The point of the courses I teach is to provide students with the analytical tools they need in order to understand, explain and critically evaluate the world in which they live. The point is to teach them how to think, how to analyze, rather than simply to teach them facts and provide information. The best way to achieve these aims is to confront the students with important texts that challenge their convictions and open their minds to new ways of thinking. Students too should be part of the intellectual conversation of our societies. Intellectually equipped in this fashion, they are able to go into any field of activity — government service, NGOs, private business, academia.
These aims are particularly important today when young people increasingly are living in the echo-chambers created by the Internet. Universities are not echo-chambers but instead one of the last bastions of the old-style public sphere — where different people, with different views, come together to discuss common concerns. At the university, students are forced to engage with people with whom they disagree; they are forced to give rational reasons for their positions, and there can be no “alternative facts.” I want my courses to make such conversations possible.
Courses I’ve taught
I have taught a broad range of courses over the years. At the LSE in London my focus was on comparative politics. Here I gave courses on “Nations and Nationalism,” “National and Ethnic Conflict Regulation” and on “Democracy and Democratization.” I also developed a side-line in political economy, teaching a course, “The State and Prosperity,” on the interaction of markets and politics, and a summer-school course on the “History and Politics of Financial Institutions.”
My first job in China — at NCTU in Taiwan — was at a Department of General Education which provided a broad range of liberal arts courses. I sociology, a course on entrepreneurship, and courses on international political economy. In addition, I was affiliated with the Institute of Cultural Studies and here I taught courses on “Orientalism,” an international relations course on “China in World Affairs,” and one on “Theories of International Relations.”
At SJTU i Shanghai where I was professor in international relations, I gave courses on “Introduction to International Politics,” “Theories of International Politics,” “China’s Role in World Politics,” and a course on international political economy.
At Lund University, where I currently work, I’ve focused on courses in international politics and the history of political ideas. I give one course, “Comparative International Systems” which provides a historical introduction to international politics understood from a non-European point of view. This course follows closely a textbook on non-European IR that I am working on. The online reading list is here; the textbook itself is here.
Another course at Lund, “Rationality, Emotions and War,” relates to my current research project on embodiment and rationality and investigates war understood in terms of the experiences that soldiers go through. Themes include how wars are prepared for, lived through, remembered and memorialized by its participants. The reading list is here. At Lund I am also giving lectures on “Introduction to Political Science,” and a course on the history of political ideas, “Modern Society and Its Critics.”
I have taught classes in all sorts of formats over the years — from small seminar groups of about 10 students to large lecture courses with 200 plus students. I am equally comfortable in all settings. I am, moreover, very used to teaching a diverse student body which includes people from a variety of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. At the LSE in particular it was common to have representatives of 10 different countries in a class of 30 students. I am also very used to teaching students whose first language is not English. I know how to explain myself simply and effectively.
For the past 15 years I have made extensive use of the Internet in my courses, often relying on the Moodle course platform. Depending on the material to be covered, I like to combine traditional readings with podcasts and video clips. Learning can happen in many different ways after all. I have also experimented extensively with alternative forms of examinations, such as oral exams held on-line.
I tend to use Powerpoint sparingly in my lectures, preferring instead to lecture in the classical mode (“chalk and talk”). Students, rather endearingly, interpret my lecture style as a “innovative.”
In supervising student essays, I emphasize the importance of good research questions. Unless there is something you actually want to know, it is very difficult to do good research. Other issues concerning academic writing, such as the use of theory and methodological problems, are of secondary importance and follow from the choice of research question. I have a short essay, “How to Write an Academic Paper,” which explains my views on these topics.
Use of my work on reading lists
Academic articles and books I’ve written have been extensively used on reading lists around the world. Well known international relations scholars such as Joseph Nye, Robert Jervis and Emanuel Adler have put my texts on their reading lists and they have been used at all Ivy League Schools in the United States and widely across Europe. For a while two separate courses at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard used texts I have written. My work has also been used at History, Sociology and Economic History departments. A partial list of universities that use my work is here.
Students have always evaluated my courses in very positive terms. In fact, my courses have regularly been among the most popular in the departments where I have worked. This was the case at the LSE in London, but also in China and now in Sweden. I often hear that one or another of my courses was “the best course I took at the university.” Students appreciate my informal style, my enthusiasm for the material, and my emphasis on ideas and analysis.