Category: Academia (page 1 of 9)

The emperor has no clothes moment for realism

Earlier this month the Washington Post ran a piece detailing increased efforts by Charles Koch’s eponymous foundation (hereafter CKF) to fund foreign policy programs in the United States (h/t to Josh for posting to Twitter). Notwithstanding one’s perspective on the Koch brothers’ politics, increased money for academia is a good thing, right? And all the CKF wants is to “ask questions about America’s proper role in the world and how we move forward”…to ‘broaden the debate’ about US foreign policy. All noble aims, and so I am sure the CKF is distributing money to institutions large and small to give faculty opportunities to take students on study abroad programs, bring in policymakers and thinkers to foster discussion, and other mechanisms to provoke reflection and debate.

Except, by all appearances, the CKF is not doing these things. Continue reading

Pondering Planet Politics: A Response to Peltonen

I was fascinated by a brilliantly written, and well-thought out, guest post here on Duck, by Hannes Peltonen, posted over the weekend. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you won’t be disappointed. Peltonen presents an argument that digs into recent debates about the seemingly ubiquitous “anthropocene” and its relationship to world politics—and particularly the ways that IR theory should approach issues relating to humankind’s interconnectedness with natural/planetary processes.

I’d like to take the opportunity to engage with Peltonen’s argument, with an eye toward extending the discussion into a few new directions. Specifically, I think the issue of the anthropocene paints an even grimmer picture for the future of IR.

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The ultimate guide to stop procrastination

I must confess. I have not been very productive this last month in the Duck of Minerva. I have been thinking about the topic for my next post and postponing it “till tomorrow”.  I have been procrastinating. Procrastination comes from the Latin pro, meaning “forward, forth, or in favor of,” and crastinus, meaning “of tomorrow”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines procrastination as a postponement, “often with the sense of deferring though indecision, when early action would have been preferable,” or as “defer[ing] action, especially without good reason.” According to psychologist Pychyl, procrastination is fundamentally a visceral, emotional reaction to what you have to do and that you consider hard, boring or overwhelming. Continue reading

The Book Nook: The Authority Trap: Strategic Choices of International NGOs

Our second Bridging the Gap Book Nook entry comes from Sarah Stroup of Middlebury College and Wendy Wong of the University of Toronto, who discuss their new book The Authority Trap: Strategic Choices of International NGOs (Cornell, 2017).

Writing in Exile: A Belated Birthday Card

“In the first place, we don’t like to be called ‘refugees’.” ~Hannah Arendt

This past weekend was a weekend full of birthdays. Hannah Arendt’s 111th birthday fell on Saturday (October 14th), and—in an interesting coincidence—Michel Foucault and Friedrich Nietzsche share a birthday (October 15th). I teach and write about Foucault and Arendt, and there is a Nietzschean spirit in both, though Arendt’s engagement with his work ended abruptly with her death.

In honor of all three, I want to make some notes—sketches really—of what it means to write in exile, and, by extension, to teach in exile. I take this term from an excellent edited volume put together by the dramaturgist Marc Robinson titled Altogether Elsewhere: Writers on Exile, in which Arendt’s obscure 1943 article, “We Refugees” was reprinted. The volume collects essays from a variety of expatriate authors writing about the experience of writing about the trials, joys, and oddities of writing from a place “altogether elsewhere.”

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National Security Generalists and Learning the Lessons From Lost Wars

A friend posted this piece on facebook: “Why Nerds Should Not Be In Charge of War.”  It draws from the new PBS Vietnam War documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick to argue that it happened because of the prominent role played by “generalists.”  Yes, Robert McNamara and his gang of Whiz Kids are mighty arrogant, and they have much blame to share for the war.  Indeed, McNamara, unlike certain other arrogant former SecDefs, has spent the time since trying to grapple with what he had wrought.  There is something to the idea that we need folks involved who are regional experts.  Indeed, there has been much debate about whether we political scientists did area studies wrong by insisting on generalizable theory and advanced methods.

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Teaching about Death and Violence: Thoughts from a Professor Who Calls Nevada Home

After the horrific attack in Las Vegas on Sunday, 1 October, the question of knowledge should be key to our understanding of this event. What do we know? What can we recall? The first thing that comes to mind is likely numbers, statistics, values attributed to life. We know now that the death toll is at 59. The injured number 527. The killer had 18 guns at his home. He shot from the 32nd floor at a rate of 400-800 rounds per minute (6-13 rounds per second). We know numbers.

Surely, this quantification of death gives us important information, but what does it do in regards to the way we relate to violence? Does it make us conceptualize mass shootings as just another data point, as a blip on a graph? Does it help us establish trends? My own experience with this shooting is different than most. I grew up in Las Vegas; I lived there for twenty years. My closest friends live there. Half of my family still lives there. Monday was a day of terror for me. Much of the day was spent texting or calling friends to make sure they were safe, seeing frantic posts on social media from friends trying to locate family that had not checked in yet.

My heart sank at seeing the news that someone I knew from my high school class was killed in the shooting.

Numbers could not capture my experience, or my friends’ experiences, or the experiences of the victims, the families, and onlookers. In a broader way, this raises an important question about how scholars in the fields of political studies, international studies, and cognate fields teach about death and violence.

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The Poverty of Style in IR

As one of the new Ducks, I will from now on be posting diversely on a range of topics including political violence, the status of critique in IR, and professional issues that will be of particular interest to early career scholars and PhD students. For my first post, however, I want to write about the style of writing IR and/or Political Science. This is something that has troubled me for some time now and on which – I think – I depart slightly from the mainstream view of things.

To begin, let me quote the author’s ‘style’ guidelines for the ISA journal International Studies Quarterly:

  • Favor short, declarative sentences. If it is possible to break up a sentence into constituent clauses, then you most likely should do so.
  • Avoid unnecessary jargon. Define, either explicitly or contextually, necessary jargon.
  • Favor active voice, the simple past and present, and action verbs.

Favoring ‘clarity’ and ‘accessibility,’ the guidelines go onto state that “it is unreasonable to require readers and reviewers to read many pages into a manuscript before encountering its basic claims. It is unrealistic to expect that readers and reviewers are skilled in Kabbalah and therefore able to decode esoteric writing.”

These basic words of guidance are common across journals in IR and in the advice we give to our students, the reviews we write of articles, and the words we ourselves attempt to write. We seek to be clear. To the point. To report what we want to say and nothing more. This is the dominant ‘style’ of IR today.

I want to argue that the too-rigid enforcement of this Anglo-Saxon writing style creates problems for IR and – in fact – impoverishes its diversity, enjoyment, and ultimately its relevance to the world in several ways.

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The Book Nook: The CIA and the Politics of US Intelligence Reform

Today we begin the Bridging the Gap “Book Nook,” a series of short videos describing new books by scholars in the BTG network. For the first entry, our very own Brent Durbin discusses his book, The CIA and the Politics of US Intelligence Reform (Cambridge, 2017).

(We hope to do a bunch of these, and we would welcome any thoughts on how to improve the format!)

Decolonizing IR: A Response to Gilley

The past week has seen a boiling-over of controversy regarding a publication by Bruce Gilley entitled “The Case for Colonialism,” appearing in the journal Third World Quarterly, leading some to even begin petitions to the journal to retract. As of the writing of this post, the journal has not retracted the article.

In this post, I would like to reflect on this piece as both a part of a scholarly conversation: showing how its claims are the result of poor methodology, a bad reading of the existing literature on colonialism in political science and other fields, and a general glossing-over of a wide literature on post-colonial theory. If I had reviewed this piece, it would have received a hard “reject” recommendation. Perhaps more importantly, I’d like to reflect briefly at the end of this post on what this piece as a textual artifact tells us about political science’s—and particularly IR’s—colonial present. This is certainly, in my view, the most disturbing aspect of the article.

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Bridging the Gap at the Duck

This inaugural post from our partners at Bridging the Gap is written by Naazneen Barma and Brent Durbin, who will be coordinating contributions from BTG’s network of scholars.

Take a moment to think back to college – or whenever you decided to pursue the path that has brought you here, reading about world politics and sundry related topics on the Duck of Minerva. What set you on this path? What made you want to devote years of your life to studying politics, perhaps even through formal graduate training? If you’re like us, you looked out and saw a puzzling and imperfect world, and you wanted to develop the tools to understand it more clearly. Perhaps, in the heady confidence of your youth, you even wanted to make it a better place.

As graduate students in political science at UC Berkeley in the early 2000s, we found ourselves hungry for opportunities to tie our studies to policymaking and the “real world.” Both of us had come to Berkeley from Washington, DC, and we wanted to find ways to connect to our old networks, as well as to parlay our research into new policy opportunities. In the first few years of our PhD studies, it wasn’t obvious that this would be possible.

Then two things happened.First, we discovered a group of like-minded students at Berkeley who, under the guidance of Steve Weber, would begin the work that has evolved into the Bridging the Gap project. And second, we found that there were many in the discipline who felt the same way – even if they couldn’t always tell their colleagues or advisors about it. One important marker of this community was the emergence of the Duck of Minerva in 2005, which introduced a new channel for conversation among others like ourselves.

We’re thrilled to join the Duck this fall as editors of a new “Bridging the Gap” channel. (Special thanks to Josh Busby for proposing this idea, and to the other editors for welcoming us aboard.) As Josh mentioned in his introductory post, Bridging the Gap (BTG) is an effort to build stronger connections between scholars and the policy world, both by providing professional development and networking opportunities, and by generating policy-relevant research. Continue reading

Swan Song – For Now

In some sense, it is with a heavy heart that I write my last permanent contributor blog post at the Duck.  I’ve loved being with the Ducks these past years, and I’ve appreciated being able to write weird, often off the track from mainstream political science, blogs.   If any of you have followed my work over the years, you will know that I sit at an often-uncomfortable division between scholarship and advocacy.  I’ve been one of the leading voices on lethal autonomous weapon systems, both at home in academia, but also abroad at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and advising various states’ governments and militaries.  I’ve also been thinking very deeply over the last few years about how the rise, acceptance and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) in both peacetime and wartime will change our lives.  For these reasons, I’ve decided to leave academia “proper” and work in the private sector for one of the leading AI companies in the world.  This decision means that I will no longer be able to blog as freely as I have in the past.   As I leave, I’ve been asked to give a sort of “swan song” for the Duck and those who read my posts.  Here is what I can say going forward for the discipline, as well as for our responsibilities as social scientists and human beings.

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Monday Morning Linkage

As one of the new Ducks, I’m linking to bits and pieces catching my eye/getting me thinking for the first time this morning. Enjoy!

Academia

Handy guidance on ‘how to get rid of your fake academic self’ supplied by David Berliner.

APSA

I wasn’t at APSA but John Yoo put in a controversial appearance along with the iconic orange jumpsuit and a barrage of protesters. See APSA members’ letter against the appearance and APSA’s response (and let’s never forget the Torture Memos).

.. & the award for the best #APSA2017 tweet goes to @mia_iris_costa!

Cuba-US Relations

New kind of attack alert: this time it’s sonic and 19 US Diplomats ‘suffered mild brain injuries and permanent hearing loss.’

Fake News: Mayanmar 

Aid donors withdraw as distressing images from other conflicts and disasters are used to intensify violence against Rohingyas in Rakhine state. (via Jessica Auchter)

High Heels, Heroes, and Hurricane Harvey

We’ve seen the pictures but this from  is by far the most thought provoking analysis I’ve read. Seriously considering using it as a teaching material/discussion article during post-structuralism week (students: you have been warned).

‘…instead of being a supporting presence in the president’s trip to survey flood damage, Melania became the star and the trip morphed into a simulacrum, a kind of Vogue shoot “simulating” a president’s trip. In other words, the realness of everyone and everything else (including hurricane victims) faded and the evacuated blankness of the commercial overtook the scene.’

In other Harvey news, this image went viral – working to reproduce, reinforce, and for some ‘prove’ so called truths about gender. Even Save the Children – renowned for their commitment to gender equality – appropriated the image for the purpose of promoting their Harvey fundraising efforts. Such are the power and value of gender normativity.

Hot off the press 

What’s the point of International Relations? Good question/title Synne Dyvik, Jan Selby, and Rorden Wilkison!

‘Merica

Is T. Swift a product and embodiment of Trump-era politics? Mark Harris thinks so, and I’m inclined to agree. After all, as Paul Kirby argues in Sept 2017’s International Studies Review , ‘politics is found in cultural artefacts.’

Oops I almost forgot to mention, DPRK have carried out the sixth test of what is claimed to have been a thermonuclear device  (although,according to David Walsh, it might actually just (!) have been a boosted-fission weapon). Measuring 6.3 in magnitude and with tremors felt as far away as Vladivostok, the device tested was of the variety capable of being mounted on to an ICBM, had an expected yield of 100 kilotons (9.8 times bigger than the one tested last year/4-5 times bigger than Fat Man), and I’m going to have to stop now and link to the ever relevant Carol Cohn.

Have a great day!

Welcome to New Guest Ducks!

We are pleased to welcome some new guest Ducks, including an exciting new partnership.  We also are pleased that guest bloggers, Lisa Gaufman,  Jeff Stacey, Jeremy Youde, and Will Winecoff will continue to blog for the Duck. We wanted to thank all the guest bloggers who contributed last year including Maryam Deloffre, Alexis Henshaw, Charles Martel, Raul Pacheco-Vega, and Mira Sucharov.

Our first guest is a little different than the others. We are excited to partner with Bridging the Gap to leverage their network of policy-relevant scholars to write for the Duck periodically. So, under the mantle and icon of Bridging the Gap, you will see posts from a variety of authors this fall. Naazneen Barma and Brent Durbin will take the lead on the column on behalf of the Bridging the Gap directorship, which also includes Jim Goldgeier, Bruce Jentleson, Jordan Tama, and Steve Weber.  Jim by the way wrote a fabulous post for us last week with guidance for junior scholars on tenure track.

For those unfamiliar with their training workshops for faculty and graduate students, Bridging the Gap promotes scholarly contributions to public debate and decision making on global challenges and U.S. foreign policy. BtG equips professors and doctoral students with the skills they need to produce influential policy-relevant research and theoretically grounded policy work. They also spearhead cutting-edge research on problems of concrete importance to governments, think tanks, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, and global firms. Within the academy, BtG is driving changes in university culture and processes designed to incentivize public and policy engagement.

We also have  a fantastic line of individual guest contributors to announce. These include:

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Should APSA and ISA have a “No Manels” Rule?

The Financial Times just announced guidance that there will no longer be all male panels — manels — at any FT or partner events. It made me think whether APSA or ISA should adopt a similar policy.

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Preparing Files for Reappointment and Tenure: Some Sharp Guidance

This is a guest post by James Goldgeier,  Professor of International Relations and former Dean at the School of International Service at American University, building on a twitter thread that addressed tenure and reappointment and the narratives people write that go into their packages.

At many universities, the end of summer marks the beginning of the internal review process for faculty on the tenure track. (Most departments and schools sent condensed faculty files out for external review earlier.)  Some scholars have two reappointment reviews before coming up for tenure, usually in their second and fourth years; others have just one, coming at some point during the third year. Typically, faculty members in their sixth year are reviewed for tenure.

Having served as dean of an international affairs school for six years and as a tenured faculty member in a political science department at another university for many years before that, I have seen a lot of reappointment and tenure files.  And I can tell you, a strong and clear narrative from the candidate makes an enormous difference in the review, particularly as the file works its way up the university process to people less and less familiar with the candidate’s field.

While a file typically contains sections on scholarship, teaching and service, I focus this post on the first.  This section is where candidates define their research for their senior colleagues, the dean, the university committee and the provost (and in the case of tenure files, the external reviewers).  The narrative explains who the main audiences for the work are, the nature of the work (including theory, methods, and empirics) and the contribution of the work to the candidate’s field(s).  If your work is co-authored (and expectations of colleagues regarding single author or co-authored work will vary by field), explain clearly your contribution.

For those candidates up for reappointment on the tenure track, despite the high likelihood of a successful review, do not treat this process as a pro forma exercise.  This is the first time you will be introducing your work to many of your departmental or school colleagues and especially to the higher-ups.  Particularly at places that do a second-year review, much of your work may be in progress rather than already published, and this is especially true for books. What matters most at the time of reappointment is your trajectory: how are you revising the work you did for your dissertation (whether articles or a book and/or articles) and do you have a sense of what your next project(s) will be?  If you’ve had a major journal publication or a book in galleys or published already, great.

In your reappointment review(s), do not be cavalier about your future work.  You want to demonstrate your ambition, but be realistic. Good faculty, dean, and provost reappointment review memos will lay out clear expectations regarding what you should have accomplished by the time of your tenure review; read these carefully!  These memos will likely be put in the tenure file for those reviewers to reread at that later time.  They will look to see what they said they expected, and those expectations will stem in part from what you said you would do.  If you said in your reappointment narrative you expected a contract for your second book by the time of tenure review, and they repeat that expectation in their memos, they will expect to see that contract in your tenure file. (More on typical expectations for tenure below.)

A major piece of the tenure file, if not THE major piece, is the external reviews. Most places want senior scholars from peer or aspirational schools, and since most internal readers of the file, especially at the dean, university committee and provost levels, will not be experts in your field, they will take strong cues from those external reviewers.  (And it has to be said: many faculty colleagues will substitute reading the external reviews for reading the actual work.)

Start thinking early in the tenure track about the leading figures in your field who can serve this external review role.  Most universities will only exclude reviewers who have obvious conflicts of interest: family members, co-authors, members of your dissertation committee, departmental colleagues.  Your goal early in the tenure track is to get out to conferences and get your work known. Being on a panel with a senior scholar (and writing a good conference paper and presenting it well!) can pay off later.  I’ve had junior faculty from other universities seek me out for coffee at conferences; I see it as win-win: I learn what interesting young scholars are doing, and they’ve got me primed to do a letter later.

If reviewers know of your work, they will already have some idea of its impact.  Reviewers are also more likely to accept the task if they know of your work because they won’t be starting from scratch. Remember, they are getting multiple requests each summer, so they have lots of incentive to say no.  And an external reviewer who is in your field and has never heard of you but accepts the task out of a sense of duty is a wild card.  Whenever I read an external letter that begins with, “I had never heard of candidate X or read her work until now,” I am usually holding my breath for what follows.

The list of external reviewers is usually drawn both from the list you provide and a list that senior colleagues in your department/school put forward.  Many colleagues will offer informal advice to you as you put together your list.  And most universities will allow you to name senior scholars in the field whom you believe are unable to be objective; use this opportunity sparingly and be able to provide a serious reason.  Don’t provide a long list of people you are scared of; you really want to make sure your department takes seriously your belief that scholar X would for ideological or methodological reasons be a poor choice.

For both reappointment and tenure narratives, you will need to provide measures for scholarly impact. Typically, citations are the most helpful, but make sure you list any awards, grants (these are increasingly important at many places), reviews of your work, journal impact factors, and, for book writers, standing of the publisher.  In fields with low journal impact factors, add other metrics to show the quality of the venue. If your work appears on the syllabi of scholars at leading institutions, provide that too if you have space.

While faculty colleagues may talk in terms of “meeting the bar,” many internal reviewers, including your dean and provost, will likely view tenure not as a bar to hurdle, but a point at which to judge both past performance and future trajectory.  No dean or provost wants to tenure someone whose best work is behind them.  At most top research universities, expectations are based on the quality and impact of the completed first project (usually the dissertation manuscript or papers) and what the reviewers can see of the second. You want enough progress on the second for colleagues and higher-ups to have great confidence in future impact. Are there peer-reviewed articles out yet for the second project or at least book chapters and maybe an advance contract (not necessary but can be a helpful signal) if the second project is a book? (And if something lands or you win an award during the review process, add it in!)  The university is making a bet on your future contributions to the field and thus to the quality of the university faculty, so help them see how excited they should be about granting you tenure.

If your work has policy relevance or broader public impact, include it.  Public engagement cannot substitute for the lack of academic impact, but the dean and provost in particular will see this type of work as a positive addition. Through our Carnegie Corporation of New York-funded Bridging the Gap project and work done by fellow grantees in this area, I hope we will be able to develop better metrics for policy relevance and public engagement that candidates will be able to include down the road.  We’re working on it!

Always keep in mind throughout the process: you are your best advocate.  Through your narrative, you are defining who you are as a scholar and why your department or school is lucky to have you.  Your goal is not just to have a successful review but to make them start worrying about how they will retain you.

Calling New Ducks

As the fall semester approaches, we’re looking for a few good Ducks. We’d like to bring on a new slate of guest Duck bloggers to continue to bring IR-related insights to bear on important real world problems, to explore important debates in the academy, and to do some professional introspection.

We’re especially keen on having gender balance and increasing representation of voices from beyond North America and other important perspectives.

Here is the general policy for guests and our wider set of policies (such as they are).

Guest Bloggers: Guest Bloggers get posting privileges for a period and a temporary place on the masthead. We invite IR specialists with a PhD, some active policy or area studies interests, and a penchant for online writing to apply for regular guest blogging stints at the Duck. Guest bloggers should be prepared to post at least 200-500 words, at least once a week, in their area of expertise. Stints generally rotate after a semester or so, but are renewable if we like your work! If you are past graduate school and would like to join us for awhile, send any of the permanent contributors a letter of interest and we’ll get back to you shortly.

Some folks might post a little less frequently but write a bit more per post. Please email me or any of the other permanent members with a note of interest. If you have some creative ideas for new content or multi-media/podcasts, we’re open to new ventures to build in to the blog as well.

Two legs or One. It has nothing to do with planets- just pants.

Sometimes when we look for a rallying call to join us as humans around a common cause or to show us our equal vulnerability, we say  these trite sayings like “ Common-sense says that all men put their pants on one leg at a time.” This is supposed to reassure us that we are all equal in the most “animalistic” of ways (because you know, animals wear pants).

Here is the problem and the reality though: I cannot buy jeans that are not skinny jeans… shocking. What does that mean for the one-leg mantra? Well… as a woman- and a woman living in a world that tells most women that they have to be attractive… I can’t actually help but buy skinny jeans. SO! How do I—as feminist, as subject, as object—put my pants on? Truth be told… I put them on TWO LEGS at a time.

Where does this pseudo rant come from? From watching the decline of subtle thinking about gender, sex, and equality.  After witnessing the tweet storm from President Trump about the ban on transgender military service, I think it is equally high time that we encourage reflection on all of the ways in which we as a society privilege a particular way of thinking about what is “normal.”  For as Foucault teaches us, what is “normal” is merely the norm of behavior that coerces us into acting according to someone else’s standards.  We self-censure because we want to be acceptable to the rest of society.  We coerce ourselves into being something that we are not, merely for the approval or the acceptance by the rest.

It is not merely women that face this same fate, but men as well.   Sex and gender become ropes in which we bind ourselves.   Thus when we start to insist that all men ought to X, and all women ought to Y, we force a particular world view on those whose lives sit at intersections.  Intersectionality, heterogeneity, and diversity are actually what produces progress.   Beyond the brute fact that this sort of diversity allows for physical evolution of a species, we should also acknowledge that it produces beauty.  As Plato reminds us that democracy is the “most beautiful” of all constitutions, like a “many colored cloak” because it has the most diverse population of people, so too does diversity of roles, tastes, pursuits, and genders in our society.  Gender is not binary, though we see it most clearly when we put them in opposition.  Gender is a practice, a performance, and a social construct.  To prohibit or to “ban” a gender from a job is not only a violation of one’s basic rights to freedom of expression and speech, but to undercut the basic values upon which this country was founded.

So the next time someone wants to say “men are from mars, women are from venus,” or that “we all put our pants on one leg at a time,” I hope that you reflect on the fact that these seemingly innocuous tropes shackle us.  For it is not true that sex determines how one thinks or acts.  It is not true that all humans put their pants on one leg at a time.  Nope, I, as a woman who identifies with femininity, try to buy jeans that fit me in a feminine way.  But due to some interesting choices by society, that is by men and women in the majority, some pants force us to sit down, and put our pants on two legs at a time.

 

In Memorium: Peter Berger (1929-2017)

In a 2014 interview, Nick Onuf argued that IR has lost coherence as a field and should instead be considered “as a species of social relations and [to] abandon IR theory for social theory.” Were that to be the case, the work of Peter Berger would certainly contend for space at the top of the list of required reading.

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