Jan Knippers Black
McCone Building M117
(831) 647-4180

Jan Knippers Black specializes in areas such as grassroots development, international and comparative politics, media, and human rights. Following service as a founding generation Peace Corps Volunteer in Chile, she earned a PhD in International Studies from America University in Washington, DC, where she also served as editor and supervisor of a research team. Subsequently she was a Senior Associate Member of St. Antony’s College, Oxford; a faculty member in the University of Pittsburgh’s Semester-at-Sea Program; and a Research Professor in public administration at the University of New Mexico. 

Professor Black was elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2014 to the national board of directors of Amnesty International USA. She has also served on more than two dozen editorial, governing or advisory boards and has traveled extensively – on seven continents – undertaking research, speaking engagements, workshops, consulting, and program evaluation.

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

Cuba: Changing Course for Changing Times

This course will open-up for MIIS students a country that has been essentially off-limits to most US citizens for more than a half-century, and a country whose experience and trajectory have been caricatured by US major media more regularly than most as a consequence, in part, of US foreign policy. The diplomatic outreaches undertaken by the Obama administration in December 2014, and the positive responses of the Cuban government launched a period of open-ended transition. The twists and turns of that transition now taking place under the Trump administration will provide our students with much food for thought and for pondering about the near future.

Students will learn about the culture and the characteristics of the Cuban people and the extraordinary historical episodes that set it apart from the rest of the hemisphere. That history has served to inspire or to frighten Cuba’s neighbors, particularly its nearest neighbor to the North.

Cuba was among the last of the Western Hemisphere countries to win independence from Spain. And it was in part because such independence was largely nominal, hegemony having passed to the United States, that Cuba in 1959 began to experience one of the most thorough-going revolutions the modern world had seen. Moreover, Cuba has held onto its revolutionary profile long after most other governments so assembled have abandoned revolutionary rhetoric as well as revolutionary inclusiveness.

Contrary to images often conveyed, Cuba is not isolated. Its government is not teetering; nor is its economy autarkic, frozen in time. But the revolution is nevertheless in jeopardy. Even if it were possible to clone Fidel Castro, it would not be possible to clone the historical context that opened for him and other Cuban revolutionaries a window of opportunity – not just to seize a government, but to redefine its role. These and other aspects of the Cuban reality can begin to be understood only with sandals on the ground.

Spring 2018 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

To apply see Carolyn Meyer.

The territory of the fractured former state of Yugoslavia will be the site for this 2 or 4 credit hour course offered by Professor Black over Spring Break, March 17-25, 2018. In addition to the 9 days onsite in Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia, plus 2 days for arrival and departure*, the course will also comprise several pre-and post-travel meetings on campus, including a final presentation of findings for the campus and local communities.

For a visitor in a relatively stable and peaceful Yugoslavia as I was in the seventies and eighties, a return in the nineties was shocking and scarcely believable. The shards of what had been the multinational state of Yugoslavia were strewn with displaced communities and broken families. Many individuals and couples were left wondering who they were in regions where ethnic identify was a matter of life and death. The Balkans had come to be identified with phrases resurrected or newly introduced into the vocabulary of large-scale conflict – phrases like ethnic cleansing, ancient hatreds, . . . rape, and crimes against humanity.

To be sure, the reign of Tito, rising out of the ruble of World War II engaged in a balancing act between East and West, had its elements of authoritarianism. But the essential theme of his rule was the cultivation of unity among the various republics, religions, and language groups. Statesmanship called for consolidating resources in order to serve the basic needs of all sectors while security for the state and his government required the armaments and armies to maintain order.

The course itself will be limited to 15 students. Enrollment for one credit or auditing may also be possible, but only after full-credit students have been admitted. In numbers dependent on accommodations available as booking time approaches, alumni will also be welcome as well as members of the MIIS faculty or staff. The course will be open to all MIIS schools and programs. There are no prerequisites, but priority is given to students from the DPP (IPD & MPA) program and to students who have prior immersive study or experience in the cultivation of development, human rights, or conflict resolution.
Full participation in scheduled events onsite and on campus is expected. Along with the presentations to take place toward the end of spring term, the course “deliverables” may take any of several forms but must represent a serious undertaking with respect to research and analysis. Students are urged, in particular, to make good use of the opportunities to engage in primary research – in this case, to draw upon interviews, lectures, and discussions onsite. It is assumed that individual students will have somewhat differing research interests, but all will be expected to contemplate and address in their projects topics relating to: the causes of conflict and means of prevention; the processes of peace-making and peace-building; the reconciliation of adversaries and the reweaving of social fabric; and/or the means and meanings of implanting a sustainable peace.

Special arrangements will be made for students for whom class schedules might necessitate arrivals a day late or departures a day early.

Our co-sponsoring organization will be Altravistas, an NGO having considerable experience in the Balkans and a deep commitment to peace-building.

Cost estimates for individual accommodations and travel onsite in the Balkans, assuming double rooms and up to 15 students, amount to $2875; however the price is expected to drop as we anticipate 20 or more travelers. A syllabus with a comprehensive itinerary and a suggested reading list will be posted soon. As the list of prospective participants grows, we will pass along cost reassessment updates and practical travel tips.

Spring 2018 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

Dr. Black had earlier careers in music and art, with which she recently reengaged as collaborator with her husband on composition of musical comedies. In general, though, her career and her life have centered on understanding, teaching, and engaging in the power game to promote the public interest and the protection of human rights. She urges her students to immerse themselves in the communities whose challenges they seek to understand. To that end, she has been offering onsite courses in Cuba since the 1990s, in Chile since 2009, and more recently in Iran, Bhutan, and the Balkans.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD in International Studies, American University
  • MA in Latin American Studies, School of International Service, American University
  • B.A. in Art and Spanish, University of Tennessee

Professor Black has been teaching at the Institute since 1991.


Professor Black is author, editor, or co-author of more than two dozen books and author of more than 200 chapters or articles in anthologies, encyclopedias, journals, magazines and newspapers. Recent books include Inequity in the Global Village, Development in Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. rev, The Politics of Human Rights Protection, and Latin America, Its Problems and Its Promise, 5th ed. rev.

News Feed