This essay records efforts over several years of undergraduate teaching to show how the work of creative writers complements the analyses of social scientists and historians to bring home the relevance and human dimension of central questions in international relations and development studies. I assign three novels by very different authors – Charles Dickens, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Graham Green – alongside ‘core’ scholarly texts about the implications of utilitarianism, the politics of ethnicity and the impact of great power intervention during the Cold War. Students’ responses to this self-conscious comparison of two ways of understanding are encouraging. They see vividly how social processes affect people’s lives; explore the mindset and motivations (moral or not) of people living under different circumstances from today; and gain an appreciation of the difficulty of analysing and interpreting one’s own social and political reality.
John Harriss homepage: http://www.sfu.ca/internationalstudies/harriss.html
Harriss, John, Notes on Teaching International Studies with Novels: Hard Times, Half of a Yellow Sun and The Quiet American, Simons Papers in Security and Development, No. 15/2011, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, October 2011.
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