Comparative Area Studies

Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

Comparative area studies is one of the most promising new approaches in comparative politics. It builds on the contribution that area studies has made to political science and develops a framework for comparing political phenomena across world regions. This research design allows for a better appreciation and specification of regional similarities and differences. The fundamental insight from comparative area studies is that region mediates global and universal processes and therefore is an explanatory variable in its own right. 

Reading material:
All the course material is available in electronic form. The syllabus only contains the required reading. Each week, suggestions for further reading will be made in class.

Learning Outcomes: 

At the end of the course the student should be able to:

  • Evaluate the contribution of area studies to political science;
  • Understand the potential of comparative area studies;
  • Reflect on the notion of “region” in comparative politics;
  • Reflect on the notion of “time period” in comparative politics;
  • Design a project comparing a political phenomenon across world regions or across time;
  • Summarize arguments, assess evidence, and formulate an opinion
  • Active class participation (10%)
  • Opinion paper (30%)
  • Presentation of research design (30%)
  • Paper with research design (30%)

Active class participation is expected and graded. Some guidelines: participate regularly, make informed contributions, refer to the reading, focus on the main points, formulate clearly, respond to others in the discussion, and demonstrate critical engagement.

Each student writes an opinion paper on the debate in week 6. The task is to summarize and critically engage with the arguments, concluding with your own evaluation. The paper is due midnight on the day before class that week and should be no more than 1,500 words long (everything included).

Each student will design a research project comparing a political phenomenon across two or more regions and/or time periods. The aim is to get first-hand experience with the practice of comparative area studies. A first version will be presented as a PowerPoint presentation of 10 minutes maximum. The guidelines for the presentation will be introduced in the first session.

The final paper will contain the final version of the research design in comparative area studies. It should be no more than 1,500 words long (everything included). Details will be introduced in the first session.

Please note that for all assessments, late submission and violation of the word or time limit will result in a lower grade.


No prior knowledge is assumed. Students are expected to be present at all seminars and to come prepared. If you are unable to attend class, you should notify me via e-mail prior to the session.