Harris Public Policy is offering the following courses as part of The Pearson Institute’s academic programming in 2018–19. These courses create an intellectual context for conflict study and introduce students to new tools and methodologies.

African Development

This course, taught by James Robinson, provides an introduction to and interpretation of the social scientific and historical research on African development. The focus is on economic and political development in the longue durée and how Africa fits into the comparative picture. While the emphasis of much research on contemporary African development has been on poverty, civil war, and the immense economic challenges the continent has faced since independence, this course will aim to shift the debate. Students will study these topics, their roots, and the political correlates that go along with them; however, understanding these phenomena entails understanding African society, how it is organized, why it is organized as it is, and how it has come into collision with pernicious global forces of the past 500 years. This course is open to undergraduate, master’s, and PhD students.

Conflict: Root Causes, Consequences, and Solutions for the Future

This course, taught by Oeindrila Dube, examines why people fight, the effects of fighting, and possible solutions to preventing conflict in the future. The reasons people fight, and the ways in which they fight, depend on economics, politics, and psychology; Dube draws on all three disciplines throughout the course. Different forms of fighting, whether terrorism or civil wars, have typically been studied separately; this course bridges this divide and studies them together, assessing common root causes (such as poverty and ethnicity) as well as strategies for their possible resolution. The course content aims to provide students with a foundational understanding of conflict through the in-depth study of these questions. This course is taught at both the undergraduate and master’s levels.

Global Conflict Policy Lab

Led by Austin Wright, this Policy Lab focuses on using innovative tools and methodologies to assess the effects of conflict in fragile states. The course was created in partnership with Harris Policy Labs, a unique initiative in which teams of second-year students apply their rigorous core education to real-time public policy challenges facing client organizations. You can find more information on this Global Conflict Policy Lab and other labs offered here.

Hydropolitics: Water Policy and Conflict

Water resources are increasingly contested in nearly all parts of the world. Available freshwater supplies have declined nearly 40 percent since 1970, and the UN predicts that 1.8 billion people will not have sufficient water to meet all of their daily needs by 2025. Water conflict is essentially a political problem because it reflects normative disagreements about who has the authority to define its value and appropriate uses. This course examines conflict over water and policy efforts to deal with intersectoral competition, international allocation, and the diplomatic and economic consequences of water resource depletion. The course, taught by Michael Tiboris, begins with a discussion of water’s status as an object of policy—as property, a commodity, entitlement, and natural good. It then turns to a series of policy challenges in context, including agricultural water use, allocation treaties, development disputes, violence over resource instability, and domestic water justice conflicts.

Introduction to Peacebuilding

This course, taught by Maliha Chisti, aims to provide students with a solid foundation in the theories and practices of contemporary peacebuilding operations, paying attention to the role of external actors–namely, international organizations, bilateral donors, and nongovernmental organizations. Students will gain an understanding of the complex and multifaceted dimensions of peacebuilding, including transitional justice, liberal-democratic statebuilding, stabilization operations, economic restructuring, and gender reforms. Students will explore these diverse and intersecting themes as they relate to the broader goal of supporting lasting peace and rebuilding war-affected states and societies in meaningful and effective ways. This course pays special attention to the current policy initiatives and operational challenges in Afghanistan, examining the prospects for peace after over more than a decade of international interventions. Finally, this course concludes with critical theoretical perspectives on liberal peacebuilding and highlights alternative frameworks proposed by scholars to help mitigate future failures and advance successes. 

Students can broaden their perspectives through elective courses at Harris Public Policy and in other schools and divisions, including the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Law School, and Social Sciences Division.

Nuclear Policy: Dilemmas in Decisionmaking

This course, taught by Kennette Benedict, will examine national and international policies on the uses of nuclear energy—both military and civilian. Students will review current military doctrines and plans for nuclear war-fighting, particularly those of the United States and Russia, as well as the likely effects of nuclear war. The course will review the history of international proliferation of nuclear technology and material as well as contemporary efforts to curtail the spread of nuclear weapons through international treaties and negotiated agreements, such as those with Iran and with North Korea. Students will also review the development of civilian nuclear power and examine current regulatory policies intended to prevent accidents, secure nuclear materials, and dispose of radioactive waste.

Order & Violence: Political Economy of Development

Christopher Blattman leads this course, and it tackles a number of “big questions”: Why are some people and places poorer and more violent than others? What can domestic reformers and idealistic foreigners do to reduce poverty and conflict? What role (if any) should the West play in the future? Can any of the things the West does—aid, peacekeeping, military intervention, democracy promotion, state-building—make a difference? Can they make things worse? Why do so many programs, reforms, and organizations sound good on paper, but then turn out to be so dysfunctional in practice? This course draws from economics, political science, history, and sociology to try to understand the causes of and possible solutions to poverty, political instability, and political dysfunction. This course is open to master’s students.

Political Economy of Development

The course, taught by James Robinson and Christopher Blattman, will bring PhD students to the frontier of research on such topics as social and political organization, conflict, state-building, collective action, and the political determinants of stability, growth, and development. 

The Political Economy of Natural Resources

The main objective of the course, taught by Luis Martinez, is to provide students with a thorough overview of existing knowledge on the political and economic consequences of natural resource wealth. The course combines theoretical models and empirical evidence in an attempt to disentangle what we know (and don't know) about the relationship between natural resources and various political and economic outcomes. It will also provide a setting for the discussion and evaluation of various policies for the management and use of natural resource wealth. Methodologically, the course aims to help students develop and refine their analytical and presentational skills by having them write reading reports on academic papers and by working on a research or policy project throughout the quarter. The course is open to both undergraduate and master’s students.

Politics and Public Policy in Latin America

Led by Maria Angélica Bautista, this course will cover the politics of policymaking in Latin America. How do political institutions shape policy outcomes? Why does public policy in Latin America differ from what is socially desirable? And how can other groups, such as civil society or violent actors, also shape policy and welfare in the region? Through an empirical focus on economic development of the region, this course will address how and why Latin America is different by looking at its economic and social policies and political institutions. Students will come to understand the legacy of authoritarianism, gaining the tools to evaluate the weakness of some Latin American states and the prosperity-generating policies of others. This course is for master’s students.

Refugees, Security, and Forced Migration

Led by Kara Ross Camarena, this course will examine issues related to migration and security. Classes will cover a variety of topics, including the costs and benefits of emigration, irregular migration, human smuggling and trafficking, seeking asylum, forced migration in war, encampment and refugees, the international coordination on refugees, diaspora engagement, and return migration. Course readings will come from current research in the social sciences and policy documents. Students will review research, analyze policy arguments, and examine implications for future policy.

Woman Carrying Food From Her Farming Plot

Photograph by Lois Pierris

GALLERY STOCK / Lois Pierris