Category: Academia (page 1 of 13)

A Call for New Guest Ducks

We are looking for you! The fall 2019 semester is upon us, and we’d like to bring on a new cohort of guest Ducks.

The Duck remains a unique blog in terms of our ability to cover a wide variety of topics from IPE to the environment to health to human rights as well as traditional IR topics such as security. We also have freedom to do more academic introspection on the discipline and higher education writ large.

As a guest blogger, you have the freedom to find your voice and the format and length that suits you without an editor. You are free to muse and use the platform to try out new ideas.

We want to privilege new voices and approaches. We would especially welcome more diversity on the blog, including gender, ethnic, and non-North American perspectives.

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Using Pop Culture in the Classroom: Footloose FTW!

I love this tweet as it puts the usual dynamics on their head:

Tip for students going off to college: study 80s/90s pop culture. Particularly Ferris Beuller, Princess Bride, Simpsons seasons 2-5. Your gen x/early millennial profs will try to connect with you through these, and will be confused/sad when you stare blankly at them. Not joking.

— David Mimno (@dmimno) August 2, 2019

Each summer, profs are reminded how much younger the students are and then the onus is on them to update their references.  This tweet nicely makes fun of profs by suggesting the reverse.

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Changing the Atmosphere in Political Science: Ten Key Political Questions about Climate Change

This is a guest post from several authors including:

Climate change is arguably the most urgent problem facing humankind. It is not a single policy problem, but rather pervades all aspects of state and society – affecting everything from geopolitics to local planning. Yet, one is hard pressed to reach this conclusion given the current landscape of political science.

Excellent work appears occasionally in premier journals on the variety of political questions that climate change raises.  But given the centrality of politics in contributing and responding to the climate change problem, there is not enough of this work and — critically — much of it occurs outside the central discourses and journals of our discipline. Some political scientists are instead engaging climate change debates in policymaking, assessment and public venues. For example, Science and Nature seem to value contributions by political scientists. But what of our discipline? How is it responding to climate change?

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Academic (S)mothering Part III: Conferencing

Ah, the sweet time your baby becomes a toddler and maybe lets you sleep for more than 5 hours a night. Your teaching is sort of kind of on track, your scant article submissions get a steady number of rejections so why not try to venture back into the world of academic conferencing? Something not too far away and not too expensive, because as a parent you are too responsible to spend your hard-earned money on conference fees and hotel “discount rates”. So, you dust off your formal clothing (all carefully selected in accordance with the misogynist ideals of appropriate female academic attire) and click with a trembling finger on the “submit” button for your abstract. Lo and behold, the program chair deemed the submission passable, so you double check with partner, in-laws and daycare and soon fly towards your first time away from the baby for more than 9 hours. 

When you have babies no one really tells you that you might have separation anxiety as well. So, you are grateful to the technological progress that allows you to obsessively watch your baby sleep on a monitor or even get him to smile to you on FaceTime for a second because their attention span hasn’t evolved beyond half a minute. You revel in discussions on post-structuralism and post-positivism, delight in the opportunity to discuss that latest methodological article that you managed to read at 3 am, and enjoy not carrying a single wet wipe in your bag. In a whirlwind of presentations and round tables you see your friends whom you haven’t seen since your last conference two years ago (because that’s how you see people), but no late-night cocktails – you cherish your opportunity to actually sleep through the night for the first time in a year and a half too much. 

After abysmal (not the Joey kind) anxiety over your child you start to choose the conferencing opportunities careful: 

  1. Do I need a visa? Because an extra trip to the consulate can make it or break the desire to enjoy “more of a comment than a question”. 
  2. How far away is it? I bet Honolulu is nice, but travelling for almost 24 hours adds extra away days that your partner may not be able to do without you.
  3. Can you or your department afford it? These days you can’t shamefully justify the out of pocket expenses for a conference as “investments into your career”. Nope, your mommy brain does not buy it anymore and would rather put it away into the baby college fund. 
  4. How helpful is this conference for your career and how much of a guilt trip on top of the conference trip the escapade will involve? I don’t know whether it’s the same for all moms, but pretty much every activity is weighed against “I could be spending this time with my child and instead I am doing this” scale.  

Another option is, of course, taking the baby with you. But as I learned the hard way, most toddlers can’t sit still for more than 10 min and most academic presentations last longer than that.  Usually only the bigger conferences offer on-site daycare (thanks, ISA!), but given (1) they require a visa and (2) that they are far away and most often (3) very expensive, there is no way I would go there in the foreseeable future. Thus, it’s really hard to get back to jet-setting times of pre-baby. 

But let’s finish on a brighter note. Thank you, people who live-tweet the panels and snap photos of the slides! I love you all very much and I will see you back in 2 to 3 years!

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Remembering Andrew Price-Smith

This is a guest post from Jeremy Youde, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Follow him on Twitter @jeremyyoude.

Anyone who studies global health security has a copy of Andrew Price-Smith’s 2001 book, The Health of Nations, on their shelf. It’s a staple of course syllabi in global health politics, and its argument helped to cement the importance of recognizing the complex interplay between international security and infectious disease. Sadly, Price-Smith, the David Packard Professor of International Relations at Colorado College and leader of its Global Health Initiative, died July 11, 2019. He is survived by his wife Janell, their two kids, and scores of scholars around the world whose work was profoundly influenced by his research.

It’s hard to catalog all of the contributions Drew, as he was known to his friends, made during his career, but let me highlight a few. First, Drew helped to make global health security a legitimate area of academic research. His first writings on the topic appeared in the late 1990s, years before the United Nations Security Council held its special session on the security implications of the HIV/AIDS epidemic–the first time it had ever devoted such attention to a public health issue.

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We Are a Bad Guild: Tenure Letter Writing Edition

A key part of the tenure process is for outside experts to evaluate the candidate’s research (hard to evaluate their teaching and service from outside).  These letters can be quite handy for getting a less biased perspective that a department might have (in either direction).  It is especially useful for providing insights in cases where the candidate’s subfield is under or unrepresented among the senior faculty evaluating tenure (a real life example:  no tenured political theorists and the candidate is a theorist). 

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Embargo My Eggo!

Today, I learned that I am out of touch. Ok, that is old news. I got into a twitter conversation about embargoed dissertations. A friend was trying to access and then cite a dissertation that has been out for a few years, and she could not because the dissertation was embargoed. I then raised this on twitter, and got a whole lot of push back. So, let’s take a look at this.

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Forget the 800-pound gorilla: the United States is the 300,000-pound blue whale of IR scholarship

This is a guest post from Cullen Hendrix, Director of the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy and Professor at the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.

International relations and international security scholarship have a U.S. bias problem—or so we are told. Ido Oren has argued the modern discipline of political science generally—and international relations specifically—was shaped by U.S. economic and security interests during the World Wars and the Cold War.

Writing in the 1970s, E.H. Carr went so far as to say “the study of international relations in English-speaking countries is simply a study of the best way to run the world from positions of strength.” And we can certainly add to these criticisms a host of critiques from non-Western scholars, especially those from the Global South who approach and critique IR through a postcolonial lens.

In a new special issue of Journal of Global Security Studies edited by Jeff Colgan, we interrogate this bias and what it means for both the conceptual frameworks and worldviews held by IR scholars to widely used datasets used by IR scholars. One seeming manifestation of this bias: IR scholarship can look an awful lot like “mesearch” as conducted by US-based academics, with the United States being the most oft-discussed case.

As Jon Vreede and I argue in our contribution to the special issue, this is undoubtedly numerically true: the United States receives much more attention than other cases. We ultimately conclude there are very practical reasons for this outsized emphasis: the United States has played an incredibly outsized role in international affairs in the 20th and 21st centuries.

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A War On … Something?

This is a guest post by Linda Monsees who works as a Post-Doctoral Researcher at Goethe University Frankfurt and is the author of Crypto-Politics.

After wars on drugs, Christmas and everything in between, it seems that we people tend to call everything a war – everything despite a real war. But really, we are now in a ‘war on truth’? Politicians, companies, and countries start disinformation campaigns and lots of stories are shared that do not qualify as journalism.  And this spread of fake news got us in a ‘war’? I get it, we are still in the process of overcoming the shocks of certain elections that did not end the way many of us would have liked. Combine this shock with a natural technology-angst and this thing called fake news becomes a real threat.

But isn’t the task of a social scientist to take some distance, anaylse, explain and – dare I say? – even give guidance? So what about the ancient wisdom of ‘Don’t Panic’? I get the feeling that much of the academic debate reproduces assumptions about the impact on fake news rather than investigating them. A closer look at empirical research shows that the impact of fake news isn’t that big – fake news do not really seem to change people’s voting behaviour. And well, do I need to tell you that spreading false information for political or economic gains isn’t such a new phenomenon either? If you think about it, fake news are a form of propaganda. Of course, networked technology makes it possible that these news items spread faster than ever before. I am not denying that fake news are a thing, the public discourse might just overrate its impact. So, fake news are widely shared and it certainly shapes current political debates – but maybe not in the way most people think? 

Research on fake news has shown that people really do not seem to care too much about the veracity of the stories that they share. In the UK, more than a third of people sharing news admit sharing inaccurate or false news, an insight corobroated by other sociological research. While it surely is a problem when people (and I include myself here) cannot distinguish between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ news, people seem also be fine with sharing non-true stories. Acknowledging these insights then also means that ‘media literacy’ is not really a solution to the problem. danah boyd actually made this argument in a much nicer way, so check out her article over here. Focusing on media literacy does not acknowledge the underlying political and social problems that might be the source for the spread of fake news. Media literacy is considered to be the right tool to educate people about which kind of news they need to read. But this focus on education makes the problem of fake news one of young and uneducated people. According to this view, media literacy will help people who cannot distinguish between fake and non-fake news to become more educated.  Fake news is thus only a problem of ‘them’  – the young and uneducated. The underlying political economy, the importance of clickbait and legitimate political protest are covered up by such a focus on media literacy.

Fake news, post-truth, disinformation will probably just become part of our political vocabulary. This reflects changes in technology and the media culture and even though we feel uncomfortable about this we should maybe listen more to people who have actually done empirical research on this rather than repeating panicked judgements. 

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A Case for Nationalism

Sorry, clickbait! But admit, it, after an apology of race science in Quillette or “The Case for Colonialism” in TWQ you probably rage-clicked on the thumbnail to let me have it. Periodic IR Twitter flares over teaching “Stoddard light” (i.e., Huntington) also show that not all scholars are aware of racialized origins of world order, existing color lines in global capitalism, or even “race relations” pedigree of IR as a discipline. This post is about a case for teaching about nationalism because it seems like different versions of racist primordial rhetoric just won’t die.


As a blog post by John Jackson made it clear, race science is a vampire science that comes back every so often [Twilight joke edited]. I see from time to time some type of “IQ difference” and “levels of criminality” arguments coming up among students because these arguments are essentially polished up turds from the 19th century anthroposociology and Social Darwinism that keep stinking up even supposedly an academic debate through mainstreaming of far-right rhetoric around the world. If a “Leader of the Free World” can say that “Mexicans are rapists” and “they bring drugs and crime” on prime-time television while the news dutifully resort to both-sidism and place chyrons with direct quotes, is our last hope education?

I have taught a course on theories of nationalism for several years now and we always start with the primordial stuff: blood, speech, custom, region, and religion. At this point, I invite students to create a ‘fake nation” in groups. This usually yields a very fun and diverse set of nations from island matriarchate with coconut cult to unicorn-blooded mermaid atheists. This exercise, of course, does not reverse or heal all the prejudice that might have collected in the backs of the minds of students (I have another 13 sessions for that) but at least it gives them an opportunity to reflect on the artificial nature of nation-building projects.


Another important session is on the role of collective memory and politics of commemoration. Especially on the undergraduate level where high school memories are not that far off, it’s important to reflect what was chosen to remember and what was chosen to forget in history books, why certain public holidays make the cut, and how national projects begin in the everyday, often unnoticed practices of creating a “culture”. But, as Huntington’s resilience on the syllabi shows, “culture” still serves as an ontological category that elevates constructed differences to political ones. So, after 14 sessions of talking imagined communities, “scientific” racism, and ontological security among others, I rarely get the boiler plate “Western civilization” in the exam answers, but how do I know the vaccination against racism has been successful?

As Paul Musgrave noted, right-wing media tells me that I can turn my students into socialists, but my experience tells me that I can’t even make them do the reading. So, what can we as political scientists do to inoculate against racism and xenophobia? What should we encourage the students to read? Because I don’t want to see the vampire science rise again.


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Appetite for Self Destruction, or three suicides and a funeral*

Here’s my argument: Late 80s/early 90s Soviet Union. The United Kingdom in 2016. The United States 2016 to now. Three contemporary examples of international suicide that conventional IR neither predicted nor can account.

Ok, so perhaps suicide is too hyperbolic a concept and we should go with appetite for self-destruction . Certainly in the case of the Soviet Union any agential claim regarding the state is overdrawn. But either way I think there is a point here. All three states, and particularly the last two, undertook an internally driven diminution of international standing and capacity—dare I say, power.

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Plato and teaching Foreign Policy

I assigned Plato’s Theaetetus this semester in my foreign policy class. It was the very first thing we read in a course that included more standard text’s like Walter Russel Mead’s Special Providence, Tom Schelling’s Arms and Influence, and selections from Andrew Bacevich’s edited volume of primary sources, Ideas and American Foreign Policy. On first glance, reading a work of political philosophy—and one which is widely considered one of the more difficult texts in the Western canon—might seem like a poor fit. But, my experiment paid off and I may continue assigning the Theaetetus or similar texts in my courses on foreign policy in the future. Its theme is epistemology, knowledge, and specifically it challenges the idea that humans can actually know anything. I have plans to write something up for a journal, but in this piece, I want to explore how it might be used in the classroom should anyone feel ambitious enough to replicate.

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Clarifying Classic Confusions for IR students

An amazing series of tweets must be re-posted here so that IR profs everywhere can use them for syllabi and for the first day of class.  A grateful nation owes Herb Carmen, former naval aviator, a tremendous debt.
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Editors, we need to talk about robustness checks

It’s happened to all of us (or least those of us who do quantitative work). You get back a manuscript from a journal and it’s an R&R. Your excitement quickly fades when you start reading the comments. One reviewer gives a grocery list of additional tests they’d like to see: alternate control variables, different estimators, excluded observations. Another complains about the long list of robustness checks already in the manuscript, as it obscures the important findings. Sometimes both of these reviewers are the same person.

And it gets even more complicated if the article ends up rejected and you send it to another journal. Now that list of robustness checks–some of which were of questionable value–expands under a new set of reviewers’ comments. And those reviewers irritated by voluminous appendices get even more annoyed by all the tests included with little clear justification (“another reviewer told me to add this” not being an acceptable footnote).

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Winners of the 2019 Duckies!

This is a guest post from William Kindred Winecoff, Incoming Chair

and Brent E. Sasley, Outgoing Chair of the Online Media Caucus

The Online Media Caucus’s 2019 Duckies have come and gone. The reception celebrating Online Achievement in International Studies, generously sponsored by SAGE Publishing, included three fascinating Ignite speakers and the presentation of five awards to very deserving scholars.

Ignite speakers:

Meg Guliford, PhD candidate at Tufts University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, spoke about “Operation Hedge of Protection,” which contains her strategies for dealing with trolls on Twitter.

Naazneen Barma, Associate Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and Co-Director of Bridging the Gap, presented some ideas for thinking about best practices in online activity.

Paul Poast, Associate Professor at the University of Chicago, explained how and why he created a Twyllabus for his Introduction to IR course.

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Does IR really have a “culture problem?”

Is it a mistake to push back on a senior scholar (whose work you admire) right before ISA? Maybe. Is it overkill to post twice in one week? Probably (sorry Duck superiors). But I had to say something about this Christian Reus-Smit piece in Foreign Policy–based on his new bookclaiming IR doesn’t understand culture. It’s an example of the sort of well-meaning critique that fails to really engage with work being done in IR, which can divide and undermine scholars who should be working together.

Reus-Smit argues IR sees culture in an outdated manner, approaching cultures “as tightly integrated, neatly bounded, and clearly differentiated” entities that are “causally powerful.” He argues this misrepresents reality, ignores advances in other fields, and is a common failing across realist, rationalist and constructivist theories.

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Citation Conversation Continued

My post on citation got far more engagement than nearly all of the things I have posted over the years, so I thought I would return to the scene of the crime/post.  While many academics agreed whole heartily with my take, more than a few did not including folks I respect a great deal.  What were their perspectives?

  1. Citations are a lousy measure, one with much bias, of academic relevance/achievement, etc.
  2. People would rather be contacted so that they can provide the latest version of the paper, rather than something that might be half-baked, wrong, or incomplete.
  3. People worry about being scooped or plagiarized.
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The slow death of realism in IR

It seems like good times have come around again for realists. After decades in the theoretical and empirical doldrums (getting end of Cold War wrong, opposition to war in Iraq, terrorism and COIN) realism is back. The most recent U.S. National Defense Strategy renews a focus on great power competition, specifically with China and Russia. The Pentagon has offloaded MRAPs and is stocking up on boost phase interceptors, hypersonics, and other weapons platforms not all that useful against insurgents but great for peer competitors. Oh, happy days for the balance of power!

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How Not to Get Cited

by Steve Saideman

Put “do not cite, do not circulate” on your paper.  I received a paper for the upcoming ISA which had that instruction on it.  I yelled at (ok, I mocked) my students last week for doing the same thing.  In the olden days, folks would put “do not cite” on their papers because they wanted to polish them before submitting, that they didn’t want to have errant results widely circulated.  Perhaps there is a fear that if a paper is circulated, it might get scooped.

But  NO!!!!

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Social Media/Engagement: Why Do It?

by Stephen M. Saideman

I teach a 3rd year PhD workshop that is mostly focused on getting students through their dissertation proposals (a roadmap for their dissertation research).  Along the way, we cover other topics, like how to get on conference programs, what kind of non-academic employment there is, and, yes, social media.  Last night, we covered the latter category, and I was surprised at the response: why don’t I make money off of it?

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