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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: Comparative Politics of Secession (PLIT10134)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the politics of secession - the practice of creating new states out of existing ones. It explores why secessionist movements come about, how they mobilise support for their goals, and what happens once they manage to initiate the process of separation. The course combines theory with empirical material.
Course description The thematic focus of the course is secession. We will explore theories that account for the entire cycle of this phenomenon, from its emergence, through its political dynamics, to either successful or unsuccessful attempts to attain independent statehood. Theoretical material will be illustrated by, and applied to, a variety of historic and contemporary cases (e.g. Catalonia, Scotland, Quebec, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kosovo, Eritrea, Tamil Eelam).

The foundation of the course is the discussion of the key features of multinational states, with a focus on the conditional legitimacy of their political-institutional framework and their borders. Indicative themes include: the emergence of secessionist movements; their efforts to mobilise support for independence; mechanics of separation (including a discussion of violent and non-violent secessions); independence referenda; policy issues related to the creation of new states; and the international political and legal aspects of secession .
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Introduction to Politics and International Relations (PLIT08004) OR Politics in a Changing World: An Introduction for non-specialists (PLIT08012) OR Politics and International Relations 1A: Concepts and Debates (PLIT08017)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Section for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  45
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 90 %, Practical Exam 10 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Conceptual reflection paper (1500 words) - 40%
Research Paper (2500 words) - 60%
Feedback Feedback on the reflection paper will be returned before the submission deadline for the research paper.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the key features of multinational states and processes of secession.
  2. Explain why, how, and under what conditions secessionist movements succeed in mobilizing support for independence.
  3. Identify the political, policy, and legal challenges and opportunities faced by central governments in responding to secessionist demands.
  4. Identify the political, policy, and legal challenges and opportunities faced by secessionist movements in attempting to achieve independent statehood.
  5. Present - in written and verbal form - coherent, balanced arguments about key issues in the study of secession.
Reading List
Beissinger, Mark. 2002. Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Caspersen, Nina. 2012. Unrecognized States: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Modern International System. Cambridge: Polity.

Mikulas Fabry. 2010. Recognizing States: International Society and the Establishment of New States Since 1776. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham. Inside the Politics of Self-Determination. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Griffiths, Ryan. 2016. Age of Secession: The International and Domestic Determinants of State Birth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

O'Leary, Brian, Ian Lustick & Thomas Callaghy. 2001. Right-Sizing the State: The Politics of Moving Borders. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Roeder, Philip. 2007. Where Nation-States Come From: Institutional Change in the Age of Nationalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Sorens, Jason. Secessionism: Identity, Interests, and Strategy. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012.

Treverton, Gregory. 2014. Dividing Divided States. Philadelphia: Pennsylvannia University Press.

Barbara Walter. Reputation and Civil War: Why Separatist Conflicts Are So Violent. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Critical thinking and analytical skills.
Advanced research skills.
Effective written and oral communication skills.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Karlo Basta
Tel: (0131 6)50 6372
Course secretaryMs Alison Lazda
Tel: (0131 6)51 5572
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