Nov. 18, 2022

What We Are Learning This Week with Dr. Pablo Policzer 

Dr. Pablo Policzer is exploring security and insecurity in international relations. 
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November 21, 2022 in POLI 201 Introduction to Government and Politics  


Can you tell us a little more about this topic? 

War and peace are central concerns in international relations. Although the modern study of IR is about a hundred years old, the concern with the politics of war and peace dates back at least to Thucydides’ study of the conflict between Athens and Sparta. (We’re reading an excerpt from the Melian Dialogue in Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War.) Today the study of security issues involves not just nation states but also sub- and non-state actors, such as rebel groups and even criminal gangs. This week also features a special guest lecture by one of our TA’s, Tara Cranna, a PhD student specializing in security issues. 

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What else do you cover in your course? 

POLI 201 is the basic introduction to political science, for most students the first (hopefully not the last!) course they take in the discipline. It covers the three core subfields: theory, comparative, and international relations. It surveys the core concepts and theories in each of these areas. This includes concepts such as power, states, nations, freedom, democracy, and autocracy. Among others, it also surveys theories for why and how the nation state became our core political unit, the consequences of different kinds of democratic and voting systems, and of how protests and revolutions work.

How did you come to develop this course? 

This is my first-time teaching POLI 201, which is not a course I created but a requirement for students in the field. I wanted the challenge of teaching the material at this level, of explaining complex and hotly contested ideas in a clear and compelling way. Beyond covering the basic subfields with the assistance of a textbook (which is consistent with how others teach the course), I also include some material that others don’t necessarily cover, such as protests and revolutions, and non-democratic politics. The core message is that government is but one manifestation of politics, that in fundamental ways it’s all politics.  

Cranna Headshot

Tara Cranna (PhD student), tell us about about your guest lecture this week! 

In my guest lecture we will be covering the world of security from 9/11 on… a BIG topic. What I hope to keep the focus on though is how priorities need to change, and maybe have not changed fast enough. For so long academics and practitioners alike kept their eyes on jihadist terrorism, but in the past decade in particular we’ve seen a rise of far right extremism and terrorism that experts now believe to be a much greater threat that international terrorism. Furthermore, we’ve seen the tolerance, if not encouragement, of it from our political leaders. I hope the students walk out of the lecture thinking more on how much words matter, how much speaking out against misogyny and racism matters, and the potential roles they can play in that fight. 

Finally, what other courses would you recommend for students interested this topic? 

Any of the courses we offer! I hope POLI 201 encourages students to explore the entire discipline further, through courses not only in the three core subfields but also in Canadian politics, indigenous studies, public policy, security studies, and others. And for students who don’t end up majoring in the discipline, I hope they are encouraged to think about politics broadly from the perspective of whatever area they focus on. 


Our Thanks to Dr. Pablo Policzer for sharing your course with us

Follow Dr. Policzer on Twitter @policzer