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International Organisations in Times of Rising Nationalism



This course examines how international organizations (IOs) react to the current rise of nationalism among their member states. We will begin by covering theoretical debates about multilateralism and unilateralism in International Relations theory, and the role of IOs as agents of member states as opposed to independent actors with an agenda of their own. We will then discuss how the current rise of nationalism challenges the legitimacy of IOs, also by drawing some comparison to historic periods of nationalism. Finally, the last part of the course contains an empirical analysis in which we will study the forms of current nationalism and the reactions of selected IOs, such as the US government’s “America first” strategy, the withdrawal of Gambia, Burundi and South Africa from the International Criminal Court or the EU’s reactions to Brexit and to the governments in Poland and Hungary.

Course objectives

This course is a bi-weekly seminar that is based on extensive in-class discussions under the guidance of the instructor. Students will gain insights into important challenges for the current international system. Besides acquiring in-depth knowledge about the topics of multilateralism and the role of IOs in International Relations, students will learn how to critically engage with academic texts. Moreover, this seminar will help students developing their research skills in the preparation of their final thesis, as they are expected to undertake some smaller research activities on individual topics of the seminar. By the end of the course, students will be able to identify the core areas of interests for their master thesis and the specific International Relations literature they will engage with when writing the thesis.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • 28 hours of classes (attendance is mandatory)

  • 140 hours of reading and class preparation (20 hours per week over 7 weeks)

  • 112 hours to complete the research paper
    Total: 280 hours

Assessment method

Participation (30%)
Final research paper* (70%)

*The final research paper will be a research outline with which the students can prepare their master thesis and will only be graded if the student has attended the seminars.
The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average. The resit is only available to students whose mark on the final examined element—the research paper—is insufficient.


Course information will be accessible via Blackboard before the start of the course.

Reading list

The reading list and the course syllabus will be posted on Blackboard before the start of the course.


See Preliminary Info

This course is earmarked for the specialisations NECD and IP




Dr. Gisela Hirschmann