Specialization Tracks




As part of the curriculum, students choose one major and one minor out of three specialization tracks. They can choose among   Power, Conflict & Development, Cities, Spaces & Mobilities, and Environment, Resources & Sustainability. The Environment, Resources & Sustainability track is also offered as part of the Master in International Affairs, which reflects the Graduate Institute’s expertise in this area and the thematic relevance of this topic. 


The specialization tracks consist of a core course and several disciplinary and interdisciplinary electives specific to the track. Students must achieve 24 credits in the major and 12 credits in the minor.


Mobilities, Spaces & Cities


This specialization track will expose students to the multiple and crosscutting challenges associated with the global movement of people and goods, capital and information, and how these movements structure the spaces they affect. A core course will introduce students to the history and critical theories of capitalism and globalization, as well as the conceptual frameworks and methodological tools to critically assess its fundamental logic. Drawing on faculty from the various disciplines represented at the institute and visiting faculty from computer technology, environment, urban design and geography departments, the course will advance student’s technical knowledge of the multiple drivers of the global flow of people, goods and capital, such as global warming, international migration, demography, and the communication revolution, and the complex ways in which rural and urban spaces intersect to structure the material life of individuals. The disciplinary courses and the electives will further deepen this knowledge, while a case-based teaching course will acquaint students with a number of concrete urban and rural settings that can facilitate social contestation and political revolution. During the capstone projects, students have the opportunity to conduct field-based research at sites that are affected by mobility, thereby developing a sense of the social life of such spaces, and the effects of spatial dynamics on questions of identity and social practice.




Mobilities, Spaces and Cities

Alessandro Mansutti, Raphael Sanchez

This course addresses the complex relationship between migration, urbanization and development. In a context of globalisation, a growing number of people live outside the country of their birth or citizenship, while the world is increasingly urbanised. Many international and domestic migrants across the globe are heading into cities, which in turn are being reshaped by this influx of people. On the one hand, migration has affected the role, composition and governance of cities; on the other hand, urban life has transformed migrants and often pushed them into various forms of social, political and economic marginality. Bringing together migration and urban studies will allow us to explore processes of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, and consider the importance of space as a signifier of relations of knowledge and power. In the light of the continuing debates over assimilation and integration, but also the transnational turn and new mobilities paradigm, topics to be considered will bridge the conventional North-South divide and include: the migration-development nexus; the contribution of migrants’ remittances to development; the factors that are driving people to gateway cities; the changing nature of urban social fabric; political power and social inequality; the formation and social organization of migrant groups in urban neighbourhoods.




Power, Conflict & Development


This specialization track focuses on the issues of power, conflict and development, and the interactions among them. Examining the nature of power and the origins and effects of armed conflict and their implications for development, the track surveys the historical and contemporary manifestations of these processes with a view to endow students with the ability to critically understand them and practically map their evolution and transformation. Specifically, students are introduced to the role of the state and non-state actors, real and symbolic power structures, the multifaceted drivers of violence, the complexity of humanitarian challenges and the politics of collective responses to them, peacebuilding issues and contexts, and regional and international conflict.

The interlocked nature of these questions, considered at the level of the individual and the community, is delved into against the background of their cross-cutting relations to contemporary international governance and their impact on socioeconomic and human development. The range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary courses offered seeks to develop the capacity of the students to become fully acquainted with the articulation of power dynamics analytically but equally in relation to concrete situations and environments that are affected by perpetuating, protracted or recurring armed conflict. Built as an integral part of the track, a capstone project further exposes students to key actors and institutions involved in the prevention, mitigation and management of armed conflict.



State-Building and War-Making

Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould-Mohamedou

This course examines the challenges of state-building and the manifestations of armed conflict in the contemporary developing world. Surveying different cases and contexts, the course focuses on the role of state and non-state armed groups, the drivers of communal conflict, the historical dimensions of multifaceted state-building processes, and the legacy of colonial rule. Particular attention is paid to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The purpose of the course is to equip students with a comparative understanding of the complex causes, characteristics, and manifestations of conflict in the developing world and its cross-cutting relations to contemporary international governance.

Power, State and Violence

Riccardo Bocco

This course aims at revisiting the notions of violence, power and State through the last two decades' debates in (political) anthropology and sociology, with a particular focus on the contradictory effects of globalization and its social actors. In the first part of the seminar, we will examine the (re)shaping of the conceptions of power and some of the (new) forms of national and transnational governmentalities in parallel to the subjectivity of the actors of violence who are putting into question the political and moral order of the State. In the second part of the seminar, we will focus on a specific aspect of ‘violence management’ by State and civil society organizations, i.e. the one often defined as ‘Dealing with the Past’, aiming at reconstructing social bonds, collective memory and national unity in the aftermath of international armed conflicts, civil wars or political transitions.



Environment, Resources & Sustainability


Environmental issues are becoming more salient for international relations and are critical now in livelihood and for framing of development programs at all scales. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals chart this vision for international relations, but innumerable local, regional and nation state programs structure their development strategies through environmental policies and practices. The advancement of those visions depends critically on knowledge, cutting-edge policy development and innovation at all levels. The track offers an opportunity to focus on the emerging questions of governance, environment, resources and sustainability/resilience. As part of their specialization they are required to take the core course to the track, which introduces them to multidisciplinary debates and concepts, related to these questions. The additional three and six-credit courses (or equivalent) can be taken either within one of the four specialized areas, if students are interested to develop a specific type of expertise, or across the courses offered in the curriculum track.


The Global Framework
The first sub-pillar looks at the environmental issues from the global optic reviewing the institutions, legal frameworks, multilevel and multilateral forms of governance, and how these shape both the realm of international relations as well as on ground transformations and political ecologies. Given the increasing salience of international agreements and even subnational international jurisdictional practices, this part of the track might usefully be thought of as the more IR inflected part of the curriculum, but one which maintains a strong connection to field outcomes.
Climate Change
This sub-pillar focuses on questions of Climate Change in light of the planetary history and current responses to these changes through mitigation, abatement, adaptation and increasingly, even the role of forests in “negative” emissions.” Consumption patterns, technological change, social reorganization, rural development, urban patterns, climate justice and climate refugees are all part of this topic area. This section provides insights into the historical processes as well as the global array of legal, economic political and social responses that now confront modern societies challenged with the increasingly difficult problem of holding global temperatures below projected tipping points. The politics of energy, dynamics of populations, forms of innovation and the dynamics of the living planet itself inform this sub track.
Resources, Economics, Governance and Politics
This sub-pillar addresses the intersection of the politics and economics of resources, access and development, how economies structure their uses and their conflicts. Mining and hydrocarbon development, water resources, biotic resources, land politics of many kinds underpin both highly successful resource based development and unfortunately, many failed states. Larger questions of changing efficiencies, emergent resources and technology and what social configurations evolve for managing complex systems while maintain their longer term ecological social and physical viability underpins this field.
Agrarian Environments and Food Systems
Agrarian Environments and food systems are central drivers of land use change and potentially land use recuperation. About half the world population still remains agrarian to some degree, it remains a considerable sources of rural employment, as well as important sites of meaning and identity. Currently rural areas and their forms of farming are locations of extraordinary social, ecological and political transformation, conflict, land grabbing, and new globalized production technologies and markets. Such systems are both drivers and victims climate change which enhances the vulnerabilities of both traditional and modern agricultural systems. This sub-pillar takes on the agrarian and agriculture from its historical roots to its current problematics.


Social Movements and the Environment
Programme: TESt
Course Kind: Elective
Faculty: Jorge E. Viñuales Professor


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