Summer 2021 - IS 451 D100

Seminar on Core Texts in International Studies (4)

Class Number: 3258

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 9:30 AM – 1:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    90 units. International Studies major or honours students.



An interdisciplinary course which aims to bring together different disciplinary perspectives on international affairs through the study of influential texts which, between them, involve study of core themes to the program: development, governance and civil society, war and peace, human rights and questions of culture and ethnicity.


This is one of two capstone core courses in the International Studies Major at SFU. As the course title indicates, its main goal is to offer students an opportunity for in-depth study of a few books considered to have had a particularly strong influence in the field, or that cover a critical major social and political issue in the twenty-first century. Given the interdisciplinary nature of International Studies, there is no established canon of what are its “core texts.” It is always a tough choice to narrow down the list of important texts to a number that can be feasibly covered in an academic term. This selection includes at least one core text from each of the three streams in our IS Major, and several of them are wide-spanning enough that they cover the three streams at once. These core texts will allow us to study major topics in the field, such as the rise of liberalism, capitalism, imperialism and inequality; state formation; development; neoliberalism; class and politics; social movements and geopolitics; nationalism, democracy, ethnicity, and populism. The books we’ll be reading were written by authors in various disciplines, including anthropology, economics, geography, history, political science and sociology, which emphasizes the highly interdisciplinary nature of the field of international studies.


(a) Enhance students’ substantive knowledge of modern and contemporary history that shapes international affairs; (b) develop their understanding of major concepts and theoretical strands in international studies and other disciplines with an international orientation; (c) develop students’ ability to read a text critically; and (d) foster the ability to draw out in writing its core arguments and raise questions that will help the seminar to deepen its analysis.


  • Five Discussion Papers (5% each) 25%
  • Five Responses (2% each) 10%
  • Midterm Take-home Essay 25%
  • Final Take-home Essay 25%
  • Participation 15%


Weekly seminars will consist of a combination of structured discussion of extensive readings and lectures by the instructor (minimal), as well as a couple of films. Students will be expected to have read assigned materials prior to the seminar session. Based on these readings, students will be asked to produce five Discussion Papers (DP) of approximately 600-700 words each over the course of the semester. At least three of these DPs should be completed by Week 7, which will leave weeks 8-13 to write the other two. In alternate weeks, students will be expected to write a Response to discussion papers written by other students. Note that only one of these assignments—DP or Response—can be written and posted on any given week. Students will write a mid-term and final take-home essays meant for students to integrate the main arguments of two or more authors read during the term. The mid-term will cover readings through week 7 and the final will cover primarily weeks 8-13 but earlier texts can be used also.

Students will be required to submit their written assignments to in order to receive credit for the assignments and for the course.

The School for International Studies strictly enforces the University's policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Information about these policies can be found at:


Assumed and required background reading: Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels (1848) The Communist Manifesto (multiple editions, available online).



Alexander Zebin. 2019. Liberalism at Large: The World According to The Economist. London and New York: Verso.
ISBN: 9781781686249

Anderson, Benedict (1983/1991/2006) Imagined Communities: The Origins and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. (Weeks 4-5)
ISBN: 1844670864

Mitchell, Timothy (2011) Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. London: Verso. ISBN: (paperback) (Weeks 6-7)
ISBN: 9781781681169

Boushey, Heather (2019) Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do About It. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.
ISBN: 9780674251380

Müller, Jan-Werner (2016) What is Populism?  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. (Week 11)
ISBN: 9780812248982

Wright, Erik Olin. 2019. How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century. London and New York: Verso. (Weeks 12-13)
ISBN: 9781788736053


Assumed and required background reading: Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels (1848) The Communist Manifesto (multiple editions, available online).

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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.


Teaching at SFU in summer 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods, but we will continue to have in-person experiential activities for a selection of courses.  Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning ( or 778-782-3112).