Category: Academia (page 1 of 10)

Pressing politics: #metoo and UK Universities

This is a guest post from Katharine A. M. Wright, a Lecturer in International Politics at Newcastle University. Her research focuses on gender and international security institutions, including NATO. In this blog posts she reflects on the issues raised by #metoo in relation to UK Universities. Follow her on Twitter @KAMWright.

This is the third post in a series on #metooacademia.

Sexual violence* is endemic and structurally imbedded in our higher education institutions. For those of us working on the ‘front line’ of the academy, this is increasingly difficult to ignore and never more so than for women in the academy. We hear stories from students and colleagues, about other students and other colleagues. As women in a disciplinary space where men are overrepresented, students and colleagues are more likely to seek us out and confide in us, placing an additional layer upon our responsibilities as scholars. This holds more true for women of colour. It has therefore felt perplexing for those of us who have been confided in to hear other colleagues question whether the University, and our discipline of IR more broadly, is a space impacted by the epidemic of sexual violence too. We are left wondering how ‘they’ cannot have seen it. In this blog post, I reflect on the institutional barriers to acknowledging sexual violence in Higher Education (HE) and link this to the personal cost of ‘complaint’. Continue reading

Pressing Politics Panel on the #Metoo Movement

This is a guest post from Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, F. Wendell Miller Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Iowa.

This is the second in the series on #metooacademia.

Like many female academics, I have experienced #Metoo moments. As a graduate student, I was invited to a visiting faculty member’s apartment expecting multiple people to be there. I found myself alone and being propositioned for sex. As a married assistant professor, a senior faculty member at a conference invited me to his room after we had been drinking together. In both cases, the professors respected my decision to say no to their propositions. As I began to advise more female students and faculty members, however, I noticed that my experiences were mild relative to what some of them experienced. Some of my students and colleagues were raped, some were assaulted or grabbed, while others were persistently harassed in a sexual manner. When my colleague, Arthur Miller, was accused of trading sexual favors for grades, an act that ultimately led to his suicide, my eyes became open to the broader dynamics of the #Metoo movement. Many students I advised were humiliated in my colleague’s office, facing a choice they should never experience. Some of my senior male colleagues knew about Art’s behavior which infuriated me. I didn’t initially post anything about the #Metoo movement because I felt that my experiences, while unpleasant on the harassment side, did not compare to students and colleagues who had been raped, assaulted, and placed into professionally inappropriate situations. Our discussions at the 2018 International Studies Association (ISA) conference, though, helped me to embrace my own place in the #Metoo movement. Continue reading

Pressing Politics: The #Metoo movement and the IR Discipline

This is guest post from Nina Hall, an Assistant Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins SAIS (tweets @ninawth) and Sarah von Billerbeck is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading (tweets @SvBillerbeck). The authors would like to thank the other Pressing Politics panel co-organizers: Christine Cheng (@cheng_christine), J. Andrew Grant (@jandrewgrant), and John Karlsrud (@johnkarlsrud). We hope to host another Pressing Politics panel at the 2019 annual convention on a topic ISA members deem most pressing.

This is the first post in a series on #metooacademia.

How an ISA Pressing Politics Panel Tackled #Metoo

The International Studies Association (ISA) annual convention is one of the largest academic conferences for International Relations scholars, it attracts approximately 6,000 attendees from all over the world each year. This year the ISA conference decided that the most pressing politics issue to discuss was the #metoo movement in academia. In an innovative roundtable, six panelists from India, Sweden, the US, Canada, and the UK, discussed how the #metoo movement affected them and the academics institutions to which they belong.

This panel was the first of its kind at ISA: a small group of us had worked with ISA to establish a Pressing Politics panel for which the topic was held open until approximately a month before the convention, after which members voted for the topic in an online poll. Our aim was for ISA members to select a pressing, recent, issue that had come up since participants had submitted their conference proposals. We wanted an issue that would not be discussed otherwise at ISA, but that needed academic attention.

Our inspiration for the panel came from the 2017 ISA annual convention, which took place in the aftermath of US President Donald Trump’s travel ban on individuals from several Muslim-majority countries. Numerous scholars were prevented from attending the ISA annual convention, which provoked outrage and some ended up boycotting the conference. For those who did attend, discussions in hotel lobbies and hallways and at receptions and post-panel happy hours focused heavily on the ban. This is hardly surprising among a group of individuals who dedicate themselves to better understanding how the international system works, where and when cooperation happens, and why relations between states are good or bad. However, because the deadline for submitting paper and panel proposals is approximately 10 months before the actual conference, there were no formal panels or other fora available to assess, analyze, and debate this late-breaking event, something that many found frustrating. We wanted to establish the tradition of at least one Pressing Politics panel at ISA, to ensure we as the academic community debate and engage with the major issues of our times. Continue reading

What We Learned at the Future Strategy Forum

This post in the Bridging the Gap series come from Sara Plana and Rachel Tecott, doctoral candidates in the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Sara is also an alumna of BtG’s New Era Workshop.) They are the founders of the Future Strategy Forum and co-organized the Future of Force conference held in May 2018. Follow them on Twitter @saracplana and @racheltecott.

Last month, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Kissinger Center at John Hopkins SAIS hosted a conference on the “Future of Force,” inaugurating a new series called the Future Strategy Forum. Like many DC conferences, the line-up featured a mix of preeminent academics, practitioners, and pracademics on discussion panels – but in this case, all of them were women. These experts discussed the implications of rising great and regional powers, non-state actors, and emerging technologies, and the approaches and challenges to crafting an integrated approach to US foreign policy. The final, keynote panel brought together women scholars (including us!) who have worked in both policymaking and academia, to investigate the academic-policy divide.

We left the day with much to think about, but four main themes struck us especially. Continue reading

Seven Reasons We Use Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI)

This is a guest post from Paul Musgrave, Assistant Professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and  Sebastian Karcher, Associate Director of the Qualitative Data Repository at Syracuse University.

Recently, the Qualitative Data Repository launched “Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI)” as a method to add transparency to scholarly research. ATI is a new approach to communicating scholarly evidence that employs electronic annotations to specific passages in scholarly articles—a sort of amped-up academic version of Genius.com’s annotations to song lyrics.

The goal of ATI is to facilitate future researchers’ work by enabling easier access to underlying data while enhancing research transparency by letting authors share specific justifications for interpretive or empirical judgments and linking them to the specific sections.

ATI builds upon but goes beyond Andrew Moravcsik’s proposal for active citation to include specific frameworks for data display, storage, and retrieval. QDR, partnering with the software nonprofit Hypothesis, is developing standards and software to support this initiative.

An initial nine sample annotated articles are now available, with more on the way. As part of this effort, QDR is currently soliciting applications to participate in a second round of pilot projects. Authors of selected projects will be invited to a workshop to help shape the future of ATI and receive a honorarium.

In this post, Paul Musgrave, whose annotated International Organization piece (co-authored with Dan Nexon) was one of the pilot articles, and Sebastian Karcher, one of ATI’s creators, reflect on some lessons from the first round of pilots.

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Climate and Security: Bridging the Policy-Academic Gap

In March, I argued that the connections between climate change and security are complex, contingent, and not fully understood.  Most of the academic literature has firmly focused on conflict onset with the broader security consequences largely understudied . For policy audiences, the nuance can be frustrating. It is difficult to know what to do with such complexity, other than talk broadly of climate change as a “threat multiplier.”

However, the policy community does not have the luxury of waiting for academics to reach some consensus on climate-conflict links that might never materialize. What’s more, they have other preoccupations other than conflict to worry about such as humanitarian emergencies, interstate jockeying over hydrocarbons freed up by melting Arctic ice, and people on the move for many reasons, climate among them. How can climate security academics who aspire for policy relevance seek to orient their work without compromising academic rigor?

This is the question I sought to address in remarks at a recent conference organized by the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO), which accompanied the public event at the Wilson Center I blogged about several weeks ago. Here are my thoughts on bridging the policy-academic divide on climate and security, which represents a distillation of the wider theme I explored in the latest issue of the Texas National Security Review. Continue reading

No Supply Without Demand: A Response to Stephen Walt

This is a guest post by Sarah Detzner, a Ph.D Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Her research is focused on international security, particularly post-conflict stabilization/reconstruction and security sector reform. In addition, she serves as Director of the Fletcher Graduate Writing Program, as a Fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies and the Institute for Human Security, and as a consultant for the World Peace Foundation. Previously, she served in the Obama Administration as a speechwriter for former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, campaigned as an Obama 2008 staffer, and worked with the National Democratic Institute in Washington, Lebanon, and Jordan. She is a graduate of Macalester College and originally from the Chicago area.

In his indictment of the training that schools of international affairs offer their graduates, Stephen Walt has an advantage. He’s able to observe from a great height, over a long period, the migration patterns of herds of hopeful students trekking up and wintering a season or two in Boston before starting the return journey southward to the shores of the Potomac in search of warm weather and think tank gigs.

However, from that peak, it’s easy to miss the confusion, the mud, and the constant search for enough forage that day-by-day nudges along those who eventually make it to shore. From a different perspective, as third wildebeest from the back and slightly to the left, I say that the United States’ international affairs programs are churning out graduates with exactly the skills that the United States’ foreign policy establishment rewards, though certainly not those it actually needs. Continue reading

The Tyranny of the Big 3? Which Journals Count Most May Be Increasingly Problematic

In recent days, there has been much discussion about the so-called Big3 journals in Political Science: the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, and the Journal of Politics.  Each is the standard-bearer journal for their respective associations–the American Political Science Association, the Midwest Political Science Association and the Southern Political Science Association.

Over the years, these three journals have become seen as the most prominent journals in the discipline.  For some American universities, for the purposes of hiring, tenure and promotion, getting published at least once pub in one of these may be viewed as a necessary condition or a sufficient condition (along with enough other pubs) and in some places, publications only really count if they are in the big 3.

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Social Media is Bad For Your Career? Maybe Not, a 2018 Ignite Talk

Today, there was a twitter conversation about whether doing public engagement, especially blogging and twitter, are penalized or not.  The timing is good since my Ignite talk at the Duckies was very much on this stuff.  So, I thought I would share what I presented at the Online Media Caucus reception at the annual meeting of the ISA in San Francisco.

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What’s in a Syllabus? A New Dataset of Graduate School Readings in Political Science

This is a guest post by  Heidi Hardt (University of California, Irvine) and Amy Erica Smith (Iowa State University)

Syllabi and comprehensive exam reading lists are often graduate students’ first major exposure to political science. In the field of IR, they tell students what scholarship matters for the field and – by omission – what doesn’t matter quite as much. What students read as graduate students likely influences some of what they cite later in their academic careers. What then exactly is in these important documents?

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Reactionary World Politics

This is a guest post from Joseph MacKay,  a Research Fellow in the Department of International Relations at Australian National University, and Christopher David LaRoche, a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto.

Growing nationalist and populist parties and movements across the developed West and elsewhere are prone to a common nostalgic rhetoric: the political consensus of recent decades has eroded national boundaries, traditions, and identities. The past, they argue, was better than the present. And what is most needful now is a return to that ideal past in the name of a future that, like the past, can be “great again.”

Although its details and implications vary, this narrative draws on the long history of reactionary thought. Reaction is an attitude toward social and political life marked by political, sometimes militant nostalgia. Like liberal progressivism or Marxian radicalism, reaction amounts to a politicized position on how history works, over the long haul. When William F. Buckley declared that National Review would “stand athwart history yelling stop,” he marked himself as a reactionary.

IR theory, we argue, has few tools for identifying and assessing reactionary politics. Why has IR theory traditionally spent so little time thinking about it? In a new Theory Note (now ungated!) at International Studies Quarterly, we explore the lack of reactionary thought in international relations, and its implications for how IR thinks about reactionary world politics. We write not as reactionaries ourselves, but because we are concerned this inattention may have ill-prepared the field for our current political moment. This post summarizes the project, and considers its implications for the field. Continue reading

Academic (S)mothering 

As a new mother of a baby boy I am enjoying a slightly different kind of golden shower than Donald Trump. So, between the 3 AM feeding and 4 AM diaper change I was scrolling through Twitter and stumbled on news about the Stanford white sausage fest that somehow qualified as a conference on applied history. Niall Ferguson managed to organize a conference and not feature a single woman or person of color. Let me walk you through some thoughts about why there aren’t more women in (political) science.

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The State of the Field in Climate and Security

After nearly fifteen years of study, what do we know about the relationship between climate change and security? I recently attended a Woodrow Wilson Center event organized by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) on the state of the field. Along with Geoff Dabelko, Halvard Buhaug, and Sherri Goodman, I offered my take on the field (the video is embedded below).

In this blog post, I wanted to focus on five different causal pathways that I think represent the frontier of research on the study of climate and conflict, which include agricultural production and food prices, economic growth, migration, disasters, and international and domestic institutions. The study of climate and conflict is a narrower view on the broader field of climate and security, but it is the one that academics have focused most of their energy on.

In most of these accounts, climate hazards or variability affect the likelihood of conflict either through the effects on livelihoods, state capacity, and/or inter-group tensions. In some accounts, extreme weather or variability lowers the rewards to agriculture and/or other livelihoods and makes rebellion or violence more attractive.  These same processes can also deprive states of tax revenue and undermine their capacity to suppress violence and provide public goods. They can also exacerbate tensions between groups.

Whether climate changes and variability contribute to the increased likelihood of conflict has been the dominant focus of this literature, though I myself have a broader view of what constitutes security.  Continue reading

Pinker’s Enlightenment and Liberal World Order

“There is not one civilized nation in the world that ought to rejoice in seeing India escape from the hands of Europe in order to fall back into a state of anarchy and barbarism worse than before the conquest.” ~Alexis de Tocqueville, in correspondence with William Nassau Senior in 1857, regarding the Sepoy Rebellion in India.

Psychologist Steven Pinker’s new book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, has caused quite a stir. The book itself provides the reader with an optimistic narrative about how the contemporary period is the best time to be a human; we have never lived in a safer, more joyful, period of human history. As in his monstrous prequel, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Pinker provides statistics and data as a way of demonstrating this fact, and draws a causal historical connection about the rise of Enlightenment-era ideas–especially ideas regarding science and the decline of religious beliefs–and our moment of “bliss.”

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Remembering Lee Ann Fujii, a Friend and a Fighter

This is a guest post from Erin Tolley an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto.

Professor Lee Ann Fujii passed away unexpectedly in Seattle on March 2, 2018. This loss is personal because it has robbed me of a brilliant friend and colleague, but it is also public because of all that Lee Ann contributed to the discipline and to her scholarly community.

Lee Ann was an expert on race, ethnicity, and political violence. Her first book, Killing Neighbors: Webs of Violence in Rwanda, focuses on the social context of the Rwandan genocide. She shows the importance of individuals and interactions, a thread woven throughout all her work. The book is a painstaking compilation of insights from interviews with non-elites. Lee Ann focused not on the planners of the genocide, but instead on the joiners. This was consistent with Lee Ann’s rejection of hierarchy and the cult of prestige. Killing Neighbors shows that those who engaged in the Rwandan genocide were not always motivated by hate. Rather, they were often recruited by local politicians with whom they had personal relationships, and they participated in the genocide because they feared the consequences of not doing so. As Lee Ann points out, however, once these joiners were engaged in the conflict, that involvement became a key part of their identity and contributed to their ongoing participation. Continue reading

Broken IR? It is worse than Walt lets on

As Josh has already noted,  grandee of IR Stephen Walt published a condemnation of US professional schools of IR, calling them broken and claiming that while there is superficial innovation the ‘rot runs deep’. After noting that we should expect US foreign policy (fopo) to be better than it is in the hands of foreign policy professionals—many of whom receive graduate education in institutions like Walt’s Kennedy School of Government at Harvard—Walt concludes that the schools of IR must share some of the blame . After this fairly breezy assessment, Walt goes on to outline five ways the ‘experience’ of graduate education in IR can be improved: Continue reading

Are IR Schools Broken? Nah.

IR program rankings are out in Foreign Policy. Discuss.

Steve Walt has a provocative column in the same issue that I’m sure he didn’t title that suggests “America’s IR Schools Are Broken.” The argument isn’t strictly the familiar one from him about methods but that scholars seeking influence in policy circles have rallied around conformist consensus positions:

But perhaps the biggest limitation in today’s schools of international affairs — at least here in the United States — is their tendency to reinforce the stale bipartisan consensus behind “liberal hegemony” and the necessity for “U.S. leadership…”

Instead of doing what academic institutions are ideally suited for — that is, taking an independent, critical look at contemporary issues and trying to figure out what is working, what is failing, and how we could do better — the desire to be closely tied to the policy world inevitably tempts most schools of international affairs to gravitate toward a familiar mainstream consensus.

I have a series of tweets that I’ve embedded below that are in the same vein of Frank Gavin and Jim Steinberg’s podcast with War on the Rocks in defense of the Blob (Gavin is also in this issue of Foreign Policy with a piece that bemoans past ways of teaching international relations but with more optimism about the future).

In my thread below, I make the argument that conformity in US foreign policy is hardly the fault of IR programs where there is considerable disquiet about US foreign policy adventurism of late but also a recognition that the liberal order is worth defending. Continue reading

On Writing the IR Dissertation

Partly in response to Steve Saideman’s post today with advice on dissertation topics, and partly also in response to a pretty enthusiastic discussion of advice to graduate students on Twitter yesterday, I thought I’d write a few things about getting started on the path of researching a dissertation in a field as unwieldy (and a job market as uncertain) as IR.

Here is where my perspective comes from. I finished my dissertation in 2016 and got a job. I am preparing to have a publishable version of the book emerging from the dissertation ready to market to publishers in the next few months. I teach in a department that has a bachelor’s degree in political science, so I do not have graduate students of my own. So—my perspective comes as someone for whom the job market and dissertation process is fresh and who is still working with the research question I started with in 2013 (oh dear—time flies!).

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Beware of Irrelevant Topic? Advising Phd Students to Surf the Wave

In the past couple of days, an academic issue has played out on twitter: are advisers doing a disservice to students and to the creation of knowledge by warning them off of topics that are deemed less relevant, less in the moment?  Damned if I know.

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Happy New Year

If anybody is planning to collude with some Russians for New Year’s (but not in order to swing an election), I compiled a brief checklist. Originally, I wanted to take apart an article from a prestigious newspaper that described “a Christmas encounter with a Russian soul”, but then I decided against it. After all, if you don’t buy “the case for colonialism”, then you probably also won’t think that “Russians do not share the ethical heritage of the West, but moral intuition exists everywhere, and is able to be inspired”. But enough with the narcissistic white bigotry, let’s learn about Russia!
  • In good ol’ orientalist tradition let’s start with drinking. No self-respecting Russian ever says “na zdorovie” while toasting. Ever. You drink for something – “za”.  Want to impress some Russians, say either “vashe zdorovie” or “budem!” – both are correct equivalents to “Cheers”.
  • Another important thing, New Year is THE winter holiday in Russia. Not Christmas. You prepare for it in advance, buy presents, decorate a tree, have a massive meal and get together with the family. Atheist Soviet traditions have stuck pretty well and the reflex of cutting an Olivier salad on December 31st is hard to suppress.
  • What the hell is an Olivier salad I anticipate you’d ask. It’s a Russian New Year staple food that originally included hazel grouse, crayfish, and a bunch of other expensive ingredients concocted by a French chef in mid 19th century, but gradually became a potato, pea and mayonnaise based delight that you enjoy by the ton.
  • So what about Christmas (you might wonder)? Most Russians celebrate Christmas (if they do) on January 7th thanks to the power squabbles with the Catholic Church back in the Middle Ages. While after the Revolution Russia moved almost two weeks ahead (hence the Great October Revolution celebration on November 7th), the Russian Orthodox Church stayed behind and insists on celebrating all Christian holidays based on the Julian calendar. Some even celebrate Old New Year on January 13th!
  • Also, Christmas trees. Again, in a post-Soviet mind – a fir tree is a totally secular New Year tradition that has nothing to do with Christmas. To be fair, they have much more to do with Saturnalia than with Christmas anyway. You know how in America people make fun of those who take down their Christmas lights in February? Try keeping your tree until March!  
  • Last but not least. Russians also have a type of Santa – his name is Father Frost (Ded Moroz), he brings presents, rides a sleigh and he is assisted by his granddaughter Snowmaiden (Snegurochka). Despite his somewhat dubious origin story and unclear family tree (where is his wife? Or Children?!), his is still a far cry from the controversy caused every year by Zwarte Piet in the Netherlands.

I am off to cut the Oliver and obsessively check the statuses of submitted manuscripts. Remember, despite the condescending orientalist horse crap that you might read in the Wall Street Journal, Russians are like everybody else. They just want acceptance with minor revisions.

Happy New Year!

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