New “Theoretical Foundations of Global Studies” syllabus.

Last summer I posted a syllabus for a new course that I was teaching in fall 2012, “Foundations of Global Studies Theory.” I really enjoyed the class overall, but having taught it once I’ve made some revisions. Here are some of the main changes that I’ve made, with the reasons why, and the syllabus for the new quarter:

1) The class was too lecture heavy, so I’ve tried to include more active learning sessions. Students particularly liked the discussion of action research. In class I divided them up into small groups of three to five, and asked them to develop an action research proposal to serve students at Portland State. They then had to present their proposals to the class, which voted on the best one. This proved very popular (and the proposals were creative) so I’ve built it into the syllabus, and also repeated it with a traditional social science research “slam” on another day.

2) Chakrabarty’s Provincializing Europe was a key work, but too challenging for students at this level. I think that it would work better in a graduate level class. I’m instead using Kwame Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism as the first book.

3) I found that it was good to use a few films to give background, or to provide case studies for debate. I’ve listed these below (because these films are streaming video through the PSU library, only PSU students will be able to log in to see them at the links given in the syllabus). I used the first video from the PBS series “Heaven on Earth,” which gave a good introduction to the origins of Communism. My students were surprised to find that Communism had some American roots (who knew that farmers in Oklahoma were so radical a hundred years ago?). I’ve also used the Wide Angle Video “The Burning Season” from PBS in the green theory section of the class, as a case study of free market solutions to global warming. I also used the Wide Angle video, the Empty ATM, as a means to discuss neoliberalism’s fall from power since the 1990’s. Lastly, I really like Han’s Rosling’s TED talk “Let my Dataset change your mind set,” because it challenges the binary construction of developed/developing that underlies most development theory, and it’s not long.

4) I’ve increased the weight of the case study, to reflect the amount of effort it took the students, as well as arranged a class library session with the research librarian at PSU. What I learned from this assignment was that some students have difficulty applying theory to a real-world issue, so I need to scaffold more structure around this assignment. As you will see, there is also more language in the syllabus to make students aware that submitting their own work from another class also counts as plagiarism. Students faced a temptation to take an existing essay of theirs, and tack on a couple of pages of theory. I did see one case of this. Whenever students plagiarize, I always assume that it’s largely my fault for creating an assignment where this is readily feasible. So to reduce this possibility, I’ve shortened the amount of time discussing the case in the paper, while expanding the examination of the theory. Despite this problem, most students ultimately did really innovative and interesting work on this assignment, and I think that it’s well worth doing.

5) The theory mapping assignment was my favorite course activity in the class. I asked students to draw a theory map, which organized the names of theories in a way that made sense to them, so as to show the relationships between them. Some students focused on the geographic origins of theory. Others organized their map around the postivisit/post-structuralist divide. But they all put some thought into these, and came up with some creative approaches that I wouldn’t have always thought off. In class, I asked for students to volunteer to come up to the front and present their maps when they were done (I gave them about twenty minutes), which led to rich discussions. I’ve decided to do it at the start and finish of the course so that students can compare their maps.

6) I discussed Eric Hobsbawm’s theory of millenarianism, which to my surprise was probably students’ favorite lecture of the course. The final section of the course, on theories of collapse, worked well, so I am repeating it again.

On another note I want to thank everyone who has been using our text. It has been successful, and Kim Brown and I are now beginning to work on a second edition.

I’d love to hear any suggestions that you might have for readings, class assignments, or topics for the theory class, particularly based on your teaching experience. Here is the syllabus that I’ve just posted to the course management system for winter 2013:


INTL 390

Theoretical Foundations of Global Studies

Prof. Shawn Smallman

Rm. XXX, East Hall

Phone: 503-725-XXXX


Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 1-2 pm.


Description: This course is designed to introduce students to the leading schools of thought in Global and International Studies, from foundational theories to contemporary post-structuralism. The course will also use case studies, so that students may see how different theoretical frameworks may be applied to the same global issue.


Learning Outcomes: The students in the course will:

  1. Gain an understanding of a number of key ideas and theoretical approaches for analyzing and interpreting global social and cultural realities.
  2. Learn to analyze and evaluate competing theories.
  3. Apply one or more of these theoretical frameworks to analyze a concrete problem or case.


Basis for Grade:


Book Review: 20%: Students will write a five to seven page review of one of the four books assigned in the course. The book review must be uploaded to Dropbox in D2L, the course management system by midnight on Friday, January 25th.


Midterm Exam 20%: This will be an on-line exam students will complete in D2L. The exam will consist of both an online quiz, as well as an essay question, which they will upload to Dropbox by midnight of Thursday, February 7th. Students will receive the question (there will be no choice) the preceding night. There will be no class the day of the exam.


Case Study: 35%: The student will write a eight to twelve page paper, which will briefly apply two (or more) theories to the same global issue, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each. The paper should be based on at least twelve sources, six for the main topic, and at least three for each of the theories considered. The global issue section of the paper should be covered in no more than three pages. Each theory must be briefly defined and described. The theoretical discussion should account for the majority of the text, and will be the component of the paper given the most weight in the grading. Students may not use material that they have written for a paper in another class for this assignment (see “plagiarism” below). The paper will be evaluated on the strength of the research, the effective analysis of the theory, and the clarity of the writing. The paper will be uploaded into Dropbox by midnight on Thursday, March 7th.

Note: students will upload an annotated bibliography (a list of sources, and a couple of sentences on each), together with one paragraph on how they found these sources, to Dropbox by midnight, February 11th. The goal is for you to prepare for the research session in the library on Tuesday, February 12th. This assignment is required but not graded.

Response Paper: 20%: The students will write a response to a question given on the last class, which will ask them to integrate material from the readings, lecture, and videos. The paper will be uploaded onto Dropbox in D2L by midnight on Monday, March 18th.

D2L: This is a web-infused course. Students should access D2L at least twice a week to look at the news, and view the lecture outlines and key terms. All assignments will be submitted in the dropbox feature of D2L. Please e-mail the faculty member directly, however, rather than through D2L.


All books are available in paperback at the PSU bookstore.

Edward Said, Orientalism

Andrew Sumner and Michael Tribe, International Development Studies: Theories and Methods in Research and Practice.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities

Kwame Appiah, Cosmopolitanism

**Note: other reading will be assigned from websites listed in the syllabus.


Late policy: late assignments or exams will be penalized (except in case of verifiable illness or family emergency) three percent a day for each day that they are late (including weekends) up to a maximum of thirty percent of the final grade.


Plagiarism is the submission of another person’s work as your own.  It is also a serious academic crime.  Any instance of plagiarism will result in an automatic “O” for that assignment.  You may also not submit a paper in this course that you also use in another course, which also constitutes plagiarism.

Disability: Any student who has a disability that may require some special arrangements in order to fulfill the course requirements should contact the Disability Resource Center at the start of the course to make appropriate arrangements. The DRC is located in 116 Smith Memorial Student Union, and their phone number is (503) 725-XXXX.

Topics: True academic inquiry must follow its own course. For this reason, there may be changes and additions to the schedule that follows.

Week One, January 7th-12th:

The Nature and Goals of the Course. Theory mapping Exercise.

Action Research theory: In-class work- groups develop an Action Research proposal for PSU. Three minute proposal slam competition.

The Difference between Global/International Studies and IR; objectivity in theory.


Week Two, January 14th-18th

Positivist Social Science Methodology: class work- as a group, develop a social science research proposal for a Portland topic. Three minute proposal slam competition.

Classical and Modern Liberalism.


DISCUSSION, Thursday: Kwame Appiah, Cosmopolitanism.


Week Three, January 21-25th.

Case Study: Argentina’s Collapse in 2002: a Neoliberal failure? (Wide Angle Film, PBS: the Empty ATM)

Stable URL:

Classical Marxism

“Heaven on Earth,” PBS documentary. Stable URL:


ASSIGNMENT: Book Review due on-line by Friday, January 25th at midnight.


Week Four, January 28th-February 1st:

DISCUSSION, Tuesday: Andrew Sumner and Michael Tribe, International Development Studies: Theories and Methods in Research and Practice.

Modernization and Dependency Theory; Hans Rosling’s TED talk: “Let my Data Set Change your Mindset.”

Postcolonialism: its Algerian roots and global adoption.

Wide Angle, PBS: “the Burning Season.” Free market solutions to global warming.

Stable URL:


Week Five, February 4th-8th:

DISCUSSION, Tuesday, “Green Theory”:

Garrett Hardin, “Tragedy of the Commons,” Science, 1968:

Thomas Friedman, “No Drill, Baby, Drill,” NYT, 2009:

Robert J. Smith, “Resolving the Tragedy of the Commons by Creating Private Property Rights in Wildlife,” CATO Institute,

Lecture: Green Theory: the Chipko Movement and Sustainability theory.

MIDTERM: Thursday, February 7th: on-line midterm. No class today.


Week Six, February 11th-15th.

Library Session: “Researching the Case Study.” The class will meet in ML 160 at 10 am. Please note: you must have completed an annotated bibliography of ten sources (with a paragraph on how you found them) and have uploaded this document to Dropbox by midnight the night before. This assignment is required but not graded.

Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School

DISCUSSION, Thursday: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.


Week Seven, February 18th-22nd.


Hannah Arendt and International Relations.

DISCUSSION, Tuesday: Read Adam Shatz’s review of the new biography of Derrida:

Adam Kirsch’s piece on Hannah Arendt:

Global Feminisms

DISCUSSION, Thursday: a brief interviews with a feminist scholar of International Relations.


Week Eight, February 25th-March 1st.

A Case Study of Bioethics: Viral Sovereignty and Biopiracy in Indonesia

Liberalism in International Relations Theory

Realism and Human Security

International Society


Week Nine, March 4th-8th.

DISCUSSION, Tuesday: Edward Said, Orientalism, xv-xxx (preface), 1-28 (Introduction), 31-56 (selections from “The Scope of Orientalism”), 284-328 (section four of “Orientalism Now”), 329-352 (Afterword).

Millenarianism and Social Banditry: Eric Hobsbawm and “pre-political protest.”

Case Study: in-group reports and class discussion.

Assignment: the Case Study is due in D2L by Thursday, March 7th at midnight.


Week Ten, March 11th-15th.

Joseph Tainter and theories of collapse: the Club of Rome to Peak Oil.

DISCUSSION, Tuesday: Ugo Bardi: “Peak Civilization” and the Collapse of the Roman Empire:

Theory mapping project.


Response Paper: due on-line in D2L on March 18th, by midnight.


Shawn Smallman

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