Teaching

Seminars I have taught include:

The Politics of Climate Change

Harvard University, Government Department: Junior Tutorial

(I was awarded the Harvard University Bok Center Prize for Teaching Excellence for teaching in this course.)

Most scientists believe that we need to take immediate action to mitigate the effects of climate change. But politicians at both the national and the international level have, so far, done little to curb carbon emissions. In this seminar, we draw on a broad array of readings to understand the empirical and normative challenges posed by global warming. Why have political actors found it so difficult to agree on an effective response to climate change? And what would a just response to global warming look like?

After gaining a brief overview over the science of global warming in the first part of the course, we look at the findings of the growing literature of empirical political science in the second part. In particular, we study three of the challenges—relating to public opinion, international cooperation, and economics—that make a more muscular response so difficult. To this end, we study empirical work employing a host of different methodologies, and consider the respective roadblocks posed by  political psychology and the dynamics of public opinion; game theory and the need for international cooperation; and economic disagreements about the appropriate timing and extent of climate interventions. 

In the second part of the course, we look at the ethics of climate change to investigate the normative questions raised by global warming. Every possible political option for tackling climate change—or failing to tackle climate change—distributes risks and burdens in a distinctive manner. This raises a host of questions about distributive justice. According to what principles should we distribute the right to pollute? What do we owe to people who are far away in space (like the residents of Africa and Asia who are most likely to be adversely affected by climate change) or time (like the future generations who will suffer most from rampant global warming)? And what weight should we assign to non-human interests, like the possible extinction of other animal species?

Building on the insights from the empirical and normative literature about climate change, we end the course by surveying concrete policy options. Traditionally, most environmentalists have championed a focus on the “mitigation” of climate change: they have insisted that the only satisfactory response to climate change is to minimize the extent of global warming by a return to less energy-intensive economic arrangements and lifestyles. More recently, a growing movement of “eco-modernists” has championed a focus on “adaptation”: they embrace technology and capitalism, and seek to use technological and economic levers to prepare us for a warmer world. We seek to evaluate the respective attractions and perils of each of these positions, in part by looking at the controversial idea of geoengineering—the proposal to lower the earth’s temperature by dispersing small particles in the stratosphere.

(To see a sample syllabus, please click here.)

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Democracy in the Digital Age

Harvard College: writing-intensive Freshmen seminar

(I was awarded the Harvard University Bok Center Prize for Teaching Excellence for teaching in this course.)

Information technology has transformed politics with breathtaking speed. Today, citizens promote their favorite causes on Facebook, politicians announce they are running for office on YouTube, and journalists discuss the latest gaffe on Twitter—all platforms that did not even exist a decade ago. The internet has also affected autocratic regimes. From Egypt to Turkey, activists have used social networks to organize protests. Meanwhile, in Syria, Bashar Al- Assad has been posting pictures of his newborn baby on Instagram. But have these changes been as significant, and as positive, as is widely claimed?

The course starts by gaining a better understanding of the nature and history of democracy. Are competitive elections the cornerstone of democratic government, as we tend to assume, or are they actually an aristocratic mechanism, as the Ancients believe? Is it democratically justified for nine Supreme Court justices to decide which laws remain on the books, and which are struck down? And did the Founding Fathers actually set out to institute a democratic form of government?

Next, the course looks at technology’s impact on contemporary democracies, both in the United States and around the world. Did social networks lead to the Arab Spring—or could protestors have ousted Mubarak and Gaddafi by relying on leaflets and landlines? And has the internet deepened democracy by making it easier for ordinary citizens to organize—or has the rise of partisan “echo chambers” eroded the quality of public discourse?

Finally, the course assesses whether new technologies call for new political institutions. It used to be impossible for geographically dispersed citizens to deliberate about politics with each other on a regular basis. Today, everyone can come together online to debate pressing issues. So should we adopt more direct forms of democracy? 

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Democracy and Freedom

Open Society Foundation: Summer School 2012, Istanbul

What is democracy? What is freedom? And what, if anything, is the relationship between these two concepts? Drawing on texts from both the history of political thought and contemporary political philosophy, this course examines whether or not we need to live in a democracy to be truly free.

(I taught this seminar to scholarship recipients from Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern or Central Asian countries who were about to commence graduate study in the US or UK. To see a sample syllabus based on this course, click here.)

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Classes I have taught as a Teaching Fellow include:

Sophomore Tutorial in Political Science: Democracy

Harvard University, Government Department

(I was awarded the Harvard University Bok Center Prize for Distinction in Teaching for this course.)

This course is designed to serve as an intensive introduction to political science for Harvard University Sophomores who have just declared their intention to major in Government. Its core component consists of a weekly, two-hour tutorial group of six to eight students, led by a Teaching Fellow. The course aims "to introduce students not only to the theoretical and empirical debates over the study of democratic politics, but also to the diverse approaches that political science offers for understanding politics."

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The Past and Future of the Left (Prof. Roberto Unger)

Harvard University, Government Department

(I was awarded the Harvard University Bok Center Prize for Distinction in Teaching for this course.)

This lecture course contains both empirical and normative elements. Empirically, it aims to introduce students to the historical and geographical variety of left-wing political thought, with a focus on the nature of contemporary left-wing political movements across North America, Western Europe and the Global South. Normatively, it aims to assess how left-wing political thought can remain relevant in the age of globalization.

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Justice (Prof. Michael Sandel)

Harvard College: Core Curriculum

(I was awarded the Harvard University Bok Center Prize for Distinction in Teaching for this course.)

This well-known lecture course introduces a broad cross-section of Harvard undergraduates to the classics of moral and political philosophy by focusing on topical controversies.

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At Harvard, I have also served as a Thesis Advisor, supervising undergraduate theses, and as a Course Advisor, helping political science concentrators pick a course of study and assisting them with any academic issues that might arise.

Full sets of anonymous student comments are available for all courses I have taught.