Graduate Courses

Term 1 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
9 am - 12 pm POLI 516A

Issues in Comparative Politics: Comparative Democratization

Lisa Sundstrom


Topics in Canadian Politics: Urban Governance and Policy in Canada

Carey Doberstein


Issues in Comparative Politics: Migration and Citizenship

Antje Ellermann


Methods of Political Analysis: Qualitative Research Methods and the Problem of Causal Inference

Alan Jacobs


International Organization

Katharina Coleman


Quantitative Techniques of Political Analysis

Andrew Owen

2-5 pm POLI 562D

Topics in International Relations: Transitional Justice in International Politics

Genevieve Bates


Core Seminar in Political Theory

Mark Warren


Topics in Political Theory: Contested Territory

Anna Jurkevics


Comparative Western Governments: United States Politics and Government

Paul Quirk

5-8 pm




Term 2 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
9 am - 12 pm POLI 572B

Quantitative Techniques of Political Analysis

Michael Weaver


Current Debates in Comparative Political Economy: Globalization and the Democratic Dilemma

Yves Tiberghien


Topics in Public Policy

Kathryn Harrison


Political Theory: Politics of Intersectionality

Afsoun Afsahi


Core Seminar in Canadian Government and Politics

Baier, Gerald

2-5 pm POLI 523A

Political Thought: Multiculturalism and Identity Politics

Barbara Arneil


Topics in International Relations: International Relations of the Asia Pacific

Xiaojun Li


Core Seminar in Comparative Government and Politics

Christopher Kam


Topics in Canadian Politics: Comparative Public Management

Allan Tupper


Topics in Political Theory: Interpretation and Criticism in Political Inquiry

Bruce Baum

5-8 pm POLI 562B

Topics in International Relations: Global Indigenous Rights, Politics and Policy

Sheryl Lightfoot




Course Descriptions

Section 001 Term 2 9:00-12:00 Fri

This is the graduate ‘core’ course in Canadian politics. Its mandate is to familiarize students with both contemporary and enduring themes, methods and controversies in the study of Canadian politics and government. The course will consider institutions and processes as well as Canadian political culture and behaviour. As the core course, it is necessarily broad in focus, but some attempt will be made to identify patterns in the study of Canadian politics. Topics discussed will include; federalism and the constitution, parliamentary government, political parties, Indigenous reconciliation, regionalism and nationalism, interest groups and social movements, bureaucracy, courts, rights and Canadian political thought. The course will help students to identify possible research and thesis topics as well as prepare for comprehensive examinations in Canadian politics. Students will be graded on the basis of regular seminar presentations, short assignments and a term research paper.

Section 001 Term 2 2:00-5:00 Thur

(Counts towards a Canadian Politics or a Comparative Politics field requirement)

POLI 504 is a combined course that engages senior undergraduates (POLI 428) and graduate students (POLI 504).

The course has two major components. The first half of the course analyzes several major topics in modern Public Management. Topics will likely include the future of New Public Management, citizen engagement with governments, governance for Canadian Indigenous peoples, and artificial intelligence.

The second half of the course centres on student preparation of a major research paper on a topic of their choice. Students will make several presentations to their colleagues as they undertake their paper.

Section 001 Term 1 9:00-12:00 Tue

(Counts as a Canadian Politics field requirement)

This course will provide students with the theoretical and analytical tools to understand and explain the politics and policy activities of Canada’s metropolitan governments within their unique historical, institutional, and constitutional frameworks and within the political economy of cities. We will examine different theories of urban power and governance, and the ability of different theoretical approaches to explain the emergence of urban policy problems and their various solutions. The focus of the course is on cities in Canada, with a particular focus on Vancouver in the second half of the course when we examine various urban policy issues. Our fundamental aim will be to develop a more comprehensive understanding of how, why, and with what consequences, urban governments and their partners develop and implement policy.

View past POLI 504 syllabus here

Section 001 Term 2 2:00-5:00 Wed
This course is designed to:

  1. Assist doctoral students to prepare to write the comprehensive field examination in comparative politics
  2. Provide doctoral students with a sense of the breadth of the field, its intellectual history, and the frontiers of knowledge
  3. Equip research-oriented students with the background necessary to assess the state of the art in comparative politics as a precursor to developing their own theses or thesis proposals
  4. Provide doctoral students with the background necessary to teach comparative politics.

Master’s students are welcome, but the workload and academic requirements are commensurate with the needs of doctoral students.

Comparative politics is a broad, evolving, and dynamic field of study, with ancient roots. The course examines current scholarship in light of the evolution of the field, and in relation to knowledge in other disciplines. Major topics will include: research approaches in comparative politics, collective action, the state, democratization, institutions (both formal and informal), and culture, ideas, and identity. Research will be discussed for both substantive findings and methodological contributions. Students will read some of the great books produced by the field in recent decades, as well as more cutting-edge books and journal articles. The course has a programmatic intent: it is designed to encourage reflection on where research comparative politics as a field should move in the future.

(Counts as a Comparative Politics field requirement)

Section 001 Term 2 9:00-12:00 Tue
The world stands at a critical juncture. Globalization has both widened and intensified, but it has also become more volatile (at least its financial component). The governance of global markets is in transition since the 2008 global financial crisis. In the midst of the current transformation/turmoil, this much is clear: linkages between global markets and domestic political-economic chessboards have greatly intensified. Everywhere, national systems are challenged to respond to global shocks and global change. Meanwhile, domestic political processes in systematically important countries have a great impact on global governance and globalization itself. These linkages between IPE and CPE form the core focus of the course. Our inquiry covers questions such as:

  • What are the causes of initial institutional diversity among domestic economic systems?
  • In what ways does globalization affect domestic political economy? It is forcing domestic institutional convergence?
  • What explains different responses by domestic systems to common global shocks (whether financial crisis, environmental shocks, energy shocks, or trade effects)?
  • Why are some systems more successful than others in responses to shocks, such as technological change (AI, digital), Covid-19, or climate change?
  • What are the mechanisms through which global forces disrupt domestic equilibria?
  • Does globalization affect the quality of democracy (for example, do financial markets weaken democracy in Iceland, or do global bond rating agencies weaken democracy in Europe?) Did financial markets or trade forces lead to a breaking point in Greece or social revolution in France (or the US)? Is democracy at risk, and where?
  • What explains the political crisis in the US (and the UK)?
  • How do we understand the role of the state in the economy? Why is the state returning as a core actor since 2008, when it had handed down so many functions to private actors?
  • Has globalization facilitated or hindered the process of economic and political development around the globe?
  • How has China managed the interface with globalization, and is China’s success redefining the nature of the global political economy? Does China’s rise question the political underpinnings of the global political economy?
  • Has the interaction between global economic forces and domestic political economy qualitatively changed since 2008? How can we understand current processes?
  • Does the interaction between domestic politics and international political economy preclude the reform of global governance and an improvement in global public good provision?

View past POLI 513 syllabus here

Section 001 Term 1 2:00-5:00 Fri
This seminar offers a broad introduction to the major questions and research literature on US politics. Although it is required for Ph.D. students who will take the major or minor comprehensive examination in U.S. politics, it primarily serves MA students, Ph.D. students who are specializing in other areas, and undergraduates. Requirements are similar to those in other, more specialized seminars—with distinct expectations and grading standards for graduate and undergraduate students, respectively.

A major objective is to promote work on US-related topics among students in comparative politics, international politics, or political theory. In the current era, the course focuses heavily on the sources and nature of the current, widely recognized crisis of American democracy.

The course surveys a wide range of areas: the Constitution, political development, Congress, the Presidency, courts, bureaucracy, political parties, interest groups, the media, elections and voting, public opinion, public policy (including foreign policy), and the US in comparative perspective. Readings will combine notable recent studies and earlier works that remain influential; a number of readings will make direct comparisons with Canadian politics.

We will give considerable attention to changes in the functioning of the US political system over recent decades—including issues of polarization, populism, racial tension, authoritarianism, and post-truth politics. We will address the causes and consequences of the Trump presidency, the threat of authoritarian attacks on democratic processes, and the politics of reform designed to defend and stabilize democratic processes.

View past POLI 514 syllabus here

Section 001 Term 1 9:00-12:00 Mon

(Counts as a Comparative Politics field requirement)

This course will introduce students to the burgeoning literatures on regime democratization and reversals from democracy, with a primary focus on the regime transformations of relatively new democracies and quasi-democracies. This is a theory- and reading-intensive course intended to provide political science graduate students with a solid background in the field of comparative democratization.
We begin by considering some controversies in defining democracy and the prominent theoretical schools of thought in explaining the emergence of democratic regimes. We then move to examine specific factors complicating democratization processes: post-conflict situations, economic crises, natural resource dependence, civil society, and informal institutions. Next, we examine sources of reversal from democracy and contemporary authoritarian resilience, as well as international democracy and autocracy promotion. We end the course with a critical reflection on what we know about democratization and trends into the future, including the rising prominence of anti-institutionalist populism in both new and old democracies, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

View past POLI 516 Syllabus here

Section 001 Term 1 9:00-12:00 Tues

(Counts as a Comparative Politics field requirement)

Human mobility has become one of the most contested issues in contemporary politics. This seminar surveys key scholarly debates in the study of migration and citizenship in political science and cognate disciplines. We comparatively examine in both historical and cross-national perspective the ways in which states and societies (particularly in the Global North) have responded to, and have become transformed by, immigration. The course covers a wide range of topics: theories of international migration, disciplinary approaches to migration studies, immigration and settler colonialism, the ethics of borders, the politics of border control, public opinion on immigration, voting behaviour and populist radical right parties, the making of immigration policy, refugee protection, statelessness and illegality, national identity and citizenship, and multiculturalism and immigrant inclusion.

View past POLI 516 syllabus here

Section 001 Term 2 9:00-12:00 Thur

(Counts as a Political Theory field requirement)

“There is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives” – Audre Lorde (1984: 138)

Even though legal political equality is seen as a cornerstone of democracy, some voices in politics are louder than others and some bodies are more visible. These inequalities result from complex mechanisms of exclusion and marginalization. Intersectionality illuminates the matrixes of oppression that result from the interaction between power structures based on categories of gender, race, class, disability, ethnicity, and sexuality.

Our study of intersectionality in this class will be two-fold. First, we begin our study of intersectionality as an idea—or as an analytical or interpretive tool—explaining the intersecting or co-determinative forces of racism, sexism, classism, etc… in the lives of individuals. To do so, we survey the interdisciplinary roots of intersectionality in critical race and gender theories. We consider the importance of situated knowledge as well as the dangers of speaking for others within political and social spheres. Second, we approach intersectionality as an ideograph—as a political occurrence—focused on practices of social justice. As such, we look at intersectionality as part of political and social practices in: activism, representation, academia, and policy-making.

The final weeks of the class are student-directed whereby students, through preferential voting, will choose books from the “canon” of feminist theories to read together in the class. The “canon” is broadly defined and students are encouraged to suggest books to be added to the list. Some of these books will be explicit contributions to intersectional theory such as bell hooks’ Aint I a woman? (Black Feminism) Or Susan Wendell’s Rejected Body (Disability and Feminism). However, others illuminate new issues that can be best understood or criticized through an intersectional framework such as Juno Mac & Molly Smith’s Revolting Prostitutes (Sex work & Feminism) or Suzanne Venker & Phyllis Schlafly’s “The Flipside of Feminism” (Conservative Womanhood/ Rejection of Feminism).

Section 001 Term 1 2:00-5:00 Thur

(Counts as a Political Theory field requirement)

This course surveys and challenges Western approaches to land, place, and territory. We begin with the phenomenology and economy of place through readings of Hannah Arendt, GWF Hegel, Martin Heidegger, Karl Marx, and David Harvey. Part II covers theories of territorial right, and will address issues related to land attachment, nationalism, and the property-territory distinction. In Part III, we read Carl Schmitt, scholars of empire, and Hannah Arendt in order to explore territorial sovereignty as a component of an international geopolitical system. In the concluding section of the course, Part IV, we will consider alternatives to the Western approach to territory by reading indigenous scholarship on land, including Glen Coulthard’s Red Skins, White Masks and Audra Simpson's Mohawk Interruptus.

Students will give a presentation in class and write a research paper on a topic related to the course. Students will also be expected to participate actively in the seminar, which will run according to the Socratic method. This means that each student will be assigned a class session for which they must be prepared to answer questions from the professor on the spot.

Section 002 Term 2 2:00-5:00 Mon

(Counts as a Political Theory field requirement)

During this term, we will explore the theme of ‘identity’ in the history of political thought and contemporary political theory. We will begin in the first week by considering the meaning of identity in political theory, followed in the second week with an examination of the role ‘identity’ politics plays in key liberal political thinkers: John Locke and J.S. Mill. For the remainder of the term, we examine various aspects of the politics of ‘identity’, including feminism, multiculturalism, indigeneity, postcolonialism, racialization, disability, and intersectionality.

View past course syllabus here.

(Counts as a Canadian Politics field requirement)

Section 002 Term 2 9:00-12:00 Wed

The objective of this course is to provide students with analytical tools and experience conducting applied public policy analysis for an employer or client. The policy analyses conducted by student groups last year included organ transplant policy for an Alberta MLA, e-scooter policies for the BC government, parking access and rates for UBC, and provincial policies with respect to sugary foods for children for the Canadian Diabetes Society. Students will gain experience in collecting policy-relevant information, crafting policy alternatives, and identifying tradeoffs among policy options.

The applied nature of the course departs from many other political science graduate seminars. The focus will be on professional skills, including written and oral communication, and delivering useful analysis to a client, rather than critiquing academic literature. That said, policy analysts draw on knowledge from political science and other disciplines. Moreover, reflective practitioners are mindful of the limits and biases of the methods they employ, an issue we will revisit throughout the course.

View past POLI 533 syllabus here

Note: This course will only be available for graduate students in 2021-2022. 

Section 001 Term 1 2:00-5:00 Wed
This core political theory field seminar introduces political theory as a mode of inquiry within political science. The seminar is organized into three parts. The first part of the seminar surveys the kinds and categories of questions political theorist address in the course of structuring their insights into political reality: ontological questions, having to do with necessary presuppositions about the entities we seek to know; epistemological questions, having to do with the authority of our judgments about these entities; and ethical questions, having to do with what we should or should not do or prefer. The second part of the seminar introduces generic social ideas, processes, and mechanisms. We will borrow from social theory (e.g., Giddens) and philosophy (e.g., Winch, Searle, and Habermas) to examine several of these concepts, such as human agency, society, institution, power, and language. Because political theory is most often practiced as an academic field within political science, political theorists should be able not only to think about the kinds of the questions they pose, but also the interdependence of political theory with empirical investigation and explanation, a topic we examine in the final week of the seminar. The seminar develops these fundamentals through combining basic social theory and some philosophy with reconstructions of Hannah Arendt’s and Immanuel Kant’s political theories.

View past POLI 540 syllabus here

Section 001 Term 2 2:00-5:00 Fri

(Counts as a Political Theory field requirement)

Karl Marx famously said, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” In so doing he pinpointed a central point of contestation for students of politics and political actors: the tension between seeking to understand the political world and aiming to change it, particularly with respect to its oppressive aspects. Marx also set the tone for one approach to political criticism when he said that religion “is the sigh of the oppressed ... the opium of the people.” This remains a provocative challenge to how prevailing beliefs are shaped by prevailing relations of power, but it also remains at odds with how many people understand and enact their religious convictions. Accordingly, some commentators have suggested that Marx wrongly counterpoised interpreting the world and working to change it. They contend that the aim of changing the world is integrally connected to that of adequately interpreting or understanding it. From this perspective, Marx’s criticism of religion fails to address sufficiently religion’s meaning and significance. Interpretive social scientists emphasize that political activity is thoroughly embedded in and shaped by people’s everyday languages and conceptions. From a hermeneutical interpretive perspective, efforts to explain political phenomena must be joined with efforts to comprehend what political agents understand themselves to be doing.

That is, political inquiry must take account of the self-understandings of political agents. This does not mean, however, that political analysis comes to an end with agents’ self-understandings. Arguably, Marx was right that prevailing relations of power, including forms of domination, shape people’s beliefs and self-conceptions.

This course will survey major interpretive and critical approaches to political inquiry including hermeneutics & interpretive social science, Critical Theory, Foucauldian genealogy, deconstruction, critical realism, and feminism. Substantive topics will include gender, racism, and Indigenous politics.

View past POLI 547 syllabus course syllabus

Section 001 Term 2 5:00-8:00 Mon

(Counts as an International Relations field requirement)

This seminar considers global, regional and domestic issues for implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including historical, political, legal and policy aspects. We will examine the challenges and opportunities for implementing Indigenous rights in international organizations, as well as national and regional legal and policy frameworks, and consider the roles of non-governmental organizations as well as Indigenous communities and movements.

Section 001 Term 2 2:00-5:00 Tue

(Counts as an International Relations field requirement)

This course will apply international relations theories to examine ongoing and emerging political and economic dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region. Among the topics it addresses are the balance of power in the region, trade and economic integration, strategies of key states, alliance relationships, venues for regional cooperation, territorial disputes, and power competition between China and the United States.

Section 001 Term 1 2:00-5:00 Tue

(Counts as an International Relations field requirement)

This graduate seminar will introduce students to cutting-edge scholarly work and to the task of carrying out research on transitional justice (TJ). Some argue that justice exists on a continuum, from pure political to pure legal justice. While pure legal justice exists as an ideal, it is widely understood that all societies, but particularly those transitioning from periods of widespread political violence, face constraints when seeking to right the wrongs of the past. In this course, we will explore the justice continuum by studying different transitional justice mechanisms, the domestic and international contexts in which they are implemented, and the short and long-term effects of implementing (or failing to implement) TJ. As part of the course, students will be exposed to the variety of research methods used to study TJ, including both qualitative and quantitative approaches at the sub and cross-national levels of analysis.

Most of this course covers the primary contexts of transitional justice – transitions from authoritarianism to democracy and/or transitions from conflict to peace. In the final weeks of the course, however, we will move beyond traditional understandings of TJ. This will allow us to explore new and growing research agendas that focus on the dynamics of TJ in new contexts.

Section 001 Term 1 9:00-12:00 Thur

(Counts as an International Relations field requirement)

This seminar examines how international organizations reflect, channel and shape world politics. Participants will deepen their understanding of key theoretical perspectives on international organizations; gain empirical knowledge about a range of contemporary international organizations; critically assess competing conceptual arguments about the role of these institutions; and think critically about whether, how, and under what conditions international organizations affect global international relations.

View past POLI 563 syllabus here

(Counts as Methods requirement)

Section 001 Term 1 9:00-12:00 Wed
This seminar will prepare graduate students to be both thoughtful designers of their own qualitative research projects and careful consumers of other scholars' work. The course revolves around the following question: How can the intensive analysis of a small number of cases help us draw inferences about causal relationships in the social world? We will focus on two broad, complementary strategies of qualitative research: comparison across a small set of cases and process-tracing within one or more cases. In addition to considering these general strategies, the course will examine a set of specific tasks and challenges that qualitative researchers face as they design and carry out their projects, including case selection and the assessment of qualitative evidence. A key aim of the course is to help students make informed choices among alternative methodological approaches in their own research and to assess the tradeoffs made by other scholars. To that end, we will consider the ways in which the logic of qualitative research may both resemble, and depart from, the logic of quantitative work. We will pay close attention to the tradeoffs that analysts confront when choosing among qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods. What is gained, and what is lost, when we choose to study a small number of cases or even just a single case?

The themes of this course span subfield boundaries. The course will be useful to most students of international relations and comparative, Canadian, or U.S. politics as well as to students of political theory who are interested in empirical causal relationships or in critically assessing empirical work. Alongside methodological texts, we will read and critique substantive works of political science drawn from across the discipline. Over the course of the term, students will develop their own qualitative research designs, which might later form the basis of a dissertation prospectus or thesis proposal.

While a course in qualitative methods, POLI 571A teaches some technical material, including Bayesian updating and some basic statistical concepts.

View past POLI 571 syllabus here

Note: Because this course is required for most PhD students, PhD students have first priority in enrolling in this course.

(Counts as Methods requirement)

Section 001 Term 1 9:00-12:00 Fri
This course introduces foundational concepts and skills required to conduct introductory quantitative analysis of social science data. The course starts by discussing the counter-factual conception of causality and then introduces a series descriptive statistics and frequentist statistical tests (including, contingency tables, difference of means, and linear regression). After a short introduction to probability theory, we explore statistical inference for various point estimates. Instruction and learning in the course is primarily applied: students spend much of the course using the statistical software R to organize and describe data and then test for relationships. Class time is a combination of episodic lectures, coding demonstrations, and coding/analysis activities designed to enhance comprehension of statistical concepts and further develop coding skills.

View past POLI 572 syllabus here

(Counts as Methods requirement)

Section 001 Term 2 9:00-12:00 Mon

This course covers the basic principles of ordinary least squares regression as a tool for statistical analysis. Because the primary reason for using regression is to make causal claims, this course focuses on both the mechanics of regression, the assumptions required to make causal claims, and interpretation. The course is broken into four parts. First, we cover the Neyman causal model (potential outcomes) framework. Second, we cover the fundamental matrix algebra behind least squares and its interpretation as a way of estimating the conditional expectation function. Third, we bring these two concepts together to derive the key assumptions required to draw both statistical and causal inferences using regression. Finally, we cover violations of these mathematical assumptions frequently faced in empirical research and discuss solutions. This course assumes completion of POLI 572A (or similar course in basic mathematical statistics). While we will use some basic matrix algebra, the course does not assume prior knowledge of this topic and the course will focus on practical applications of linear regression models.

In a broader sense, this course starts by giving you a grounding in the theory that undergirds statistical analysis and the assumptions that are required to use mathematical statistics to make inferences about the world. Then, in the last third of the course, we turn to applying these models to the real world and address how

  1. we evaluate or judge whether the models of the assumption hold
  2. what we do when the assumptions are not reasonable.

View past POLI 572 syllabus here