Dissertations

"Ever-Widening Circles”: U.S. Private Voluntary Development in Palestine/Israel and Jordan, 1930-1967

Francis Bonenfant-Juwong

History & Peace Studies

Using U.S. religiously-affiliated voluntary groups as my primary vehicle, my dissertation centers on the historical variations of U.S. social and economic development efforts in Palestine/Israel and Jordan, their connection to British colonial models of social welfare, and their “on the ground” implementation between 1930 and 1967. I suggest that although they were complicit with the expansion of British and American power in the region, groups such as Catholic Relief Services, the American Friends Service Committee, Near East Foundation, and International Voluntary Service were not neo-imperialists but rather flawed innovators who pushed the boundaries of Western relations with the non-Western world by seeking to correct power asymmetries in a peaceful, humane, and cooperative spirit. Linking into emergent research on alternative visions of socioeconomic development that were not necessarily Weberian “modernization,” private agencies (and some British officials) advocated visions and projects mirroring agricultural extension. Prefiguring contemporary concepts such as participatory action research and empowerment, proponents advocated the adaption of small-scale demonstrations, sensitivity to and knowledge of local culture, and self-help through intimate human-relationship building. Their experiences are valuable not only for understanding the history of U.S. power, but also for informing the present state of development and peacebuilding practice.

Threat, Risk, and Repression: Exploring Political Violence from a Prospect Theory Approach

Jessica Brandwein

Political Science & Peace Studies

What are the causes and consequences of state-sponsored political violence against civilians and how can international actors limit such violence? This dissertation takes a prospect theory approach to understanding these questions, diverging from the typical expected-utility framework presented in the existing literature. The primary argument is that governments decide to perpetrate violence against their citizens based on whether that government is operating from a domain of gain or a domain of loss. The result is that distinct governments will respond to similar types of threats with different levels of violence depending on their domain. This dissertation consists of an introduction and three papers which use quantitative methods to study several aspects of this argument. Paper 1 explores the causes of state repression, arguing that a government’s domain influences how it frames threats and the level of risk it will accept to eliminate those threats. A statistical analysis of government responses to dissent among African countries supports this argument, showing that governments in the domain of loss repress low levels of dissent at higher rates than governments in the domain of gain. Paper 2 considers the effects of government violence, examining how the killing of civilians in intrastate conflict influences its outcome. This paper argues that a government’s domain shapes its use of civilian victimization, which in turn affects the conflict’s outcome. A global study of intrastate conflicts finds that the patterns of violence perpetrated by governments in the domain of loss are more likely to lead to rebel-preferred outcomes, while those used by governments in the domain of gain increase the probability of a government-preferred outcome. Paper 3 looks at how international actors influence the use of state repression, proposing that the effect of interventions on the use of state-sponsored violence is conditioned on government domain. Quantitative testing provides some limited support for this theory. In combination, these papers suggest that utilizing a prospect theory framework can improve our understanding of state-sponsored political violence.

People Power and Peacebuilding: Civil Resistance and the Cultural Processes of Contentious Politics in Egypt, 2010-2015

Matthew J. Chandler

Sociology & Peace Studies

The Egyptian revolution in 2011 was a stunning example of people power, but the subsequent rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the military coup against it in 2013 point to a shortcoming of research on civil resistance—namely, insufficient explanation of the mechanisms that help or hinder the transition from anti-regime campaigns to peaceful, democratic governance. Prior studies have shown that civil resistance succeeds more often and leads more reliably to democracy than violent insurgency, the general explanation being that nonviolent tactics prefigure democratic outcomes. My dissertation examines the mixed outcomes of civil resistance in Egypt, comparing the cultural processes that contributed to the mobilization of civil resistance campaigns with those that precipitated social discord and destructive political contention afterward. Evidence derives from a large collection of digital documents and interviews with Egyptian activists, analyzed using historical process tracing and a fuzzy-logical adaptation of semantic networks. 

Transformation’s Self: Articulating Intra-personal Change through John of the Cross and Judith Butler

Heather DuBois

Theology & Peace Studies

Though transformation of the self is often presumed or prescribed by theories of change, it is under-theorized in peacebuilding and systematic theology. This relative silence about the dynamics of subjectivity leaves untouched root causes of harmful behavior and potential resources for growth and healing. Combining research on spirituality and political theory, my dissertation enables greater reflection on how intra-personal change occurs, under whose agency, with what impact. Specifically, I gather insights from sixteenth century Carmelite John of the Cross and contemporary critical theorist Judith Butler to describe a self that is capable of intentional change. My thesis is as follows: Joining Butler’s performativity theory, which discerns the effects of inter-personal relations and socio-political discourse on the self, and John’s mystical anthropology, which foregrounds the role of contemplative practices, provides a conceptual basis for nonviolent transformation toward subjectivities and epistemologies that enable peacebuilding.

Interpreting Islam: US Relations with Iraq and Indonesia, 1956-1968

Laura Weis

History & Peace Studies

Policymakers and pundits today frequently discuss the state of U.S. relations with “the Muslim world.” How have ideas about Islam historically informed U.S. foreign policy? My dissertation examines how and when Islam became salient in U.S. relations during the height of the Cold War. Using a comparative framework, I analyze U.S. relations with two Muslim majority societies, Iraq and Indonesia, between 1956 and 1968. I scrutinize policymakers’ interpretations of religion; U.S. engagement with religious actors abroad; and how particular conceptions of Islam oscillated in influence over time. Detailed case studies of U.S. relations with Iraq and Indonesia can offer important historical context to guide the development of constructive relationships with these countries in the present. And, more broadly, understanding the ways in which policymakers have perceived religion—both as a catalyst for violence and as a potential resource for peacebuilding—offers insight into how the United States can better engage with religious actors today.