Fall 2019  |  POL 3410 Section 001: Topics in Comparative Politics -- Islamism in Afghanistan, Russia & Central Asia (34525)

Class Component:
3 Credits
Grading Basis:
Student Option
Instructor Consent:
No Special Consent Required
Instruction Mode:
In Person Term Based
Class Attributes:
Topics Course
Times and Locations:
Regular Academic Session
09/03/2019 - 12/11/2019
Mon, Fri 01:00PM - 02:15PM
UMTC, West Bank
Blegen Hall 205
Enrollment Status:
Open (18 of 30 seats filled)
Also Offered:
Course Catalog Description:
Topics of current analytical or policy importance to comparative politics. Topics vary, as specified in Class Schedule.
Class Notes:
Class Description:
The course offers students an understanding of the emergence of Islamism (political Islam of various forms) in Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbors
(Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Russia). The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for 18 years, but few Americans understand the roots of the conflict, the challenges of transforming the country and bringing peace, much less the role of Islam in Afghan society and politics. Likewise, few understand U.S. policy there and the implications of Afghan instability for its neighbors. The course begins by offering background on the nature and causes of Islamist emergence generally, and distinguishes Islam from Islamism and radical Islamism. The empirical content of the course then focuses specifically on the historical, political, and geopolitical dynamics of Islamism in this region. We will look at the emergence and evolution of Islamism in Afghanistan in the latter half of the 20th century, beginning with the Russian/Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
The course continues with the spread of radical Islamism under the Taliban in the 1990s, the birth of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, 9/11, and the U.S. war in Afghanistan since 2001. The course also addresses alternative paths for Islam's relationship to politics, by examining the neighboring Central Asians states,
which experienced Russian takeover and rule very differently in the nineteenth-twentieth centuries. We will study the fate and legacy of Russian/Soviet policies over the past 30 years of Central Asian independence. Uzbekistan and the other "stans" have sought to maintain control, balancing the interests of the US and Russia, and containing spillover from Afghanistan. The course will focus on the struggle between secularists and several new waves of Islamists across the region - from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to the neo-Taliban to the spread of ISIS in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan-- and the implications for human rights, democracy, geopolitics, and regional stability. There will be a strong policy focus to discussions and writing assignments. In addition to teaching and research, the professor has worked on projects for the U.S. government, the UNDP, and the ICG in Central Asia since 2002. She makes frequent presentations of her research on security, Islamist groups, human rights, and corruption in Central Asia to policymakers in various branches of the US government.
Who Should Take This Class?:
The class is open to all levels, without prerequisites, although it is more suitable for sophomores-seniors.
VARIES BY SEMESTER depending on enrollment. Primarily papers and class participation.
Class Format:
70% Lecture
10% Film/Video
20% Discussion
Coursework involves significant reading, a 10-12 pg research paper (approximately 40%), class participation in discussion/debates (20%), and several short writing assignments (focused on policy analysis; for example, Should the US withdraw completely form Afghanistan?; Assess the causes of the Soviet army's failure in Afghanistan) on the assigned readings (approximately 40%). There will be no exams.
Instructor Supplied Information Last Updated:
12 April 2019

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