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The Department of Government seeks to educate students about the nature and scope of political power, and to place an understanding of that power in its social, cultural and historical context.

We study public opinion, political institutions, political development and political economy. We address the concerns of ethnic, racial and political minorities; the role of gender in politics, campaigns and elections; conflict and cooperation between states; and the politics of globalization. We examine fundamental and controversial concepts such as justice, democracy, revolution and equality. We believe the study of politics helps us to make better sense of the world around us as we seek to improve it for ourselves and others.

Requirements & Courses

Goals for Majors in Government

Government majors should emerge from the program with an understanding of the factors that shape a variety of political systems and influence policy outcomes at both the domestic and international level. They should be able to critically assess political actions, and to be attentive to the social forces that shape the exercise of power. They should have frameworks within which to think about the purposes of politics, the aims and responsibilities of governments and the rights and duties of citizens. Consistent with the mission of a liberal arts college, the government department seeks to prepare its majors for a variety of postgraduate options, including law school and graduate study in political science.

Teaching students to:

  • Articulate arguments orally and in writing
  • Understand and engage in original research
  • To evaluate the validity of information
  • Become familiar with, and be able to understand, diverse perspectives on political issues, taking into account differences such as those based on ethnicity, race, gender and culture.

Government Major


Eleven courses

  1. GOV 100
  2. Four 200-level courses, one in each of the following fields: American government, comparative government, international relations and political theory.
  3. GOV 203 or an equivalent statistics course taken in another department (SDS 220, SDS 201, ECO 220 or SOC 204)
  4. Two additional courses related to one of the courses taken under requirement 2 above.
    • Courses may be in the same subfield of the department, or they may be in another subfield, in which case a rationale for their choice must be accepted by the student and the major adviser.
    • One course must be a seminar.
  5. Three additional GOV courses in any subfield.

The government department strongly recommends that majors and intended majors take both GOV 100 and GOV 203 early in their college careers, preferably by the end of sophomore year. Other subfield introductory courses—GOV 200, GOV 220 and GOV 241—also provide excellent entry points to the study of government and serve as a solid foundation for more advanced work within each subfield. 


Please consult the director of honors or the departmental website for specific requirements and application procedures.

Government Minor


Six courses

  1. GOV 100
  2. Five additional courses, including at least one course from two of the four fields: American government, comparative government, international relations and political theory


GOV 200 is suggested preparation for all courses in American government.

GOV 241 is suggested preparation for all courses in international relations.

GOV 100 Introduction to Political Thinking (4 Credits)

A study of the leading ideas of the Western political tradition, focusing on such issues as justice, power, legitimacy, revolution, freedom, equality and forms of government--democracy especially. Open to all students. Entering students considering a major in government are encouraged to take the course in their first year, either in the fall or the spring semester. Enrollment limited to 30. {S}

Fall, Spring

GOV 200 American Government (4 Credits)

A study of the politics and governance in the United States. Special emphasis is placed on how the major institutions of American government are influenced by public opinion and citizen behavior, and how all of these forces interact in the determination of government policy. Designation: American. {S}


GOV 201 American Constitutional Interpretation (4 Credits)

The study of Supreme Court decisions, documents and other writings dealing with Constitutional theory and interpretation. Special attention is given to understanding the institutional role of the Supreme Court. Designation: American, TheoryNot open to first-year students. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 202 American Constitutional Law: The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment (4 Credits)

Fundamental rights of persons and citizens as interpreted by decisions of the Supreme Court, with emphasis on the interpretation of the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment. Designation: American, Theory. {S}


GOV 203 Empirical Methods in Political Science (5 Credits)

The fundamental problems in summarizing, interpreting and analyzing empirical data. Discussions include research design and measurement, descriptive statistics, sampling, significance tests, correlation and regression. Special attention is paid to survey data and to data analysis using computer software. Enrollment limited to 75. {M}{S}


GOV 205 Colloquium: Indigenous Peoples in the New Global Order (4 Credits)

The status of indigenous peoples, both domestically and internationally, is dizzyingly complex. The course begins by looking at indigenous rights claims under both domestic and international laws to understand the nature of "group" rights. The course then explores the status of indigenous persons ion the US, looking at relationships among and between tribes and tribal members, between states and tribes, and between tribes and the federal government. Throughout, the course will draw comparisons with the treatment of indigenous claims across the globe. The second half of the course explores contemporary issues, such as claims of indigenous groups to the protection of sacred sites, the repatriation of indigenous remains, the treatment of indigenous children, and subsistence and other issues associated with environmental exploitation and development. Designation: American, Comparative. Enrollment limited to 24. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 206 The American Presidency (4 Credits)

An analysis of the executive power in its constitutional setting and of the changing character of the executive branch. Designation: American. {S}


GOV 207 Politics of Public Policy (4 Credits)

A thorough introduction to the study of public policy in the United States. A theoretical overview of the policy process provides the framework for an analysis of several substantive policy areas, to be announced at the beginning of the term. Designation: American. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 208 Elections in the Political Order (4 Credits)

An examination and analysis of electoral politics in the United States. Voting and elections are viewed in the context of democracy. Topics include electoral participation, presidential selection, campaigns, electoral behavior, public opinion, parties and Congressional elections. Designation: American. {S}


GOV 209 Colloquium: Congress and the Legislative Process (4 Credits)

An analysis of the legislative process in the United States focused on the contemporary role of Congress in the policy making process. In addition to examining the structure and operation of Congress, the course explores the tension inherent in the design of Congress as the maker of public policy for the entire country while somehow simultaneously representing the diverse and often conflicting interests of citizens from 50 different states and 435 separate Congressional districts. Designation: American. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 210 Public Opinion and Mass Media in the United States (4 Credits)

This course examines and analyzes American public opinion and the impact of the mass media on politics. Topics include political socialization, political culture, attitude formation and change, linkages between public opinion and policy, and the use of surveys to measure public opinion. Emphasis on the media’s role in shaping public preferences and politics. Designation: American.

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 213 Colloquium: The Bush Years (4 Credits)

This course looks at the eight years of the Bush presidency, including his election, domestic issues such as tax cuts, response to 9/11, the lead up to and conduct of the war in Iraq, the controversies around the "unitary presidency," the response to Hurricane Katrina, and the financial destabilization of 2008. The purpose is to bring perspective to those years. Designation: American. Enrollment limited to 20. Prerequisite is at least one other course in American government. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 214 Colloquium: Free Speech in America (4 Credits)

An examination of the application of the First Amendment in historical context. Special attention to contemporary speech rights controversies. Designation: American, Theory. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}


GOV 218 Workplace Law in Capitalist America (4 Credits)

A critical introduction to government regulation of employment and to legal theories of freedom and justice in the workplace. Discussions include: 1) the development of laws granting workers the right to form labor unions and to collectively bargain, culminating with discussion of the current debate on labor rights in the "gig" economy and the upsurge of union organizing at Amazon, Starbucks and major tech companies; 2) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other anti-discrimination laws designed to protect women, persons of color, the disabled and LGBTQ individuals in the workplace as well as the rights of immigrant workers;  3) privacy at work, including how law impacts the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter in the employment context; and 4) other selected legal issues facing marginalized, low-wage workers. Designation: American. Enrollment limited to 30. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 220 Introduction to Comparative Politics (4 Credits)

This course introduces students to comparative political analysis and provides a foundation to better understand major political, economic and social forces in a diverse set of countries. The course first focuses on key methods and concepts such as state and nation, asking where states come from and how are nations built. Students then address questions including: Why are some countries democratic and others authoritarian? How do states promote or stymie economic development? What role do civil society and social groups play in political and economic transition? The course combines theoretical and conceptual analysis with cases drawn from around the world. Designation: Comparative. {S}

Fall, Spring

GOV 221 European Politics (4 Credits)

This course focuses on the development of European democratic institutions in the context of military and economic conflict and cooperation. Includes an introduction to the process of European integration. Designation: Comparative. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 223 The Politics of Russia and Post-Soviet Central Asia (4 Credits)

This course examines recurring issues facing the Russian state and its citizens focusing on the complex interplay between formal institutions and informal politics as well as patterns of cooperation and antagonism in relationships with other countries, in particular the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Students will examine history to provide sufficient background information for the class, but will concentrate on the period between the end of the Soviet Union and the present day. Designation: Comparative. Enrollment limited to 40. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 224 Colloquium: Globalization From an Islamic Perspective (4 Credits)

This course explores the complex challenges facing Muslim-majority states when it comes to their political, economic, and social development in the 21st century. In particular, we will be exploring the various Islamically-inspired ideas ("isms") that have emerged with the onset of globalization; from Islanic feminism and Islamic environmentalism to political Islam and Islamic banking. Designation: Comparative. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 226 Latin American Political Systems (4 Credits)

A comparative analysis of Latin American political systems. Emphasis on the politics of development, the problems of leadership, legitimacy and regime continuity. A wide range of countries and political issues is covered. Designation: Comparative. {S}


GOV 227 Contemporary African Politics (4 Credits)

This survey course examines the ever-changing political and economic landscape of the African continent. The course aims to provide students with an understanding of the unique historical, economic and social variables that shape modern African politics, and introduces students to various theoretical and analytical approaches to the study of Africa’s political development. Central themes include the ongoing processes of nation-building and democratization, the constitutional question, the international relations of Africa, issues of peace and security, and Africa’s political economy. Designation: Comparative. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}


GOV 228 Government and Politics of Japan (4 Credits)

An introductory survey and analysis of the development of postwar Japanese politics. Emphasis on Japanese political culture and on formal and informal political institutions and processes, including political parties, the bureaucracy, interest groups and electoral and factional politics. Designation: Comparative. {S}

Fall, Spring

GOV 230 Chinese Politics (4 Credits)

The People’s Republic of China represents approximately one quarter of the world’s population, sustains the largest bureaucracy in the history of the world, and currently possesses of a system of political economy that combines elements of both communism and capitalism. This course introduces students to the basic concepts of political processes, political institutions, and political events in China, primarily focusing on the reform era (1978-present). Specifically, we examine China’s political institutions, political economy, state-society relations, and the politics of Hong Kong and Taiwan. Designation: Comparative. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 231 Colloquium: Women's Social Movements in the Middle East (4 Credits)

This course explores how women’s social movements emerge and sustain themselves in the Middle East and North Africa. The class will cover issues ranging from women agitating for citizenship rights and the vote to questions of personhood, family code, and women's labor rights. Throughout the class, students consider how mobilized women negotiate a world of both contemporary and traditional religious and secular values to pursue their agendas in the public arena. Students leave this course with a fuller appreciation of the variety of issues around which women mobilize in the region as well as an understanding of the diverse strategies they adopt to meet their chosen goals. Designation: Comparative. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 232 Comparative Political Economy (4 Credits)

How do politics shape markets, and markets shape politics? Why do some countries become rich while others stay poor? Why does capitalism take many different forms, and what do these differences mean for societies, firms, and individuals? This class will be divided into three units. First, students explore the core theoretical texts of political economy. Second, students learn about the "varieties of capitalism" and the different forms that transitions from communism to capitalism have taken. The third unit focuses on the political economy of development, the role of politics in creating patterns of wealth and poverty around the world. Designation: Comparative. Enrollment limited to 24. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 233 Problems in Political Development (4 Credits)

This course explores the practical meaning of the term "development" and its impact on a range of global topics from the problems of poverty and income inequality to the spread of democracy, environmental degradation, urbanization and gender empowerment. We examine existing theories of economic development and consider how state governments, international donors and NGOs interact to craft development policy. Designation: Comparative. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 235 Colloquium: Colonialism and Postcolonialism in East Asia (4 Credits)

Colonial legacies continue to shape East Asian politics today, from the effects of anti-Japanese sentiment on Asian regional politics to Chinese leaders’ frequent invocations of the “century of humiliation” as part of a nationalistic turn in China’s foreign policy. A growing body of literature in history and the social sciences explores both the practice of colonialism in East Asia and its implications for contemporary East Asian politics. Drawing on examples from both Northeast and Southeast Asia, this course helps students understand variation in colonial institutions in East Asia, contrast East Asian countries’ paths out of colonialism, and analyze the legacies of colonialism for contemporary domestic and regional politics. Designation: Comparative. Enrollment limited to 24. {S}

Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 237 Colloquium: Politics of the U.S./Mexico Border (4 Credits)

This course examines the most important issues facing the U.S./Mexico border: NAFTA, industrialization and the emergence of the maquiladoras (twin plants); labor migration and immigration; the environment; drug trafficking; the militarization of the border; and border culture and identity. The course begins with a comparison of contending perspectives on globalization before proceeding to a short overview of the historical literature on the creation of the U.S./Mexico border. Though at the present time the border has become increasingly militarized, the boundary dividing the United States and Mexico has traditionally been relatively porous, allowing people, capital, goods and ideas to flow back and forth. The course focuses on the border as a region historically marked both by conflict and interdependence. Designation: Comparative. Preference to majors in government and/or Latin American studies. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}


GOV 238 Elections Around the World (4 Credits)

Why and how are elections held? In this class, students study the rules that structure how leaders are selected and the subsequent political behavior in response to those rules. The examination of elections worldwide involves a global overview of modern elections including those held in authoritarian regimes. By the end of the course, each student is an expert on an election of their choice. The class has two questions motivating the journey in this course. First, do elections matter? Second, how should elections be held? Designation: Comparative. Enrollment limited to 50. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 239 Social Justice Movements in Latin America (4 Credits)

This course examines the relationship between social movements and the state in Latin America. There is a focus on environmental, gender, and indigenous issues and movements and their relationship with state institutions. Designation: Comparative. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 240 NGOs in World Politics (4 Credits)

Since the end of the Second World War, there has been an enormous growth in the number of NGOs active globally, some working across borders on issues as diverse as poverty, health, women’s rights and emergency relief. Both international and national NGOs have taken on new roles in areas once considered the government domain. This course elaborates on how NGOs became crucial actors in world politics. The course explores the definition and purpose of NGOs and their history, looks at case studies of NGOs worldwide and considers the critique of NGOs. Enrollment limited to 40. (E) {S}


GOV 241 International Politics (4 Credits)

An introduction to the theoretical and empirical analysis of the interactions of states in the international system. Emphasis is given to the historical evolution of the international system, security politics, the role of international norms in shaping behavior and the influence of the world economy on international relations. Not a course in current events. Designation: International Relations. Enrollment limited to 50. {S}

Fall, Spring

GOV 242 International Political Economy (4 Credits)

This course begins with an examination of the broad theoretical paradigms in international political economy (IPE), including the liberal, economic nationalist, structuralist and Marxist perspectives. The course analyzes critical debates in the post-World War II period, including the role of the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank group and IMF), international trade and development, the debt question, poverty and global inequality, and the broad question of "globalization." Designation: International Relations. Prerequisite: GOV 241 or equivalent. First-year students may enroll only if they have completed GOV 241. Enrollment limited to 40. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

GOV 244 Foreign Policy of the United States (4 Credits)

Just what is "United States foreign policy"? By what processes does the United States define its interests in the global arena? What instruments does the U.S. possess to further those interests? Finally, what specific foreign policy questions are generating debate today? Designation: American, International Relations. Prerequisite: GOV 241 or equivalent. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

GOV 247 International Relations in Africa (4 Credits)

This course provides an introduction to the international relations of contemporary Africa. It explores how Africa has redefined our understanding of international relations and its role as a global actor. Core themes include the politics of post-independence international alignments, the external causes and effects of authoritarian rule, and the continent's role in the global political economy. The course concludes with a consideration of pressing current issues on the African continent, including state failure, health interventions, issues of peace and security, and China’s growing economic and political influence. Designation: International Relations. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 248 The Arab-Israeli Dispute (4 Credits)

This course investigates the causes and consequences of the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as the viability of efforts to resolve it. Students consider the influence of Great Power Politics on the relationship between Arab states and Israel, and between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis. This exploration of the conflict touches on issues related to human security, terrorism and political violence, as well as broader questions of human rights, national identity and international governance. Designation: International Relations. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 249 International Human Rights (4 Credits)

This course examines international human rights and the legal regime designed to protect them. Beginning with a theoretical inquiry into the justification of human rights, the course moves into an analysis of the contemporary system, from the UN to regional associations to NGOs. With that background in place, the course turns to specific topics, including the rights of vulnerable persons (women, children, minority communities, internally and externally displaced persons); human rights concerns arising from globalization and corporate responsibility; environmental concerns; and issues of peacekeeping. It concludes by examining enforcement strategies, from humanitarian intervention to political mobilization to judicial enforcement of rights in both domestic and international tribunals. Designation: International Relations, Theory. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 251 Foreign Policy of Japan (4 Credits)

Analysis of Japan’s diplomacy and foreign policy since World War II. Emphasis on various approaches to the study of Japan’s external relations, and on contending national identities debated in Japan, including pacifist, neo-mercantilist, civilian, normative and normal nation images. Case studies focus on relations with the U.S., Europe, East through Central Asia and other non-Western regions. Designation: International Relations. {S}


GOV 252 International Organizations (4 Credits)

What role do international organizations play in world politics, and what role should they play? Do international organizations represent humanity’s higher aspirations or are they simply tools of the wealthy and powerful? This course explores the problems and processes of international organizations by drawing on theoretical, historical and contemporary sources and perspectives. The course focuses on three contemporary organizations: the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the European Union. Designation: International Relations. Prerequisite: GOV 241 or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 50. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

GOV 253 Colloquium: Culture and Diplomacy in Asia (4 Credits)

The course explores the influence of Asian cultures on the diplomacy and negotiating styles of East and Southeast Asian countries. Specific countries include Japan, China, North Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Case studies are based on current and on-going regional and global issues. Designation: International Relations. Enrollment limited to 24. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 255 Colloquium: The Politics of Global Tourism (4 Credits)

The tourism industry is arguably the world’s largest employer; it is undoubtedly the leading sector in trade in services. Although modern tourism has political, economic and social implications, it has been largely underexamined by political science and the subfield of international relations. This upper-level colloquium examines the sector and its many complicated dimensions and effects: environment, security, development, consumerism, and cultural exchange and understanding. It approaches these issues historically and with careful attention to a variety of cases and sub-sectors--e.g., eco-tourism, adventure tourism, health tourism, etc. Prerequisite: One course in international relations or comparative politics. Designation: International Relations. Enrollment limited to 18. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 256 Colloquium: Corruption and Global Governance (4 Credits)

What can international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank do about corruption? This course explores the theoretical and practical dimensions of the problem of corruption and analyzes how states and international organizations have attempted to combat the problem. Designation: Comparative, International Relations. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 257 Colloquium: Refugee Politics (4 Credits)

This course examines refugees--i.e., people displaced within their country, to another country or, perhaps, somewhere "in between." Refugee politics prompt a consideration of the cause of refugee movements; persecution, flight, asylum and resettlement dynamics; the international response to humanitarian crises; and the "position" of refugees in the international system. In addition to international relations theory, the seminar focuses on historical studies, international law, comparative politics, refugee policy studies and anthropological approaches to displacement and "foreignness." Although special attention is devoted to the Middle East, other cases of refugee politics are examined. Designation: International Relations. Open to majors in government; others by permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 258 Colloquium: African Security (4 Credits)

This course serves as an introduction to the field of security studies with a focus on Africa. It provides an overview of the major theories, concepts and debates in security studies and explores current trends in political violence and conflict across Africa, key drivers of insecurity and the current and future security challenges facing African states. It tackles questions such as: What is “security” and how should it be studied? What are some of the most pressing security challenges facing the continent? How have these challenges evolved over time? What new types of conflict may future economic and social stressors create? When should states employ force? How can the international community assist African governments and institutions with harnessing future changes to result in peace and security? How can states begin to truly secure their borders? Designation: International Relations. Prerequisites: Gov 227, GOV 241, GOV 242 or GOV 247. (E) {S}

Spring, Variable

GOV 261 Ancient and Medieval Political Theory (4 Credits)

An examination of the great thinkers of the classical and (time permitting) medieval periods. Possible topics include family and the state, freedom and the gods, warfare faction, politics and philosophy, secular and religious authority, justice, citizenship, regimes and natural law. Selected authors include: Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Thucydides, Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Polybius, Cicero, Lucretius, Augustine, Aquinas and Marsilius. Designation: Theory. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 262 Early Modern Political Theory, 1500–1800 (4 Credits)

A study of Machiavellian power-politics and of efforts by social contract and utilitarian liberals to render that politics safe and humane. Topics considered include political behavior, republican liberty, empire and war; the state of nature, natural law/natural right, sovereignty and peace; limitations on power, the general will, and liberalism’s relation to moral theory, religion and economics. Readings from Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Smith and others; also novels and plays. Designation: Theory. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 263 Political Theory of the 19th Century (4 Credits)

A study of the major liberal and radical political theories of the 19th century, with emphasis on the writings of Hegel, Marx, Tocqueville, Mill and Nietzsche. Designation: Theory. Not open to first-year students. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 266 Contemporary Political Theory (4 Credits)

A study of major themes in the political thought of the early 20th century to the present. Readings will begin with a brief reflection on Hegel and Marx, before moving into considerations that animated the 20th  and 21st century, such as fascism, anti-colonialism, the welfare state, movements for civil rights, and migration. Throughout, we will pay particular attention to the tensions between freedom, justice, and equality that mark this period of political thinking. Designation: Theory. Successful completion of GOV 100 or another political theory course is strongly suggested. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 267 Problems in Democratic Thought (4 Credits)

What is democracy? We begin with readings of Aristotle, Rousseau and Mill to introduce some issues associated with the ideal of democratic self-government: participation, equality, majority rule vs. minority rights, the common good, pluralism, community. Readings include selections from liberal, radical, socialist, libertarian, multiculturalist and feminist political thought. Designation: Theory. Not open to first-year students. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 268 Colloquium: Utopian/Dystopian Visions and Political Theory (4 Credits)

Thomas More penned his novel Utopia in 1516, and in 1868 John Stuart Mill coined 'dystopia' as the antithesis of More's idyllic vision. But the word utopia literally translates as "nowhere land." This course will explore the question how the exploration of "what could be" has been and remains a central focus in the work of much of political theory. Serving as both an exemplar and a warning of planned political societies, utopian and dystopian literature is always engaged in the work of making, unmaking, and remaking the possibilities for the original political question, "How should we govern?" Designation: Theory. Enrollment limited to 25. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 270 Colloquium: Race & the Problem of American Citizenship (4 Credits)

This course examines the relationship between race and the discourse, concept and practice of citizenship as it has developed in the United States. The course interrogates how ideologies and experiences of race and citizenship have constituted each other over time, enabling forms of unequal political belonging to coexist with claims to equality, liberty and democracy. The course also considers how the meaning of citizenship has been challenged and reformulated by those who have contested racialized hierarchies and exclusions. While this course covers texts from early settlement and antebellum periods, focus is on the modern era, from the late 19th century through the present, drawing on historical texts as well as political theory to analyze both race and U.S. citizenship. Designation: American, Theory. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 271 Colloquium: Global Cities (4 Credits)

This course studies different urban experiences across the world. The course will introduce the process of urbanization and address the complex relationship between urbanization, globalization and inequality. Throughout the course, students will explore a series of case studies to provide concrete examples of how different cities such as London, New York, Berlin, Shanghai, Stockholm and Istanbul responded to globalization by paying attention to different topics such as pandemics, migration and urban movements. Throughout the course, in addition to the academic literature, students will make use of newspapers and films to address the promises and political dilemmas of urban life. Designation: Comparative, International Relations. Enrollment limited to 24. (E) {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 272 Conceptualizing Democracy (4 Credits)

In the contemporary world, democracy is often considered not merely a form of government or one type of regime among many, but the very condition of political legitimacy. But what exactly does democracy entail? Is it an institution, a practice, a value, a virtue? This lecture course provides a survey of different historical and theoretical answers to these questions, from the foundations of self-government in ancient Athens through the present day. Designation: Theory. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 273 Marxism (4 Credits)

What is the origin and political meaning of capitalism, and might there be a better way to organize our common world? These are the broad questions of Marxism, which continue to press upon us today. This lecture course is a general introduction to the writings of Karl Marx, the diverse school of thought which goes by his name, and a few friendly critics along the lines of race and gender. Although this course examines texts on history and political economy, this course treats Marx as a political thinker and Marxism as a school of political thought. Designation: Theory. Prerequisite: GOV 100. (E) {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 274 Colloquium: Decolonizing Democracy (4 Credits)

This course approaches the core questions of democratic theory from the perspective of anticolonial political thought. What is democracy, and why is it valuable—not in general, but as a way of organizing postcolonial political society and as a horizon of future possibility? Course readings will be drawn from a wide range of anti-, post- and de-colonial thinkers from around the world, including both texts from figures within anticolonial movements as well as contemporary work in postcolonial and decolonial political theory. Texts include selections from MK Gandhi, BR Ambedkar, CLR James, Kwasi Wirendu, Zhang Shizhao, Amilrar Cabral, Laura Cornelius Kellogg, and Leanne Simpson. Designation: Theory. Prerequisites: GOV 100. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Alternate Years

GOV 275 Colloquium: Emotions in the History of Political Thought (4 Credits)

Are emotions a danger or a resource for political life? Are they inherently unreasonable, or do they contain a kind of rationality? Are some emotions more politically acceptable than others? And how are the emotions of some--and the people to whom those emotions belong--valued over others? These are a few of the questions this class will investigate through readings of ancient, early modern and contemporary political thought. Each offering of this course will focus on a particular emotion-- such as anger, fear, or sadness--as an entryway for thinking about its political function. Designation: Theory. Prerequisite: GOV 100. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Alternate Years

GOV 276 Political Visions of Nature (4 Credits)

Upon what visions of nature does modern political thought rest? When one looks back to the history of political thought, does one only find ideas of human dominion over nature or are there also buried alternatives? And what might these diverging pathways have to teach in the present moment? This course surveys the history of Western political thought from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century from the vantage point of the present ecological crises to track and understand these diverging pathways. Students read texts from agrarian republicanism, liberalism, socialism, anarchism, transcendentalism and other lesser-known schools of political thought. Prerequisite: GOV 100. Enrollment limited to 40. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 282 Colloquium: The Politics of Data (4 Credits)

This course explores the political implications of the Big Data era through a focus on how data has corresponded with power throughout history. Topics include the development of statistics (“science of the state”) for taxation and government census; the parsing of the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor in social welfare programs; surveillance practices for policing and national security; data protection and regulation of online spaces; and the implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Special attention will be given to the ways in which new data technologies have driven social change. Prerequisite: one course in quantitative methods, such as GOV 203. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 283 American Political Development (4 Credits)

This course covers the historical development of crucial American governing institutions, including Congress, the executive branch, the judiciary, political parties, the social welfare state, and institutionalized race and gender-based hierarchies. We will consider both how each institution has evolved over time and also how they have interacted with and responded to one another to produce the particular structural arrangements we observe in the 21st century. Designation: American. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 284 Colloquium: America in the 21st Century (4 Credits)

This class is a cross sectional exploration of the politics and major policy debates of the 21st century thus far. Organized around the George W. Bush, Obama and Trump presidencies, we will cover each president’s path to election, their relationships with Congress and the Supreme Court, their major domestic successes and failures, their foreign policies, and the politics of race and gender that permeated all three administrations. Designation: American. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

GOV 291 Colloquium: Government Lab: Designing and Conducting Research (4 Credits)

This course introduces students to the basic building blocks of political science research, including developing a research question, conducting a literature review, defining concepts, selecting cases and presenting results. While students read and discuss exemplary research in American and comparative politics and international relations, the course focuses on "learning by doing" via a series of short projects driven by students’ interests. This course is primarily intended for students who are considering writing an honors thesis or special studies in government, attending graduate school or pursuing research opportunities after graduation. At least two prior government courses strongly recommended. Enrollment limited to 24. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 304pp Seminar in American Government (4 Credits)

A comparative examination of McCarthyism, Watergate and Iran-Contra. A look at how our political institutions function under stress. Prerequisite: a 200-level course in American government. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 305ct Seminar: Topics in American Government-The Conservative Tradition (4 Credits)

This course will focus on the history of conservative political thought and the conservative movement in the United States. Students read scholarship that analyzes and explains the movement from a historical perspective, and much of the focus will be on the thinkers who directly defined and contoured what it means to be a conservative in America, from the "father of conservatism" Edmund Burke to the Anti-Federalists to Milton Friedman to William F. Buckley to Ayn Rand to Allan Bloom. This class takes conservatism seriously both as an intellectual and a political tradition as it assesses and critiques its canon.  Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 305sf Seminar: Topics in American Government-Strange Bedfellows: State Power and Regulation of the Family (4 Credits)

This seminar explores the status of the family in American political life and its role as a mediating structure between the individual and the state. Emphasis is placed on the role of the courts in articulating the rights of the family and its members. Prerequisite: GOV 202 recommended but not required. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 306ps Seminar: Topics in American Government- Politics of U.S. States (4 Credits)

As national politics becomes increasingly polarized and dysfunctional the states have become a central focus for many groups to affect policy change. This seminar focuses on major topics in State Politics research including, direct democracy, the spread of policies, and the growth of political reforms, and the role of public opinion in determining state policies. Students complete research papers on a state politics topic of their choice. Prerequisite: a 200-level course in American government. Juniors and seniors only. Enrollment limited to 12. Instructor permission required.

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 307lp Seminar: Topics in American Government: Latinos the Politics of Immigration in the U.S. (4 Credits)

An examination of the role of Latinos in society and politics in the U.S. Issues to be analyzed include immigration, education, electoral politics and gender. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 312pb Seminar: Topics in American Government-Political Behavior in the United States (4 Credits)

An examination of selected topics related to American political behavior. Themes include empirical analysis, partisanship, voting behavior and turnout, public opinion and racial attitudes. Student projects involve analysis of survey data. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 329 Seminar: Comparative Politics of Northeast Asia (4 Credits)

This seminar focuses on one of the world’s largest and most economically vibrant regions, Northeast Asia. Organized around a series of core themes in comparative politics--political economy, state-society relations, democratic transition and consolidation, and electoral politics--the course will compare domestic politics in Japan, South Korea, China, and Taiwan. In addition to gaining regional expertise, students will learn to conduct original research in comparative politics. Students will generate original research questions based on the course material, and produce a research paper comparing two or more countries (or multiple regions within a single country) with respect to their question of interest. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 338/ SDS 338 Research Seminar in Political Networks (4 Credits)

Offered as GOV 338 and SDS 338. How does the behavior of a state, politician, or interest group affect the behavior of others? Does Massachusetts’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana influence Vermont’s marijuana policies? From declarations of war to the decision of who congressmembers will vote with, social scientists are increasingly looking to political networks to recognize the inter-connectedness of the world around us. This course will overview the essentials of social network analysis and how they are applied to give us a better understanding of American politics. Prerequisites: SDS 220 or an equivalent introductory statistics course. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 340 Seminar:Taiwan-Internal Politics and Cross-Strait Relations (4 Credits)

Regarded by some as a province of China, by others as a sovereign country, and by still others as somewhere in the middle, Taiwan is a longstanding source of tension in the US-China relationship. Taiwan has also undergone remarkable political and economic changes since the 1940s. This course in comparative politics and international relations will address the historical roots, current challenges, and possible future of the US-PRC-Taiwan relationship. It will also use Taiwan as a case study to examine major themes in comparative politics, among them authoritarianism and democratic transitions; corruption; the political economy of rapid development, and identity politics. Prerequisites: at least one course in comparative politics, international relations, or East Asia. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 341is Seminar: Topics in International Politics-International Perspectives on Contemporary Security Issues (4 Credits)

This course examines major theories of war, conflict, and political violence and theories of international cooperation and governance. We will explore these theories, and their relationship to current trends in globalization and global governance, in the context of major international security challenges such as great power competition, nativism and irredentism, threats to democracy, proliferation, terrorism, insurgency, ethnic and racial conflict, failing states, environmental degradation, resource scarcity, demographic stress and migration, and global inequality and poverty. We will study the mechanisms and institutions designed to identify and manage these threats and the challenges of integrating and coordinating multiple international actors such as international organizations, NGOS, states, and domestic actors in an era of dynamic complexity. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 341mw Seminar: Topics in International Politics-The Middle East in World Affairs (4 Credits)

This course considers the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) through an international relations lens, exploring how the region broadly interacts with the rest of the world. It introduces students to the diversity of challenges facing the region and gives students the tools for a more substantive analysis of its ever-changing context. The class is divided into two sections: the first section represents a general overview of the most salient issues in the region including the Arab-Israeli conflict, while the second section incorporates case-study explorations of specific topics ranging from U.S. foreign policy in the MENA to the Arab Spring. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 343cr Seminar: Topics in International Politics and Comparative Politics-Corruption (4 Credits)

How should we define political corruption, and what can be done about it? This seminar explores the theoretical and practical dimensions of political corruption in a variety of different countries and contexts, and analyzes how governments, international organizations, and activists have attempted to address the problem. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission require. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 343hm Seminar:Topics in International Politics and Comparative Politics-Humanitarianism (4 Credits)

Humanitarian assistance such as emergency food aid, establishment of refugee camps, disaster relief and military interventions to protect civilians has become a pervasive feature of international relations. This seminar explores the complex governance and economic distribution networks that have evolved around humanitarian assistance, networks that include national governments, NGOs, international organizations and private donors. Through readings in a wide variety of fields, it delves critically into the philosophical and ethical issues surrounding the principles and practice of humanitarian relief and intervention. Juniors and seniors only. Enrollment limited to 12. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 345pd Seminar: Topics in International Politics- The Politics of Data (4 Credits)

This course aims to understand the political implications of the Big Data era through a focus on how data has corresponded with power throughout history, from ancient times to today. The course considers how new data sources and technologies have driven significant social change, such as through the development of statistics (“science that serves the state”) for taxation and government census, surveillance practices for policing and national security, classification for anti-poverty programs and data security regulations. The course presumes familiarity with basic probability and statistical concepts, such as that provided by GOV 203 or another introductory statistics course. GOV Majors only. Juniors and seniors only. Enrollment limited to 12. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 347cm Seminar: Topics in International and Comparative Politics-Climate Migration (4 Credits)

Humans have long migrated in response to environmental change, but in recent decades (in the context of climate change), “climate migration” has become the focus of intense ideological, normative and empirical debates. This seminar approaches these debates, how they have evolved, and what is at stake. The course treats the implications for various policy domains and issue areas – e.g., border control, refugee reception, adaptation to climate change already in the pipeline, reparations, constructions of ideological whiteness, future scenario-building and apocalypticism. The course focuses primarily on social science analyses, but also engages novels and feature and documentary films. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 347cr Seminar: Topics in International and Comparative Politics-Comparative Regionalization (4 Credits)

This course investigates the role of international organizations as global actors and their involvement in the domestic politics of, and beyond, their member states. Areas of intervention include efforts in democracy promotion, economic development, peace and security, and regional integration.  This course moves beyond the focus on the traditional, Western actors, like the United Nations and European Union, and incorporates the processes undertaken by the African Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Organization of American States, among others. The goal of this course is to understand how these continental and regional organizations navigate the complexities of international and domestic politics. Juniors and seniors only. Enrollment limited to 12. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 347es Seminar: Topics in International and Comparative Politics-Environmental Security (4 Credits)

This advanced seminar examines the political implications of treating environmental events and trends as matters of (inter)national security. It approaches the issue historically—examining the conceptual evolution of security over time and the relatively recent incorporation of environmental issues into security frameworks. Primary focus is devoted to climate change, but other ecological issues are examined as well: development, natural resource use, waste and pollution, biodiversity, etc. Prerequisite: GOV 241, GOV 242, GOV 244 or GOV 252. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 347na Seminar: Topics in International and Comparative Politics-North Africa in the International System (4 Credits)

This seminar examines the history and political economy of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, focusing on the post-independence era. Where relevant, Egypt and Mauritania will be treated. The seminar sets Maghrebi (North Africa) politics in the broader context of its regional situation within the Mediterranean (Europe and the Middle East), as well as its relationship to sub-Saharan Africa and North America. Study is devoted to: (1) the independence struggle; (2) the colonial legacy; (3) contemporary political economy; and (4) post-colonial politics and society. Special attention will be devoted to the politics of Islam, the “status” of women and political change. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 348ca Seminar: Topics in International Politics-Conflict and Cooperation in Asia (4 Credits)

The seminar identifies and analyzes the sources and patterns of conflict and cooperation among Asian states and between Asian and Western countries in the contemporary period. The course concludes by evaluating prospects for current efforts to create a new “Asia Pacific Community.” Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 363 Seminar: Dissent: Disobedience, Resistance, Refusal and Exit (4 Credits)

This seminar in political theory examines contemporary theories and practices of dissent, from civil disobedience to armed resistance to political exit. Are citizens morally obligated to obey unjust laws? What makes a law or political arrangement unjust? What kinds of protest actions are justified? What are the promises and limitations of nonviolence -- or violence? What effect do different forms of resistance have, and what is their political value? Is exiting -- quitting politics or leaving the polity -- a meaningful form of resistance? This course will engage with these questions by reading contemporary texts from political science, sociology, and philosophy, alongside works by practitioners of forms of disobedience and resistance. Prerequisite: coursework in political theory or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 367et Seminar: Topics in Political Theory-Environmental Political Theory (4 Credits)

What is the political significance of nature? In this seminar we shall engage this question through a critical analysis of readings in classic and contemporary environmental political thought with special emphasis on the political relationship between human beings and nature. Topics to be considered include wilderness conservation, political ecology, environmental justice, and more. The question which emerges through these readings, which is in the background of the entire course, is whether we might find a democratic and just response to the challenges of the climate crisis. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 367qs Seminar: Topics in Political Theory-Queering the State (4 Credits)

This course will cover theoretical issues through the relationship between the state and queerness. The course begins with a historical theory of the state that emerges from its role in governing queer life. Students consider the social, economic, legal and biomedical implications of the straight state. Though mainstream LGBT politics advocates for more inclusion in the state apparatus, through rights and legal protections, radical queer thinkers insist we think beyond the state and in resistance to it. Throughout, the students focus on whether it is possible to have a queer state and if it is, whether that is desirable. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 369 Seminar: New Worlds in African American Political Thought (4 Credits)

African American political thought developed in response to the world-destroying and world-constructing forces of colonialism and racial slavery. Across three centuries, thinkers have worked to reconfigure the core projects of Western modernity to account for what has often been ignored: race-making and racial violence, as well as struggles to construct a new politics free from domination. Though this course focuses primarily on US thinkers, the course also explores the tradition’s global contours--examining how Black political thinkers responded to political dynamics within as well as beyond the United States and envisioned forms of liberation that required building new worlds. Prerequisite: coursework in political theory or coursework in the history of political thought. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

Admission for majors by permission of the department.

Fall, Spring

GOV 404 Special Studies (4 Credits)

Admission for majors by permission of the department.

Fall, Spring

GOV 411 Washington Seminar in American Government (4 Credits)

Policy making in the national government. Limited to members of the Semester-in-Washington Program. Takes place in Washington, D.C.


GOV 412 Semester-in-Washington Research Project (8 Credits)

Open only to members of the Semester-in-Washington Program. Special application required.


GOV 413 Washington Seminar: The Art and Craft of Political Science Research (2 Credits)

This seminar provides students participating in the Washington Internship Program with an overview of the various approaches to conducting research in the discipline of political science. Students are introduced to methods of quantitative and qualitative research, data acquisition and hypothesis testing. The seminar’s more specific goal is to help students understand the process of planning, organizing and writing an analytical political science research paper. Enrollment limited to juniors and seniors in the Washington Internship Program. Special application required. {S}


GOV 430D Honors Project (4-8 Credits)

Special Approval required.

Fall, Spring, Annually

GOV 431 Honors Project (8 Credits)

Special Approval required.

Fall, Spring, Annually

Crosslisted Courses 

AFR 210 Colloquium: Black Political Economy-From Slavery to Reparatory Justice (4 Credits)

What constitutes the field of study called Black Political Economy? This course excavates a radical tradition of political economy in African diaspora studies, a tradition which has sheltered some of the most thoroughgoingly insightful perspectives on Black oppression in the Americas over the last 500 years. The course takes a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary approach which draws on several fields, including Africana intellectual history, political economy, sociological studies and cultural studies in its presentation of the field of study termed Black political economy. Enrollment limited to 18. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

AFR 215 Topics in Africana Studies-Caribbean Political Thought and the Quest for Freedom (4 Credits)

How have the history and geography of the Caribbean shaped the political claims of its thinkers in the quest for freedom from domination? This course tracks their contribution to issues fundamental to societal formation in the Caribbean, expressed in the aspiration for national independence and self-determination. The ideas of revolutionaries and intellectuals are counterposed with manifestos, constitutional excerpts, speeches and modes of creative expression to provide a survey of the range of political options, challenges and the immense choices that have faced the region’s people over the last 500 years. Enrollment limited to 40. {A}{H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 338/ SDS 338 Research Seminar in Political Networks (4 Credits)

Offered as GOV 338 and SDS 338. How does the behavior of a state, politician, or interest group affect the behavior of others? Does Massachusetts’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana influence Vermont’s marijuana policies? From declarations of war to the decision of who congressmembers will vote with, social scientists are increasingly looking to political networks to recognize the inter-connectedness of the world around us. This course will overview the essentials of social network analysis and how they are applied to give us a better understanding of American politics. Prerequisites: SDS 220 or an equivalent introductory statistics course. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 203 Introduction to Middle East Comparative Politics (4 Credits)

This lecture class provides an introduction to the comparative politics of the Middle East. Readings, lectures, and discussions will examine political environments in the Middle East, with a focus on states as units of analysis, and on the general processes and conditions that have shaped state formation, the formation of national markets, and state-society relations in the region. The course will equip students to understand and critically assess how political interests are organized; the development of major political, social, and economic structures and institutions; and sources of political contestation within Middle Eastern societies. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 217 ​International Relations and Regional Order in the Middle East (4 Credits)

This course focuses on the dynamics of inter-state relations in the broader Middle East (encompassing Turkey, Israel and Iran). It provides a brief introduction to relevant theoretical frameworks that have been used to explain the international and regional relations of the Middle East, and applies these theoretical frameworks through in-depth attention to a wide range of themes and cases. In addition to readings on specific cases, the course covers the origins and development of the Arab state system, alliance dynamics, the effects of oil on international relations, war and international relations, and the domestic sources of Middle East international relations. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 220 The Arab Spring: Economic Roots and Aftermath (4 Credits)

Explores the social, economic and political causes and effects of the mass protest movements that came to be known as the Arab Spring or the Arab Uprisings. Through a wide range of readings, documentaries, media accounts, social media content, and other materials we dissect the most significant, and still unresolved, political transformations in the Middle East in the last 100 years. A previous course in Middle Eastern politics, history or culture recommended, but not required. {H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

MES 230 Society and Development in the Middle East (4 Credits)

This course focuses on the political economy of the Arab Middle East with emphasis on the social dimensions of economic development. It provides students with insight into the effects of shifting economic and social policies and economic conditions on the peoples of the Middle East and the social transformations that have accompanied post-colonial processes of state- and market-building. It explores how economic conditions shaped political activism, social movements, modes of protest and broader patterns of state-society relations. Students become familiar with theories of economic and social development and major analytic frameworks that are used to assess and make sense of society and development in the Middle East. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

MES 240 Colloquium: Encounters with Unjust Authority: Political Fiction of the Arab World (4 Credits)

This course will expose students to contemporary political literature of the Arab world in translation. Through their critical engagement with this literature, students will gain a nuanced, tangible and deeply dimensional understanding of contemporary life in the Middle East and the many diverse and complex ways in which lives of the region’s peoples are shaped by their political circumstances. Enrollment limited to 20. {L}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

MES 380 Seminar: Authoritarianism in the Middle East (4 Credits)

This upper-level seminar focuses on the durability of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. The course examines the emergence of authoritarian regimes in the Arab world; their consolidation into full-fledged systems of rule; patterns and variation in authoritarian governance among Arab states; the political economy of authoritarianism; state-society relations under authoritarian rule; and authoritarian responses to democratization, economic globalization and pressures for political reform. Prior course work on the history, politics, sociology, anthropology of the modern Middle East is useful. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

Additional Programmatic Information

Advisers for the GOV major and minor are normally assigned through the department using this form (link).  The department will endeavor to pair you with an advisor who matches your interests and preferences, so far as possible.  In addition, please be aware that a student may connect with any member of the department during office hours or via an email request with specific questions relevant to their areas of teaching and expertise. 

Director: Erin Pineda

The honors program consists of a year-long, 8-credit intensive research project resulting in a written thesis and an oral defense.

Only rising seniors are eligible for the honors program. Applications are due by May 1 (for May graduates of the following year) and January 15 (for January graduates). The application process is detailed below.

Who should write a thesis?

The best reason to write a thesis is that you have identified a political problem or question that you want to spend a year researching and writing about in a focused, rigorous way, in greater depth than is possible during normal coursework. It is a good opportunity to practice the skills and craft of intensive political science research and writing, and a chance to work closely with a faculty adviser with expertise in an area that interests you. The worst reason to write a thesis is to receive an honors designation.

If you wish to write a thesis, the department expects that you will have thought deeply about your topic and research question, typically in the context of prior coursework in the major (and perhaps beyond it). Research questions should be developed and refined in consultation with an adviser in the department so that students will be prepared to write a thorough proposal to submit along with an application by the end of the second semester of junior year. Proposals for theses must outline a specific, tractable research question and propose a concrete plan for research. The department strongly recommends that students interested in writing a thesis enroll in Conducting and Designing Research (GOV 291) sometime during sophomore or junior year to help with this process.

Only rising seniors are eligible for the honors program, and only students who complete an application form by the relevant deadline and receive departmental approval will be admitted. In addition, all applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Students must have at least a 3.3 grade-point average (GPA) in courses outside of the major and 3.5 GPA in courses within the government major
  • Students must have successfully completed six courses in their major prior to being accepted to the honors program; under normal circumstances, these six courses will have been completed in the government department at Smith College
  • Students must have identified and met with an adviser within the Government Department prior to applying
  • Students must demonstrate at least three courses that are related to their specific honors project and have equipped them to engage in the proposed research

How to Apply

The Government Department considers honors applications twice a year: in early May and in early January. Students should plan on applying during the end of the second semester of their junior year, for potential admission to the program at the start of their senior year. Completed applications should be submitted via the Google form and must be received by May 1 and January 15 (respectively) of each academic year. Meeting these deadlines ensures that students’ applications will be read and considered by the department, and enables students admitted to the honors program to begin their course of research at the start of senior year.

The core of the application is the project proposal, ideally written in close consultation with a project adviser in the Government department. Proposals should run roughly 1,000 words (four pages, double-spaced) and must include:

  • A focused description of the scholarly issue or topic to be investigated, situated in a brief discussion of the literature that addresses the topic;
  • A specific, well-defined research question and/or set of hypotheses to be tested;
  • An explanation of the approach or research methods to be taken to answer the research question;
  • Documentation of relevant background, preparation, special facility or skills necessary to undertake the proposed thesis, including at least 3 courses that have prepared the student to successfully pursue and complete the project;
  • A short bibliography of cited sources and/or sources to be consulted.

In addition, applicants will need to request a Calculation of GPA by emailing A personalized listing of all courses and grades that are eligible for calculation will be sent as a PDF by email to enable the student to determine the grade point averages both inside and outside the major. A full list of the relevant documents and forms is available on the Class Dean’s website about applying for departmental honors.

Completed applications should be compiled in a single PDF document and submitted via the Google form by the relevant deadline. 

Oral Defense

All honors students will participate in an hour-long oral defense at the conclusion of their thesis process. The defense will be convened by at least two members of the faculty, one of whom will be the student’s project adviser, and the other of whom will be selected by the departmental Honors Director. During the defense, students will have an opportunity to introduce and discuss their course of research and will engage in a rigorous question-and-answer discussion with faculty members about their project.

How are honors projects evaluated?

Your thesis adviser, along with at least one additional faculty member (a “second reader”), will serve as your thesis committee. Together, they will carefully read your thesis and provide a substantive, qualitative assessment of its strengths and weaknesses, along with a designation (Highest Honors, High Honors, Honors, Pass, or Fail). The oral defense, administered by the same two faculty members, will be assessed on the same scale. The final honors designation, submitted for recommendation to the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, is based on three separate components:

  • Evaluation of the final honors thesis by at least two readers: 50%
  • Evaluation of the honors defense by at least two faculty: 20%
  • GPA within the major: 30%


Who can be an honors adviser?

  • Any full-time Government Department faculty can serve as a project adviser. If students wish to work with faculty outside the Government Department, that is fine, but they will still need to secure an adviser within the department.

How should I identify an adviser?

  • Students should aim to find an adviser whose research and/or courses provide the best fit for a student’s intended project. Ideally, these should be faculty with whom students have taken courses or with whom students have worked in another capacity, but students are welcome to approach any departmental faculty about a potential honors project. The department encourages students interested in pursuing a thesis to approach potential advisers well in advance of the application deadline—typically sometime during second semester of junior year.

What if I want do pursue an Honors project but miss the application deadline?

  • Students who, for whatever reason, fail to meet the relevant application deadline but who remain seriously interested in and well-prepared for pursuing honors should speak to their major adviser or potential research adviser about conducting a one semester Special Studies project with the possibility of completing it as an honors thesis during a second semester of research and writing.

What happens if I am admitted to the Honors Program?

  • Students will be notified by email several weeks after the application deadline indicating whether or not they have been admitted to the program. Admitted students will be registered automatically for a semester-long, 4-credit course (GOV 430) for the following semester. It is recommended that students take no more than three other 4-credit courses while they pursue a thesis.
  • To complete the honors program, students must complete a finished thesis on time, earn a passing designation on their thesis and oral defense, and successfully complete all the requirements for the major and a total of at least 11 courses in the field of Government. The yearlong thesis course (GOV 430) may be counted as two courses toward the 11 courses required for honors students.

What does a thesis in Government look like?

  • It depends! Government is a diverse discipline, and a thesis on the political theory of Thomas Hobbes will look very different than a thesis on Chinese foreign policy. Typically, however, a thesis in Government will include a short introduction and detailed literature that situates a students’ research question in existing scholarly debates, followed by substantive chapters (often, two) comprised of a student’s original research. The final product is often around 65-100 pages of finished, polished writing, including a full bibliography. Students are encouraged to consult past completed theses to get a better idea of what is involved in writing one.

When is my thesis due?

  • The Government Department requires all thesis students to complete a substantial portion of their thesis—often, a literature review and one substantive chapter—by the end of their first semester of thesis work and submit it to their adviser and the Honors Director. A finished thesis is due toward the end of the second semester of thesis work—in early April for May graduates, and in late November or early December for January graduates. Please consult the Class Dean’s website for specific deadlines for each year.

Can I get an extension?

  • An extension of up to five days from the initial due date may be granted at the discretion of the departmental Honors Director. A further extension of no longer than two weeks from the initial due date may be granted only by the chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs upon written application from the departmental director of honors.

What if I start a thesis but don’t want to continue?

  • In consultation with their advisers, students may convert honors projects to Special Studies at any point prior to the final deadline. It will be up to the adviser to determine what amount of work a student must complete to satisfy the criteria for a Special Studies.


Brent Durbin


Associate Professor of Government; Director of Program in Public Policy

Brent Durbin

Steven Heydemann

Middle East Studies

Janet Wright Ketcham 1953 Professor in Middle East Studies; Director of Program in Middle East Studies

Steve Heydemann

Scott LaCombe


Assistant Professor of Government and of Statistical & Data Sciences

Headshot of Scott LaCombe

Erin Pineda


Phyllis Cohen Rappaport ’68 New Century Term Professor of Government

Erin Pineda

Gregory White


Mary Huggins Gamble Professor of Government; Chair of Environmental Science and Policy

Gregory White


Martha A. Ackelsberg
William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor Emerita of Government and Professor Emerita of the Study of Women and Gender

Donald Baumer
Professor Emeritus of Government

Susan C. Bourque
Esther Booth Wiley 1934 Professor Emerita of Government

Patrick Coby
Esther Booth Wiley 1934 Professor Emeritus of Government

Donna Robinson Divine
Morningstar Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and Professor Emerita of Government

Velma Garcia
Professor Emerita of Government

Marc Lendler
Professor Emeritus of Government

Donald Robinson
Charles N. Clark Professor Emeritus of Government

Dennis T. Yasutomo
Esther Cloudman Dunn Professor Emeritus of Government


Research Associates

Michael Clancy


Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Program

Director: Brent Durbin

The Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Program is a first-semester program open to Smith junior and senior government majors and to other Smith juniors and seniors with appropriate background in the social sciences. It provides students with an opportunity to study processes by which public policy is made and implemented at the national level. Students typically reside in Washington from the month of June preceding the fall semester through December.

The program is directed by a member of the Smith College faculty who is responsible for selecting the interns and assisting them in obtaining placement in appropriate offices in Washington, and directing the independent research project through tutorial sessions. The seminar is conducted by an adjunct professor in Washington.

Cost of the Program

Students participating in the program pay full tuition for the semester. They do not pay any fees for residence at the college but are required to pay for their own room and board in Washington during the fall semester.


Before beginning the semester in Washington, the student must have satisfactorily completed at least one of the following courses in American national government: 200, 201, 202, 206, 207, 208 and 209. A successful applicant must also demonstrate a capacity for independent work. An applicant must have an excess of two credits on record preceding the semester in Washington.

How to Apply

Applications should be submitted to the director of the Semester-in-Washington Program no later than Friday, November 10, 2023. Enrollment is limited to 12 students, and the program is not mounted for fewer than six. An informational meeting for interested students is scheduled in October.

Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Application

Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Recommendation

Requirements to Fulfill the Program

For satisfactory completion of the Semester-in-Washington Program, 14 credits are granted:

  • 4 credits for a seminar in policymaking (411)
  • 2 credits for GOV 413 seminar on political science research
  • 8 credits for an independent research project (412), culminating in a long paper*

* No student may write an honors thesis in the same field in which she has written her long paper in the Washington seminar, unless the department, upon petition, grants a specific exemption from this policy.

Photo of the U.S. Capital Building at Night

Opportunities & Resources

Fox-Boorstein International Internship

The Smith College Department of Government sponsors an annual competition for the Fox-Boorstein International Internship Fellowship. This fellowship of between $300 and $800, made possible by a bequest and through the generosity of family members, is available to students in any major, although priority is given to students majoring in government. It is intended to support Smith students working internationally at summer internships in governmental or nongovernmental organizations that involve a policy focus or involve global issues. The deadline to submit all application materials is Friday, April 26, 2024.

Fox-Boorstein Fellowship Application 2024 (PDF)

Fox-Boorstein Recommendation Form 2024 (PDF)

Leanna Brown Fellowship

The Smith College Department of Government sponsors the annual competition for the Leanna Brown ’56 Fellowship. This fellowship (normally between $500 and $1,000), made possible by the generosity of Brown's father, Harold Young, is intended to support Smith students working at summer internships in state or local government or in organizations (government or nongovernment) focused on issues of particular concern to women. All students are invited to apply. The deadline to submit all application materials is Friday, April 26, 2024.

Leanna Brown Fellowship Application 2024 (PDF)

Leanna Brown Recommendation Form 2024 (PDF)

Harry S. Truman Scholarship

Students interested in careers of public service are invited to register for nomination for a Harry S. Truman Scholarship. The award of $30,000 is for graduate or professional education. Smith College may nominate up to four juniors for the national competition. It is best to begin the process early in the spring of the sophomore year (especially if you will be abroad in your junior year). Registrations are accepted up to early fall of the junior year, but the earlier you begin, the better your chances.

For more information, visit the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation or the Smith Fellowships office.

Pi Sigma Alpha National Honor Society in Political Science

The Alpha Zeta Lambda Chapter at Smith College (the 700th chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha) was founded by Mary Darby, Claire Stein-Ross, and Caroline Sutcliffe, all members of the graduating class of 2010. Formal recognition of the Smith chapter by the national office came on March 26, 2010. The first students were inducted into the society on April 20, 2010.

Contact: Bozena Welborne


Article II I of the Smith College chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha details the requirements for membership:

  • A minimum overall grade-point average (GPA) of at least 3.3;
  • Not less than a 3.5 GPA in the major;
  • Completion of at least six graded government courses;
  • Be a senior, junior or second-semester sophomore in the government major;
  • Pay the one-time chapter dues.
Transfer Students

In the case of transfer students, graded courses in political science from other institutions may be used to reach the six courses required for application to Pi Sigma Alpha when the credits have been accepted for transfer by Smith College. If the applicant wishes to include these courses considered for admission to Pi Sigma Alpha, the applicant must submit an official transcript from the previous institution. In such cases all grades received in those courses accepted for transfer by Smith College will be used in the calculation of the GPA eligibility to Pi Sigma Alpha.


Membership in an honor society is a worthy distinction in itself and as a measure of academic achievement can provide a tangible advantage in a competitive world. All Pi Sigma Alpha members receive a certificate of membership and pin, and permanent enrollment in the society's membership maintained by the national office. Upon request, the National Office will provide letters verifying membership to prospective employers and graduate schools. Members are entitled to wear the Pi Sigma Alpha key at any time or the medallion and honor cord with cap and gown at graduation and on other official occasions. Members may apply for scholarships for both graduate study in political science and for Washington semester programs, and best paper awards.

Pi Sigma Alpha also gives students the opportunity for valuable administrative experience as chapter officers or organizers of chapter activities. Chapters can compete for Chapter Activity Grants awarded each year by the National Office. Members are also eligible to compete for Pi Sigma Alpha Graduate Scholarships, the Graduate and Undergraduate Best Paper Awards, and a one-year student membership in the American Political Science Association, funded by the national office for one student selected by each chapter each year. Members are also eligible to submit articles to the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics, published twice per year.

Learn more on the Pi Sigma Alpha website →

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Contact Department of Government

Hatfield 102
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3510 Email:

Administrative Assistant:  
Lisa DeCarolis-Osepowicz

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.