Category: Academia (page 2 of 7)

Don’t Boycott: Let’s use conferences as organizational platforms and improve social impact

Just returning from an invigorating #ISA2017 where I was inspired by colleagues and new ideas and processing all the stimulating interactions and conversations I had. Last night at the fabulous Global Health Studies section (you should join!) business meeting, one topic of discussion was whether the section should take further action on the U.S. travel ban given that the ISA conferences are to be held in the U.S. or Canada through 2023 and the ban impedes participation by our colleagues from the targeted countries. This year some 170 colleagues did not attend the conference as a result of the travel ban for various reasons—they could not obtain required visas, felt too vulnerable traveling to the U.S. or were conscientious objectors. Inevitably, the idea of boycotting future ISA conferences was floated by several colleagues.

I think this is the wrong conversation to have and I made this point during the business meeting. Continue reading

Principles and Strategies for Bridging the Gap: Part I

At the recent ISA meeting, I had the good fortune to participate in a roundtable on bridging the policy-academic divide organized by Jim Goldgeier, the Dean of the School of International Service at American University. Fellow panelists included Bruce Jentleson and a powerhouse trio from American University, including Susanna Campbell, Nora Bensahel, and Jordan Tama. All of us in some capacity have participated in the Bridging the Gap project over the years.

I wrote my remarks up in a long form but I thought I’d roll them out in a series of six blog posts beginning with this one. I’ll come back and hyperlink to the others in this piece when I’ve finished the series. I may come back and film them as short videocasts in the coming weeks.

In the series, I talk about five different approaches that I have engaged in to make my work relevant to policy (and the world of practitioners including but not limited to governments). Those five approaches include: short-form writing for the public, long-form writing for policy audiences, policy-oriented courses, grants and consulting, and actual policy practice.

In this post, I want to back out for a moment and have us ask and answer some more fundamental questions.

What’s your theory or understanding of how policy changes? We live in a period described by Tom Nichols as the “death of expertise.” The transmission belt of information to decision-makers who read things and are persuaded by argument and data has been upended. Who are we writing for and what influence do we hope to have? Continue reading

Fighting, Dancing and Thumb-Biting: Developing a typology of citations

This is a guest post by Paul Beaumont, PhD Candidate at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). Previously, he worked as an academic writing advisor at NMBU and as a Junior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).

Some time ago, back when Duckpods still happened, Nicholas Onuf talked to Dan Nexon about the impact of World of Our Making (WOOM). Onuf’s masterpiece is rightly credited with founding Constructivism in International Relations. Yet as the two reflected upon the course 1990s constructivism embarked upon, Onuf acknowledged that his linguistic constructivism had not quite fostered the sort of research he had envisioned. While glad of the recognition he received for WOOM, Nick jokingly laments that his book had become “widely cited but never read”. Victim of “drive by citations”, Nexon remarked, “we could do a whole podcast on those alone.”

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Academic Freedom

President Trump tweeted this on Friday. Even before he issued this egregious tweet, I had prepared a thread on Twitter of my observations from a recent trip to DC. This builds on my post from earlier in the week on how to defend democracy from the perch of the Ivory Tower.

After my trip to DC, it occurred to me that academics, particularly tenured ones, have the freedom to resist this administration and speak out in a way that many NGOs and think tank folks cannot. We should exercise our liberty while we can.

I was really inspired to write this thread when I read a series of tweets from Paul Musgrave on how liberalism has embraced data and facts as the way forward  when it is not at all clear that is the moment we are living in (says the guy writing a blog post). Storify below after the jump.

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Let’s Talk About Contingency

Contingent Faculty: Always on the move

Ah, the spring semester: When the thoughts of many turn to the promise of summer, while the thoughts of panicked ABDs turn to the question of what they’re going to be doing beyond the end of this academic year.

 

Right on schedule, the jobs boards are filling up with this year’s crop of “visiting” professor positions–inviting young (and not-so-young) ABDs and early-career faculty to gamble on a choice that will uproot their lives without any promise of permanent or even long-term employment. Having spent my early career off the tenure track, I wanted to take this opportunity to make a couple of posts that highlight the issues contingent faculty are facing in the profession. Continue reading

Trump and Truth: Or What Arendt Can Teach Us about Truth and Politics

Today’s revelation that Mike Flynn resigned from his post as National Security Advisor is another strong sign that the struggle between Truth and Politics is not a foregone conclusion.  Indeed, we ought to actually celebrate the fact that when Flynn lied about speaking with the Russian ambassador, and the lie was made public, he was forced to resign.  This victory notwithstanding, we still must be extremely vigilant against the Trump administration’s attack on Truth.  For the administration apparently knew that he lied some time ago, and it was only with increased public scrutiny that Flynn submitted his resignation.  Had that not come to light, the administration appears to have no compunction about employing liars.

In what follows, I will briefly argue that Hannah Arendt’s insights into Truth and Politics, as well as her understanding of power, authority, violence and persuasion are all key to helping us resist Trump and his acolytes.   We are in a fragile time where the balance between freedom, reason, and truth may be overrun by domination, nonsense, and lies.    We are on the precipice of what Arendt calls “organized lying,” where the community, or at least the governance structures and a portion of the community, seek to systematically erode any claims to factual or rational truths, and with that to unmoor the very foundations of our state.

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Defending Democracy from the Ivory Tower

What is the role of the academic in defending democracy at a moment like this? I am 46 years old and have lived through some politically searing times in U.S. and world history, but the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States feels different. It feels like an existential threat to world order and American democracy like nothing else.

It has turned all of us in to news junkies hanging on every inflammatory, norms-busting tweet from POTUS at the expense of productivity and mental health. This is not about partisanship. It is about country (if you are American) over party. It is about the fate of the world (which sounds overblown but I mean it). How the hell are we supposed to function as normal human beings, as professionals when the world is on fire?

The inclination is to do or say something. Anything. And, I think we are all struggling to figure out what is right for each of us in terms of public engagement. My colleague Charli Carpenter has started with her entrepreneurial flare the hashtag “#StudytheWorld!” in reaction to Donald Trump’s comments about how having studied the world he’s lead to make certain choices.

What is Our Theory of Change?

That said, I think there is a broader need to think through our theory of change. The times seem to require popular mobilization that is converted into electoral victories and it appears that name recognition and celebrity are more valuable commodities than expertise. How then do experts have influence (a question animating Chris Hayes‘ and Tom Nichols‘ work)? Continue reading

Bannon’s Incoherent Vision of Disruption

In 2013, Bannon is reported to have told Ron Radosh of the Daily Beast that he was a Leninist.  He is quoted as saying “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too.  I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”   Yet this is such an odd thing to tell someone, particularly a journalist, when one’s very wealth, political power and caché depend on the very institution that he wants to destroy.  Lenin, after all, wanted to bring down capitalism and the bourgeoisie to usher in the proletariat as leaders of a communist government and society.   Lenin strongly believed in Marx’s Communist Manifesto, and with it the belief that the workers of the world, and not the owners of capital, must have the power.  Only when all workers—men and women alike—are seen as equal and free will true freedom and democracy reign.  Here is the problem, as I see it, with Bannon: he isn’t a Leninist, a Marxist, or a socialist.   He is an incoherent miscellany of ideas, none of which he understands fully and all of which are dangerous when combined in a haphazard manner.

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Talk Intel To Me

I remember laughing about an article in The Medium about a TV Sitcom that triggered the downfall of Western Civilization. In case you were wondering, it’s Friends with its “tragic hero” Ross Geller. The author lamented the awful mistreatment of the most cerebral character on the show that signified the harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America in the early 2000s. For instance, most of Ross’s academic stories were cut off by his bored friends and audience laughter. Why? Maybe some people would like to know more about sediment flow rate?!

In the age of an amazing accessibility of knowledge, America was conned by a man who disregards the value of science and whose surrogates do not see the difference between facts and feelings. Richard Hofstadter warned about the tendency for anti-intellectualism in the US back in the 60-s, but things seem to have gotten much worse. These days, there is a whole field and a term for deliberate politics of ignorance –  agnotology. It was already obvious on presidential campaign trail: Hillary Clinton was made fun of because she was preparing for debates instead of “winging” them. Academics and professional journalists were scolded (says who?) and college students were derided as snowflakes out of touch with real America. Gagging of scientists and professionals has followed: yes, lock them up in their ivory towers. Agnotology has even born its long-awaited fruit — the by now infamous “alternative facts” euphemism (or is it “euphenism”?).  As one of American bookstores has put it:

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The Value Alignment Problem’s Problem

Having recently attended a workshop and conference on beneficial artificial intelligence (AI), one of the overriding concerns is how to design beneficial AI.  To do this, the AI needs to be aligned with human values, and as such is known, pace Stuart Russell, as the “Value Alignment Problem.”  It is a “problem” in the sense that however one creates an AI, the AI may try to maximize a value to the detriment of other socially useful or even noninstrumental values given the way one has to specify a value function to a machine.

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Luis Videgaray, Mexican foreign policy and the open contempt for expertise

For the past few months, I’ve been observing with horror all the cabinet appointments in the incoming Trump administration and the Theresa May government .  As someone who originally did a PhD with the intent to become a career diplomat (and yes, I realize there’s a foreign civil service pathway to achieve precisely that goal), to me expertise in top-level agencies was more than a mere technicality: it was a requirement. I wanted a PhD in international relations or political science because I wanted to be knowledgeable about the dynamics of global affairs, diplomacy and state-to-state relationships. Thus, watching Prime Minister May appoint Boris Johnson as foreign secretary and PEOTUS Trump appoint Exxon Mobil chairman Rex Tillerson to the State Department was shocking. To me, these kinds of appointments signal a complete disdain for expertise, career service and the foreign civil service structures and legacies.

Then came embattled Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto with the cherry on top. Peña Nieto has rescued his long-time aide from the depths of scorn and made him Foreign Affairs minister, substituting Claudia Ruiz Massieu (the niece of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari). Videgaray was the political operator of Trump’s visit to Mexico, the former finance minister, and was ousted after Peña Nieto was heavily criticized because of his willingness to host Trump and the fact that he extended an invitation to the then Republican candidate. Trump has been openly adversarial toward Mexico and Mexicans from the beginning of his campaign, and has repeatedly said that the US under his leadership would be building a wall and that he’d make Mexico pay for it.

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ISA Conferences in Trump’s America

In conversations with friends, I quickly realized that the International Studies Association faces some significant problems ahead.  The advent of the Trump administration is likely to lead to two kinds of complications:

  • it may be hard for foreign scholars to get visas to attend the conference
  • that scholars may want to boycott conferences that take place in the US if Trump follows through on a variety of things he promised/threatened/tweeted during the campaign.

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Being a Doctoral Student in the Time of Trump: Six Challenges

This is a guest post from Ariya Hagh, Andrew Szarejko, and Laila Wahedi. All three authors are doctoral students in Georgetown University’s Department of Government. Author order is alphabetical by last name.

As we consider the broader ramifications of a Trump presidency, it is important to take a moment to consider how we in the discipline are likely to be affected so that we can adequately prepare for the coming years. If past behavior and rhetoric is any indication, which we expect it to be, the incoming Trump administration will present a unique set of challenges to doctoral students in political science.

Being aware of these challenges will help students to navigate the next four years as well as the rest of their careers and, we hope, will allow faculty to help their students along the way. Specifically (though not exhaustively), we expect reduced access to government data; less federal funding; a more difficult job market; obstacles to activism and teaching; and greater insecurity for international students. Continue reading

Kiss 2016 Goodbye: Call for Nominations for the Duckies

Thankfully, The Disaster that was 2016 will soon be behind us.  I’m sure hoping 2017 will be better!  With all the uncertainty of 2017, I am assured of one thing: ISA 2017 is right around the corner and will be AMAZING.

My favorite part of ISA for the last several years is the Online Achievement in International Studies Reception and Awarding of the Duckies!  This year, the event will be held on Thursday, February 23rd at 7:30 pm.  I’m excited about our Ignite speaker lineup – more information will be released on this soon.  The ISA Online Media Caucus (OMC) is very thankful to have the support of Sage in hosting the reception.

Now is the time to submit your nominations for the 2017 Duckies.  All nominations can be sent to onlinemediacaucus@gmail.com.  We’ll be awarding Duckies in the following categories:

Best Blog (Group) in International Studies

Best Blog (Individual) in International Studies

Best Blog Post in International Studies

Best Twitter Account

Special Achievement in International Studies Online Media

As before, these awards are intended for English-language international studies blogs and bloggers whose online output has significant scholarly content.  Award nominees or their designated representatives MUST be present at the Duckies.

January 1st, 2017 is the deadline for nominations.  The Online Media Caucus and Sage will then judge the nominations and determine finalists for public voting as necessary.  Self-nominations are encouraged.

The Death of Political Science is Greatly Exaggerated

There is a lot to think about in the aftermath of Trump’s win.  Lots of early hot talks will be wrong.  One of the first reactions has been to wonder about the value of political science (which is not the most important thing to think about but we have plenty of time and bandwidth to cover this and everything else):

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Ideas, Norms and Nonmaterial Factors in International Relations: A response to Krasner

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of International Organization, the editorial team asked former editors of the journal to reflect on their time overseeing the journal as well as on the most significant articles published during their tenure. I recently read Stephen Krasner’s reflection and was surprised by a number of conclusions he draws regarding scholarship on ideas, norms and nonmaterial factors in international relations.

Starting with Peter Haas’ “Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination,” one of the two most cited articles published during Krasner’s tenure as editor, Krasner argues that articles on nonmaterial factors

These papers, however, and others by scholars such as Martha Finnemore, Kathryn Sikkink, and Michael Barnett (who did not publish in International Organization during my tenure as editor but have under other editors), have not generated a research program, at least not in the United States, that is as robust as those associated with analyses of material well-being and power.

He continues

Given that ideology or beliefs that are not directly generated by concerns about physical power and material well-being play such a prominent role in many of the challenges faced by the United States and other industrialized countries, the relative absence of scholarly concern with such questions is striking.

These are provocative statements given that the authors he lists have generated scholarship that has spawned productive research agendas in numerous areas of international politics from the study of international organizations, to NGOs, to human rights and security. Let’s explore Krasner’s claims that research on nonmaterial factors is “not robust” and “absent” in international relations. Continue reading

Some New and Old Guests and Permanent Ducks

We’re happy to announce some new guest Ducks, some old guests staying on, and additions to our permanent contributors.

In reverse order, Jarrod Hayes and Heather Roff-Perkins have joined us as permanent contributors. They have brought keen insights on a range of topics so we’re happy they have agreed to stay on in a permanent capacity!

Maryam Deloffre, Jeffrey Stacey, and William Kindred Winecoff continue on as guests with important insights on global health, security, and IPE respectively. Our thanks to our guests from last year — Annick, Cai, Seth, Tom, and Wendy — for their valuable contributions to the blog.

We’re pleased to announce that Lisa Gaufman, Alexis Henshaw, Charlie Martel, Akanksha Mehta, Raul Pacheco-Vega, Mira Sucharov, Lauren B. Wilcox, and Jeremy Youde are joining us as new guest bloggers.

Elizaveta Gaufman is a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS) at the University of Bremen. She is the author of “Security Threats and Public Perception: Digital Russia and the Ukraine Crisis”.

Alexis Henshaw is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in Political Science at Miami University (Ohio). She was previously a Visiting Assistant Professor at Bucknell University and Sweet Briar College, and received a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Her work on women in rebel groups and women and sexual violence has appeared in Journal of Global Security Studies, International Feminist Journal of Politics, Sexuality and Culture, and the Journal of Human Security Studies. Her booka book, Why Women Rebel, will be coming out with Routledge in 2017. Follow her on Twitter at @Prof_Henshaw

Charles Martel has an LLM in international human rights law from the London School of Economics, where he wrote a dissertation on the political impact legal opinions on the Israeli separation barrier had on the Israel/Palestine conflict. He also has a law degree from Washington and Lee University. He served in lead roles in Senate investigations as counsel to the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. He has previously contributed to Just Security and Opinio Juris.

Akanksha Mehta is a Lecturer in International Relations and Gender at the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex. She has submitted her PhD in Gender Studies at the Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS. Her PhD research examines the ‘everyday’ politics and violence of women in right-wing movements, specifically looking at Hindu Nationalism in India and Israeli Zionist settlers in the West Bank, Palestine. She is broadly interested in the intersections of international relations, critical geography, political violence, war, and conflict, and gender,  feminism, and sexuality. She is also a documentary photographer and can be reached on Twitter at @SahibanInExile

Raul Pacheco-Vega is an Assistant Professor in the Public Administration Division of the Centre for Economic Research and Teaching, CIDE (Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas, CIDE, AC) in Aguascalientes, Mexico. His major research focus is the study of cooperative resource governance, especially water, wastewater and sanitation, domestically and across borders. He is also the founder of the #ScholarSunday hashtag on Twitter. Follow him at @raulpacheco

Mira Sucharov is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton University. She is the author of The International Self: Psychoanalysis and the Search for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (SUNY Press, 2005), and articles on Israeli-Palestinian relations and Diaspora Jewish relations, emotions and IR, pedagogy, and reflections on the craft of being a scholar-blogger. She is a frequent columnist in Haaretz and Jewish Daily Forward. Follow her on Twitter @sucharov

Lauren B. Wilcox is a University Lecturer in Gender Studies and the Deputy Director of the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge. Her work is located at the intersections of international relations, political theory, and feminist theory in investigating the consequences of thinking about bodies and embodiment in the study of international practices of violence and security. Her main research project is a book entitled, Bodies of Violence: Theorizing Embodied Subjects in International Relations, published by Oxford University Press, 2015.

Jeremy Youde is a Fellow/Senior Lecturer at Australian National University. His research focuses on questions of global health governance and global health politics. He is the author of three books and co-editor of two recently edited volumes. He has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in a wide variety of outlets and is a member of the editorial board of Global Health Governance. Follow him on Twitter at @jeremyoude

Open Thread on International Development Syllabi

In previous posts on the environment and health, I highlighted lacunae in the field, which I attributed in part to there being few courses in those substantive areas. By providing a few exemplar syllabi, I thought more of us might find it easier to offer courses on those topics. At the very least, some might find inspiration for courses and mine these syllabi for readings.

Another potentially under-studied area is international development. Here, there may be more course offerings and crossover with IPE, but I’m going to start an open thread with development syllabi because I can. Again, while I had graduate training in IPE,  my knowledge of international development comes from a second bachelor’s degree in England, my experience in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, and a subsequent internship at the Multilateral Investment Fund. Most of my development specific knowledge I picked up along the way.

I still think this is an understudied area in political science, though the politics of foreign aid and international organizations do get some coverage. My syllabus on the topic is gear towards MA students and helping them become better practitioners, particularly through manipulation of data and simple Excel graphical applications. 2016 syllabus here.

I’ll post additional exemplar syllabi in the comments thread.

Empathy, Envy and Justice: The Real Trouble for Algorithm Bias

Rousseau once remarked that “It is, therefore, very certain that compassion is a natural sentiment, which, by moderating the activity of self-esteem in each individual, contributes to the mutual preservation of the whole species” (Discourses on Inequality).  Indeed, it is compassion, and not “reason” that keeps this frail species progressing.   Yet, this ability to be compassionate, which is by its very nature an other-regarding ability, is (ironically) the different side to the same coin: comparison.  Comparison, or perhaps “reflection on certain relations” (e.g. small/big; hard/soft; fast/slow; scared/bold), also has the different and degenerative features of pride and envy.  These twin vices, for Rousseau, are the root of much of the evils in this world.  They are tempered by compassion, but they engender the greatest forms of inequality and injustice in this world.

Rousseau’s insights ought to ring true in our ears today, particularly as we attempt to create artificial intelligences to overtake or mediate many of our social relations.  Recent attention given to “algorithm bias,” where the algorithm for a given task draws from either biased assumptions or biased training data yielding discriminatory results, I would argue is working the problem of reducing bias from the wrong direction.  Many, the White House included, are presently paying much attention about how to eliminate algorithmic bias, or in some instance to solve the “value alignment problem,” thereby indirectly eliminating it.   Why does this matter?  Allow me a brief technological interlude on machine learning and AI to illustrate why eliminating this bias (a la Rousseau) is impossible.

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