Of the ten courses required for the Political Science major, three must be introductory lecture courses at the 1000-level, or selected 3000-level courses, in three of the four subfields. These courses are designed to provide an introduction to the main subject matter and major theories of each subfield. They also serve to familiarize students with the analytic approaches that political scientists use. After taking lecture courses in the relevant subfields, students are eligible to take the three required colloquium courses. Any student taking a four introductory course may use that towards their elective requirement.
The subfields are:
- Political Theory (PT): the study of the conceptual foundations of political systems and behavior. Corresponding introductory course: POLS-UN1101, Intro to Political Theory
- American Government and Politics (AP): the study of all aspects of the American political system, including its development, institutions, procedures, and actors. Corresponding introductory course: POLS-UN1201, Intro to American Politics
- Comparative Politics (CP): the study of the political systems of other countries and regions, including the use of comparisons across cases in order to gain a broader and deeper understanding of events, institutions, and processes. Corresponding introductory course: POLS-UN1501, Intro to Comparative Politics
- International Relations (IR): the study of relations between countries and the dynamics and development of the international system. Corresponding introductory course: POLS-UN1601, Intro to International Relations
Advanced Placement Credit:
A student granted Advanced Placement (AP) credit by the College in either American Politics or Comparative Politics with an exam score of 5 will have fulfilled the prerequisite for courses that require the prior completion of POLS UN1201 or UN1501, respectively. If the student wants to take the introductory American Politics or Comparative Politics course, she may do so, but she then will forfeit her corresponding AP credit.
AP credit does not count toward the number of courses required for the major or minor, in other words, the student still needs to complete the ten courses for the major or the five for the minor. Majors who wish to use their AP credit in American Politics or Comparative Politics do not need to take POLS-UN1201 or POLS-UN1501 to take upper-level CP or AP classes. They may then use any 3000-level lecture course (not a colloquium or seminar course) offered at either Barnard or Columbia in the corresponding subfield, as a substitute for the intro course requirement in that subfield or as an additional elective course.
Approved Introductory Course Substitutes
Majors may substitute any of these selected 3000-level political science lecture courses for the required 1000-level course in the same subfield, in the subfields of Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. No substitutes are allowed for the American Politics subfield introductory course (UN 1201). No petitions for alternative courses to those listed below will be considered.
1) BC V3401: Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe
2) BC V3620: Introduction to Contemporary Chinese Politics
3) BC V3560: The Politics of Urban Development in Latin America
1) UN 3625: Rising Great Powers in International Relations
2) UN 3604: War and Peace in Africa
3) BC 3605: Global Politics of Climate Change
1) UN 3100: Justice
In addition to the three introductory courses and the three colloquia, political science majors choose four electives, normally at the 3000- or 4000-level. These courses are designed to deepen and expand students’ knowledge base and encourage them to apply social scientific reasoning and theories to the analysis of a broad range of political issues and problems. Any POLS class taken at Barnard or Columbia counts, as well as any class we have cross-listed to our department; you can see all of those courses here.
Please use the Major Audit to plan your program and to track your courses.
What fulfills the Four-Course Electives requirement:
- All courses offered at Barnard or Columbia in political science with a POLS prefix satisfy elective course requirements, including introductory lecture courses, colloquia and cross-listed courses.
- The Independent Study Option POLS BC3799. Students who wish to do an independent study project (ISP) should first speak to a political science faculty member willing to sponsor it and consult with this instructor as to workload and points of credit. The student must then apply to the Committee on Programs and Academic Standing (CPAS), which must approve all Independent Study requests. Once the request is granted, the Registrar creates a section and assigns a call number, and the student is notified of the call number so she can enter the course on her program. (Each instructor has a separate section and call number. Each instructor is limited to sponsoring one independent study per semester.) Independent study counts as a course for the purpose of the political science requirements, provided the project is approved for 3 or 4 points of credit. A project taken for 1 or 2 points does not count as a course toward the major, the minor, or the concentration requirement. A student may use no more than one instance of POLS BC3799 towards her major requirements. This course is typically used for seniors who wish to conduct advanced independent research (for instance, to further explore topics they studied in their capstone projects). It cannot be used to get academic credit for an internship or a job experience.
- With pre-approval, first from the individual Major Advisor and then from the Department Chair, student may substitute a course in another department for one of the four elective courses. This course cannot be an introductory course and it must have significant political science content (use the Course Approval Request Form and include a brief email from your adviser recording their approval and briefly stating their rationale for approval). Approval after the fact will not be granted.
- Seven of the ten courses for the major must be taken from courses offered at Barnard or Columbia with the POLS prefix (see #1 for specifics). Within the three-course limit of courses taken elsewhere, the following caps traditionally apply: three transfer courses; two Reid Hall courses; two study-abroad courses from one semester away or three study-abroad courses from a full year away; one summer session course. With the exception of transfer courses, these courses need pre-approval from the department. All of these courses, including transfer courses, also require approval after completion from the department to count toward the major, minor or concentration. Please use the Course Approval Form.
What does not fulfill the Four-Course Electives requirement:
- The Independent Study Option POLS BC3799 does not satisfy the course requirement if the project is for 1 or 2 points.
- College-granted AP credit for American Politics or Comparative Politics does not count as major course credit. (See Advanced Placement Credit.)
- Courses taken at other colleges, in summer sessions, or abroad, which are not equivalent in rigor and workload to Barnard courses, as determined by the department, will not count toward the major, minor or concentration requirements.
Please use the Major Audit to plan your program and to track your courses. Please email email@example.com if you have any questions.
Every Barnard Political Science major must take three colloquia. The third colloquium integrates the senior capstone requirement.
The colloquium format involves weekly discussion of readings and development of research skills through completion of a 25- to 30-page research paper, constituting the major piece of written work for the course. See the course catalogue for a detailed description of the colloquium requirement. A colloquium, as with any course used for the major or minor requirement, cannot be taken Pass/D/Fail.
Prerequisite: Please make certain that, before enrolling, you will have successfully completed one lecture course in the relevant subfield or have received special permission from the instructor for that requirement to be waived. Colloquia are not suitable for first-year students. Sophomores will be admitted as room permits. When making your third colloquium selection, please keep in mind that it is to your benefit to choose one in the field of your anticipated senior essay topic.
Columbia seminars do not fulfill the colloquium requirement for political science (however, colloquia do provide them elective credit).
Each political science colloquium is limited to students who are assigned by the department, not by individual instructors. Preference is given in the following order: senior Barnard majors; junior Barnard majors; sophomore Barnard students who have declared the major and will be studying abroad during junior year; senior and junior majors from other undergraduate divisions of the University; non-majors from all undergraduate divisions of the university.
For fall colloquia, Barnard Political Science majors must submit their applications by 5:00 p.m. on April 1.
For spring colloquia, Barnard Political Science majors must submit their applications by 5:00 p.m. on November 1.
Students will receive an email notifying them of their placement.
Please note that students are assigned to a colloquium by the Department and not by individual instructors. Be sure to attend the first class session in order to secure your place in the course.
Colloquium Application Process
Applications for Fall 2023 Colloquia are now CLOSED. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Applications were due Wednesday, November 1, 2023 by 5:00 PM EST.
The number of semesters you have left at Barnard plays a role in the selection process. Therefore, if you are planning to study abroad or to participate in S.I.P.A.'s Joint Degree Program, be sure to indicate this.
As of Spring 2017, we are no longer publicly posting colloquium placements. If you did not receive an email with your colloquium placements, you can email email@example.com to follow up.
Spring 2024 Colloquium Offerings
POLS-BC3048 Capitalism and Its Critics. Capitalism is usually thought of as an economic system, but what does it have to do with politics? This course examines how thinkers of contrasting perspectives have understood capitalism politically. Some have celebrated the market as an escape from coercion, while others criticize it as a source of disguised domination; some see capitalism as leveling social hierarchies, while others point to its creation of class and racial hierarchy; some see capitalism as an engine of wealth creation and heightened living standards, while others emphasize its destruction of existing ways of life and production of inequality; some see capitalism as an engine of peace, while others emphasize its reliance on violence. In particular, we will consider the relationship between state and market, moral critiques of markets and exchange, analyses of the role of force and violence in accumulation, and theories of freedom and domination.
Prerequisite Course: POLS-UN1101 Introduction to Political Theory or
Time: Wednesdays 11:00 AM - 12:50 PM
POLS-BC3540 Constructing States, Nations, and Democracy. The course will examine the development of, and relationship among, three constituent features of the modern political world: states, nations and democracy. The course will begin with the literature on state-building, investigating how and why states emerged first in Western Europe and then move on to examine the challenges of state-building in other parts of the world in the contemporary era. The course will then analyze how and why nations began to supplant other forms of identity during the early modern period in Europe, and then examine how and when national identities supplant or remain in conflict with other identities in the world today. The course will then consider how state and nation building and various forms of identity influence the nature and stability of democracy.
Overall, the course will provide an in-depth introduction to the historical and contemporary study of political development.
Prerequisite Course: POLS-UN1501 Introduction to Comparative Politics or
Time: Tuesdays 11:00 AM - 12:50 PM
POLS-BC3417 Sovereignty and Its Challenges. The assumption that states maintain control over their sovereign affairs is still widely held in international relations theory and practice, yet in our era a variety of external actors regularly violate state sovereignty, pressure governments and/or challenge their domestic policy autonomy and authority. The politics surrounding sovereignty remains contentious: advocates of global governance welcome the influence of international norms and standards, the conditions imposed by international organizations and the transnational activism of non-governmental organizations, while nationalists and populists decry globalism and certain external influences that scrutinize or constrain domestic policymaking. This course explores the many ways in which the traditional political, economic and security functions of states are contested and reconfigured by contemporary external actors and pressures. In some cases, states quite willingly choose to cede their sovereignty, whereas others have conditions and policies externally imposed upon on them. The course investigates why the question of state sovereignty becomes politically salient in some eras but not others, explores how it influences international policymakers and domestic politicians, and considers how these debates about sovereignty and sovereign influences impact the ongoing transformation of the US-led liberal international order and global governance.
Prerequisite Course: POLS-UN1601 Introduction to International Relations
Time: Mondays 10:10 AM - 12:00 PM
POLS-BC3435 Law and Violence. This colloquium examines how the law can participate in the justification of various forms of violence, exclusion, and inequality. It focuses on the power of law to determine which subjects get recognized as persons entitled to rights. Possible topics include slavery, migration, gender, sexual orientation, disability, homelessness, and nonhuman animals.
Prerequisite Course: POLS-UN1101 Introduction to Political Theory or
Time: Wednesdays 12:10 PM - 2:00 PM
POLS-BC3801 Politics of Economic Development in the World. The semester-long course aims to study political and social factors behind economic development and examine empirical cases of the success and failure in economic growth in order to understand the key features of the development processes. In the last two centuries, some countries successfully achieved economic growth and development, while other failed to do so. Even in the post-WWII period, the world has witnessed the rise and decline of economies around the world. Why do nations succeed or fail in economic development? How do political institutions affect economic outcomes? What are the ways in which state and market interact and influence each other? Can democracy be considered a cause of development, an outgrowth of development, or neither and to which extent? How do external factors such as foreign aid encourage or discourage development? We will try to examine these questions by taking a historical-institutional and comparative approach and take a critical look at the role of political and other institutions by applying theoretical guidelines and empirical cases. We will explore competing explanations for the successes and failures of economic development in the world.
Prerequisite Course: POLS-UN1501 Introduction to Comparative Politics or
Time: Wednesdays 2:10 - 4:00 PM
POLS-BC3118 Problems in International Security. Examination of causes and consequences of major current problems in international security. Topics will focus on state power dynamics: the rise of China and the reemergence of the Russian military, challenges facing NATO with the rise of populism and authoritarianism in the West, nuclear deterrence and proliferation, cyber conflict and information war, and chemical and biological weapons.
Prerequisite Course: POLS- UN1601 Introduction to International Relations or
Time: Tuesdays 10:10 AM - 12:00 PM
POLS-BC3217 Blue Collar Politics. Since 2016, scholars and journalists alike have been paying more attention to “Working Class Voters.” While these voters have always been an important bloc within the American political system, recent events underscore the need to understand the political behavior of a broad swath of the voting public. Similarly, American political life is increasingly polarized by place, with Republicans concentrated in rural areas and Democrats in urban ones. Class and place are therefore essential variables for understanding modern American politics. In this course—which is taught by an instructor from a rural, working-class background—we will examine the identity, opinions, behavior and power of the American working class. We will also consider the role of place in shaping American politics. We will employ sources from several social sciences, including political science, sociology, and economics. Along the way, we will consider several important questions about working class politics within the context of broader topics in these fields: Identity formation, parties, race, elections, and public opinion, to name a few.
Time: Tuesdays 4:10 - 6:00 PM
POLS-BC3501 Urban Violence. Cities serve as key nodes in an increasingly urban-centered global economy. And cities are sites of political contention and innovation as they assume many of the policymaking responsibilities that were once solely the domain of national or state governments. But they are also places where the monopoly over the legitimate use of violence typically viewed as a defining attribute of the state is instead contested, distorted and remade. From state repression to organized crime to citizen vigilantes, the city is a key setting for a range of actors that engage in equally diverse forms of coercion, social control, and practices of formal and informal authority. In this course we will examine and critically assess existing theories of the drivers, functions, and consequences of different types of urban violence. Throughout the semester we will situate existing research within a broader range of classic and emerging political science research on state building, institutions, electoral politics, democracy, development, and conflict, among others.
Prerequisite Course: POLS-UN1501 Introduction to Comparative Politics
Time: Mondays 12:10 PM - 2:00 PM
POLS-BC3391 Slavery and Its Afterlives. This course examines what Saidiya Hartman calls the ‘afterlife of slavery.’ By drawing from readings in cultural studies, Black feminist theory, sociology, philosophy, and decolonial thought, the class explores questions surrounding the archive of transatlantic slavery and its afterlives. A crucial goal of the course is to engage critically the meaning of sexuality, intimacy, reproduction, labor, and domination in slaveholding societies. Throughout the course, students will discuss how the afterlives of slavery inform current ethical debates on issues like: sexual violence, reparations, surveillance, criminalization, incarceration, housing, militarism, imperialism, distribution of wealth, environmental racism, education, mental illness, political participation, and anti-colonial activism. The course is therefore structured less as a historical survey of slavery and more as an investigation as to how slavery is remembered and its rhetorical function when reasoning about today’s moral and political controversies. Special attention is paid to how a study of slavery’s afterlives challenges narratives of U.S. exceptionalism and innocence, as well as stories commonly told about freedom, emancipations, and racial progress.
Pre-Requisite Course: Any Political Science course
Time: Fridays 10:10 AM - 12:00 PM
POLS-BC3392 Religion and Politics [NEW COLLOQUIUM]. This course is intended to introduce students to the modern tradition of Western Christian political thought, with an emphasis on the theological underpinnings of political theory. A significant focus will revolve around the ethics of citizenship. Key readings explore topics like religious violence, the historical construction of “religion”, decolonial approaches to religious studies, the politics of secularism, the ethics of patriotism, and the role of faith in electoral politics. In an attempt to unsettle commonly held views about religion and science, the colloquium also examines current debates around environmental justice, natural history museums, medical ethics, and the corporate space race. Other topics in the seminar include Afro-Caribbean spiritualities, the legacy of activist Sylvia Rivera, theorizations of an “abolitionist faith,” and the intersection of critical pedagogy and liberation theology. The seminar concludes by examining the role of religion in revolts, rebellions, and maroon communities throughout the Americas. Throughout the class, students will explore how theology and spirituality can serve as important resources for liberation movements and for broader struggles against empire, colonialism, and capitalism.
Pre-Requisite Course: Any Political Science course
Time: Fridays 12:00 PM - 1:50 PM
|POLS-BC3451 Economic Inequality in the United States. In recent decades, economic inequality in the United States has soared to levels not seen for nearly a century: Wages for workers have stagnated, while the proportion of wealth concentrated among the most well-off Americans has steadily increased. These trends may have dire consequences for the state of representative democracy in the United States, as they endow a relatively small number of citizens with a disproportionate amount of resources to deploy politically. The result is a political system that often responds to the preferences of the wealthiest Americans, while frequently ignoring the views of most ordinary citizens.
This course, in diverse ways, explores the political causes and consequences of rising inequality, especially with regards to who has political power. We will begin by examining the contours of inequality in the U.S. while also exploring the various ways that power manifests itself in politics. We’ll then explore the relationship between wealth and public policy outcomes in the United States, along with the ways that the very wealthiest Americans – both individually and collectively – work to advance their policy views. Beyond just examining national-level politics, we will also discuss inequality and power on the state- and local-levels. We’ll then explore how political and economic inequality are interrelated with race and social class, and how all of this connects to the rise of Donald Trump. Finally, we will assess potential remedies to political and economic inequality.
Pre-Requisite Course: POLS-UN1201 Introduction to American Politics
Time: Fridays 2:10 PM - 4:00 PM