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POLS541 International Relations and the Global South

Critical examination of depictions and theorisation of the Global South in theories of international relations and general concepts of world politics.

States in the Global South are usually depicted as minor players on a world stage dominated by great powers or as being in need of development and rescuing due to poverty, tyrannical leaders and other dire consequences of state failure in international relations (IR). Drawing on critical, theoretical approaches in IR, this paper casts a sceptical eye on these depictions and examines the material factors, ideas, identities, social relations and knowledge practices that have shaped and continue to shape the Global South, as well as North-South relations in world politics. Areas to be examined include colonialism and colonial discourses, race, gender, sovereignty, nation- and state-building, poverty and development, security and food sovereignty.

Paper title International Relations and the Global South
Paper code POLS541
Subject Politics
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,810.00
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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Limited to
May not be credited with POLS433 passed in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 or 2014.
Teaching staff
Dr Lena Tan
Paper Structure
  • Week 1 Introduction.
  • Week 2 What's the Matter with IR Theory?
  • Week 3 Postcolonialism and International Relations.
  • Week 4 Colonialism and Hierarchy in International Relations.
  • Week 5 Twentieth Century Decolonisation.
  • Week 6 The Constitution of the Global South I: Sovereignty and Ideas of the Nation.
  • Week 7 The Constitution of the Global South II: The Cold War.
  • Week 8 Politics, Social Scientists, the Cold War and Modernisation Theory.
  • Week 9 Ending Poverty: Representations and Global Political Economy.
  • Week 10 Failed States, Nation- and State-Building.
  • Week 11 Security and the Global South.
  • Week 12 Food Sovereignty and the Global South.
  • Week 13 Re-presenting the Global South.

This paper is internally assessed: two critical literature review essays, a presentation, contribution to seminar discussions, and a final research essay.


Textbooks are not required for this paper.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the paper, students will:

  • Develop a deep understanding of how the discipline of international relations constructs knowledge about the world and especially the Global South through the dominant theoretical perspectives that have been developed.
  • Analyse various theories, perspectives and representations of the Global South in international relations and challenge dominant and conventional perspectives logically.
  • Develop a critical understanding of how material and social relations have constituted the Global South through topics on poverty, human rights, failed states, the Cold War.
  • Present ideas and arguments logically, clearly and effectively both orally and on paper.
  • Develop a good research question, locate relevant literature and use it effectively to address the question.
  • Work independently to complete a major research project.

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 11:00-12:50 9-14, 16-22