Course Descriptions

Below are descriptions of several courses that I am prepared to teach. All syllabi are available upon request.

Citizenship in the 21st Century (taught Winter 2022):

How and why do people cooperate in large self-governing communities? Under what conditions is collective action particularly difficult? How should societies balance free speech and its potential harms, especially given the amplification facilitated by social media? How are the boundaries of citizenship determined and contested? In this interdisciplinary course, we will study theoretical problems of citizenship and explore them through a case study in U.S. history and by examining historical and contemporary controversies regarding belonging at their university. The course is oriented around a semester-long project in which students explore a problem of citizenship through research of a historical controversy at their university or in their community.

Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa (designed as part of Yale Certificate of College Teaching Preparation):

Why have modern Middle East and North African states proven to be comparatively poor providers of security, services, and the conditions for economic growth? Why have the region’s political regimes so rarely operated according to democratic procedures? Why did recent popular uprisings take so many observers by surprise and what were their effects? What role have political culture, resource endowments, and the international community played in Middle Eastern politics? In this course, we will study the questions that have attracted the interest of Middle East-focused political scientists and critically evaluate the answers they have offered. Through this course, you should gain a deeper understanding of the political problems that have characterized the modern Middle East, the answers scholars have offered to explain them, and the methods they have used to draw these conclusions. One benefit of the course should be to put you in a position to critically evaluate the explanations offered by the popular press for the political problems of the region. Another is to develop frameworks for comparison that allow you to learn about the politics of other regions. Finally, this course should give you the skills to better evaluate a social scientific argument, whether it addresses a political problem or not.

Comparative Revolutions: The Arab Spring and Its Aftermath (designed as part of Yale Certificate of College Teaching Preparation):

The Arab world has long been considered uniquely fertile soil for dictatorship. That seemed to change in 2010–11 when a set of popular uprisings toppled four dictators who had ruled for decades. Many observers at the time proclaimed that the protests would usher in a wave of democratization, but that initial euphoria was dashed by authoritarian retrenchment and civil war in much of the region. These disappointments should not be mistaken for a return to the status quo ante, however. The aftermath of the Arab Spring—new protest movements challenging regimes in Algeria, Morocco, and Sudan; a new regime reinventing authoritarianism in Egypt; a troubled democratic transition in Tunisia; and multifaceted efforts to build political orders reshaping Libya, Syria, and Yemen—continues to raise questions about the past and future of dictatorship, democratization, and political contestation. In this course, we will use the close study of the Arab Spring to address a set of questions central to comparative politics: Why do popular uprisings sometimes surprisingly challenge authoritarian regimes? Why do some people participate in them? Why do some of these uprisings succeed? Why are they sometimes followed by democracy and other times by dictatorship or civil war? In this course, each of you will answer one of these questions through a semester-long assignment that will take you through the steps social scientists commonly take in addressing big questions. By learning how to build a theory based on a case, how to test it using other cases, and how to address alternative hypotheses, you will not only produce a high-quality writing sample but also sharpen a set of skills broadly applicable to the study of social problems.

Political Life After Dictatorship:

In recent decades, many countries have experienced political transitions from authoritarian rule. Optimistic observers of these transitions—especially in places such as Europe after communism, North Africa after the Arab Spring, and South Africa after apartheid—have at times declared them historical ruptures, “an end of history,” and an opportunity to begin anew. But dictatorship often casts long shadows over political life, shaping political attitudes, interpersonal trust, institutional capacity, and the other ingredients of political life. In this course, we will study political life in new democracies and the legacies of authoritarianism that affect it. In the first part of the course, we will focus on understanding how dictatorships work. How do these systems shape institutions and ties between citizens? How do they use violence and how do they distribute resources? In the second part of the course, we will focus on how these authoritarian legacies affect different aspects of political life: ideology, enthusiasm for democracy, patterns of participation, polarization, and partisanship. Finally, we will close by critically evaluating a tool touted by the international community as capable of ameliorating some of the scars left by dictatorship: transitional justice. Throughout the course, we will explore a broad set of cases, including Western and postcommunist Europe, Latin America, post-Arab Spring North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and the U.S. South.

The Politics of Development (taught Spring 2022 with Saad Gulzar, Solédad Prillaman, Stephanie Reist, and Natalya Rahman):

What does it mean to be developed? Why have some parts of the world experienced greater development than have others? What are the policy interventions that policymakers have used to increase development? How do social scientists go about determining what works? In this political science course, students explore topics in development. The course is organized around a semester-long project for which each student identifies a development problem in some part of the world, conducts a data-driven analysis of the problem, and proposes an intervention for addressing it. In addition to engaging with major theories of development, students gain an appreciation for contemporary social scientific methods and apply them to a problem of their interest.

The Spirit of Democracy (taught Fall 2021 with Larry Diamond, James Fishkin, Jennifer Greenburg, and John Young):

What are the different conceptions of democracy and what are the strengths and weaknesses of each? This course provides an introduction to democratic theory, as well as empirical scholarship on the problems of democracy that have become pronounced in recent years. In addition to learning about some of the problems of democracy and policy interventions proposed for improving its quality, students participate in a deliberative poll.