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Master International Relations

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  • Objectives
    To provide students with the capacity to engage critically with the literature in the field of international relations and the ways in which this literature interprets the empirical world of global politics.
  • Entry requirements
    people with a First class or 2:1 first degree in history, international relations, political science, economics or other appropriate subject or an equivalent qualification from a British or overseas university
  • Academic Title
    MA International Relations
  • Course description
    Programme description

    - The Department of War Studies is a multi-disciplinary institution devoted to the study of all aspects of war and conflict and the broad remit of international relations.
    - The unrivalled location in the heart of London beside the River Thames brings outstanding advantages. Students enjoy excellent academic, social and cultural opportunities. The department is close to the seat of Government, the City, the Imperial War Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Courts of Justice and the Inns of Court.
    - Students have access to visiting academics, serving officers, government ministers and other experts who give regular public lectures and seminars.

    The MA in International Relations provides an advanced and comprehensive understanding of the forces shaping the world and of the challenges that these pose both to individual states and to the international community. The movement of monies and peoples, the emergence of network organisations that transcend state boundaries, the impact of a global media and information technology, the rise of identity politics, regional integration, as well as warfare on a global scale have all had a transformative impact on the state, inter-state relations and global politics more widely conceived.

    The programme provides students with advanced training in the conceptual and theoretical debates within international relations and an awareness of a comprehensive range of approaches relevant to the study of global politics. Students develop an appreciation of the historical development of the discipline, from one concerned primarily with war in the international system to one that has a wider remit concerned with the social, economic, and political aspects of international relations in a globalised era.

    Students have the opportunity to engage with contemporary thought in the social sciences and humanities and its use in unravelling the dynamics of change in social and political relations. The aim is always to provide students with the capacity to engage critically with the literature in the field of international relations and the ways in which this literature interprets the empirical world of global politics.

    The programme is structured so that students specialise in the field of international relations and its discourses and also concentrate on those aspects of global politics that interest them most. In addition to core courses devoted to a specialisation in international relations, students have a range of optional courses to choose from. These reflect the research interests of staff in the department and provide students with the opportunity to engage with research in their chosen areas.

    This programme is designed to have broad ranging appeal to those interested in pursuing postgraduate studies in the field of international relations and conflict studies. Those who may find this programme of particular interest include graduates in political science, history, international relations, economics, those who have experience in the development field and those who have worked with international organisations.

    The International Relations Programme Director is the principal researcher in the field of ethics and human rights at the Centre for International Relations (CIR), one of the research centres in the Department of War Studies.

    The MA comprises:
    - A compulsory element comprised of two modules (worth 40 credits in total):
    Theories of International Relations.

    Concepts and Methods in International Relations.
    - Optional modules chosen from a range of possibilities (worth 80 credits in total).
    - Dissertation of 15,000 words.

    Programme format and assessment
    Continuous assessment by essay; examinations and a
    dissertation of 15,000 words.

    Programme modules for MA International Relations
     
    Concepts and Methods in International Relations
    (20 Credits) (Core Module)
    This course in advanced theories of International Relations considers the major established approaches to the subject as well as the most important debates and innovations in IR theory over the past three decades. The course covers classical and neo realism, liberal IR theory, and Marxian structural approaches, as well as more contemporary debates stemming from critical international relations theory, feminism, and postmodernism. The overall thrust of the course will be interpretive, normative and critical. Throughout the course, the theories being examined will be used to advance our understanding of key developments in contemporary international affairs that have resulted from the end of the Cold War and the process of globalisation.

    Theories of International Relations (20 Credits) (Core Module)
    This course in advanced theories of International Relations considers the major established approaches to the subject as well as the most important debates and innovations in IR theory over the past three decades. The course covers classical and neo realism, liberal IR theory, and Marxian structural approaches, as well as more contemporary debates stemming from critical international relations theory, feminism, and postmodernism. The overall thrust of the course will be interpretive, normative and critical. Throughout the course, the theories being examined will be used to advance our understanding of key developments in contemporary international affairs that have resulted from the end of the Cold War and the process of globalisation.

    African Security
    This module provides students with a detailed understanding of African security. Specifically, the module hopes to address the key issues underlining conflicts in the continent, the institutions established to meet the demands of the continent's security, and recent developments in the major conflict zones in the continent (such as Darfur, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region). The module will also address issues such as ethnicity and citizenship, nature and the extent and impact of external interventions in the continent, and the increasing link between the continent and the global war against terrorism. Finally, the module will investigate all the ways through which these issues have affected security and development in the region.

    Conflict Prevention & Peace Building
    This module aims to impart knowledge, build analytical skills and sharpen the critical faculties required for effective policy making in the conflict prevention and peace making fields through engagement with the literature, policy analyses, seminar presentations and interaction with scholars and practitioners.

    Conflict Resolution in World Politics (20 Credits)
    The course will introduce students to some of the major models and methods for the resolution of international conflicts. It will first undertake a conceptual examination of what it means to 'resolve' a conflict and will then cover key approaches to conflict resolution, including mediation/negotiation, 'track II' diplomacy and problem-solving. Questions such as the impact of asymmetries of power and the timing of mediation will be investigated. In each instance the aim will be to highlight the relationship between theory and practice and how this is manifest in particular case-studies of conflict. The aim will be to develop in students an increased capacity for critical reflection on the conventions and perspectives on conflict resolution and their application to particular cases of conflict.

    Conflict, Development and Islam in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia
    The course provides an analytical and empirically informed treatment of the linkages between conflict, development and Islam in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It explores the origins and dynamics of wars and unresolved military conflicts in the region, and examines potential new sources of violence that might emerge both in the region, and in neighbouring countries. The course also analyses the challenges of economic development and the linkages of development and security in Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. The course also explores the dynamics of Islam, nationalism and extremist ideologies as they develop in Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as the linkages between international terrorism, al Qaeda and Islam in Eurasia. Special attention is also given to the role played by the international community in addressing issue of conflict, security and development in the region.

    Deterrence in Theory and Practice
    The concept of deterrence was a cornerstone of cold war strategic studies, and its continued applicability is a matter of heated debate today. Questions raised by deterrence touch on many of the concerns motivating students of War Studies, including historical, ethical, and theoretical questions about war. This course uses deterrence as a lens to explore these larger issues. In particular, it will examine the following questions: What is deterrence, and what role has it played in the security policies of states? Has the viability of deterrence changed over time, and if so, have these changes been driven by changes in technology, by changes in the characteristics of states, or by other factors? To what extent do the theories of deterrence propounded by scholars capture the deterrent policies enacted by states? What determines the success or failure of deterrence in practice? Is deterrence an ethical strategy? The course will also expose students to various methodologies used in the social sciences, including comparative case studies, quantitative analysis and formal modelling.

    Diplomacy
    This course will examine the theory, art and practice of diplomacy, both as an instrument of foreign policy and an institution in the international system. It will analyse the way in which diplomacy, unlike most other aspects of international life, emphasises that which states have in common as well as those things which divide them. It will study diplomacy from the perspectives of politics, international law and history. In addition to this, it will look at the roles and functions of diplomacy regarding states and their policies, as well as the conduct of diplomacy in different forums and in different collective activities. The detailed substance of the course will focus inter alia on topics such as the following: diplomacy and intelligence; military diplomacy; summitry; mediation; the role of diplomacy in multilateral forums. Students will be encouraged to make use of case studies to illustrate general propositions about diplomatic theory and practice.

    Ethics in International Relations (20 Credits)
    This course will explore the reasons for ethics playing such a marginal role in traditional approaches to international relations. It will explore and evaluate major traditions of Political Ethics as these apply to international relations. In particular students taking this module will have an opportunity to consider the vigorous debates now taking place about the following ethical matters: intervention, secession, national self determination, sovereignty, the just war tradition in an age of 'New Wars', migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, global governance, and ethical approaches to the global environment.

    European (In)Security (20 credits)
    This course deals with the consequences of widening the security concept, the contribution of social constructivist and post-positivist approaches to security studies, and the transformation of contemporary security practices. The course focuses on the role of security policy in the construction of danger and the governance of society on the basis of unease and fear.

    Human Rights and Migration (20 credits)
    This course examines the development of migration rights as human rights in the European framework. Starting from the right of the state to control its borders and who is entitled to enter and reside on its territory, the course examines how, in the European context, migrants have acquired rights of movement and residence protected at the supra national level. Topics covered include citizenship, refugees and forced migration, family life and protection from expulsion.

    Human Rights in a World of States (20 credits)
    The aims of the course will be to introduce students to a particular way of thinking about the place of human rights in contemporary world politics, to launch an inquiry into the shortcomings of the way in which the discipline has traditionally dealt with the issue of human rights in an international context, to determine the usefulness of a human rights centred approach to the study of global politics and to explore the tension between human rights and sovereign states in the modern practices of international relations.

    International Peace Support Operations
    Since 1948 UN forces have been used for peaceful purposes to act between opposed armies in war zones and crisis areas. By the 1990s, the UN’s efforts to maintain international peace and security were increasingly focused on civil conflict and peacekeepers found themselves in an environment that was dangerous and complicated by the number of warring factions. The wars and violence of the 1990s took place in failing states and involved civil militias, warlords, child soldiers, starvation, displaced communities, looting on a massive scale and terrible human rights abuses. By 2000, troops from at least 75 nations were involved in international operations which deploy under the supervision of NATO, ECOMOG, CIS, OSCE and the UN. Contributing to international peaceforces has moved from being a peripheral and undemanding military activity to becoming a central defence requirement and a major item in national defence budgets. The purpose of this MA option is to explain how the concept of peacekeeping has changed since the contingencies of the Cold War period to cope with emergencies of the 1990s; to show how peace forces have grown in military power and changed their approach from being conciliatory to confrontational.

    International Political Economy (20 credits)
    The course provides an opportunity for students to engage with the linkages between international politics and international economics. Its aim is to provide an understanding of international political economy and the difference perspectives associated with this specialised field of knowledge. It covers issues such as global economic governance, globalisation and the role of the state in the international economy, the international trade order, the WTO, and the rise of regionalism, the international monetary system, and the IPE of development.

    International Politics of the Middle East
    The course explores the emergence and evolution of the Middle East system of states since 1945, through a framework of analysis that is partly historical and partly thematic. It covers the role of the great powers before, during, and since the Cold War, and explores the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the international politics of the Gulf. The course then surveys four main approaches to analysis of the foreign policies of Middle East states: assessing the role of state-society relations and political economy, and the impact of nationalism and of the balance of power on regional politics, alliance-building, and institutional cooperation. The politics of oil and of economic restructuring are then explored, followed by the politics of religious revival in the context of democratisation and of the military's role in the context of political change and economic transformation. This paves the way for an assessment of trends affecting peace, security, and stability in the Middle East since the end of the Cold War, and an overview of evolving US and European policies towards the region. The primary aim of the course is to provide a basic analytical understanding of political issues and historical processes in the Middle East. The secondary aim is to provide training in the critical reading of assigned texts and their use in writing.

    Nationalism and Security
    The aims of this course are to promote multidisciplinary understanding of concepts, issues and debates regarding nationalism and security and to encourage understanding of the interaction between statehood and population groups. Furthermore, the course examines the relationship between national political discourse and the peace-conflict axis and fosters conscious critical reading and discussion of issues of ethnicity, identity, statehood, self-determination and self-protection.

    Natural Resources & Conflict
    The aim of this module is to investigate all the ramifications of resource conflicts in developing societies, and to situate these within the nexus of security and development. Among others, the module focuses on the causes and nature of resource conflicts, their connection with local and global governance, the clash between local claims and national interest in resource politics, the link between international demand and pressures on local communities, the activities of warlords, the involvement of the international community in addressing these conflicts and the impact of globalisation on resource conflicts.

    Prosecuting War Crimes
    This course examines the establishment and conduct of international war crimes (including crimes against humanity) prosecutions. It evaluates the background to the emergence of war crimes as a concept in the 20th century, looking at martial, ethical and legal issues. It studies the creation of the first international tribunals following the Second World War and the issues which arose from these. The course examines the interaction between politics and law in the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the relationship of laws and rules to the social activity that is war.

    Reporting Wars
    As new information technology alters global communication the relationship between information, security and war fighting becomes increasingly important. This course analyses war reporting by drawing upon a range of historical and contemporary case studies. It looks at the influence of political leadership, organisational factors in media structures, and the roles and norms of journalists. The course explores in depth the relationship between the military and the media and how this relationship has been affected by recent technological changes and political developments. Special attention is given to media effects like the ‘CNN-effect’, i.e. the unmediated, live diffusion of images of tension, conflict and emergencies. The case studies examined include the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War and its aftermath.

    Science, Technology and Security Policy
    What role do developments in science and technology play in national security policy? Does the development of new technologies such as the ballistic missile and the nuclear weapon transform international security and require new policies, or is the development of new technologies driven by the security problems that states face? This course investigates these questions by examining developments at the intersection of science and security. It explores how scientific advances have influenced defence policy and international security in the past as well as preparing students to analyse the effects of current and future developments. To this end, it provides a basic grounding in the science underlying key weapons systems and security technologies, examines the role of science and scientists in the policy process, and through a series of case studies, prepares students to analyse the security implications of new technologies.

    Scientific and Technical Intelligence (20 credits)
    Drawing upon a range of historical and contemporary case studies, this course is designed to give students an understanding of the way in which scientific and technical intelligence has evolved from its origins in the Second World War, to the present day. In tracing these developments, the course will seek to explore the nature of scientific and technical intelligence, which revolves around the interaction between scientists, the scientific establishments, and the intelligence agencies. It will focus on scientific and technical intelligence both in terms of the development of intelligence technology, but also the scientific nature of the target. It will use a variety of case studies to explore and illustrate persistent issues related to the study of scientific and technical intelligence.

    Security & Migration in Europe in the 21st Century: An Uneasy Relationship
    This module provides students with a multidisciplinary approach to two key policy fields - security and migration. The module aims to develop students' critical understanding of how two different fields intersect and analyse the changes to each of the fields which take place through that intersection. It presents an overview on the relationship of law to policy in the two fields which will enrich students' analytical skills and ultimately be applicable in other domains. It also demonstrates and evaluates different modes of explanation in politics around security and migration.

    Security Issues in the Soviet Successor States
    This course seeks to develop a broad understanding of security issues in the former Soviet Union (FSU). In so doing, the course will examine traditional security concerns as well as new threats that have arisen in this region. The course will approach the concept of security from a perspective wider than that of military policy, to include crime, ecological issues as well as traditional doctrinal thinking and military developments. The course will examine the Soviet approach to security, which constitutes the historical and political background for thinking about security issues in the newly independent states. It will also introduce the main theoretical models to be developed for understanding Soviet politics. The course will proceed to examine Russian security policy, and the security issues and policies adopted by the other newly independent states. The development of armed forces and civil-military relations in each region will also be examined.

    The European Union in the World (20 Credits)
    This course explores the Union's identity outside its own borders. Hence it explores the Union's nature as an international actor; its various forms of external activity; and the ways it deploys its policies in different parts of the globe, from Europe to the Far East. The objectives are to ensure that students develop both an empirical familiarity with, and a conceptual understanding of the theory and practice of the Union's external activities and impacts.

    The Evolution of Insurgency

    This course explains the evolution of insurgency doctrine since 1948, tracing its major development phases and concluding with contemporary international intervention forces and their revised techniques of counter-insurgency. The aim of this course is to analyse the moral and legal arguments for and against the use of political violence and explain the relationship of urbanisation and social transition to the use of political violence; It provides a social and historical context from which to understand the application and utility of insurgency doctrine during the period of the Cold War; to analyse the reasons behind the proliferation of insurgent forms after the end of the Cold War; to conceptualise emerging trends of globally organised violence after 11th September 2000; to assess the principles which underwrite the development of counter-insurgency strategy and to practice critical analysis, independent judgement, oral and written presentation skills at a level commensurate with taught postgraduate study.

    The JIC and British Intelligence
    Drawing upon a range of historical and contemporary case studies, this course is designed to give students an understanding of the origins and evolution of the modern British intelligence machinery. In tracing the developments of the various agencies that constitute British intelligence, the course will seek to explore the nature of British intelligence, which revolves around the workings of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). In doing so it will focus on the disciplines of intelligence (signals intelligence, human intelligence, espionage etc), as well as its products. It will focus on the effects of intelligence gathering on decision making, particularly in the realm of national security and military policy. It will use a variety of case studies to explore and illustrate persistent issues related to the study of intelligence.

    The Meaning and Experience of Imperialism
    This course considers the conceptual difficulties involved with the term ‘imperialism’ in understanding current and past global conflict. Taking an historical perspective on the evolution of western European empires, it challenges many current definitions. Though the British Empire necessarily looms large, the course takes a comparative approach to western empires since the fifteenth century, examining the changing motivation, method, and perceived purpose of expansion. In this way, it will assess in particular the relative role of military asymmetry and of coercion in global history to the present day.

    The Occupied Territories since 1967
    Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights has now persisted for over thirty-eight years, during which time the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories has grown dramatically and Israeli control over the territories has been strengthened by the use of checkpoints, bypass roads, military operations and, most recently, the construction of a “security fence”, separating Palestinians from Israel and from one another. Palestinians perceive themselves to be a society under occupation. There are different views about the causes of this occupation, and even about whether "occupation" is an appropriate word to describe the situation in these areas. This course looks at the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights from 1967 to present as a case of Military Occupation. It analyses the methods used by Israelis and Palestinians in their struggle to control these disputed lands.

    The Politics of Intervention
    Drawing upon a wide range of historical and contemporary case studies, the course provides an empirically informed examination of the role and nature of intervention and the place of intervention in contemporary global politics. It explores historical and contemporary debates on the literature of intervention, and examines the motives behind, and the decision for, intervention, on the modality of such intervention, the political measures required to achieve the intervention purposes, the timing and the method of disengagement, and the outcome of intervention. The course is concerned with the structural as well as ideational aspects affecting key intervening actors, and to this end, the role of ideology and personalities, as well as the changing parameters of sovereignty, the declining value of the strategy of containment, and the issue of legitimacy in relation to international law and public opinion, will also be considered. The course will consider numerous case studies of major interventions, including the American-led UN intervention in the Korean Civil War (1950-1953), America’s involvement in the conflict in Vietnam (1965-1973), the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan (1979-1991), humanitarian interventions in the 1990s, such as in Somalia (1992-3) and Kosovo (1999), and the recent intervention in Iraq to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein.

    The Proliferation of Weapons
    This course provides a comprehensive view of the proliferation challenges in the areas of nuclear, chemical, biological, conventional weapons and ballistic missiles. It considers the reasons why states and non-state groups might seek Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and ballistic missiles. It examines the conventional arms trade in the Cold War and post-Cold War periods and analyses the problem of landmine proliferation. It assesses the utility of the various measures available which are designed to inhibit proliferation: export controls, arms control, regime formation, multilateral arrangements, regional initiatives, defensive military responses, international law, etc.

    War in Philosophy and Imagination
    This course examines, compares and contrasts the representation of war in two types of discourse other than the historical and human science idioms which are mainstream in War Studies and considers what ‘philosophy’ and ‘literature’ have in common, and how they may be fruitfully contrasted, in their treatment of military affairs. The course will explore the strengths and limitations of elucidating general questions about types of discourse through the close reading of particular ‘great’ texts. This will include assessing the pairing of Homer’s Iliad with Plato’s Republic, and two other suitably paired texts, such as a Shakespeare play with Hobbes’s ‘Leviathan’ and Tolstoi’s ‘War and Peace’ with Nietzsche’s ‘Genealogy of Morals’ as models for any philosophical-literary study of war.

    War, Criminality and Global Politics (20 credits)
    The aim of the course is to explore the subject of responsibility in time of war. The course will first be located within the wider remit of international relations and the ethics of war. It will evaluate the significance of the subject of war crimes within a discipline that conventionally defines the subject of politics as the state. It will explore the implications of taking the individual as the primary location of responsibility when actions are undertaken in time of conflict, and will consider responses to criminality in war from the establishment of war crimes tribunals to attempts at reconciliation between affected communities.

    War, Society, and the Politics of Modernity (20 Credits)
    This course examines the roles of war in the origins of modern political regimes and their societies. The development of the modern state and the international system has been shaped powerfully by a belief in the ability to solve the problems posed by war for governments, societies, and even humanity as a whole. And yet modernity has been defined by a history of recurrent warfare between political regimes involving increasing propensities for destruction of societies and human life generally. In turn the development of modernity has generated a series of debates over the sources of the problem of war, as well as posited different political frameworks through which a solution to war has been sought. This course will trace the debate over the relationships between war, society, and humanity as it has evolved historically in philosophy as well as political and social theory. Relatedly, it will examine the relative successes and failures of different political projects for the emancipation of state, society and the species from the threat of war as they have arisen historically, from the origins of modernity to the present. A particular focus of the course will be on the development of Foucauldian approaches to these problems.

    Duration
    One year FT, two years PT, September to September

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