Beth A. Simmons

Beth  A. Simmons
  • Andrea Mitchell University Professor of Law and Political Science

Contact Information


Past Courses


  • LAW 999 - ISP


    Borders are increasingly contested in global order, yet function as distinct markers of statehood and sovereignty. How states control their borders physically is an important manifestation of their sovereign rights. In this course, we explore the meaning attached to international borders for two allies in very different regions of the world, Turkey and the United States. We inquire into the role that national territorial and international borders shave come to play in their national identities. We will place these two countries in the context of their "neighborhoods" to understand the threats and opportunities seem to attend border spaces. With their extensive coastlines and land boundaries, these states are subject in different ways to external influences. Both have extensive trade relations with the rest of the world, as well as extensive illicit economies along their borders. The United States is "a nation of immigrants" currently questioning the value of immigration. Turkey is host to the largest number of refugees in the world. Each state faces its own version of an ontological crisis, as they decide how to engage, filter or deflect extraterritorial flows and influences. These developments raise intense issues of identities and boundaries - in particular the question of how different societies engage in border protection. This seminar focuses on the comparative experiences of Turkey and the USA in their methods of maintaining borders and dealing with anxiety about uncontrolled transnational flows of products and people across their borders. The seminar explores how security and insecurity are understood, produced, and implemented in the form of border security policies. The comparative study of American and Turkish border control will uncover both similarities in the framing of border policies, but also distinct differences on how these two countries deal with border security. The international focus will enable students to appreciate the global aspect of border security issues, and research multiple questions on the extent to which what is facing the USA in terms of border security is not unique on its own. This course will be co-taught with a professor and students at Sabanci University. We will overlap with their classroom for roughly half of out three hour seminar meeting, and the professors will co-teach the course. Common readings will be discussed each week, but each Professor will assign additional readings of her choice to complement the common discussions. In the Penn seminar, we will aim to produce a research paper, so in addition to discussing the substantive readings, we will concentrate on formulating interesting research questions, think carefully about how to bring data to bear on specific questions or hypotheses, become familiar with data sources, and discuss research design. Instructor permission (students must apply).


    Do legal rules really affect international politics? This course explores why international law has the form and content it does, and its role in shaping how states and other actors behave. It combines law and social science to examine important issues of the day, including security policies, human rights, and economic relationships.


    Individual research to be taken under direction of faculty member. Students wishing to complete work on an honors paper should contact the Political Science Department.


    This research seminar explores the meanings, rules and consequences of borders and boundaries in international relations. How was a political world based on territorial sovereignty created, how are international borders determined, and how are they adjudicated and maintained? How do international borders influence war and peace between states? How do borders, border regions, and border activities speak to national encounters with neighbors and the rest of the world? How do they affect international trade and development? When and how are international borders "securitized," and how does this affect the flow of goods, people, and illicit activities around and across the border? How do states 'cooperate' across international borders? We will examine the meaning and function of boundary-making between states from multiple disciplines and perspectives: political science, international law, international relations, history, geography, sociology, and economics. Borders, border regions and border crossings have multiple significance as designations of state authority, security buffers, expressions of social meaning and opportunities for economic integration. We explore their creation, challenges, and reinforcement over time and around the world. As a seminar designed primarily to stimulate research, this course will be concerned with historical and current problems relating to international borders around the world. We will concentrate on formulating interesting research questions, think carefully about how to bring data to bear on specific questions or hypotheses, become familiar with data sources, and design our own research. All assignments are related to developing research skills; there are no in-class exams.


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