BASS Politics and Criminology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Questions About International Politics

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI20521
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course will introduce and discuss a series of questions about international politics. The precise set of questions to be covered will be decided closer to the time. They will be designed to explore a range of relevant practices (e.g. war, terrorism, environmental protection) and concepts (e.g. power, state sovereignty, identity, gender, race).

Indicative schedule:

1) Introduction

2) How do we begin to think about the world?

3) How do we find out what is going on in the world?

4) How does colonialism work? Do colonialism and slavery belong to the past?

5) Why does politics turn to violence? Can we move beyond conflict?

6) Who do we think we are?

7) Why do we obey?

8) Who has rights? Does the nation state work?

9) Conclusion: What can we do to stop harming others? What can we do to change the world? Can we save the planet?





There are many significant questions that intrigue students of international politics.  This course aims to provide students with the opportunity to explore such questions in an analytically sophisticated way.  It will do so by drawing on the ways in which scholars have already thought about these questions and examining the strengths and weaknesses of their responses.  It will relate scholars’ responses to actual practices of international politics, thereby demonstrating opportunities to think critically not only about scholars’ analyses, but also the practices of international politics themselves.  More specifically, the course will relate key questions covered in the module to the following four sets of themes:


1) power/knowledge/truth

2) language/representation

3) identity/difference/subjectivity

4) governance/resistance


This course unit will show how such questions can and have been tackled, but will also stress that the important questions of international politics always remain open to an extent and are re-formulated, re-examined and challenged by each new generation of students. In this way, the course is aimed at getting students to think critically about international politics in two senses of the term. The first seeks to develop a broad set of critical thinking skills necessary for interrogating and revealing the unquestioned assumptions that implicitly inform our own individual worldviews. The second is more particular to IR as a discipline and will familiarize students with critical thinking in IR theory by thinking through a number of ‘sacred cows’ in international politics – the state, military power, and the inevitability of violence and exclusion, for example. In this vein, the course will aim to dislodge what are often taken as ‘givens’ and so-called ‘common sense’ understandings of international politics. 


Learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate an understanding of how to critically ask questions about international politics.
  • Demonstrate the ability to think critically about questions, ways of tackling them and the implications of different strategies for doing so.
  • Outline and discuss strengths and weaknesses of different theoretical positions in relation to international politics.
  • Articulate their own views on how to ask questions about international politics with recourse to (and sometimes rejection of) the literature covered in the course.

Employability skills

See Additional Notes at the end

Assessment methods


Participation/course engagement, 25%: 1000 words Non-standard formats to be decided, e.g. quizzes, discussion boards, voicethreads, google docs, wikis, blogs, etc.

Critical Reflection, 25%: 1,000 word essay format;

Essay 50%: 2,000 word essay.


Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission via Blackboard (if submitted through Turnitin).

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results. This applies to Semester 2 modules only. Semester one modules with no final examination will have their feedback available within the 15 working days.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff

Recommended reading

Jenny Edkins and Maja Zehfuss (eds.), Global Politics: A New Introduction (London: Routledge 2008).

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Cristina Masters Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Employability skills

  • Gather, organise and deploy analytical evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and some primary sources;
  • Construct reasoned argument, synthesise relevant information and exercise critical judgement; Reflect on their own learning and seek and make use of constructive feedback.
  • Critically analyse and disseminate information.
  • Manage their own learning self-critically.
  • Recognise the importance of explicit referencing and the ethical requirements of study, in particular critical and reflective use of information and communications technology in the learning process.
  • Communicate effectively and fluently in speech and writing. Employers require Politics and International Relations graduates to be able to communicate ideas effectively to a varied audience. This ability to translate complex ideas to a wide audience is a particularly valued skill!
  • Use communication and information technology, including audio-visual technology, for the retrieval and presentation of information.
  • Progress through the degree programme to become mature, independent learners who can demonstrate initiative, self-organisation and time management attributes. The ability to identify opportunities for continuous learning and development, leading to future continuous professional development, is particularly valued by employers.
  • Collaborate with others to achieve common goals through, for example group work, group projects, group presentations. Employers regard collaboration and the identification of common goals highly.

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