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University of Oklahoma

[IAS 5383] Organized Crime and Conflict - 221

Tassie Hirschfeld

Course Description

Political Economy of the Underworld: Organized Crime and Conflict

Since the end of the Cold War, organized crime has expanded into a global presence that continues to fuel instability, corruption and violent extremism in many parts of the world. These developments have not always been recognized by scholars in political science and international relations, who tend to focus their research on the actions of established nation-states instead of sub state actors. But many contemporary conflicts cannot be understood without assessing the subterranean presence of organized crime groups as agents of instability, arms trafficking, resource extraction and informal governance. This class will explore the presence of organized crime in international political economy and armed conflict since the 1990s. Areas to be covered include: 1) the evolutionary origins of organized crime; 2) organized crime as a factor in contemporary conflicts.

Class Dates, Format, Location and Hours

Thursday,  May 12:  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CEST

Friday, May 13:  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CEST

Saturday, May 14:  no zoom class

Sunday, May 15:  no zoom class

Monday, May 16:  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CEST

Tuesday, May 17:  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CEST

Wednesday, May 18:  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CEST

Thursday, May 19:  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CEST

Friday, May 20:  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CEST

Saturday, May 21: no zoom class

Sunday, May 22: no zoom class

Monday, May 23:  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CEST

Tuesday, May 24:  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CEST

Wednesday, May 25:  6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CEST

DatesMay 12-26, 2022
FormatVirtual. Course to be held via Zoom and Canvas.
Location for on-site coursesWiesbaden Education Center, Bldg. 1023 East, Basement Room 04, Clay Kaserne, 65205, Germany
Last day to enroll or drop without penaltyApril 18, 2022

Site Director

NameMs. Nicole Sewell & Mr. Wade Jackson
Office Address/LocationWiesbaden Education Center, Bldg. 1023 East, Basement Room 011, Clay Kaserne, 65205, Germany
Office HoursMonday- 0800 - 1500 ; Tuesday- Friday- 0800 – 1600
DSN and CIV PhoneDSN: 548-1309 or CIV: 49-(0)611-143-548-1309

Professor Contact Information

Course ProfessorDr. Tassie Katherine Hirschfeld
Mailing AddressDepartment of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma
Telephone Number(405) 642-7059 (cell)
Professor availabilityThe professor will be available via e-mail and Zoom to students before and after the official start date. Zoom office hours will be held by appointment. Students are encouraged to communicate regularly with the professor.

Textbook(s) and Instructional Materials

Student materials are available at the OU Bookstore Website at The website has book selling, renting, buying, returning, and order tracking capabilities. If you need help with an order, or if you have any questions contact the toll-free phone at 1-(855)-790-6637, agents are available from 9a – 5p (EST) Monday – Friday. Text prices are available online.

Materials posted on the OU Canvas learning management system: Access Canvas at, enter your OU NetID and password, and select course to access material. If you require assistance with Canvas, please click on the Help icon. You can search the Canvas guides, chat with Canvas support, or contact OU IT.  Supplemental articles (posted on Canvas).

Comrade Criminal Russia's New Mafiya
Comrade Criminal Russia's New Mafiya
by Stephen Handelman
Published by Yale Univ Pr
ISBN: 9780300063868
The Sicilian Mafia The Business of Private Protection
The Sicilian Mafia The Business of Private Protection
by Diego Gambetta
Published by Harvard Univ Pr
ISBN: 9780674807426
Gangsters and Other Statesmen
Gangsters and Other Statesmen
by Danilo Mandić
Published by Princeton University Press
ISBN: 9780691187884

Course Objectives

See Course Outline

Course Outline

Course Outline



Due Dates

Percentage of grade

MODULE 1:  Pre-Class Module

Supplemental lectures and background readings

Pre-class questionnaire

Pre-class reading response 

Pre class questionnaire and reading response due by 5/15

Pre class assignments:

questionnaire: 5%

reading response: 10%

MODULE 2:  Core Concepts

Introduction to the class; Defining Organized Crime; Organized Crime During the Cold War


Lectures will be via Zoom


Midterm essay

Research paper topic selection



Discussion participation Via zoom and Canvas

Midterm essay due by 5/23

Research paper topic selection due by 5/20

Midterm essay: 20%

Discussion participation 20%

Research paper topic selection: 5%


Organized Crime and State Building after the Cold War

Case studies may include: The Caucasus; Central Asia, Cuba; Venezuela;


Lectures will be via Zoom

Online discussions

Research paper abstract and preliminary bibliography

Research paper abstract and preliminary bibliography due


Research paper abstract and bibliography: 10%

MODULE 4: post class module


Final research paper

Final paper due June 7th

Final paper:  30%



Assignments, Grading and Due Dates

Pre-Class Assignments

There will be two pre-class assignments:  completion of a short (4-5 page) reading response paper and a short pre-class questionnaire. The paper will be a reading response for Diego Gambetta’s The Sicilian Mafia.

An assignment sheet and grading rubric for the paper will be posted on Canvas.


In Class Assignments

Discussion Participation

Students will participate in three discussion boards.  Discussion posts should be thoughtful, informed responses to the discussion questions.  In addition to generating posts, students should also respond to other posts.  All discussions will be moderated by the instructor.


Midterm Essay

The midterm essay will be a 4-5 page response to an essay question posted on Canvas.  The essay will be open book and open notes.  Students will be encouraged to synthesize material from different readings and other class materials.  An assignment sheet with grading rubric will be posted on Canvas.


Research Paper Topic Selection

Students are encouraged to select research paper topics in consultation with the instructor.  


Research Paper Abstract and Bibliography

The research paper abstract should be a short, concise 1-2 paragraph statement summarizing the proposed research and its relevance to the class.  The abstract should include a preliminary bibliography with short annotations for each source.


Final Paper

The final paper should be a 15-20 page analysis exploring the intersection of organized crime and politics in a specific locale.  An assignment sheet with grading rubric will be posted on Canvas.


Citations and Academic Integrity

In your written work, make sure you cite all sources appropriately in the anthropological citation style  (author, date), with a bibliography at the end in your essay.  Failure to do so may be regarded as  plagiarism, and you may fail the assignment as a result.  Academic misconduct on course work may result  in a failing grade for this class. It is the responsibility of each student to be familiar with the definitions, policies, and procedures concerning academic misconduct. The Academic Misconduct Code is printed with the Student code and is available on the web at


This is a letter-graded course: A, B, C, D, or F.

Notice: Failure to meet assignment due dates could result in a grade of I (Incomplete) and may adversely impact Tuition Assistance and/or Financial Aid.


Attendance/Grade Policy

Attendance and participation in interaction, individual assignments, group exercises, simulations, role playing, etc. are valuable aspects of any course because much of the learning comes from discussions in class with other students. It is expected that you attend all classes and be on time except for excused emergencies.

Excused absences are given for professor mandated activities or legally required activities such as emergencies or military assignments. It is the policy of the University to excuse absences of students that result from religious observances and to provide without penalty for the rescheduling of examinations and additional required class work that may fall on religious holidays. Unavoidable personal emergencies, including (but not limited to) serious illness; delays in getting to class because of accidents, etc.; deaths and funerals, and hazardous road conditions will be excused.

If you are obtaining financial assistance (TA, STAP, FA, VA, Scholarship, etc.) to pay all or part of your tuition cost, you must follow your funding agency/institution’s policy regarding “I” (Incomplete) grades unless the timeline is longer than what the University policy allows then you must adhere to the University policy. Students who receive Financial Aid must resolve/complete any “I” (Incomplete) grades by the end of the term or he/she may be placed on “financial aid probation.” If the “I” grade is not resolved/completed by the end of the following term, the student’s Financial Aid may be suspended make the student ineligible for further Financial Aid.

Students are responsible for meeting the guidelines of Tuition Assistance and Veterans Assistance. See the education counselor at your local education center for a complete description of your TA or VA requirements.

OU faculty will submit grades online through ONE not later than 30 days after the course end date. Course end dates are approximately one calendar month after the final seminar date on this syllabus and are provided on the official scheduling website for reference.

Academic Integrity and Student Conduct 

Academic integrity means honesty and responsibility in scholarship. Academic assignments exist to help students learn; grades exist to show how fully this goal is attained. Therefore all work and all grades should result from the student's own understanding and effort.

Academic misconduct is any act which improperly affects the evaluation of a student’s academic performance or achievement. Misconduct occurs when the student either knows or reasonably should know that the act constitutes misconduct. Academic misconduct includes: cheating and using unauthorized materials on examinations and other assignments; improper collaboration, submitting the same assignment for different classes (self-plagiarism); fabrication, forgery, alteration of documents, lying, etc…in order to obtain an academic advantage; assisting others in academic misconduct; attempting to commit academic misconduct; destruction of property, hacking, etc…; intimidation and interference with integrity process; and plagiarism. All students should review the Student’s Guide to Academic Integrity at 

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. All students should review policies regarding student conduct at 

Accommodation Statement

The University of Oklahoma is committed to making its activities as accessible as possible. For accommodations on the basis of disability, please contact your local OU Site Director.

Adjustment for Pregnancy/Childbirth-Related Issues

Should you need modifications or adjustments to your course requirements because of documented pregnancy-related or childbirth-related issues, please contact the professor as soon as possible to discuss. Generally, modifications will be made where medically necessary and similar in scope to accommodations based on temporary disability. Please see

Title IX Resources

For any concerns regarding gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, stalking, or intimate partner violence, the University offers a variety of resources, including advocates on-call 24/7, counseling services, mutual no-contact orders, scheduling adjustments, and disciplinary sanctions against the perpetrator. Please contact the Sexual Misconduct Office at or (405) 325-2215 (8-5), or the Sexual Assault Response Team at (405) 615 -0013 (24/7) to report an incident. To learn more about Title IX, please visit the Institutional Equity Office’s website at 

Course Policies

Extended Campus (also and formerly known as Advanced Programs) policy is to order books in paperback if available. Courses, dates, and professors are subject to change. Please check with your OU Site Director. Students should retain a copy of any assignments that are e/mailed to the professor for the course. Neither duplicating services nor office supplies are provided.

Any and all course materials, syllabus, lessons, lectures, etc. are the property of professor teaching the course and the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma and are protected under applicable copyright.

For more information about OU Extended Campus, visit our website at:

Statement on Respect

The classroom should provide a safe learning environment where students can express their views without fear of reprisal. That freedom of expression must be balanced by demonstrated respect for other’s viewpoints and appropriate and reasonable sensitivity, especially within the context of scholarly disagreement.  Disrespectful or uncivil dialogue (including, but not limited to, personal attacks, insults, or harassment) will not be tolerated.

Recording Devices/Phones/Computers

It is important for students to be fully present during class to fully benefit from lectures, discussions, and experiential assignments. Class sessions may not be tape-recorded. All telephones and pagers should be turned off or placed on silent mode. Computers may not be used during class. Students who require an exception to this policy should discuss exceptional circumstances with the professor.


Dr. Tassie Katherine Hirschfeld


PhD Anthropology Emory University 2001


Current Positions

  • Advanced Programs Professor since 2014

  • Professor, Department of Anthropology University of Oklahoma


Frequently Taught Extended Campus Courses

CAS 5970 Biosecurity and Emerging Pathogens


Major Areas of Teaching and Research Interest

  • Medical Anthropology

  • Disease ecology

  • Post-socialism

  • Public health




  • 2015 Gangster-States:  Organized Crime, Kleptocracy, Collapse.  Palgrave MacMillan

  • 2007 Health, Politics and Revolution in Cuba since 1898. Transaction Press.



Recent Articles

2022 Ethnic Conflict as a Risk Amplifier for resurgent P. vivax malaria in the Caucasus.  Global Environmental Change

2019 Insurgent Microbes:  Theorizing Global Health in the Anthropocene.  Anthropocene Review.

Representative Honors and Awards Received

Marjorie Shostak Award for Ethnographic Writing, Emory University


Major Professional Affiliations

  • American Anthropological Association

  • Association for the Study of Nationalities

  • Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy