Fall 2019 - POL 332 D100

Separatist Movements: Conflict and Accommodation (4)

Class Number: 7444

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    WMC 3533, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 6, 2019
    3:01 PM – 3:29 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Six lower division units in political science or permission of the department.



Examines separatist movements across countries and throughout history, focusing on how people come to self-identify as a nation and seek self-government. We will examine case studies of countries that have split apart and study the political activities of separatist movements in electoral campaigns and policy debates. Students with credit for POL 339 Selected Topics in Comparative Government and Politics under the title Separatist Movements may not take this course for further credit.


The desire to leave an existing state, either to join another country or to establish a new nation-state, is at the root of many recent conflicts: in Catalonia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Jammu and Kashmir to name but three. Nor is this a recent phenomenon. Attempts to secede from multinational empires can be seen in the protest movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. However, separatism does not always lead to violence and constitutional crisis. In many countries there are separatist parties which participate peacefully in the existing political system, often over several decades. There are also actual separations that have occurred through negotiation, without physical conflict.

This course examines separatist movements across countries. In the first part of the course we will draw on political science, history and psychology to understand how people come to self-identify as a nation and to seek self-government. We will then examine case studies of separatist movements that actually achieved a new state: Ireland in 1921-2, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 and South Sudan in 2011. We will ask why the Irish and Sudanese secessions only occurred after war while the leaders of Czechoslovakia were able to handle the country's break-up peacefully. In Part 3 of the course we will consider the political activities of separatist movements, such as electoral campaigns and policy formation. To do so, we will compare the Bloc Québécois of Canada, the Scottish National Party of the UK, the Catalan and Basque nationalist parties in Spain and the Lega Nord of Italy. Throughout the semester we will be preparing for a simulation where you negotiate a region’s secession from the rest of a country. You will be divided into groups, representing the secessionists and the government. Your task is to negotiate arrangements for a peaceful transition and future relations, covering economic policy, trade, border security, and environmental management.

There will be a 4 hour class each week, split between lecture, small group work to prepare for the simulation and discussion of the week’s readings.


  • Participation in the simulation and class discussion 15%
  • Critical review of a course reading 10%
  • Group report (preparation for simulation) 20%
  • Individual report on simulation 25%
  • Take-home exam 30%



There is no required textbook for this course. Readings will consist of academic articles available online through the SFU Library and book chapters posted on Canvas.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

The Department of Political Science strictly enforces a policy on plagiarism.
For details, see http://www.sfu.ca/politics/undergraduate/program/related_links.html and click on “Plagiarism and Intellectual Dishonesty” .

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html