About International Studies

The International Studies Department was originally set up to offer core courses appropriate for transfer into the University of Washington’s School of International Studies. Drawing from Political Science, Economics, and Anthropology, the three original core courses were: INTST 200, States and Capitalism; INTST 201, Introduction to International Political Economy; and INTST 203, Cultural Encounters and Tensions. As the department developed, courses were added that drew on other disciplines as well.
Now, in addition to Political Science, Economics, and Anthropology, Business, Geography and History also contribute to the International Studies Program at BC. Thus, in addition to the core courses, students can take courses ranging from the Geography of World Affairs (INTST 105), International Business (INTST 150), Comparative Religion (INTST 203), Global History (INTST 204), and History of Africa (INTST 280) along with Seminar and Special Topics courses.

International Studies programs in colleges and universities often pull together a variety of “area studies” and are tied to the study of diverse contemporary cultures and languages. For instance, the University of Washington School of International Studies includes courses ranging from China Studies to Middle East Studies to Canadian Studies and also includes a major in Comparative Religion.

What is the focus of International Studies?

Since International Studies is interdisciplinary, it has a number of different conceptual foci. Important background for work in this field is knowledge of geography: understanding how nations are positioned regionally and something about their constituent populations and resources is basic. To achieve any real depth of knowledge of other societies it is also extremely useful to study languages. In this regard students who are native speakers of languages other than English may have a distinct advantage. Beyond geography and language, four other points of emphasis can be identified in International Studies:

1. History

A key characteristic of being educated in international affairs is having some knowledge as to how the world came to be as it is. It is evident that simply finding out about a world event without any knowledge of historical context is nearly useless information—though this is all too typical of TV news coverage. The significance of any particular conflict, treaty, or policy is seen only in terms of previous events and historical connections. In many of our courses, historical background is presented in detail because this is a most important ingredient for achieving an understanding of current world affairs.

2. Culture

The concept of culture was developed by anthropologists in the last 100 years to refer to the learned, shared way of life of people in different societies. Culture includes everything that people do, think, and have as members of their society; it embraces everything from the way people make a living, to their family organization, to their religious beliefs. Understanding how cultures around the world are similar and different and knowing how cultures are integrated and how they change is essential for the analysis of international realities.

3. Politics

In addition to the power relations among the world’s countries, within all human communities there is the exercise of interpersonal and inter-group power. Understanding how power is expressed by nations, blocks of nations, by international organizations, as well as in the context of class, ethnicity and regions within nations, is an important focus of attention for

4. Economy

The significance of the production, distributions, and consumption patterns across world populations is also a vital part of international affairs. The interconnection between power and economic processes, known as political economy, is a central theme in our program. World economic realities have become more and more ones of interdependence. Thus, regardless of our area focus, we have to understand the nature of the interlocking economic “world system.” Key issues concern the flow of resources and capital within the system and the distribution of power among ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ nations. From this review of some of the areas of emphasis in the program, it should be clear that International Studies offers a broad, wide-ranging background for students who wish to enhance their knowledge and understanding of on-going, world developments.