Month: August 2018

Political Science Association Draws Ire for Honoring Condoleeza Rice

In the run-up to the American Political Science Association Conference in Boston this week, some political scientists are protesting the award of the Hubert Humphrey prize to former National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. The award, which includes a cash prize of $1,000, is given each year “in recognition of notable public service by a political scientist.”

Rice earned her PhD in political science from University of Denver and  served in the diplomatic corps and national security establishment under Presidents Carter, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. – notably, as National Security Advisor during George W. Bush’s first term and Secretary of State during his second. A press release from APSA published on PSNow states that “Dr. Rice’s career exemplifies the contributions that political scientists can make to public as well as academic life.”

The choice of Rice for this award is controversial because of her association with the Bush Administration’s human rights violations in the early war on terror. Continue reading

The most frequently used ranking of IR journals is heterogeneous

This is a guest post by Andreas Pacher who initiated the Observatory of International Relations (OOIR), a website which tracks Political Science and IR journals to continually list their latest papers. Follow OOIR on Twitter: @ObserveIR.

You may have noticed that the Impact Factors of IR journals are sometimes followed by a statement that it ranks “nth out of 85 journals in the category ‘International Relations’”. For instance, International Organization ranks “1st out of 85 journals in the category ‘International Relations’”, while Alternatives ranks “76 out of 85 journals in the category ‘International Relations’” (in 2017 rankings).

The ranking and categorization are based on Web of Science’s Journal Citation Reports. Now, have you ever wondered about the composition of this category which allegedly comprises 85 IR journals? At a closer look, one finds a club of scholarly journals from various issue areas – from a multitude of academic disciplines whose cultures follow different publication paces and citation patterns, making them qualitatively distinct entities. In other words, the ranking is heterogeneous. Does it not raise the question whether it compares the incomparable? Continue reading

Civilian Self-Protection: What Civilians Do in War When Help is Hard to Find

This is a guest post by Betcy Jose and Peace Media. Betcy Jose is Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver.  She tweets @betcyj.  Peace A. Medie is a Research Fellow in the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy at the University of Ghana. She tweets @PeaceMedie.  Their work on civilian self-protection can be found here and here.

On July 25, 2018, DAESH launched a surprising and brutal 12 hour offensive in Sweida, Syria, killing more than 200 people through a series of suicide attacks and door-to-door raids. The attack was notable not only because this predominantly Druze area had largely been spared much of the Syrian war’s violence, but also because it signaled that DAESH still had some fight left in it despite the relentless effort by the United States and others to decimate its ranks.

Initial reports largely focused their analyses on whether the Sweida attack indicated a resurgence of DAESH and what impact it would have on the region’s geopolitics and the Syrian war.  Receiving less attention was how the residents of Sweida valiantly tried to protect themselves during this onslaught.  As the attack unfolded, some of the local youth and militia took up arms to defend their villages.  Local writer Osama Abu Dikar recounted, “In the beginning, the attack took us by surprise, but the heroic youth of Sweida rallied quickly in the centre of town and the villages that Daesh had attacked.  These local fighters with basic capabilities fought real battles against [DAESH].”

These wartime civilian-driven protection efforts are examples of civilian self-protection (CSP).  CSP is not unique to Sweida.  As long as war has raged, civilians have sought to protect themselves.  Often this is because their own governments or humanitarian actors cannot or will not protect them.  For example, in the case of Sweida, no government troops were around to protect the locals; hence the need for them to take up arms in self-defense.  And far too many times, the very actors charged with protecting civilians are the ones who perpetrate harms against them. Continue reading

The Academic’s Dilemma: Being a Good Citizen and Managing Time

Tis the season for academic navel gazing so here are some things I’ve learned the hard way. This is primarily a piece for folks on the tenure track. I know that I come at this from a position of immense privilege as a tenured professor at an R1, layered by being a white guy. I know that some of the advice I’m going to give won’t be all that helpful to folks in more vulnerable positions as adjunct faculty, but I still think this advice needs to be said for new tenure track faculty. I hope others find it useful.

Jealously Guard Your Time
You are low man or woman on the totem pole. There will be many demands on your time. New course preps. Departmental meetings, committees. Hopefully, senior faculty will be looking out for you and try to shield you from more onerous tasks, but don’t count on it. You might need to say no, though might not feel like you are in a position to say no. Continue reading

What Makes a Good Book Review: Some Editorial Advice

The following is a guest post by Andrew Owsiak, Associate Professor at the University of Georgia and Book Editor for International Studies Review. 

The race to push scholarly research into the world carries a few consequences, perhaps the most notable being that it proves challenging to stay up-to-date with what is published. To help with this, some journals, for example International Studies Review[1], publish reviews of recently released, scholarly books. These reviews offer great sources of information–to those wishing to remain abreast of current trends, seeking to incorporate relevant work into their own research output, and wanting to incorporate the latest studies into their classrooms. The value of this information, however, depends largely on how the reviewer writes his review. A reader who finds herself mired in jargon has no context in which to understand the review, while one facing only a series of generalities loses grasp of what the book is about.[2]

Mindful of the reader’s plight, I will offer some advice for those writing book reviews. I do this for two reasons. First, book review authors are often—although not exclusively—junior scholars with less publishing experience. As an editor, I enjoy seeing this. Book reviews can be a great, low-stakes (~1,000 words), point-of-entry into the publishing world. It familiarizes authors with the submission, editorial, and decision process, often without introducing the peer-review component. It also allows them to enter a dialogue with more established scholars (i.e., the book authors). Yet if we are to be fair to those writing the books, to the review authors, and to the readers of book reviews, it behooves us to offer review authors guidance about what a book review should and (probably) should not contain. How will they know otherwise? And this leads to my second motivation: nobody, to my knowledge, provides this advice comprehensively elsewhere.[3]

Before I continue, let me offer a couple caveats. First and foremost, I do not pretend to hold all the answers about what journals want book reviews to contain. I have, however, solicited, monitored, read, and issued decisions on a fair number of book reviews in conjunction with other members of our editorial team. This experience allows me to see some general trends, and I wish to speak to and about those—to increase the chances that a submitting author’s book review will be accepted (ultimately) for publication. I necessarily assume that the trends I see—and therefore, the advice I offer—remain applicable at other journals who publish book reviews, although I do not speak for them. Second, following the advice below will, I expect, increase an author’s chances of successfully publishing a book review, but it will not guarantee it. The stochastic component of the publication process always operates. In addition, different authors will succeed at following the advice to varying degrees. All this is to say that I want to be held blameless for individual publication results.

Having said all this, here is my advice:

Continue reading

(The ultimate) Trump Tweet Bingo

Following the Trump administration is really tiring. And I’m not talking about the last two years — it’s a challenge to survive single weeks of their news cycle. Hell, a Friday afternoon is already taxing. That is why over here in Europe we’re very careful about checking headlines and Twitter Friday night. The outrage at the next fecal storm would keep you up better than a crying baby/ thoughts on the upcoming semester/deadline [insert your trigger]. The White House scandal diapering, however, is extremely predictable. No collusion, Hillary, fake news, Fox and friends, random capitalization and an abundance of grammatical mistakes, which are the typical ingredients making up the diarrhea stream, which flows unabated from the presidential Twitter account. Back in April, Morning Joe even came up with the presidential Twitter bingo but they didn’t do so well. So here is the ultimate Trump tweet bingo card that is based on his last 3000 tweets, which – from his regal, gold-plated porcelain throne – he unceremoniously defecated onto the global public space.

Continue reading

No reading list is perfectly inclusive. Here’s one small step I’ve learned to address that.

This is a guest post from Zoe Marks. Zoe Marks is currently Director of the Global Development Academy at the University of Edinburgh and Program Director of the MSc in African Studies; in September 2018, she will join the faculty at Harvard Kennedy School. Her research focuses on peace and conflict, gender, and inequality and has been published in various outlets, including African Affairs and Civil Wars.

As Steve Saideman wrote here last week, August is a time of dashed summer dreams, finding consolation in looming stability, and scrambling to get syllabi in order for the new academic year. Whether you are a new or seasoned professor, August is rarely a time to “perfect your class”. However, in the name of progress-not-perfection, I also try to remember that August is no time to forsake rigor and inclusivity in course design. Good intentions aren’t enough to address race, class, and gender biases in research and teaching.

An impressive — and sobering — array of academic research has emphasized the need to change the status quo in order to equitably publish, cite, recognize and reward women and non-white academics, colleagues in the Global South, and researchers from other marginalized and underrepresented groups. If you are one of the growing numbers of faculty trying to tackle this, you have probably come to suspect that expanding your reading list is not a magic bullet. (Paulo Freire and bell hooks warned us.) As we start a new academic year (in the Northern hemisphere) and incorporate new authors and topics into our courses, one small change can be a shot-in-the-arm for more rigorous and inclusive teaching: simply require students to cite underrepresented scholars in their written work. Continue reading

Backlash and Stigma: Rethinking Restraint in the Age of Trump

This is a guest post from Eric Van Rythoven. Eric Van Rythoven recently finished his PhD at Carleton University studying emotion, world politics, and security. His work is published in Security Dialogue and European Journal of International Relations.

There is a recurring frustration among observers of the Trump administration that commentary easily becomes distracted. Stories about the Trump family’s everyday nepotism and corruption may be important in the context of a so-called ‘normal’ presidency, but these are small marbles when compared to the administration’s catastrophic performance at Helsinki or the odious policy of child separation. For many IR scholars the message is clear: don’t focus on Ivanka’s clothing line, focus on what matters.

But what if stories like the decline of Ivanka’s clothing brand matter more than we think? In isolation, these kinds of stories appear as inconsequential distractions. Taken together, they form a broader genre of reporting focused on the rising personal costs of serving under Trump. This genre of reporting is important because it points to two crucial political processes occurring around the Trump administration right at this moment: backlash and stigmatization. I want to suggest that scholars should not only think about how these processes are significant features of contemporary politics, but how they can inform how we think about restraint in the age of Trump. Continue reading

Advice for the New Professor

As August accelerates and academics panic as their summer dreams/plans meet the harsh reality that one usually does not get done all that they want to do, it is time to give unsolicited advice to the new folks.  For great advice on how to manage one’s mental and emotional well-being, see this thread.  I have some more tactical advice about expectations and getting through the first year, as I remember making the same mistake three times on the first day of teaching.

Continue reading

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