University of California, Santa Barbara
Case Method Website: Case List 

Cases are alphabetized by author

Richard P. Appelbaum

Global Climate Change and What Can Be Done About It

 

Bandy, Joe

The Crisis of North American Free Trade: Broken Promises and Transnational Resistance

 

Beamish, Thomas D.

1941-1945 Indochina at the Crossroads: Colonialism, Trusteeship, or Independence?

 

Bhavnani, Kum-Kum  and Molly Talcott

To Work or Not to Work?  The Flower Industry as Women's Development in Colombia

 

Boyle, Colleen

Choices on the Border:  A Family Trying to Survive in Tijuana

 

Bruhn, Kathleen

China and the World Trade Organization

 

Carruyo, Light

Understanding Our Community: Students, Immigrants, and the Political Economy of Isla Vista

 

Faiia, Shanti 

Globalization From the Bottom Up, or Top Down?: Where Do We Go From Here. . .

 

Foran, John

Allende's Chile, 1972

 

Foran, John and McAuley, Chris

The Struggle for Irish Independence, 1921

 

Haban, Paulette

Choices and Chances: Becoming a Mail Order Bride

 

Klouzal, Linda

On the Threshold of Revolution: Political Crisis and Personal Struggle in Cuba in 1957

 

López, Edwin

A Decision for Survival and Resistance: Claudia, the Guatemalan Highlands, 1982

 

Overmyer-Velázquez, Becky

Clandestine Negotiations: Searching for Peace in Chiapas

 

Rosner, Ari

The Case of Exploitation and Agency in the Thirtieth Century

 

Shayne, Julia

Family, Feminism, or Revolution: One Salvadoran Woman's Quest for an Answer

 

Vandegrift, Darcie

The Race to the Bottom in the Apparel Industry

 

Vandegrift, Darcie

What is Development? Who is the Community?: Voices from a Town Meeting in Indigenous Costa Rica

 


Richard P. Appelbaum - Global Climate Change and What Can Be Done About It  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title.   This case explores some of the key issues in understanding the human aspects of global warming and what can be done about it. It presents global warming as largely the result of globalization and industrialization, in which the advanced industrial economies – and particularly the United States – are responsible for much of the problem; yet it acknowledges that as the rest of the world rapidly industrializes, the problem will become more acute and potentially catastrophic. The case exercise assigns four roles to explore this issue: the National Association of Manufacturers, representing U.S. Business Interests; the AFL-CIO, representing the interests of organized labor; the Bush Administration, representing the U.S. government; and Greenpeace, representing the environmental community. Through role-playing, students will learn about the key technical, economic, and political issues and tradeoffs, as they seek to come up with a compromise solution that has some possibility of being acceptable to all parties.

 

Joe Bandy - The Crisis of North American Free Trade: Broken Promises and Transnational Resistance  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case, set in the near future of 2010, depicts a North American political economy that is in a legitimation crisis. The governments of the U.S. and Mexico, in an attempt to salvage what is left of NAFTA and their own neoliberal policies, have called a meeting of influential grassroots and revolutionary movements from the U.S. and Mexico to advise them on what to do. These movements, in an attempt to have the greatest impact through a unified platform, have decided to call a preliminary meeting amongst themselves to find a common position on NAFTA. This is the meeting the case asks students to role play. The case raises issues of gender, development, political economy, social movements, and revolution, making it suitable for inclusion in an array of courses and disciplines. More specifically, it asks the students to role play a moment of coalition building, in which they must recognize and grapple with the differences and similarities among various groups and their policy platforms. Therefore, this case has clear theoretical as well as practical lessons to teach about political and economic power, processes of development planning, and the difficulties social movements face in creating substantial change in an ever more global society. It also can be a case that explores gendered, regional, and national differences among North Americans, allowing students to arrive at their own conclusions about how to negotiate discrepancies in power and identity in the struggle for consensus and unity.

Thomas D. Beamish - 1941-1945 Indochina at the Crossroads: Colonialism, Trusteeship, or Independence?  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case is constructed to engender in the student a re-evaluation of a historical event, the Vietnam War, which has had and continues to have, a profound impact on the American psyche. In particular, memories of the Vietnam War in contemporary culture often come bereft of historical context; most memories start well after US involvement had already been initiated. In this case US foreign policy is not an abstraction, but based in the diplomatic record as it appeared at the time featuring a young Nguyen Ai Quoc (Ho Chi Minh), State Department officials, and then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This gives the student a chance to confront a tough set of choices in an international context: deciding between a people's fight for emancipation, the demands of a former colonial power (France) and U.S. ally to have its properties returned, and an emerging U.S. hegemon who has not yet completely defined what its policy is when deciding between colonialism, a U.S.-lead trusteeship, or independence.

Kum-Kum Bhavnani and Molly Talcott - To Work or Not to Work?  The Flower Industry as Women's Development in Colombia  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case explores the experiences and thoughts of Maricella, a fourteen year-old woman who is considering seeking employment in a greenhouse outside Bogota, Colombia.  Maricella's mother and older sister, who do greenhouse work, urge her not to do this, but to continue her education at school.  Maricella's sister, Anna, who works in the United States as a domestic worker, with no formal papers of residency, invites Maricella to go to Los Angeles to both study and send money home. Maricella does not want to leave Colombia but does want to study further.  Students are asked to assess Maricella’s options.  The case would work well in courses to do with development, women’s studies, and work, among others.

Colleen Boyle - Choices on the Border: A Family Trying to Survive in Tijuana  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case is set in Tijuana, Mexico as a family attempts to make a decision about immigrating to the United States.  The case presents readers with problems facing residents in Tijuana who work in the maquiladoras.  The purpose of the case is to get readers to think about the reasons why people immigrate to the United States and the difficulties they face in making that decision and in immigrating.  The purpose is also to get readers to make connections between political and economic developments in the United States and the living and working conditions of people in Mexico.  The case also presents examples of local organizing in the maquiladoras and the colonias where maquiladora workers live.  Participants in a role play take the positions of different friends and family members in a discussion about immigrating to the United States.

Kathleen Bruhn - China and the World Trade Organization To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case study examines the entry of China into the World Trade Organization (WTO) from the Chinese point of view.  It provides an avenue for discussion about the nature, costs and benefits of the WTO as seen by developing countries.  It can also be used to analyze trade policy in general.  Using a dramatic format, it presents a series of “witnesses” from the experience of China and several other developing countries (including South Korea, India, Mexico, and Russia), each offering their perspectives.  It encourages students to think about development as a multifaceted process, not reducible to GNP growth, and then asks them to weigh these factors in offering advice.

Light Carruyo - Understanding Our Community: Students, Immigrants, and the Political Economy of Isla Vista  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case seeks to make connections between the Isla Vista (California) community and national/international issues of immigration. It provides a brief discussion of national anti-immigrant sentiments and policy and explores the contradictions between the economic needs of big business and current immigration policy. The case centers around a fictionalized restaurant in Isla Vista where an accident in the kitchen has brought issues of safety, discrimination, fair labor practices, rights and responsibilities of employers/workers into discussion. The characters (which include students, Latino workers and a local business owner) and issues presented are intended to portray the complexity of the context in which members of the Isla Vista community operate. As role players take on each character they will grapple with the motivations and constraints faced by each character and better understand the connections between biography and history (The Sociological Imagination).

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Shanti Faiia - Globalization from the Bottom Up, or Top Down?: Where Do We Go From Here?  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case study is set in Porto Alegre, Brazil – where a group of six individuals have come together to discuss the need to address the increasing backlash against globalization. Of the six, three are representatives from the World Economic Forum that takes place in Davos, and three are representatives from the World Social Forum that takes place in Porto Alegre. The case attempts to juxtapose the pros and cons of globalization in a setting where those involved in creating a globalized world confront those that more directly experience the effects of that globalization. The purpose of the case is to enable readers to quickly grasp some of the differing arguments both for and against globalization. The case also tries to highlight the importance of taking into account both political and economic perspectives (embodied by global corporate powers) as well as “human” perspectives (embodied by local communities and organizations), when trying to understand globalization and its role in our lives. Participants in a role play take the positions of the six characters: two economists, and representatives from Nike, the World Trade Organization, a women’s NGO, and a trade union.

John Foran - Allende's Chile, 1972  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case puts participants in the place of Salvador Allende, Chile's president, in 1972. Allende was the first democratically-elected socialist ruler in world history. He presided over a polarized society, a complex coalition, and a situation in which the United States was pledged to reverse his project of constructing a Chilean path to socialism. The case visits the site of a meeting Allende held with his coalition partners in Lo Curro, in 1972, in which various proposals were put forward for dealing with these problems and sustaining the project of social transformation. Students are asked to argue for the various positions, and to attempt to find some kind of solution to the several problems faced by Allende that would be both workable and acceptable to the partners in the coalition. The case raises the question of could a coup have been avoided, and more generally, could history have turned out differently?

John Foran and Chris McAuley - The Struggle for Irish Independence, 1921 To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title.  In 1921 Irish republican revolutionaries debated whether to accept an offer from England to have an independent state in three-quarters of the country (the south), leaving the northern quarter under English rule.  The soldier Michael Collins and the politician Eamon de Valera are the two most well-known figures in this debate.  The issue in a nutshell was whether to fight on for total independence against difficult odds, or to accept the partition of the country.  This debate hinged on the pros and cons of a compromise outcome to a revolutionary/colonial situation.  The case allows students to assess and replay the debates in the Irish parliament culminating in the vote on whether to accept the treaty agreed to by England.  It deals with issues of how to make a revolution democratically;  how to manage coalition politics;  how to deal with internal differences of opinion in a revolutionary situation;  and ultimately how societies might change rapidly for the better (the promise of all revolutions).  It also raises the interesting general counterfactual question:  could history have turned out differently?  This case might be used in courses dealing with political sociology, social movements and revolutions, nationalism, international relations, and so forth.

Paulette Haban - Choices and Chances: Becoming a Mail Order Bride  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case study is a composite character sketch based on the author’s interviews with Filipina mail order brides and their husbands. Remy Santos, a Filipina overseas contract worker in Hong Kong, has been writing to a man she met through a pen pal club. She is faced with an impending decision. Does she become a mail order bride? Does she secure a new contract? Does she return to the Philippines and go through a retraining seminar supported by women’s empowerment groups? This case study is meant for students to exercise their sociological imagination and to see how structural agency operates in what appears to be a "no win" situation. There are no clear cut answers. The uncomfortability with whatever decision that the class comes to is meant to replicate on a minute scale everyday life. This case may be used in classes that deal specifically with or touch upon the following topics: migration, multiple forms of domination (race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.) in domestic and international contexts, women’s studies, and Asian/Asian American issues.

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Linda Klouzal -  On the Threshold of Revolution: Political Crisis and Personal Struggle in Cuba in 1957  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case study about the Cuban Revolution can be taught in courses on revolution, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba which give background information on the history of the revolution of Cuba. The case is designed to promote discussion about the political, economic, and social context of Cuba during the 1950s. It requires students to argue from one of three different political perspectives as embodied in three characters. These characters include: a capitalist, pro-U.S., pro-democracy, moderate-conservative Protestant doctor; a radical, anti-U.S. guerrilla struggling for large scale social transformation; and a politically neutral destitute mulatta prostitute. The characters and their confrontation raise the issues of social stratification in Cuban society, economic development, and how race, class and gender impact political perspectives. The case requires students to use their sociological imaginations as they read the life story of a mulatta prostitute from whose perspective they must evaluate two political positions to make the central decision of the case. The case facilitates students moving back and forth between the micro level lived experiences of Cubans during the 1950s and the macro level political issues at stake in the country during this decade.

Edwin López - A Decision for Survival and Resistance: Claudia, the Guatemalan Highlands, 1982  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. The purpose of this case is to familiarize students with a recent period in Guatemalan history. To have them imagine a livelihood very different from their own. To question and challenge their values, positions, and beliefs concerning violence, justice and family. To confront their own feelings of gender, race, and class discrimination. The case study concerns the social, political, economic, cultural, and religious conditions of a young Mayan peasant highlander in Guatemala. The year is 1982, the height of the Guatemalan government’s Scorched Earth Program. The military perceived Mayan peasants to be supporters of or future candidates for insurgent groups. In a direct attack on Mayan villagers, twenty-three people were brutally tortured and mutilated in the highlands of Quiché. The main character is a fifteen year-old Quiché woman who has just fled the violent holocaust of her village. She is alone and must make a decision.

Becky Overmyer-Velázquez - Clandestine Negotiations: Searching for Peace in Chiapas  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case is set in contemporary Chiapas at a late-night fictional meeting between participants in a dispute over land near the town of Simojovel in the northern highlands of the state. At the meeting is a rancher, a state government official and a representative of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN.) Immediately at stake in the decision they must make is the land claimed by both the rancher and a group of campesinos from Simojovel. Based on an historical background to the current crisis in Chiapas, as well as the arguments presented by each participant presented in the case, students debate the possible outcomes for this particular situation. More generally, students focus on the prospects for peace in Chiapas and Mexico. "Clandestine Negotiations" may serve a variety of objectives. The central ones are: to focus attention on how "economic restructuring" has affected indigenous campesino communities in Chiapas; and to debate the competing visions of Mexico's future presented by the EZLN and the Mexican government. Students of Mexican emigration to the U.S. and the impact of NAFTA and the global economy on individual communities will find this case relevant. The case can also be used in a discussion of the divide-and-rule tactics used by the Mexican government (among other governments) to co-opt potentially troublesome groups. Students of the case can be encouraged to think of the goals of these tactics (who really benefits) and the ways these groups might subvert co-optation so that no one benefits at the expense of others. Students of Native American studies can use this case comparatively to help put land claims and treaty disputes in the U.S. into an international context. Finally, the case can also be included in a larger discussion of the EZLN and an assessment of its positions and methods since 1994.

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Ari Rosner - The Case of Exploitation and Agency in the Thirtieth Century  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case is set in the year 2983 AD. The past millennium has been difficult. The state of the human species is a vastly changed one. Due to the problems of unabated environmental degradation (e.g. acid rain, red tides, ozone layer depletion, atmospheric pollution, toxin accumulation in the food chain, rain forest depletion, lowered food production, and the meteorological and sea-level complications of global warming), intermittent paramilitary campaigns, severe rates of infertility, and seven new diseases worse than the AIDS virus, the human population--now plagued by countless chronic illnesses (asthma and cancer being among the least severe)--has undergone a large-scale decrease in number. The fears of the Malthusian population bomb are seen as pure folly in the thirtieth century. The majority of the human species, in fact, is now scattered among the universe. The earth, a resource-depleted husk of a planet, is now a relatively underpopulated wasteland. Those unlucky enough not to be dead or in space must eke out a difficult survival, with the exception of those few rich enough to insulate themselves from environmental discomforts. The major languages in use now are descendants of Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghai, Japanese, German, and Korean. English, with several other "major" languages of the twentieth century, has gone the way of Latin.

Julia Shayne - Family, Feminism, or Revolution: One Salvadoran Woman's Quest for an Answer  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. The following case study examines the complex interplay, conflicts, and compatibilities of "gendered" and "national" demands within the revolutionary setting of El Salvador. Students will be encouraged through the dialogue presented in the text and the subsequent discussions in class to grapple with the life defining questions with which women revolutionaries are regularly confronted. The case centers around one young woman's desires as a revolutionary. As the title implies, she is torn between her family, her budding feminism, and her nation. As a young revolutionary who watches the war escalate around her, she too wishes to deepen her commitment through guerrilla combat. This option is discouraged by her family and would take a great deal of emotional stamina. She is also intrigued by the work of a feminist activist who explicitly supports the revolution while working to keep women's interests at the forefront. Another option presented in the text, but certainly not the only ones students may come up with, is to remain "loyal" to her nation by continuing as a health care worker. This is encouraged as she is laying the ground work for the "new El Salvador." As case studies tend to engage students pedagogically about real questions, thus entertaining options not necessarily spelled out, it is my hope that students will come away from this case feeling confident that feminism and national liberation are not tension free compatriots, nor are they antithetical. Students should be able to tease through the intricacies of a revolutionary program which includes women (and/or feminism,) leading to what I envision as lively debate about this very rich topic.

Darcie Vandegrift - The Race to the Bottom in the Apparel Industry  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case examines working conditions in the apparel industry, focusing on a factory in Tehuacán, Mexico. The case has three actors: the owner of a high-end brand of blue jeans, a garment worker from a factory that subcontracts with this owner, and a university student on a fact finding mission to determine working conditions in the factory. Case participants will determine what these conditions entail and possible courses of action to improve them. Each participant has limitations as to the range of actions he or she can take. Each has varying levels of power, knowledge, and connection with the working conditions detailed. Students must decide how to create a course of action from each actor’s unique situated perspective. The situation draws out important themes from the following topics: workers’ rights, the international division of labor, gender and development, social movements, and structure/agency debates. The case is also useful for examining the contours of free-market, Marxist, and world systems theories of explaining global stratification.

Darcie Vandegrift - What is Development? Who is the Community?: Voices from a Town Meeting in Indigenous Costa Rica  To see the entire case and teaching notes, click on the title. This case will explore two important issues in development studies. First, it will ask students to explain and analyze two conflicting paradigms in development thought: an economic growth paradigm and a cultural survival/sustainable development paradigm. Students will discuss how enacting community projects adhering to each of these paradigms would affect a rural, indigenous community. Second, the case will demonstrate that seemingly homogenous local communities are deeply divided along intersecting categories of gender, class, age and culture. Students will be asked to think about how these categories affect individuals' thinking on development issues and how power influences who gets to finally decide development outcomes, even in seemingly "democratic" situations. This case is set in a town meeting in a fictitious indigenous village in southeastern Costa Rica. At issue is whether the town should accept an offer to allow mining within its borders or to pursue some other type of economic development. Presenting their cases are young, landless men who are pro-mining, middle-aged farmers who support sustainable development work with non-governmental organizations, women who urge both groups to consider a gender analysis and elders who wish for the incorporation of non-Western values into any development decisions. An overarching theme for this case is the problem of trying to meet many valid and conflicting needs given limited resources. Students will be forced to come up with trying to address the exclusion of the landless, the women, and the elders while recognizing that grassroots organizations have limited resources. Students should be pressed to explain what will be eliminated if they propose new programs or, alternatively, how new resources will be obtained.

This site is maintained by John Foran
Last update: June 2002.

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