2008-09 Mershon Center Research Projects

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    Comparative National Elections Project 2009
    (Mershon Center for International Security Studies, 2009) Gunther, Richard
    The Comparative National Elections Project (CNEP) is a multi-year, multi-county examination of how citizens in democracies around the world receive information about policies, parties, candidates, and politics during the course of election campaigns. It is the third-largest international project of its kind.
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    Presidential-Congressional Conflict in Domestic and Foreign Policy Making
    (Mershon Center for International Security Studies, 2009) Mughan, Anthony
    The American form of government was founded on the key principle of checks and balances. By separating powers between the president and Congress, the founding fathers hoped that each would provide a counterweight to rein in the power of the other.
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    Politics and Primacy: How Dictatorship and Development Set the Stage for Democratization
    (Mershon Center for International Security Studies, 2009) Crenshaw, Edward
    How does a society move from dictatorship to democracy? Social theorists usually explain this using political modernization theory. PMT asserts that industrialization leads to urbanization, creating a class structure in which different interest groups vie for power. While these struggles can be violent –- what theorists call a society's "growing pains" -– eventually cross affiliations or mutual needs make violence counterproductive, leading to democratic decision-making, political parties and elections.
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    Designing Effective Climate Change Mechanisms for Developing Countries
    (Mershon Center for International Security Studies, 2009) Keeler, Andrew
    Climate change is widely recognized as one of humankind’s greatest challenges in the 21st century. If left unchecked, rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions could seriously harm economies, societies and ecosystems around the world.
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    The Performance of International Organizations
    (2009) Thompson, Alexander
    International organizations (IOs) are essential but controversial actors in world politics. They are expected to rebuild war-torn societies, reduce poverty, stop the spread of disease, prevent financial crises, address environmental problems, adjudicate disputes, ensure free trade, promote gender equality, reform legal systems, and reduce corruption. But instead of earning praise, IOs face relentless attacks from critics who believe they are ineffective — or worse, that they exacerbate the very problems they are supposed to solve. Because IOs are so important to the international system, it is crucial that scholars and policy makers have a way of evaluating them. In this project, Alexander Thompson is developing a framework for understanding the performance of IOs. Why do some IOs perform better than others, and what are the determinants of their performance?
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    Passport: Newsletter of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations 2008-09
    (2009) Hahn, Peter; Lerner, Mitchell
    Since 1969, the newsletter for the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) has provided a forum for the discussion of issues related to the practice of American diplomacy, while also presenting historians of U.S. foreign policy with a reliable source of professional information. In 2003, the newsletter was renamed Passport, and editorship passed to Peter Hahn and Mitch Lerner, with support from the Mershon Center. Passport’s purpose is: To print essays on substantive issues related to the study of American diplomacy, particularly those focusing on newly opened archival materials -- To host debates among scholars -- To offer detailed information regarding new publications, scholarly competitions and awards, calls for papers and contributions, and other relevant resources
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    A Comparative Study of Herder-Farmer Conflicts in West Africa
    (2009) Moritz, Mark
    In Toda, Niger, in 1991, a mob of angry farmers attacked herders in several villages, killing over 100 people. Eleven years later on the Jos Plateau in Nigeria, tension between Muslim herders and Christian farmers resulted in the destruction of several villages, the deaths of hundreds of people, and the creation of 20,000 refugees. And on the border between Senegal and Mauritania, conflict between farmers and herders in 1989 brought the two countries to the brink of war. Mark Moritz wanted to understand why some conflicts between herders and farmers in Africa escalate into widespread violence between communities while most do not. To do this, he is analyzing 29 case studies of herder-farmer conflict under different conditions with different outcomes.
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    Civic Order and Dispute Resolution in 14th and 15th Century London
    (2009) Hanawalt, Barbara
    During the 14th and 15th centuries, London was a city of 40,000 to 60,000 people crowded into one square mile. Tempers could flare quickly, and factional strife was common, with disorder sometimes degenerating into riots such as the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Yet during this period, London became a thriving center of commercial trade. How could this have happened? Hanawalt credits a well regulated judicial system through which authorities established respect for their office and defined the boundaries of correct behavior. In her new book Civic Order and Dispute Resolution in Fourteenth- and Fifteenth Century London, Hanawalt investigates the ways in which London promoted a civic culture of order that provided a favorable environment for dispute resolution.
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    American Musicians in Cold War Cultural Diplomacy
    (2009) Fosler-Lussier, Danielle
    During the Cold War, the U.S. State Department sent musicians to strategically important regions around the world to enhance the image of American culture. Hundreds of musicians performed a broad variety of styles including jazz, classical, folk, blues, country, musical theater, choral, and even avant-garde art music. Despite the importance of the musicians' tours for the development of international cultural contact, no scholar has yet done a thorough analysis of the effects of the State Department’s tour program. Danielle Fosler-Lussier is attempting to do just that with a grant from the Mershon Center supporting the early stages of her research.
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    Sanctuary and the Devolution of Immigration Enforcement after 9/11
    (2009) Coleman, Mathew
    Since the 1970s, debate about immigration in the United States has been centered on the entry of illegal aliens across the border with Mexico. Up to 80 percent of U.S. spending on immigration is allocated for the U.S.-Mexico border. In this project, Coleman examines "boundary policing," or immigration enforcement.
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    Firms and the Welfare State: A Test of Employer Support for Economic Security
    (2009) Watson, Sara
    During the 20th century, Western nations have adopted social protection as a way to stem conflict between capital and labor, and to ensure economic growth. Measures such as employment protection, unemployment insurance, and wage bargaining have helped pave the way for an era of social stability in Europe and the United States. Using France and Germany as cases, Watson plans to test this idea by analyzing data from the stock market. Specifically, she is looking at what happens to a company's stock price when social protection measures are passed. Her idea is that the type of skills a company requires from its labor force will determine how its share price responds to protectionist legislation because such laws affect the incentives for workers to invest in different types of skills.
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    The Concept of Time in the Koran
    (2009) Tamer, Georges
    Georges Tamer has spent his career studying philosophy and Arabic and Islamic literature and culture. Recently, he made an important discovery: Many of the images used to describe time in the Koran were also used not just in pre-Islamic Arab society, but also in ancient Greece and late antiquity. In this book project, Tamer plans to explore the perception of past, present and future in the Koran, and to study how worldly time is related to the Hereafter. He will also ask whether the Koranic concept of time corresponds to the idea of Islam as "submission" or "subordination," and how far it allows for freedom of will. Finally, Tamer will discuss how the concept of time influences the political behavior of Muslims.
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    Unveiling Modernity: Post-Colonial Islamic Reforms in Ghana and Burkina Faso, 1950-2000
    (2009) Kobo, Ousman
    The end of European colonialism was a watershed moment in West Africa. Throughout the region, a new group of reformers challenged the political, social, and religious dominance of mystical Islam. The reformers condemned the belief in supernatural forces as superstitious and tried to suppress local customs as contrary to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. By the 1970s, these reformers had a large following among urban dwellers, especially the younger generation of elites educated in European institutions. Why did these reformers have such mass appeal? By tracing developments in Ghana and Burkina Faso from 1950 to 2000, Kobo argues that Wahhabism, the doctrine promoted by 18th century Arab reformer Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, gave the reformers a way to reconcile Western modernity with Islamic faith.
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    The Development of Islamist Insurgency: Egypt, 1986-1999
    (2009) Jenkins, J. Craig
    From 1986 to 1999, Egypt experienced a wave of Islamist violence as 474 attacks killed and injured over 2,000 people. Perhaps most notable was the 1997 attack in Luxor in which 10 German tourists were killed. The Egyptian government responded to the violence with a campaign of repression through arrests, trials, and executions. By 1999 the violence had dissipated, though some insurgents went on to form the core of al-Qaida. What explains the rise and decline of the Islamist insurgency? Jenkins set out to answer this question by examining the pattern of attacks against four variables.
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    Inter-relations between Political and Demographic Change in the 20th Century
    (2009) Casterline, John
    Global demographic change since 1950 has been the most rapid in human history. Fertility rates in the most populous regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America have fallen to half and mortality rates have fallen to a quarter of their post-World War II levels. In this project, Casterline is undertaking a comprehensive study of the relationship between political factors and demographic dynamics across all major countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America from 1950 to 2000.
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    If It Bleeds, It Leads: Assessing Media Effects on Transnational Terrorism
    (2008) Crenshaw, Edward; Jenkins, J. Craig
    Do mass media make it more likely that terrorists will target democracies? Many scholars argue that yes, terrorists target democracies because democracies have mass media that will cover these acts of violence and therefore spread the terrorists' message. Crenshaw and Jenkins, however, see a flaw in this logic. All the databases that list terrorist acts get their data from the mass media; therefore, these databases count only the acts of terrorism that the media happen to cover. This means that media selection bias could skew the results of any research based on the data. To address this flaw, Crenshaw and Jenkins propose a new way to measure the role of mass media in terrorist attacks.
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    The Ecology of Terrorist Organizations
    (2008) Crenshaw, Edward; Jenkins, J. Craig
    How do terrorist organizations act as agents of change? Since Sept. 11 there has been enormous interest in terrorist groups. Large amounts of data have been collected about the terrorists and their attacks. However systematic, empirical data on terrorist organizations, along with data on political groups that choose not to use terrorism, have never been collected and analyzed. Edward Crenshaw and J. Craig Jenkins, along with a multidisciplinary team, will examine data collected by the Minorities at Risk Organizational Behavior (MAROB) project at University of Maryland's Center for International Development and Conflict Management. These data will be analyzed to study the birth and death of terrorist organizations as part of a larger social ecology.
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    Change in Personnel and Policy and the Legitimacy of the Supreme Court
    (2008) Caldeira, Gregory A.; Gibson, James
    Do ordinary Americans regard the Supreme Court as a political institution like Congress, in which decisions are subject to the ideology of its members? Or do they see the court as different, with judges who rule on the basis of impartial principles? And are people's views changed by events like a controversial nomination? Gregory Caldeira set out to answer these questions in research that has been supported by the Mershon Center since 2005. That year saw two Supreme Court nominations – John Roberts as chief justice and the controversial nomination of Samuel Alito. These events provided a golden opportunity for Caldeira and his research partner James Gibson, Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government at Washington University in St. Louis, to assess American knowledge about and attitudes toward the Supreme Court.
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    Political Asylum Policy and International Security
    (2008) Shuman, Amy; Bohmer, Carol
    In 2005, President Bush signed the Read ID Act, requiring applicants for asylum to provide documentation of their identity and allowing judges to deny asylum to anyone whose family may be connected with a terrorist group. The act is one example of how political asylum policy is intertwined with international security issues. In this project, Amy Shuman and Carol Bohmer examine how humanitarian concerns for refugees come into conflict with security concerns in the United States and Britain. While the goal of political asylum is to provide refuge for the applicant, the process must also protect the state. This contradiction is at the root of current problems in the system.
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    The Effect of Group Leaders
    (2008) Weinberg, Bruce
    Why do some people become leaders? Do group members see leaders as the same or different from themselves? Are leaders chosen because they are representative of the group, or do the actions of the group reflect the will of the leader? Bruce Weinberg tackles these questions by examining the effect of leaders on group behavior. To measure this, Weinberg used the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a data set covering more than 90,000 students in grades 7 though 12 in 132 schools nationwide. Schools make a great laboratory to study social interactions because the information is well defined and consistent from one school to the next.