Because you, the readers, want to know — or at least because we, the writers, think that you, the readers, want to know. (I’m fascinated by the fact that a name and a personal biography improve the credibility of a piece of writing; there’s something very interesting there about the way that we as a society assign responsibility and blame — but I digress.)

I’m an Assistant Professor of International Relations in the School of International Service at American University. Been there since 2000. Like Dan, I have my doctorate in Political Science from Columbia University; Dan and I met at Columbia and started collaborating on stuff as graduate students, especially once we discovered that we were both ex-debater sci-fi geeks with a taste for social theory. And baseball fans. (We subsequently met Bill on the IR conference circuit, and began getting along famously.)

Although I am professionally located in International Relations, I think I’m actually a social and political theorist who happens to be interested in things that are larger than the phenomena that can be contained within specific states or societies. The kinds of conceptual puzzles that fascinate me involve things like agency (how do actors end up doing one thing rather than another?), legitimacy (how does one course of action become “acceptable” while others become “unacceptable”?), and rhetoric (the strategic use of language so as to achieve certain outcomes, whether deliberately or accidentally). Empirically, I have used these notions to investigate things like the reconstruction of Germany after the Second World War (with a book on the subject, entitled Civilizing the Enemy: German Reconstruction and the Invention of the West, forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press), the NATO bombing of Kosovo, and the sudden demise of the Dean campaign after the Iowa caucuses in early 2004.

I’m also very interested in IR theory, specifically in the intersection of “realism” and “constructivism”; Dan and I are working on a massive project exploring this intersection, details about which will probably make their way onto this blog or our other blogs at some point. (Like other “Duck” members I have my own blog over at profptj.blogspot.com; I also regularly use blogs in teaching, and links to those blogs can be found over there as well if anyone’s interested.)

Academia for me is a vocation, not a job; I honestly feel like there is very little I could do other than be an academic and somehow feel content with my life. Being an academic for me is primarily about teaching, with reading/writing/speculating coming in a close second. My interest in this blog is to try to get some of those speculations out into the blogosphere in the hopes of stimulating interesting conversations. Also, since we know from Hegel that the owl of Minerva flies at dusk, I’m hoping that the duck of Minerva can start quacking loudly about mid-afternoon, and thus perhaps allow us to alter our trajectories before they’re already at an end.

My politics? I’d be happy self-identifying as a social democrat, although in the end I’m far more skeptical about the ability of political programs to successfully implement value-positions than others of my persuasion. That might make me the tragedian of the group, but only time will tell.

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