PEDAGOGY: Sea Research in International Affairs

American University of Beirut

Beirut, Lebanon

Spring 2016


Graduate course taught by Dr. Nikolas Kosmatopoulos at the American University of Beirut as part of the Graduate program in International Affairs and Public Policy

Spring 2016

How do we theorize and problematize our seas? How can we engage in and carry out meaningful research on our seas and oceans, these mass bodies of water through and within which resources, commerce, and people navigate?


Course Description

This course provides students with an overview, an understanding and a hands-on practice of research-related theories, tools, strategies and ethics for the purpose of generating empirical research on questions of society, power, policy and politics. It focuses on qualitative approaches, i.e. ethnography, fieldwork, field notes and interviews - with an emphasis on research problem formulation (‘problematization'), research design, data collection, analysis and presentation of findings. The students will engage in identifying crucial research questions, selecting appropriate research methodology, and designing the relevant methodological strategies to address the selected issues. They will also learn how to present their research ideas into research proposals for academic and policy-related audiences. Students will also be exposed throughout the course to a specific field for fieldwork, namely the Mediterranean Sea, and in particular to research-related questions regarding policy, theory and politics (refugees, energy, environment, livelihoods, property, tourism, transport, infrastructure, geo-politics etc.).

Course Outcome

As part of the course, students were asked to carry out ethnographic research on a sea-related ‘field’, defined as any site of interaction between sea and humans located on the Lebanese coast to the Mediterranean.  During their final projects, students reflected and presented on their findings in 15-20 minute presentations.