IRG 378: Capstone Research in International Relations and Global Studies
Topic: Twenty-first Century Conflict
International Relations and Global Studies (IRG) major
The University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Michael Mosser
Course location: MEZ 1.118
Office: Mezes 3.222
Course time: T 3:30 – 6:30
Office hours: W 13:00 – 15:00
(and by appointment)
As an academic field of inquiry, international security tends to focus on the ability of states to remain secure in the face of threats to their internal and external sovereignty. Increasingly, however, the study of security has broadened to include not merely new actors, but also new conceptions of what it means to be ‘secure.’ While conflict among and within states (and increasingly non-state actors) is a major concern, the idea that insecurity can exist but still stop short of conflict has become increasingly accepted among both scholars and practitioners.
Moreover, conflict and security have evolved since the end of the Cold War. While possible, the idea of a superpower-on-superpower strategic conflict on the scale of World War II seems increasingly unlikely. Rather, conflicts appear to occur now based much more on localized and transient grievances, or in certain cases where a major power feels the need to act unilaterally to accomplish some set of strategic aims.
This capstone course will treat all forms of conflict as our object of study, and will ask the following question: what types of conflict are we likely to see in the twenty-first century, and what patterns might we discern from these conflicts? No longer confined to interstate war, conflict since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union has ranged from superpower engaged in major conflict among states to civil war and intrastate violence. Moreover, states no longer hold the monopoly of violence. Indeed, in the last 15 years conflict has entered into areas previously thought unimaginable, such as in cyberspace.
During the course of this semester, students will be exposed to a wide range of thinking on the nature of conflict after the Cold War. Beginning with a reconceptualization of conflict , the course moves to a broader interpretation of conflict since the end of the superpower confrontation that characterized the Cold War to include topics such as terrorism, resource wars, and the United Nations as the arbiter of international security, its successes and failings, and its changing role in the decades since the end of the Cold War. The course ends with a discussion of cyberwarfare and other new theaters of war.
There is no required textbook for this course. Rather, each week has a series of readings assigned that are to be read before the class meets on Tuesday. Befitting a once-a-week capstone course, the readings are more extensive but still manageable. The average reading load per week is ~100 pages.
- Richard K. Betts, Conflict after the Cold War (4th Edition). Prentice Hall, 2012.
Assignments and grading
Your course grade will consist of a paper grade and a discussion/participation grade. A breakdown of the requirements and expectations for each category is below. All assignments will be converted to a 100-point scale with no curve. All grades, including final grades, will use the plus (+) and minus (-) system. Grade standards for all assignments are as follows:
93 > A
< 60 F
As this class is a capstone course, the bulk of the grade for the course will consist of a capstone original research paper. Fulfillment of this writing requirement will entail completing a paper of approximately 7,500-8,000 words (approximately 20-25 pages double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font). Such a paper should be a thorough treatment of the topic chosen, including a clear thesis statement, logical consistency in the arguments used to show the validity of the thesis, and a clear and concise conclusion that effectively summarizes your argument. It should be appropriately documented with references and citations, and should stand on its own as an individual work of scholarship.
Soon after the beginning of the semester, I will meet with each of you individually to discuss your choice of paper topic and your approach chosen to address it. The paper will comprise the majority of the total grade for the course, but attendance and a presentation of your research count for grades as well.
The paper is divided into the following sections:
a) Research proposal: Worth 10% of overall grade
b) Outline and preliminary list of references: Worth 10% of overall grade.
c) First draft of paper: Worth 20% of overall grade.
d) Oral presentation to the group: Worth 20% of overall grade
e) Final draft of paper: Worth 20% of overall grade.
After the end of formal classes, and after a period of individual research, the class will reconvene for formal presentations of papers. There will be five weeks of presentations, with students sorted randomly into groups by Canvas. These presentations are to take the form of a PowerPoint (or equivalent) presentation and are required of all capstone students. Attendance is mandatory for these presentations. Presentation grades will be assigned by the instructor, and will encompass both substance and style grades.
Discussion Facilitating / Participation / Discussion Questions: 20%
Class discussion in a capstone seminar is more than expected; it is a given. Everyone has his or her own style of discussion, and I do not expect to turn those who prefer not to speak often in class into debate champions. Nevertheless, I do expect that each of you will at some point in the semester facilitate a course discussion on the week of your choosing. You will have your classmates’ questions to serve as a point of departure (see below), which you may use as you wish. There will be a sign-up sheet distributed online for discussion facilitators to use. Discussion facilitators are responsible for generating five questions on the readings to distribute to class via Canvas. The discussion facilitating questions will comprise 10% of your course grade.
Because this is a capstone course, it is expected that you will have already absorbed the importance of class attendance. I strongly encourage you to attend every class and be prepared for lively and stimulating discussion. To that end, I will require that each of you on the weeks that you are not facilitating discussions to prepare one discussion question for the upcoming class to submit to the discussion leader. These should be drawn from the readings and should reflect any questions, comments, or cries of outrage you may have regarding the arguments set forth by the authors. These discussion questions will not be graded individually, but together will count for 10% of your course grade. They most definitely will help you get the most from the class. I will prepare the first set of discussion questions as a template for future assignments.