Current Semester


Dr. Sebastian Ziaja

Tuesdays, 11:45 - 13:15, G302

This colloquium accompanies students in preparing their Master or Bachelor dissertations. We will start with a very brief refresher of academic writing techniques and research methods.

Foreign Aid and Violent Conflict

Dr. Sebastian Ziaja

Mondays, 17:00 – 18:30, D435

Foreign aid is a controversial topic. Critics not only argue that aid is ineffective; some even argue that it does harm. This allegation is of particular relevance when it comes to violent conflict: Providing resources to a country may shift balances of power and trigger conflict or escalate it into war. We will review the literature on the link between foreign aid and violent conflict. Starting with theoretical arguments on both mitigating and exacerbating effects, we later turn to the empirical literature that introduces us to advanced methods for causal inference.

Political Impacts of Information Technology

Dr. Sebastian Ziaja

Mondays, 15:15 - 16:45, D435

The digital age is fundamentally transforming our society. This course examines the effects of information- and communication technology (ICT), with a particular focus on politics in non-democratic countries. We start with an introduction to the technology behind cellphone and Internet communications, in order to develop a basic understanding of how they work. Next, we discuss different ways in which this technology affects political and economic outcomes. In doing so, we give particular attention to empirical tests that can (or cannot) let us gauge these hypothesized effects. The course requires a good background in research design and quantitative methods.

State Capacity: Domestic and International Perspectives

Dr. Sebastian Ziaja

Tuesdays, 15:15 - 16:45, G300

The state is a core concept in political science, but it has been somewhat neglected in the past decades. Some researchers have argued that alternative forms of governance such as (global) social networks and (global) corporate actors are increasingly replacing the state. Others have simply assumed it to be present without paying much further attention. But during recent crises—be it the global financial and economic crisis of 2009, or the Arab spring—eyes have again turned towards the role of the state in domestic and international politics. We will review the conceptual and empirical literature that explicitly deals with measuring the “strength” of states to deal with both internal and external opponents and tasks. This includes “capacities with adjectives” that refer to the administrative, infrastructural, coercive, military, regulatory, and analytical abilities of states.

Autocracy and Democracy: Concept and Measurement

Dr. Sebastian Ziaja

Tuesdays, 17:00 – 18:30, G300

Are we currently experiencing a decline in democracy across the globe? Issues such as unfree elections and constitutional crises in countries that had seen more democratic times dominate the news. Turkey, Russia, Poland, Hungary, and Venezuela are just the most prominent cases. But is this decline real? Will it last? What types of regimes are succeeding previously democratic regimes? To answer these questions, this class will cover the conceptual foundations of political regimes as well as current empirical approaches to measuring autocracy, democracy, and the ambiguous world of hybrid regimes than lies in between.

Authoritarian Resilience and Democratization

Dr. Eda Keremoglu

Tuesdays, 13:30 - 15:00, F423

What are the conditions of democratic transition and which factors, on the other hand, enhance authoritarian survival? This course provides a systematic overview of contemporary democratization and autocracy research and engages with the domestic and international dimensions of regime transitions and resilience.

In an introductory step, the course addresses issues of conceptualizing and measuring both autocracy and democracy: what are the key defining features of each regime type, which elements are contested (and why), and how can “hybrid” regimes be conceptualized?

The course engages with the empirical strand of research that focuses, first, on the drivers of democratic development, and second, on authoritarian survival strategies and consolidation. The core of seminar proceeds along the political, economic, and social dimensions. How can political institutions strengthen authoritarianism? Does economic inequality enhance democratization? Do natural resources impede democratic transitions? What role do neighboring countries play and are there global diffusions of regime types? Why are some autocracies responsive and engage with their citizens? Does the internet help autocrats to stay in power or does it facilitate mobilization?

The course focuses on the contemporary literature of democratization and authoritarianism and engages with quantitative empirical studies. Students should therefore have a good understanding of analytical research design and quantitative statistical methods.