. Students taking this module must also register for the interdisciplinary module in their other field.

    Violence, resistance and Identity Politics (Honours Component)
    This module probes the links between localized, everyday practices of identity and globalized forms of domination, exclusion and violence. Its concern is with the twin themes of sovereign violence (enacted in exceptional practices of war and everyday ways at the borders and in the policing of protest) and resistance to sovereign violence (also enacted in exceptional ways through mass movements and in everyday daily attitudes and practices). It explores a wide range of foundational and contemporary literature from International Relations, feminist, postcolonial and postcultural theory to ask questions about the ways in which particular bodies are raced, classed, gendered and sexualised and the local/global politics of this. Key concepts include: gender, race, sexuality, the body, neoimperialism, neocolonialism, militarization, agency and resistance.

    International Development (Honours Component)
    Since the end of the Cold War one of the key dynamics in world politics, namely the gap between rich and poor, has come into sharper focus. 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. These will include the Third World Debt Crisis, fair trade, development assistance, sustainable development and the resource curse thesis.

    International Law and Institutions (Honours Component)
    This module 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 and the sources of international law, including treaties and customary norms. A special focus is given to the nexus between international and municipal law, subjects of international law and the concept of territory/jurisdiction. The core principles governing the use of force and the conduct of armed conflict are also explored. Finally, the law of state responsibility and individual accountability are taught in the context of violations of international rules.

    The European Union: Integration and Disintegration (Honours Component)
    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.

    Independent Study in International Relations (Honours Component)
    This module 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 for the following semester.

    Conflict and Peacebuilding (Honours Component)
    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.

    Global Environmental Politics (Honours Component)
    This module is concerned with global environmental issues in a broad, interdisciplinary framework. Beginning with an investigation of the legal and institutional settings and the role and efficacy of international regimes for solving environmental issues, it goes on to consider the wider socio-cultural and ideological context of modernity as the backdrop for conceptualising the global ecological crisis. It further analyses the global political economy of environmental governance and sustainable development and examines the dynamics of global environmental governance and resistance.

    Law, Empires and Revolutions (Honours Component)
    What are the main legal events and processes of contemporary capitalism? And what can the history of modernity and imperialism teach us about them? This module is structured to provide students with an alternative history of international relations and of the legal aspects of the modern sovereign states system. It also provides students with alternative methodological skills from historical sociology to study the imbrication of history, international relations, and law. Each week takes a crucial event of today's world producing particular legal tensions and debates and revisits its significance through a historical counterpoint. This counterpoint, situated pre-1945, also represents a key moment of legal tension and debate in the history of international relations. For example, we look at the Arab Spring, struggles for human rights, TNCs, extraterritorial obligations, cross-border protests, migrants and refugees, and contrast these contemporary events with some of the following historical counterpoints: colonial trading companies, slave revolutions, capitulations, enclosures, the Treaties of Westphalia, the Ottoman empire. Through these unconventional comparisons, the module questions definitions of legal sovereignty and gives students the opportunity to discover different histories of the rise of capitalism and its expansion through legal processes. Fundamentally, the module questions the triptych shaping our international legal order - sovereignty-territory-jurisdiction - and explores how it is shaped by various forms of 'extraterritoriality' and other jurisdictional struggles for accumulation.

    Counter Terrorism in Comparative Perspective (Honours Component)
    The module aims to compare and contrast the shifting and different ways in which states respond to terrorism. The module would aim to critically engage with the idea of counter terrorism; what it is, and its relation to conceptions of the state, security and political violence. It would then examine particular moments of counter terrorism practice, including UK policy with regard to Northern Ireland, Spanish policy with regard to the Basque movement and ETA and non western cases such as Sri Lanka and Colombia. Then the module will consider the so called 'new' terrorism (critically engaging with this distinction between 'new' and 'old' terrorism) before going on to consider the similarities and differences in various countries responses to this 'new' terrorism. The module will conclude by considering how these various responses impact upon both human rights regimes and norms and citizenship rights, behaviours and practices.

    International Human Rights Law (Honours Component)
    The module will introduce international human rights law and the mechanisms for the protection of human rights at the international and regional levels. Throughout the module the student is invited to critically examine arguments and ideas about human rights, their philosophical underpinnings, and their contemporary legal and political meaning through an examination of the relevant law, contemporary debates and case studies.

    Theory and Practice of Human Rights (Honours Component)
    The module provides an 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 within the social sciences. It aims to provide students with an understanding of the ways in which social scientific approaches and methods can be brought to bear on an understanding of the role of human rights in the world. It will also provide a basis for exploring a number of selected human rights issues in depth.

    The Ethics of Migration and Immigration (Honours Component)
    This module will introduce students to the major debates surrounding the ethics of migration and immigration, giving them the tools to analyse the ethical implications of policies directed to both constrain and enable migration in the Global North and South. The module will begin with a discussion of why people move in the first place and how this has helped divide migrants into various ethically problematic political categories - genuine and bogus asylum seekers, refugees, economic migrants, etc. It will then move on to three conceptual weeks which focus on the major approaches to the ethics of migration - communitarian, cosmopolitan and critical feminist and poststructural approaches. These will then be employed to discuss the contemporary ethical issues which arise in the global migration regime. These can change from year to year, but can include: the production of the 'refugee', the use of camps to contain and care for refugees, the role of the border security regime, the way states and cities seek to attract talented migrants, and the precarious lives of migrants in the global North. The module will end by looking at 'Cities of Sanctuary' as a contested ethical solution to the situation of migrants.

    Postcolonial Perspectives on Western Culture and Politics (Honours Component)
    This module sheds light on how Western culture and politics rely on the construction of particular narratives about people in the postcolonial world. It discusses how notions such as 'Islamic fanaticism', the 'oppressed Muslim woman' or the 'developing/Third world' are used to elevate Western societies to a status of cultural and political superiority, similar to the way that colonised people were described as 'inferior savages' by their oppressors in colonial times. The module aims to provide space for an in-depth reading of some central texts of postcolonial theory, but even more so for exploring their relation to a variety of practical political and cultural sites, touching on questions of the legitimacy of 'violent' Islamic terrorism, on whether practices such as Female Genital Mutilation should be condemned as human rights violations, and whether to endorse or oppose 'development' policies. 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.

    Militarism and Society (Honours Component)
    This module 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.

    Central Asia in Global Politics: Beyond Oil and Islam (Honours Component)
    The five Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union as a region of significant geostrategic interest. The region's abundance of oil and gas, its proximity to Afghanistan, the perceived prominence of radical Islamic terrorist groups, and transnational organised crime networks meant that the Central Asian state attracted attention from major powers such as Russia, the USA, China and the European Union. This module explores the region's domestic post-Soviet development within the context of this international interest. It will explore the Soviet legacy, nation-building, identity, clan politics, conflict and revolution, political Islam, the political economy of oil, organised crime and 'great' power play in the region. However, it also seeks to engage students in critically challenging some of the assumptions and stereotypes associated with the region that have been perpetuated in Western scholarly and policy discourse.