Theses. Students who would like me to advise a BA or MA thesis should approach me well before any deadlines with a 3-4 page written proposal that clearly outlines the puzzle they are interested in, some possible answers, and a tentative research design. I may also request a writing sample and/or a list of classes taken in political science. Because there is a limit to the number of theses I can advise, we will need to meet and discuss your proposal in detail before I can make any decisions.

Letters of Recommendation. I will only write letters for students for whom I can be strongly supportive. Students who need a letter of recommendation should make every effort to give me at least 1 month of preparation time once I have agreed to write. Please include any relevant materials – resume/CV, draft cover letter, grant proposal, etc – and a detailed outline of how many letters will be needed, when, and what I should do with them (mail them, online submission, give a sealed copy to you, etc). You should ask me well in advance rather than assuming that I will or can write. For more advice, please see information from Nuno Monteiro.

Prospective Graduate Students. I receive many emails of inquiry from prospective graduate students interested in their prospects of admission to U of C’s PhD program, my ability to take on advisees, etc. I encourage you to apply, but unfortunately I am unable to offer any specific advice about this: the department has an admissions committee that makes overall decisions based on the applicant pool, fit with the department, and numerous other factors. It is impossible to know ahead of time what the likelihood of acceptance is, and students are not admitted to work with any particular adviser. For more information on the process, please see these Frequently Asked Questions from the department and advice from Daniel Nexon. Steven Wilkinson has useful advice for international applicants. This overview by Erica Chenoweth is excellent for both PhD and Masters applicants.


Recommended Reading List on Civil War and Political Violence (November 2019 version).


SOSC 11100: Power, Identity, and Resistance-1 (Fall 2010, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2021, Fall 2022)

SOSC 113: Power, Identity, and Resistance (Winter 2020)

SOSC 11300: Power, Identity, and Resistance-3 (Spring 2012)

PLSC 26800: Insurgency, Terrorism, and Civil War (Winter 2012, Winter 2013, Winter 2015, Winter 2016, Winter 2017, Winter 2018 (draft), Winter 2022 (draft), Winter 2023)

This undergraduate lecture course provides an introduction to asymmetric and irregular warfare. From Colombia to Afghanistan, non-state armed organizations are crucially important actors. We will study how they organize themselves, extract resources, deploy violence, attract recruits, and both fight and negotiate with states. We will also examine government counterinsurgency and counterterrorism policies, peace-building after conflict, and international involvement in internal wars. Case materials will be drawn from a variety of conflicts and cover a number of distinct topics. This course has a heavy reading load, and both attendance and substantial participation in weekly discussion sections are required.

PLSC 26005/36005. International Relations of South Asia (Spring 2019)

South Asia is huge, growing fast, and remarkably interesting. This course examines the international relations of the region. It studies the foreign policies of the region’s states, conflict and cooperation among them, the involvement of outside powers, strategies for navigating the global economy, and a variety of other political phenomena that cross borders, from trade to insurgency. We can only scratch the surface of this topic: the quarter system forces difficult choices, so think of this as an appetizer rather than a full meal. Nevertheless, there is a heavy reading load to make the best use of our very limited time. The first part of the course is an abbreviated introduction to the history and domestic politics of South Asia. This is essential for any serious understanding of the region, which is why I chose to include it while cutting some important “pure” foreign policy topics. The second part focuses intently on India and Pakistan’s security competition, wars, and crises. The third part broadens the scope, exploring both how external powers and smaller states have operated in the region. The fourth part explores other processes operating within and across the region’s borders, especially strategies of economic development and their relationship to the global economy. The overall goal is to provide a grounding in the key political dynamics in the subcontinent and how they affect international relations and foreign policy.


PLSC 36100: Civil War (Fall 2010; Winter 2012, Fall 2014, Winter 2016, Spring 2017 DRAFT, Winter 2020 DRAFT, Winter 2022 DRAFT, Winter 2023 DRAFT)

Civil war is the dominant form of political violence in the contemporary world. This graduate seminar will introduce students to cutting edge scholarly work and to the task of carrying out research on internal conflict. We will study the origins, dynamics, and termination of civil wars, as well as international interventions, post-conflict legacies, and policy responses to war. A variety of research approaches will be explored, including qualitative, quantitative, and interpretive methods, micro- and macro-level levels of analysis, and sub- and cross-national comparative designs. Our emphasis throughout will be on designing rigorous research that persuasively addresses important questions. A major research paper is required. Enrollment is limited to 20 students and will be by instructor’s consent.

PLSC 41201: Militaries in Politics (Spring 2012)

This graduate seminar studies how militaries shape political life. Though often ignored in favor of political parties, economic inequality and class coalitions, and legislatures, militaries are pivotal political actors in much of the world. Their ability to engage in large-scale organized violence makes them powerful allies and dangerous foes for civilian elites and mass publics. This course studies the internal and external politics of militaries. We will examine a variety of topics, including coups and withdrawals, counterinsurgency and countersubversion, foreign policy, organizational politics and socialization, military rule, the coercive politics of state formation, and the remarkable variety of civil-military relationships (from collusion to conflict). The focus will be on the developing world but we will also cover classic cases of military politics in Europe and the United States. We will compare militaries to other forms of armed organization, particularly police, militias, paramilitaries, mercenaries, and insurgents. This course draws on numerous disciplines, sub-fields, and methods, and requires a major research paper. Enrollment is limited to 20 students and will be by instructor’s consent.

PLSC 44701: Comparative Approaches to Civil War (Spring 2018 DRAFT)

This course blends theoretical, empirical, and conceptual work on civil conflict with detailed studies of cases. It will assess research on civil war “onset,” mobilization, violence, civilian agency, and resolution, while linking these broader literatures to conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia. The course will emphasize theoretical innovations grounded in detailed empirical knowledge, including primary texts, ethnographies, films, and other forms of cultural production

PLSC 50801: Research Seminar in Political Violence (Spring 2016)

The goal of this course is to help graduate students transition from being consumers to producers of research on political violence. The course will begin with an overview of recent work on civil war, electoral violence, and armed state building to make students aware of the scholarly cutting edge and emerging new questions. The rest of the course will involve graduate students workshopping their MA theses, dissertation prospectuses, and draft doctoral thesis chapters. All participants must have an ongoing research project to circulate and present. Note(s): Past enrollment in PLSC 36100 and/or PLSC 48700 is strongly recommended. Instructor’s consent required.

PLSC 50901: Qualitative Methods (Winter 2013, Winter 2015, Winter 2017 DRAFT, Autumn 2021 with Austin Carson)

This course examines small-N research designs and methods for engaging in qualitative research. We will discuss concept formation, case selection, comparative case studies, process-tracing, combinations with other methods, and the virtues and limitations of different approaches to theory development, interpretation, and causal inference. We will then consider some of the tools that are often associated with qualitative research, including ethnography, interviews, archival work, and historiography. Because other courses in the department and university cover some of these methods in greater depth, this class will particularly emphasize their relationship to research design. Prior methods coursework (PLSC 30500 or an equivalent) is strongly recommended.

PLSC 51700: Violence and State Formation (Fall 2012)

This class examines state control over coercion and the relationship between states and non-state violent actors. The goal is a better understanding of how states manage, manipulate, and monopolize violence, whether through the military, sponsorship of militants at home and abroad, or collusive bargains with local strongmen. An overarching emphasis will be on the intersection of international security pressures with domestic threats and political interests. The unintended consequences and long-term effects of different structures of violence management are also considered. We will draw on a number of disciplines and sources of evidence. The course requires a major research paper and instructor’s consent for enrollment.