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School of Social Sciences

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BAEcon Economics
Learn how the social sciences can help you to understand today's world.

BAEcon Economics

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Fear and Loathing in International Relations: The Problem of Identity and Difference

Unit code POLI32061
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course will enable students to think critically about difference in the context of globalization and the legacy of imperialism/colonialism. For too long ‘difference’ has either been associated with a threat or we are told difference must be seen as always a good thing. In both cases the full potential of what we mean by ‘difference’ is sidelined. Difference is the reason for justifying many things and yet the preoccupation with threat, violence, and domination or alternatively enrichment displaces difference as the central concern of international relations. Questions that never get asked include, ‘What are the various ways in which we have come to understand difference?; ‘What are the strengths and weaknesses of these?; ‘Why is difference so dangerous’? Why is difference so important? What kind of differences do we want? How does difference best flourish? What is the relationship between identity and difference?


The course unit aims to:¿

1.    Explore in general debates on the relationship between identity and difference linked to underlying theoretical IR frameworks of communitarianism, comsopolitanism and post-colonialism, Consider how these theoretical frameworks are linked to key ideas such as nationalism, globalization, colonialism, citizenship and hybridity.

2.    Consider a range of contemporary issues through which the identity-difference nexus is being discussed, debated and contested including:¿(i) Race;¿(ii) Gender;¿(iii) Multiculturalism;¿(iv) Immigration; and¿(v) Indigeneity.

3.    Introduce the prevailing political context within which these debates are set around the concept

of globalisation and the legacy of imperialism/ colonialism.

4.    Enable students to link the aforementioned frameworks and concepts to problems of difference which have arisen in the recent decades - e.g., Brexit; Black Lives Matter; Rhodes Must Fall; the 2015 uprisings in Ferguson; the 2011 uprisings in Britain; the 2005 uprisings in France; Gender Quotas; gender segregation; the US DREAM Act; the 2015 British Immigration Bill; indigenous movements in Canada, Australia and Africa.

5.    Develop students’ oral skills (through general discussion), team-work skills (through a group

poster presentation), written skills (through the assessed essay and poster), research skills (from the use and assessment of material from an array of sources), and critical and analytical skills.

Learning outcomes

Objectives (Learning Outcomes)

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to demonstrate:

•       An ability to assess critically the frameworks of communitarianism, cosmopolitanism, and post-colonialism and reflect upon how they inform current discussions about the nature of identity and difference through ideas of class, race, gender, immigration and indigeneity.

•       An ability to engage with key concepts such as nationalism, cosmopolitan citizenship and hybridity and identify how they present different understandings of the relationship between identity and difference.

•       An ability to assess critically the arguments surrounding each of the contemporary issues looked at (e.g. immigration, gender, race, multiculturalism, indigeneity).

•       An ability to identify the political, social and cultural constructions of identity and difference which are put forward in key debates around the contemporary issues looked at.

•       An ability to develop and defend an original argument

•       An ability to apply the arguments and approaches studied to real and hypothetical cases.

•       An ability to present research findings in written form at a 3rd year undergraduate level.

•       Oral, teamwork, written, and research skills.

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be taught on the basis of ten two-hour lectures and nine one-hour tutorials (with one tutorial for the poster presentations); there will also be an option of one extra student run hour-long tutorial each week. The lectures will comprise a mix of traditional lecture material, interactive question and answer sessions, small tasks in break-out groups, and videos.

Tutorials will be student-led, involving group work linked to theoretical debates (part I) as well as role-play, debate and simulation scenarios for a specific case study relevant to each of the contemporary issues covered (part II). All students will be expected to have completed the required reading and to have made preparatory notes for both tutorials and lectures. 

Assessment methods

The course will be assessed in three ways:
1. A 4,000 word essay (65%).
2. A group poster presentation (25%).
3. Seminar participation (10%)

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

·         Yosef Lapid, and Friedrich Kratochwil (eds) (1996) The Return of Culture and Identity in IR Theory (London: Lynne Rienner)

·         Naeem Inayatullah and David Blaney (2004) International Relations and the Problem of Difference (Routledge)

·         Arjun Appadurai (2006) Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger (Duke University Press) 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Aoileann Ni Mhurchu Unit coordinator

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