SemesterFall Semester, 2023
DepartmentMA Program of Political Science, First Year PhD Program of Political Science, First Year MA Program of Political Science, Second Year PhD Program of Political Science, Second Year
Course NameLatin American Governments & Politics
InstructorSU YEN-PIN
Course TypeElective
Course Objective
Course Description
Course Schedule

Class Schedule


Week 1 (9/13): Introduction

Organization of the course schedule; academic ethics, Turnitin, and AI tools; formalities for academic writing; download EndNote software from the NCCU campus-authorized software website through iNCCU.


Week 2 (9/20): Basics for Empirical Research

Understand the difference between a thesis, a textbook, and a Wikipedia page; how a research topic and a research question differ; explanatory vs. descriptive research questions.


Week 3 (9/27): Basics for Designing an Empirical Research Project

Elements of a well-structured research design; research puzzle (causes vs. consequences); variable measurements; hypotheses building and testing; research strategies (different combinations of the use of theory, data, and method)


Week 4 (10/4): How to Write a Critical Literature Review Assignment

Read p.2-p.5 of the syllabus; check the sample MA theses on Moodle; warm-up presentations


**Theme (I): Regime Change and Political Development**


Week 5 (10/11): Explaining Regime Change

  1. Pérez-Liñán, Aníbal and Scott Mainwaring. 2014. “Democratic Breakdown and Survival in Latin America, 1945-2005.” In Reflections on Uneven Democracies: The Legacy of Guillermo O’Donnell, eds. Daniel Brinks, Marcelo Leiras, and Scott Mainwaring, 21-43. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. (See the scanned chapter on Moodle)

  2. Schenoni, Luis L., and Scott Mainwaring. 2019. “US Hegemony and Regime Change in Latin America.” Democratization 26(2): 269-287.

  3. Mantilla, Luis Felipe. 2010. “Mobilizing Religion for Democracy: Explaining Catholic Church Support for Democratization in South America.” Politics and Religion 3(3): 553-579.


Week 6 (10/18): Post-Authoritarian Challenges

  1. Lessa, Francesca, Tricia D. Olsen, Leigh A. Payne, Gabriel Pereira, Andrew G. Reiter. 2014. “Overcoming Impunity: Pathways to Accountability in Latin America.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 8(1): 75-98.

  2. Martínez, Christopher A. 2021. “Presidential Instability in Latin America: Why Institutionalized Parties Matter.” Government and Opposition 56: 683–704.

  3. Negretto, Gabriel L. 2022. “Tinkering with Executive Term Limits: Partisan Imbalances and Institutional Legacies in Latin America. Democratization 29(1): 38-56.


**Theme (II): Political Institution**


Week 7 (10/25): Executive and Bureaucracy

  1. Borges, André, Mathieu Turgeon, and Adrián Albala. 2021. “Electoral Incentives to Coalition Formation in Multiparty Presidential Systems.” Party Politics 27(6): 1279–1289.

  2. Reyes-Housholder, Catherine. 2019. “A Theory of Gender’s Role on Presidential Approval Ratings in Corrupt Times.” Political Research Quarterly 73(3): 540-555.

  3. de Avila Gomide, Alexandre. 2022. “Democracy and Bureaucracy in Newly Industrialized Countries: A Systematic Comparison between Latin America and East Asia.” Governance 35(1): 83-102.


Week 8 (11/1): Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary

  1. Shair-Rosenfield, Sarah, and Alissandra T. Stoyan. 2017. “Constraining Executive Action: The Role of Legislator Professionalization in Latin America.” Governance 30(2): 301-319.

  2. Carreras, Miguel. 2014. “Outsiders and Executive-Legislative Conflict in Latin America.” Latin American Politics and Society 56(3): 70-92.

  3. Helmke, Gretchen, Yeonkyung Jeong, and Jae-Eun C. Kim. 2022. “Insecure Institutions: A Survivalist Theory of Judicial Manipulation in Latin America.” Journal of Law and Courts 10(2): 265-285.


Week 9 (11/8): Political Parties

  1. Bolleyer, Nicole and Saskia P. Ruth. 2018. “Elite Investments in Party Institutionalization in New Democracies: A Two-Dimensional Approach.” Journal of Politics 80(1): 288-302.

  2. Burgess, Katrina, and Steven Levitsky. 2003. “Explaining Populist Party Adaptation in Latin America: Environmental and Organizational Determinants of Party Change in Argentina, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela.” Comparative Political Studies 36(8): 881-911.

  3. Su, Yen-Pin, and Fabricio A. Fonseca. 2021. “Explaining the Party Unity of Governing Parties in Mexico.” Revista de Ciencia Política 41(3): 515-537.


Week 10 (11/15): Interdisciplinary Self-Learning Week


Week 11 (11/22): Party System Development

  1. Su, Yen-Pin. 2015. “Party Registration Rules and Party Systems in Latin America.” Party Politics 21(2): 295-308.

  2. Su, Yen-Pin. 2018. “Personal Vote, Spatial Registration Rules, and Party System Nationalization in Latin America.” International Political Science Review 39(2): 192-208.

  3. Su, Yen-Pin. 2022. “Rules for Party Subsidies and Electoral Volatility in Latin America.” Latin American Research Review 57(1): 151-169.


**Instruction for country-level dataset assignment**


**Theme (III): Causes and Consequences of Political Behavior**


Week 12 (11/29): Electoral Participation

  1. Murillo, María Victoria, Virginia Oliveros, and Milan Vaishnav. 2010. “Electoral Revolution or Democratic Alternation?” Latin American Research Review 45 (3): 87-114.

  2. Béjar, Sergio, Juan A. Moraes, and Santiago López-Cariboni. 2020. “Elite Polarization and Voting Turnout in Latin America, 1993–2010.” Journal of Elections, Public Opinions and Parties 30(1): 1-21.

  3. Kouba, Karel and Jakub Lysek. 2016. “Institutional Determinants of Invalid Voting in Post-Communist Europe and Latin America.” Electoral Studies 41: 92-104.


**Country-level dataset assignment due in class**


Week 13 (12/6): Non-Electoral Participation

  1. López García, Ana Isabel. 2017. “Legislative Coalition Size and Antigovernment Protests in Latin America.” Journal of Politics in Latin America 9(3): 91–120.

  2. Vogt, Manuel. 2016. “A New Dawn? Indigenous Movements and Ethnic Inclusion in Latin America.” International Studies Quarterly 60(4): 790-801.

  3. Bezerra, Carla de Paiva and Murilo de Oliveira Junqueira. 2022. “Why has Participatory Budgeting Declined in Brazil?” Brazilian Political Science Review 16(2): e0002.


Week 14 (12/13): Polarization and Populism

  1. Moraes, Juan A., and Sergio Béjar. 2023. “Electoral Volatility and Political Polarization in Developing Democracies: Evidence from Latin America, 1993–2016.” Party Politics 29(4): 636–647.

  2. Doyle, David. 2011. “The Legitimacy of Political Institutions: Explaining Contemporary Populism in Latin America.” Comparative Political Studies 44(11): 1447-1473.

  3. Huber, Robert A., and Christian H Schimpf. 2016. “Friend or Foe? Testing the Influence of Populism on Democratic Quality in Latin America.” Political Studies 64(4): 872–889.


**Theme (IV): Political Economy**


Week 15 (12/20): Development, Redistribution, Corruption

  1. Lange, Matthew, James Mahoney, and Matthias vom Hau. 2006. “Colonialism and Development: A Comparative Analysis of Spanish and British Colonies.” American Journal of Sociology 111(5): 1412-1462.

  2. Mauro, Vincent. 2022. “Party Systems and Redistribution in Democratic Latin America.” Comparative Politics 54(3): 429-451.

  3. Kalesnikaite, Vaiva, Milena I. Neshkova and Sukumar Ganapati. 2023. “Parsing the Impact of E-Government on Bureaucratic Corruption.” Governance 36(2): 827-842.


Week 16 (12/27): Taiwan, China, and Latin American Political Economy

  1. Su, Yen-Pin. Forthcoming. “The Impact of Diplomatic Ties on Economic Development: Taiwan and China in Latin America and the Caribbean.” In Switching Diplomatic Recognition between Taiwan and China: Economic and Social Impact, ed. Chien-Huei Wu. Taylor & Francis Group. (see Moodle)

  2. Rich, Timothy S., and Andi Dahmer. 2022. “Should I Stay or Should I Go? Diplomatic Recognition of Taiwan, 1950–2016.” International Journal of Taiwan Studies 59(2): 353-374.

  3. Chen, Ian Tsung-yen. 2022. “The Crisis of COVID-19 and the Political Economy of China’s Vaccine Diplomacy.” Foreign Policy Analysis 18(3): orac014.


Week 17 (1/3): Research Design Proposal Presentations


Week 18 (1/10): Interdisciplinary Self-Learning Week

Teaching Methods
Teaching Assistant

Evaluation and Requirements

Weekly review assignments


Data analysis assignment (due on 11/29)


Research proposal (final paper) (due on 1/10)


Class participation



  1. Weekly review assignments. From Week 5 to Week 15, we have three readings every week. MA students must write one longer review assignment for one reading and two shorter review assignments for the other two readings for every class meeting. Doctoral students must write two longer review assignments for two readings and one shorter review assignment for one reading. A list of reading assignments will be announced in Week 4. Below is the instruction for writing the assignments.


A). The longer review must be structured into the following sections:


(1) The specific research question that the article explicitly addresses

(2) The broader research question that the article could address

(3) Unit of analysis and research scope (specific cases and time periods analyzed in the article)

(4) The dependent variable(s), independent variable(s), and how they are measured

(5) The gap in the literature that the article aims to fill

(6) The main theory proposed by the article (key concept, testable hypotheses/arguments, and their theoretical reasoning)

(7) Main findings

(8) Critical review


Identifying the specific RQ in section (1) and the broader RQ in section (2) can be confusing for fresh graduate students. The good news is that all assigned readings in this course are empirical research papers. One common feature of the empirical papers is that the title is almost always organized in the manner of “the relationship between the explanatory factors and the outcome to be explained for particular cases.” Let’s take two imaginary papers, for example:


Article #1: “Natural Resource Revenues and Corruption in Latin American Democracies.”


Article #2: “Political Scandals and Electoral Performances of 175 Political Parties in 10 South American Countries (2000-2019).”


In section (1), the specific RQ can be specified in the article’s title or abstract. For article #1, the specific RQ could be: How do natural resource revenues affect levels of corruption in Latin American democracies? Or, it could be: What is the relationship between natural resource revenues and corruption in Latin American democracies? For article #2, the specific RQ could be: How do political scandals affect the electoral performances of 175 parties in 10 South American countries (2000-2019)? Or, it could be: What is the relationship between political scandals and electoral performances of 175 parties in 10 South American countries (2000-2019)?


Identifying the broader RQ for section (2) can be challenging. It is because most articles do not mention it explicitly, either in the title or the text. The key point here is to figure out what kind of outcome the article aims to explain. For article #1, the outcome to be explained is the level of corruption. Therefore, the broader RQ is: Why do some countries have higher levels of corruption than others? Or, it could be: What explains the variation in levels of corruption among different countries? For article #2, the outcome to be explained is the electoral performance of political parties. Therefore, the broader RQ is: Why do some parties have better electoral performances than others? Or, it could be: What explains the variation in electoral performances of parties? Identifying the broader RQ is an essential training exercise for developing critical literature review skills for your research project.


Please write the answers to section (1) and section (2) in a question form with a question mark at the end. Do NOT write a declarative statement for the answer to each section. While you should mention specific cases in your answer for section (1), please refrain from mentioning actual cases discussed in the article in your answer for section (2).


In section (3), identify the unit of analysis and specify particular cases and time periods that the article covers. The unit of analysis relates to the “carrier” of the dependent variable, which can be a country, a subnational administrative unit, an organization (e.g., a political party or NGO), or other kinds of unit. For article #1, the unit of analysis is a country, and the research scope is Latin American Democracies from 1960 to 2019. For article #2, the unit of analysis is a party, and the research scope is 175 parties in 10 South American countries (2000-2019).


In section (4), specify what the dependent variable (s) and independent variable(s) are and discuss how these variables are measured in the paper. Then, identify the level of measurement (dichotomous, ordinal, or continuous) and the data sources for the dependent variable(s) and the independent variable(s).


In section (5), specify the research gap this article aims to fill. Such a gap justifies why this article differs from other related studies and suggests this article’s potential contributions to the existing literature. The gap could be theoretical, empirical, or methodological. Most articles explicitly indicate such a gap in the Introduction section by briefly evaluating previous literature and mentioning what has not been done so far. To write the answer to section (5), you can use the following template: “Most previous studies have done such and such, but few studies have done… Therefore, this article aims to fill the gap in the literature by ...,” Identifying the gap in the literature is an essential training exercise for developing skills for figuring out how to make your research project unique.


In section (6), discuss the theory proposed by the article, including the key concept(s), testable hypotheses (or arguments), and the theoretical reasoning (causal mechanism) behind the hypotheses (arguments).


In section (7), summarize the main findings of the article. You can get the information in the abstract and statistical regression tables in the main text. For the presenters, if the reading provides regression tables, please copy and paste the tables into your PowerPoint slides.


In section (8), first briefly praise the article (e.g., why it is interesting and what contribution this work can make), then provide critical comments and questions. Thoughts for critiques include, but are not limited to: Is the work theoretically or empirically interesting for other cases? Is the transfer of theory to empirics reasonable? How well are the concepts measured? Is the causal relation between variables proper? Are there missing alternative explanations? How reliable are the data? What are the pros and cons of the methodology used by the author(s)? Is the theoretical argument applicable in other contexts for comparative work? Any suggestions to improve this article? You are welcome to check out other similar studies to get some ideas for writing your assignment.


B). The shorter review must be structured into the following sections:


(1) The specific research question that the article explicitly addresses

(2) The broader research question that the article could address

(3) Unit of analysis

(4) The dependent variable(s) and the independent variable(s)

(5) The gap in the literature that the article aims to fill

(6) Main findings


A longer review is worth up to 4 points, and a shorter review is worth up to 1 point. Whether you will get total points for the assignments depends on their quality. In your assignment, please include your name and the bibliographic information for the reading on the top and insert page numbers at the bottom. The format of an assignment must be: 1) in Word format; 3) 12-point font; 4) single-spaced; and 5) with moderate margins. For the longer review, 30% of the content must be in the critical review section. The assignments for a particular weekly class meeting must be posted one day before the class. Your points will be lowered for each late post or incomplete post.


In-Class Presentation: Beginning from Week 5, we will have weekly in-class presentations for the assigned readings. A list of presenters will be announced in Week 4. The presenters can use PowerPoint or simply their assignments for presentations. Each presentation must be no longer than 20 minutes. The presenters must lead the discussions by asking questions to the class. Note: If you are assigned as an in-class presenter, you can upload your PowerPoint slides to Moodle as your assignment.


  1. Dataset building and empirical analysis assignments. You will build a dataset based on the V-Dem database. Visit Moodle for more details.


  1. Final paper. You will make a theory-driven empirical research proposal to explain a particular dependent variable based on one assigned reading in the syllabus. Your final paper must be structured into five sections:


I. Introduction. First, specify the reading (article, book, book chapter, etc.) that motivates your research. Second, specify your research topic and propose a general research question. Second, discuss why it matters to examine the DV.


II. Literature review.  First, identify at least two scholarly debates about your DV. Here, you should not limit the literature search by focusing on the cases you are interested in. You have to broaden the search. For instance, if you are interested in studying what explains the variation in levels of corruption in Latin America, you should also search for literature about the explanations of corruption in other regions. Second, discuss the main argument of each debate based on a short literature review of at least five studies for each debate. Third, identify the gap in the literature that your project aims to fill. Possible gaps include, but are not limited to, 1) missing explanation, 2) lack of systematic tests of different theories, and 3) lack of examination of certain cases.


III. Theoretical arguments and testable hypotheses. Based on the discussion about the gap in the literature, propose an explanation you plan to apply for your empirical analysis. Elaborate on the theoretical reasoning of the explanation. Generate hypotheses based on the explanation.


IV. Research design. First, specify the unit of analysis for the empirical analysis. Second, discuss how you measure the dependent variable(s) and the independent variable(s) and indicate possible data sources. Third, discuss the research scope for the empirical analyses. Note that the specific cases and time periods that you plan to cover are determined mainly by data availability. Fourth, discuss the analytical methods that you intend to use. Last, provide a summary that indicates how your research project contributes to the existing literature. In this summary, you can reiterate that there is a gap in the literature, and your research project aims to fill the gap. In addition, briefly discuss one or two cases in the real world that fit the theoretical hypothesis.


Before uploading your final paper, make sure to include the title of your project, your name, and page numbers. Moreover, please follow the American Political Science Association (APSA) style to format citations and bibliography/references. Last, the format of this paper must be: 1) in Word format; 3) in 12-point font; 4) single-spaced; and 5) with moderate margins. The length of the paper should be at least 2,000 words in total. Every student will be assigned to make an in-class presentation for the proposals on Week 16. Every student will also be assigned to be a discussant for one classmate’s presentation.


The paper is graded based on its clarity (30%), quality of literature review (30%), quality and feasibility of the design (20%), potential contributions (10%), and formality (10%).


  1. Class participation. In every class meeting, I will make sure that EVERY student speaks. To facilitate the discussion, please have your assignments at hand. If you are not confident about speaking English, read your assignment out loud. Being unable to recall what you have written in your assignment is unprofessional and will seriously affect your grade for class participation.


  1. Extra credits. Due to the NCCU’s new policy, Week 17 and Week 18 are assigned for students’ “interdisciplinary self-learning.” During these two weeks, students can watch video clips of seminars or speeches about Latin American politics on YouTube. For instance, there are many seminars or lectures on the YouTube channel of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) ( You will obtain 2 extra credits for the final grade for uploading one essay (at least 500 words) based on one seminar or speech video clip. The clip must be at least one hour long, and your selection must be under my permission. You are allowed to obtain up to 4 extra credits for the final grade.


General Policies

  1. Add/drop the course. Students should drop the course if they 1) miss any of the first three weekly class meetings and 2) plan to skip the last three weekly class meetings.

  2. Auditing students. I only permit students to audit this course for my advisees.

  3. Plagiarism. Plagiarism is strictly prohibited in this course. When writing your critical review assignments and final paper, DO NOT copy and paste sentences from articles you read. Always write in your own words by rephrasing or paraphrasing. You will get a very low grade if I find that your assignments and final paper have severe plagiarism problems.

  4. Using AI tools. Do not use AI tools to produce your assignments and final papers. However, you are encouraged to use AI tools to proofread and edit your assignments and final paper. You will get a very low grade if I find that AI tools entirely produced your assignments and final paper.

  5. Teamwork. Teamwork for doing the required assignments and the final paper is NOT allowed. However, you can discuss the coursework with me and your classmates.

  6. Requirements for Ph.D. students. I have much higher expectations for doctoral students who take this course. Doctoral students will be assigned more weekly in-class presentations. Also, doctoral students are expected to write better assignments and final papers.

  7. Using laptops and cell phones in class. Using laptops for taking notes is permitted. Using cell phones is strictly disallowed in class. If I see any student using a cell phone, I will stop the class until the student stops using the cell phone or leaves the classroom.

  8. Re-evaluating grades. You have the right to request a re-evaluation of the grading of your work. In doing so, you must draft a one-page memo outlining why you deserve a better grade. Please note that this memo must be entirely based on the merit of your own work (it cannot be based on comparison with the grades of other students). Remember that your grade will be thoroughly re-evaluated so that the revision might involve a downward or upward change in the grade.

Textbook & Reference
Urls about Course