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Failed States and the Agenda for Reconstruction


Créditos: 4 ECTS

Primer semestre

Asignaturas optativas de Especialidad



Marta Iñiguez de Heredia_foto
Marta Iñiguez de Heredia


This module explores the paradigm of the failed state as something that has pervaded the global security and global governance agendas. The module will encourage students to think critically and analytically about how this paradigm has linked various forms of intervention to the reconstruction of the central state authority apparatus. These entail the full range of Global governance strategies both civil and military such as peace-enforcement, peace-keeping, statebuilding, democratisation and development aid. The course has both a practical and a theoretical orientation in the sense that it will offer students an overview of the main debates around state failure and state theory, as well as of a variety of case studies. The structure of the course will revolve around several of its goals. These include understanding the context of the rise of the paradigm of the failed state; an analysis of the future of this paradigm and of the extent to which the aims of the global security agenda around it have been achieved; familiarise with different theoretical approaches that have given different meanings to the idea of failed states; and examining several cases such as the DRC, Haiti, Somalia and the Balkans, among others. 


All students will produce two short essays, deliver a presentation as part of a group and undertake a formal examination at the end of the course. Unlike a typical university course, in which students can fall behind in the readings, miss some classes, and catch up through intensive studying prior to exams, a short and interactive-seminar-based course like this depends entirely on its members attending every class, having adequately prepared beforehand by completing the required reading. The process simply fails if its members do not make, and keep, a serious and active commitment to it.  With these descriptions in mind, you should be aware that this module requires you to do all the core readings, attend all of the seminar meetings, and participate actively in all of our discussions.

Mode of Assessment: 

  • Participation 20%
  • Course work
    • Presentation 20%
    • Short Essay 20%
    • Exam 40%


1. Attendance and Participation (20%): While attendance is mandatory, the bulk of this mark will be based on your participation. Participation will be assessed, based on the following indicators:

- Evidence of having done the set readings: This can include having reading notes visible, raising questions about the readings, quoting the readings when making an observation or a comment, challenging the views of the readings, and comparing different readings.

- Active participation: this entails engaging in the discussions in class, responding to questions posed by the professor and other students. It also entails asking questions about the material or any other matters about the course that need clarification.

- Active listening: the student takes notes during seminars and class exercises, and when watching films, or when others are talking.

- Collegiality, respect, politeness and teamwork apply at all times: diversity of ideas and challenge will be actively promoted in a polite and respectful environment. Those that talk more will also be mindful to let others speak too. Those that speak less will take some responsibility to speak and contribute to class.

2. Presentation (20%): Students will be required to do a 20-minute presentation, as part of a group of 2-3 people. They will also be required to lead a discussion afterwards. The presentation will address one of the seminar questions set for that day (see the break down of seminars in this syllabus). Presenters will draw for their presentation on the core readings of that seminar as well as on additional research for which the supplementary readings should be the first reference. They will also give an overview of a case study. The presentation will allow students to study one issue as it applies to a particular case. It will also allow students to practice their public speaking skills, including the handling of a Q&A after the presentation, and diligence in conveying a convincing argument orally. Referencing conventions apply at all times so please make sure all sources are properly acknowledged in your presentations and slides.

Presentation due: The day of the seminar.

3. One short essay (20%): One min 1000 -max 1500-word essay addressing one of the questions set for one seminar (different to that of the presentation). Essays will put forward an argument, addressing the question directly, engaging with the seminar’s core readings in an analytical and critical manner. They will also conduct extra research to back up the main points of the essay and any facts or cases the essay discusses (the supplementary readings should be a first reference).

Essays due: One week after the seminar of the chosen topic. It is submitted by email as a word document to the lecturer in charge of that seminar.

4. Exam (40%): 2hrs exam attempting 2 questions from a list of 10 topics. The exam will require you to answer two questions in an essay-format. In addition to offer and sustain an answer to the question, the exam requires that students engage the core texts and issues that relate to the particular topic. It will be also an asset to bring in examples, cases and display critical thinking skills. Purely descriptive answers that simply give an account of the content of certain texts will not be sufficient. We expect to see conceptual analysis and evaluation in your exam. Your exam questions may be related to the class presentation or the essays.