This is a guest post from Anna Meier, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.Note that this post was written before APSA released an expanded statement on the white supremacist insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.“
Last week, the American Political Science Association released a milquetoast statement on the January 6 white supremacist attack at the U.S. Capitol that got buried in the onslaught of news coverage. It resurfaced on Twitter over the weekend to outrage, with many political scientists noting that the statement omitted any acknowledgment of racism or white supremacy but did mention that “both sides” needed to “do better.”
What happens when research findings challenge the work that policy makers are invested in promoting?
In recent years, a strong, ongoing initiative to “Bridge the Gap” between academic research and policy makers has gained salience in academic circles. For several years now, and with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and other funders, scholars of international affairs have doubled down on efforts to write for public audiences, engage with various actors in policy processes, and even work to revise tenure and promotion standards to increase the value of policy-relevant work. Through the Women’s Rights After War project and other work, we have been eager participants in these efforts. We view engaged scholarship as part of our commitment to democratizing knowledge more generally.
But what happens when the results of research challenge the status quo policymakers are invested in defending? When research findings fail to reinforce policy priorities—whether they are political, economic, social, or otherwise—such efforts to “bridge the gap” stumble. This tension was recently brought dramatically to our attention when a policy brief we prepared was deemed unsuitable for publication by the organization that commissioned it, because our findings were neither positive nor politically convenient. Our experience, and those of others, raises questions about what happens when researchers generate findings that prove inconvenient to particular policy communities and knowledge gatekeepers. For us, this experience also raised questions about whether pressure to make research findings legible and accessible to policy audiences can inadvertently marginalize research that poses the most obvious challenges to status quo paradigms.
This post is written by Bridging the Gap Fellow Dr. Danielle Gilbert, Assistant Professor of Military & Strategic Studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not represent the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Department of the Air Force, or the Department of Defense. The author would like to thank the brilliant women of her yes and no committees for their time, feedback, permission, and encouragement to write this—you know who you are.
Six women approved the writing of this post: my “yes committee,” my “no committee,” and the editor—who happens to be a mentor as well. It’s fitting that these women would find themselves involved in this paragraph, because they have a say on nearly everything I write or do in my professional life. Outside of my classroom, I seldom make professional decisions without them. They are absolutely crucial to my success. I need them, and you need your own committees, too.
What are yes and no committees? While a “no committee” is the group of friends and mentors you turn to when you need help declining requests and opportunities, the “yes committee” is the designated hype squad that nudges you beyond your comfort zone. In short, the “no committee” reminds you that your time is valuable; the “yes committee” reminds you that your ideas are valuable.
WARNING: Minor Spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984 ahead
Like many Americans, I ended my Christmas day by paying $15 to subscribe to HBO Max and watch Wonder Woman 1984. The much anticipated sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman promised to make the horrors of 2020 fade for awhile. And it did, but only by replacing them with frustration and confusion. It…wasn’t a great film. You can read why, or just watch it yourself. But what really stuck out to me was the particular sort of Orientalism it contained, a lazy Orientalism oblivious to its political implications but still problematic.
Wonder Woman 1984 tells the story of Wonder Woman fighting against a super villain (sorry for the spoilers). But what caught the attention of this Middle East scholar was a sequence in which the villain meets with a deposed (I think) Egyptian King who wishes to return to power and kick the “heathens” out of his land. The villain helps him, but the guy already sold his oil to the Saudis (I guess he pumped it all out?) Then the villain raises a wall, cutting off the poorest people of Egypt from their water sources.
In the spirit of holiday cheer and Paul Musgrave’s great Foreign Policy piece “The True Meaning of Christmas Movies Is a Cozy American Worldview” as well as our common poli sci curse of “being unable to enjoy anything without analysing it to death”, here is my take on that red and green scourge that clogs your Netflix queue as well as your cable. I have watched a fair amount of those in my day (for research purposes, obvs), but might be missing something, so correct me if I am wrong. I can’t refresh my memory right away, as those movies lack dinosaur subplots and that’s the only type of videos my toddler would let me watch. Jurassic Prince: the Royal Baby, anyone?
You might guess what kind of plots a lot of those holidays movies feature: a hard-working (white) American woman gets swept away by the lukewarm charms of a vaguely European royal from an invariably Romanian castle. He teaches her about cucumber sandwiches, she shows him how to bake Christmas cookies, sticks it to the local stuffy female suitors and they live happily ever after. In other words, as Paul observed, the true meaning of Christmas can be found with the help of “cute but not hot” foreign dude with a received pronunciation accent in a quaint Ruritanian setting. The cuteness but not hotness trope seems to be a deliberate choice, just look what Hallmark did to Sam Heughan, yes, this Sam Heughan:
If you squint your eye, you would probably be unable to distinguish between all those bland, combed over to the left dirty blonds with blue eyes and personalities that usually don’t go beyond the ability to procure a Christmas tree for the hallway. They are hardly prime examples of the real American heroes that protect the country at Christmas in the Nakatomi Plaza.
After all, it is still a cozy fantasy of an American dream, so one should be extra careful with the kind of baubles you decorate your imaginary Christmas tree. You should especially make sure that your foreign Nutcracker is not going to be too threatening to the homegrown ornaments, that you might still want to get back to if those pesky royals don’t let you blog. Yes, you read that right, I argue that those vanilla foreign princes should not be too imposing of a masculinity construct to diminish the appeal of the domestic commoner beaus.
As Paul rightly points out, the key demographic for those Christmas movies are women. Women who just need a reasonably forgettable dude with whom they can take care of the chores around the house. While there is a history of orientalizing, exoticising, and eroticising women for the male gaze, also in the spirit of the (not so cozy) American dream, the female gaze around Christmas seems to need a little fairy-tale respite that would not create unreasonable expectations and upset the balance in the household. That’s why those foreign princes are just cute, but not sizzling hot dishes that would tarnish the image of the cozy American worldview.
And if they do, John McClane will welcome them to the party. Pal.
Sing it with me: It’s the most Putinist time of the year! For the 16th time the Dear Leader addressed the nation and the world from through their TV screens during a carefully choreographed almost 5-hour long annual press conference that could count as a State of the Union Q&A. there were some adjustments to the usual format: the lidded cup was still there, but almost no journalists in the actual room with Putin, his answers were televised from his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo. It’s almost impossible to go through all the press conference and not bore the readers to tears by the ritualised legitimation theatre, so I will concentrate on some of the IR-y stuff.
One of the most anticipated questions were about the bombshell investigation about Navalny’s poisoning that seems to point to a group of FSB operatives who had been tracking him for three years. Never fear: Putin successfully dodged every attempt to even get him to say Navalny’s name on TV and accused him of working for the CIA. Putin did, however, admit that He-who-must-not-be-named was under surveillance, but, apparently, if “we wanted to [poison him], we would have succeeded”, but instead he “let him be treated in a Berlin clinic on the wife request” instead. Interestingly enough, it didn’t even occur to Putin to deny the fact that Navalny was under surveillance or the fact that his security services are allowed to commit extrajudicial killings.
What about Putin’s old friend Trump? I am not sure that any American Late Show missed the opportunity to report Putin’s telegram to President-Elect Biden where Putin is looking forward to “interactions and contacts”, but Trump, in fact, was barely mentioned during the press conference. Putin did assure that Trump has become an integral part of American political life and given that “50% of the population support him” there was no reason for him to seek asylum in Russia like Edward Snowden. The usual anti-Westernism, however, was on full display: Putin berated the NATO for expanding eastwards despite their promise not to, accused the UK for flying spy planes and, of course, accused the American State Department for vengefully leaking financial documents that alleged that his (ex?) son-in-law bought some company shares for a hundred bucks, instead of paying the market 380 million. Or, as Putin phrased it, “we are white and fluffy compared to you”, “prickly and aggressive types”.
Putin also did not miss the chance to scold the “failure of the multiculturalism project” in Europe in relation to Samuel Paty’s murder in Paris. After implicitly praising the law that “protects religious feelings” in Russia (yes, the one that got Pussy Riot a 2-year sentence for asking the Mother of God to chase Putin away), he condemned murder as a response to those wounded feelings. He praised the multi confessional legacy that Russia inherited, because “there was no religious repression. In the Soviet Union, [all] priests were persecuted, but not selectively”. Yes, absolutely, all religious leaders were indiscriminately persecuted, especially the current Patriarch, who was posted to Geneva in 1971 as the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the World Council of Churches. smh.
In any case, to quote an Icelandic (!) journalist, it’s just some mass media that don’t like Russia and there is a war against Putin. Other countries are in a much worse shape because of the pandemic compared to Russia. An obligatory reminder from Putin about the real bad 90s so you would see how good you have it these days, here’s some extra cash ($60) for your children and happy holidays.
I opened up my twitter feed two weeks ago to some terrible news: our friend Sean Kay died suddenly. I literally cried out “Oh no” and wept for my friend. I had just guested in his class in October, and we had a number of conversations in recent months in the lead up to the election. We were both looking forward to a better future. The news of Sean’s death was just another reminder that 2020 has been truly awful.
Many knew Sean through his scholarship and policy work on NATO. I got to know him over the last few years through our common interests in music and love for the environment.
This is a guest post by Krista Wiegand, Director of the Global Security Program at the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Tennessee. She is co-Editor-in-Chief of International Studies Quarterly.
I was once asked on a job interview by a non-IR political scientist why I hadn’t published in the “big 3” journals – American Political Science Review (APSR), American Journal of Political Science (AJPS), and Journal of Politics (JOP). My response was that I had published in top IR journals where my IR colleagues read my work. I also mentioned how I had received a couple desk rejections from these journals suggesting that my research fit better in a specialized IR conflict journal. I’ve increasingly heard this comment from several of my IR colleagues about the big 3 journals over the past few years. I know a very well-known, highly published IR colleague who has submitted more than 20 manuscripts to APSR and never received an acceptance. It seems like it’s increasingly difficult for IR scholars to place articles in the top 3 general political science journals.
This piece is written by Bridging the Gap co-Director Naazneen H. Barma, Director of the Scrivner Institute of Public Policy, Scrivner Chair, and Associate Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. It was commissioned as part of the “Represent” series on diversity, inclusion and representation in the national security sphere, an initiative of Defense 360 of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Defense 360 and the Duck of Minerva agreed to cross-post the piece in order to ensure wide reach to both academic and practitioner readership on this crucial topic.
The last decade has brought a series of welcome initiatives to amplify, bolster, and expand the diversity of voices in the national security sphere—including the Leadership Council for Women in National Security, the Diversity in National Security Network, Out in National Security, and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security. What each of these seeks to redress is the simple fact that a paucity of diverse voices in the national security spaces results in poorer national security dialogue and practice. There is a normative imperative: our national security professional cadre should represent us and the diversity of identities that comprise this country; it is the right thing to do. And the goal is also instrumental: bringing the wealth of a wider range of lived experiences into national security policy formulation does improve the process; it is the effective thing to do.
A crucial part of the challenge of achieving better representation in national security lies in the pipeline that runs through academia and into the policy-making sphere. Whether we are talking about those who undertake graduate education in order to pursue national security careers or about emerging scholars who want to make a career of studying and informing national security, the pipeline leaks diverse voices all along the way.
In Marvel comics and movies, Ant-Man is a super-hero who can change his size using a special suit and “Pym particles.” When giant, he’s…giant. But when he’s tiny he keeps the same density as a regular human, giving him the ability to lift and move things much bigger than his insect size. The idea of shrinking in size but having to shoulder the same–or greater–burden resonated with me, and in a way feels like a metaphor for the modern professor.
This thought came to me in response to a recent email from my university. We have a hybrid set-up, with some students attending courses remotely (from home or campus) and others in person. Our Student Services office noted which of our advisees were at home, and asked us to take special care to reach out to them. This didn’t really affect me, as I reach out to all advisees before course registration. But the idea of a Student Services office telling professors–already overloaded with difficult online teaching, as well as research and service responsibilities–to devote extra time to engaging with students instead of, you know, doing it themselves, struck me as slightly off.
In September, the UAE and Israel signed “the Abraham Accords,” normalizing relations between the UAE and Israel. The Trump Administration presented this as if it was equivalent to the Camp David Accords, a ground-breaking peace agreement that would transform the world. Much of the Middle East policy community, however, met it with a shrug. I’m not sure I’m joining in on that shrug. While it’s true Trump exaggerated and misrepresented the deal, as he is wont to do, I worry a sneaky “common wisdom” has developed among observers that may obscure the significant impacts of this agreement.
The deal came together over the summer, although there have been signs of a potential shift among Gulf Arab states towards Israel. They share a common enemy in Iran. Additionally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in 2018, while the UAE’s US Ambassador wrote an op-ed in an Israeli newspaper hinting at possible normalization. Billed as a peace deal (even though they weren’t really at war) the two states agreed to normalize diplomatic ties and expand economic cooperation. While some saw it as a betrayal, other seem to see it as a relatively inconsequential event.
Recently, I was asked by an interdisciplinary journal to edit a special section on climate governance, and I inquired whether it was an open access journal where authors have to pay to publish. It is, and I declined because asking others to contribute to a special issue that they then have to pay to publish in strikes me as unseemly. I’m pretty uncomfortable with this model of publishing, but I dislike the existing paywall mafia too.
Pay to Publish? This is the third time I’ve had open access fees come up in the process of publishing in journals in the energy/science policy space. The other two were surprises where a journal changed to an open access pay model in the middle of publishing and the other was one where I joined an author team to a new journal that I didn’t look in to. In the other cases, the fee was waived or my co-authors had some way to have the fees paid. This model of pay to publish I think is more prevalent in the sciences.
I understand the desire to make work available to people without a paywall. I also respect the desire to defray the costs for authors in the global South with fee waivers, but it is not easy, even for someone like me at an R1, to come up with $1000 or more to publish a paper. For one, I’ve never done it, and I don’t have a reservoir of money to pay publication fees. If you publish several articles a year and they are open access, these costs would add up.
This is a guest post from Laura Breen, a PhD student with research interests in international law, global governance, and emerging technology; Gaea Morales, a PhD student with research interests in environmental security and global-local linkages; Joseph Saraceno, a PhD candidate with research interests in political institutions and quantitative methodology; and Kayla Wolf, a PhD student with research interests in gender, politics, and political socialization. All are completing the PhD program in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Southern California.
It’s not news that political science has a gender problem. This blog has multiple entries on the gender gap, and anyone who spends 20 minutes on academic twitter or at a grad student happy hour is likely to encounter firsthand accounts of the effects of the gender gap. If firsthand accounts aren’t enough, there’s plenty of excellent peer reviewed reviewed work showing that the phenomenon exists, including Maliniak et al.’s finding that women are “systematically cited less than men” in IR, Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen’s 2017 article that found a comparable gap even when accounting for women’s share of the profession.
A common talking point about the gender gap in political science is that things have been getting better, and the gender balance in publications will steadily even out over time as gender disparities in society are minimized and the number of women in the profession grows. In short: we are approaching parity, all it takes is time. However for many scholars, and particularly women in political science, this narrative of progress conflicts with lived experience and observations of who (and what) we see published in top journals.
As part of a simple data visualization project gone off the rails, we gathered four years of data to see whether the optimistic belief that things are really getting better bears out empirically. We were particularly interested in the years since the last comprehensive examination of gendered political science publication rates.
Building on the dataset Teele and Thelen created to examine gendered publication rates across ten journals from 1999-2015, we hand coded author gender and order for all articles across the original journals examined in their article for the years 2016 to 2019. These included Journal of Politics, American Political Science Review, Comparative Politics (CP), International Organization, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Conflict Research (JCR), Perspectives on Politics, Political Theory, and World Politics. To collect author gender for the years 2016 onwards, we coded gender based on pronouns used in personal website and department biographies.
We open each of my undergrad classes with a discussion of current events. In the past four years, there have been several times that students have wondered whether a war may be about to break out: between America and North Korea, America and Venezuela, India and China, Qatar and Saudi Arabia…America and Iran. We spend a lot of time talking about the issues, the motivations for each state’s behavior. And when “nothing” happens, I always wonder whether all the time we spent was worth it.
I’m wondering the same thing about tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. If the situation defuses without conflict between Turkey and Greece, will all the attention we’re paying to it have been worthwhile? And will this register as a “case” worth explaining for international relations? I argue that it should, and suggest a few ways we can approach it.
With the coronavirus, it has been hard for many of us to just keep going, let alone set aside time to blog (certainly not as much as we otherwise might!).
So, we wanted to acknowledge that by giving our guest Ducks from last year an additional semester (at least!) to have this platform for talking about substantive issues in international relations and the academy.
We are thrilled that folks have stayed on. Please read their work to date and be on the lookout for new posts. There are some really good ones on a range of topics. If you have an interest in becoming a guest contributor come January, let any of the permanent members know!
The Current Guest Contributors to the Duck of Minerva
Black Lives Matter has spearheaded a massive reckoning of race relations in the US and around the world, but not so much in Russia. The discipline of IR may have started a bit earlier than this year’s protests: there have been a number of interventions that have brought the issue of race to the forefront of teaching and research – even though it should have always been there at least since DuBois. Not everyone is happy though: right-wing media cry “cancel culture” and debates on the merits of critical approaches somehow make national news.
Russian mainstream IR community has been slow in embracing this problematique – even though Russian IR itself has been often considered as one of the examples of non-Western IR. A recent piece in “Russia in Global Affairs” by Dr. Alexander Lukin seems to make a point similar to a lot of critical scholars and scholars from the Global South: “It is necessary to correct the West-centric bias … by gradually introducing more information about the non-Western world into the teaching of history and international relations”. Fair point? Yes, absolutely. Alexander Lukin argues further that “a new all-encompassing totalitarian theory is approaching us, according to which all social and historical phenomena will need to be analyzed from a “racial” point of view, just as the Marxists analyzed them from the point of view of the “class struggle.””. How do you like them apples?
I’m working on a new project about the use of religion in power politics (part of which I’ll be presenting “at” APSA this week). I’m finding good evidence, but the framing is tricky. Religion as a power political tool happens, and matters, but it rarely works out the way the wielders intended. Is this an example of ideas mattering in international relations, or an example of their limits? The fact that I feel forced into such a binary reflects a broader issue in the sub-field.
As we all learn in Intro to IR, the study of ideas revolves around constructivism. With the emergence of neorealism and neoliberalism in the 1980s, IR became overly rationalist and materialist. Constructivism developed as a reaction to this, producing numerous studies on the way intersubjective beliefs guided and shaped state behavior. After the paradigm wars faded, “constructivist-y” studies continued, with important work focusing on the role of rhetoric and practices in international relations.
Eric Van Rythoven (PhD) is an Instructor in the Department of Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. His research focuses on the intersection between the politics of emotion, International Relations, and security. His articles have been published in the Journal of Global Security Studies, the European Journal of International Relations, Security Dialogue, among others and he is the co-editor (with Mira Sucharov) of Methodology and Emotion in International Relations (Routledge, 2019). You can learn more about his research and writing at his website.
How should we approach discussions of race and racism in the classroom? Increasingly, issues of race are receiving more attention in the field of IR. Whether it is through a series of high-profile articles discussing why race matters in IR, or why the field remains blind to racism, debates about race and racism are taking a more prominent place in the field. Yet comparatively less attention has been given to how to teach race in the classroom. This mirrors broader patterns of intellectual life in IR where the “published discipline” dominates scholarly attention and the “taught discipline” appears as an afterthought (Ettinger, 2020). But if we take calls to think about the taught discipline seriously, how then should we approach teaching race in the classroom?
This post contributes to the conversation by discussing the results from a brief survey on student views on teaching race and international politics in a Canadian classroom. The survey (n=100) was supported through Carleton University’s Students as Partners Program (SaPP) where faculty can offer paid experience to undergraduate students to help develop curriculum and teaching resources. Respondents were primarily students from IR courses, but also included those studying Canadian Foreign Policy.
As part of our project we wanted to hear students’ views on teaching race in the classroom, including what topics they are interested in learning about, as well as what they see as some of the barriers to learning. Situated in a diverse city in a unique national context, it is important to caution against generalizations. Yet in what follows we highlight some of the main findings and bring them into dialogue with the broader pedagogy literature on race and IR.
David C. Kang is Maria Crutcher Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California, where he also directs the Korean Studies Institute. His latest book, coedited with Stephan Haggard, East Asia in the World: Twelve Events that Shaped the Modern International Order, will be published Cambridge University Press next month.
This summer, the graduate students in our Ph.D. program here at USC, and the undergraduates as well, called for an end to the Eurocentric curriculum in our department. They noted that there are twice as many classes devoted to Europe as there are to any other region of the world; if we add in classes on American politics, there are easily 3x as many classes.
I absolutely support our students in their call to be aware of a Eurocentric curriculum and scholarship, and to our colleagues to think much more widely about, and be open to, ideas and cases that might be much more vivid and lively than they suspect, and have much more to teach us than we originally thought.
In this case, what’s politically important and socially conscious is also scientifically sound. The basic problem of Eurocentric scholarship is selection bias — If we care about social science, and if we want to understand anything about the world, we need to define concepts in generalizable ways. We all suffer if the field is parochial: our concepts are narrow, our cases are truncated, and the true richness and possibility of what international relations actually is can be overlooked.
I want to point out what that means in practice using three examples. I will conclude this post with a few possibilities for both young scholars, and the way we pursue research and publish.
This is a guest post by Jeffrey C. Isaac, James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. You can follow him at his blog at Democracy in Dark Times.
Democracy is a central and arguably the central theme of contemporary American political science research and teaching. This is certainly true in the “subfields” conventionally designated as “Comparative Politics,” “American Politics,” and “Political Theory.” And even where it is not the central theme, as in most “International Relations” inquiry, it is an important theme.
By far the most broadly influential endeavor in U.S. political science—the teaching of “Introduction to American Politics,” a staple of undergraduate teaching at virtually every academic institution in the U.S.—centers on the dynamics of the U.S. political system, the nature of its constitutional democracy, and the complex dynamics of public opinion, party organization, political campaigning and competitive elections.
Most of this teaching is not emphatically normative. But it is normative nonetheless, as a perusal of most syllabi or prominent textbooks will attest. The 2015 Brief Edition of Keeping the Republic: Power and Citizenship in American Politics, written by Christine Barbour and Gerald C. Wright, for example, leads with a chapter on “Power and Citizenship in American Politics” that centers on the distinction between liberal democracy and authoritarianism. Without some such discussion, what sense is to be made of American political institutions?