Dissertations in Progress

Francis Bonenfant-Juwong


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

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.

Jessica Brandwein


Checking Escalation: The Effect of Third-Party Intervention on State-Sponsored Violence

How do international interventions influence a government’s decision to escalate, continue, or de-escalate political violence? I use a theoretical framework to argue that the effectiveness of an intervention in limiting further political violence depends on the target government’s perceptions of its own security. I hypothesize that interventions that impose costs for the use of violence will be counterproductive when levied against governments with a tenuous hold on power. These interventions will magnify the insecurity of the target government, prompting it to escalate violence against perceived domestic threats in order to avoid the possibility of losing further power.

Matthew Chandler


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

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. 

Karie Cross


Constructing Solidarity across Difference: Women’s Peacebuilding, Feminist Thought, and Gendered Peacebuilding Praxis

How do women build peace in contexts of extreme diversity? How does gender-based solidarity operate among women peacebuilders coming from multiple ethnicities, religions, and classes? I pursue these questions both empirically and normatively, using an ethnographic study of women peacebuilders in the diverse and conflict-ridden state of Manipur, India, as the basis for sustained engagement with two schools of feminist political theory. I take women’s peacebuilding practices as an articulation of feminist theory—as praxis—and I use them to challenge aspects of Martha Nussbaum’s liberal feminist approach to women's human development and Brooke Ackerly’s critical feminist framework of universal human rights.

Heather du Bois


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

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.

Ji Eun Kim


Good and Bad Apologies: Determinants of Successful State Apologies

State apologies addressing past injustices have dramatically increased over the past few decades and many have argued their important role in political reconciliation. My dissertation examines the conditions of successful state apologies, apologies which recipients find more satisfactory and acceptable. My theory tests the importance of four factors which can lead to various apology receptions: the ways of expression (who speaks what, when, where, and how), behavioral consistency of the apologizer, conspicuous opportunism of the apologizer, and the gap between apologizer and recipients’ perceptions regarding past injustice conveyed in prior communicative interaction. My dissertation looks at both interstate and domestic apologies in the aftermath of government-sponsored human rights violations and combines cross-case comparison research and within-case studies. By identifying important causal conditions of apology reception, this project aims to contribute to our empirical knowledge of state apologies and to further specify the relationship between apology and political reconciliation.

Hyunjin Deborah Kwak


Building and Burning Bridges through Talk: Contention and solidarity among civil society groups in Mindanao

How do individuals and groups in post-conflict settings perform their identity and their organizational loyalties in public deliberative spaces as members of an identity group or a complex set of identities? My dissertation project examines divisions and conflict potential due to identity differences among civil society actors in post-conflict Mindanao, the Philippines. This study analyzes the communication styles and skills that civil society groups employ to mediate or exacerbate these tensions in deliberative spaces. Further, it theorizes the conditions that allow groups to talk across identity divisions and find joint solutions that promote just and peaceful settlement, amid continuing differences in perspectives, experiences, resources, and power. I use interviews and ethnographic research methods in to conduct a multi-level qualitative analysis of civil society networks. Rich analyses of civil society networks will provide scholars and practitioners a more complex understanding of the role of civil society in post-conflict settings—how civil society groups and networks succeed or fail to talk across identity divisions and coalesce in critical stages of post-conflict reconstruction.

Shinkyu Lee


Communities of War and Peace: Arendt, Political Association, and International Relations

My dissertation examines contemporary issues relating to cosmopolitanism through the lens of Hannah Arendt’s views on political associations. I argue that her thought provides a rich source of guidance for addressing the changing aspect of international politics. By investigating her engagements with different institutional models (the nation state, the ancient polis, and the modern republic), I articulate her concerns about anti-political forces and their implications for the broad question of dealing with otherness. This project will show how Arendt’s call for the spatial limit for freedom and the right to membership in a political community sensitizes cosmopolitan theorists to the need to reflect the concrete context of humanity. It will also be made clear that her thought helps us to explore how we both accommodate and overcome the risk of politics, rather than merely conceding to the Realpolitik of international anarchy.

Laura Weis


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

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.

Dissertations Completed

Ryne Clos


A Long Road to Canaan: Capuchin Missionaries and the Delegates of the Word in Nicaragua’s Long Sixties

My dissertation examines the methods of U.S. Catholic missionaries in eastern Nicaragua and their changes over time. The Capuchin priests and Sisters of St. Agnes nuns arrived from the U.S. Midwest in 1939 with a particular conception of Church and mission that guided their activities in Nicaragua for more than 25 years. In the middle of the 1960s, the Capuchins decided that they, too, should change the way they carried out their mission.  Historians have started to call this period from 1959-1974 the Long Sixties, defining it as a discrete period characterized by challenges to traditional practices, youthful experimentation, and utopian idealism.  My dissertation combines the history of the Capuchin mission and the construct of the Long Sixties in a novel way to explain that the change in missionary behavior is related to this distinct time period.

Alexander Dukalskis


Ideology & Authoritarian Persistence: Shaping the Public Sphere in North Korea and Burma

My dissertation examines how ideology and information control contribute to the persistence of authoritarian regimes. I argue that while dominant ideologies of such regimes may differ in content, they rely on similar sets of underlying mechanisms designed to impact interactions in the public sphere. My dissertation analyzes how the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) under Kim Jong Il and Burma/Myanmar under successive military juntas have attempted to legitimate themselves as military regimes in the post-Cold War era. It illustrates how the ideologies of the DPRK and the Burmese junta worked to forestall critiques about authoritarian rule by limiting and manipulating discussion in the political public sphere.

Ashley Greene


Narratives of Power: History Education and Statecraft in Uganda

My dissertation examines official history curricula used in Ugandan secondary schools between 1962 and the present in order to better understand how changes in history education have reflected the national aspirations and challenges of Uganda’s political leaders. Drawing on research done in the U.S., the U.K, and Uganda, I juxtapose educational curricula and materials from various time periods and administrations with political rhetoric found in newspapers, speeches, and unpublished papers. Following eleven months of fieldwork in four regions of Uganda, I combine traditional historical research in archival depositories with an integrated peace studies approach, using semi-structured interviews with teachers, students, and school administrators. In addition to contributing to an understudied topic in Ugandan history, my dissertation will increase understanding of the role of education in national development and post-conflict reconciliation, particularly in countries that continue to struggle with the violent legacies of the past.

Janna Hunter-Bowman


Agency Under Duress: A Political Theological Approach to Peacebuilding

How do persons under attack and considered weak become change agents? My dissertation examines the corporate agency of Colombian Pentecostal communities in contexts of direct and sustained violence, emergent from deep structural violence. In spite of the “local turn” in peacebuilding and growing interest in religious peacebuilding, theoretical accounts of the agency of local religious actors in situations of great constraint are underdeveloped. Grounded in fieldwork (2001-2004; 2006-2009), I provide descriptions of communities that give primacy to collective ontology as the basis for their self-protection and other forms of social political engagement, without erasing internal difference or fluid and dynamic selves. Narrative descriptions are the basis for a theological reconstruction of this form of agency, as well as a critical reassessment and revision of eschatological categories used to talk about non-state subjectivities in Christian theology. The dissertation concludes with a return to the grounded realities of the communities, who once enacted peace amidst war on the local level in invisibility but in 2015 actively engaged in multi-level and multi-level peace processes.

Kathrin Kranz


Armed with Good Intentions? Explaining Arms Embargo Compliance

My dissertation—“Armed with good intentions? Explaining arms embargo compliance”—investigates why major arms exporters have come not only to comply with international arms embargoes, but also to embrace them as policy instruments. I examine and contrast the historical developments in two leading arms exporting nations, Germany and the United Kingdom. During the past 50 years, these countries moved away from treating arms embargoes as a nuisance they reluctantly navigated—and sometimes violated—to championing them as policy instruments. Based on rich case studies of the arms embargo regimes against South Africa and China, and interviews with policymakers and archival research, the dissertation finds that the growing strength of the arms embargo norm has made noncompliance a costly choice for arms exporting states.  

Kyle Lambelet


¡Presente! Political Theology at the Gates of Ft. Benning

The relationship between commitments to the faithful practice of the Christian life and effective engagement in political change has long troubled both theory and practice at the intersection of theology, politics, and nonviolence. When Christian theologians and ethicists have considered the relationship, they have tended to collapse the dialectic, privileging one principle or the other. When analysts of strategic nonviolence have taken it up, they have tended to neglect considerations of faithfulness, focusing largely on why nonviolence works. The aim of this dissertation is to offer a working account of practical reasoning that leaves in play both considerations of faithfulness and effectiveness, as well as a number of other embodied principles of theo-political action. I pursue this aim by executing an extended case study of the School of Americas Watch (SOAW), one of the longest running nonviolent social movements currently active in the U.S. today. I analyze four sites of practical reasoning—dilemmas related ritual, pluralism, law, and charisma—and in doing so describe the complex ways in which SOAW activists deploy considerations of faithfulness and effectiveness as they discern how to engage politically. Rather than collapsing or evading the relationship between the two principles, these four dilemmas demonstrate a constellation of common forms in which the task of practical reasoning might be worked out. As an exercise in political theology, my dissertation does not terminate in description. I argue that an adequate account of practical reason shows it to be an intersubjective and embodied practice that responds to God’s agency in history.

Laura Taylor


Does Violence Begat Violence? Factors Moderating Trajectories of Youth Aggression in a Context of Political Conflict

My dissertation examined if exposure to intergroup or sectarian antisocial behavior increases youth aggression and if changes in youth aggression are related to participation in intergroup conflict. The study utilized four waves of a longitudinal dataset of mother/child in Northern Ireland. Although boys were higher than girls in initial aggression, there were no significant gender differences in the average change in aggression from 10 to 20 years old. Experience with sectarian antisocial behavior predicted greater aggression, but that effect weakened with age and was buffered by a cohesive family environment. The findings identify ways the family environment protects youth from greater aggression and hostility and suggest ways to decrease the potential for youth mobilization in protracted conflict.

Lenore VanderZee


Concluding Conquest: Why States End Military Occupation

Military occupation has been part of interstate relations the system existed. Conquest paid, and controlling territory meant reaping its benefits. However, after World War II norms of state sovereignty and territorial integrity were codified in the United Nations Charter. At the same time, maintaining colonization became untenable and politically harmful, and Western states began to relinquish their colonies overseas, either by force or choice. Despite these emerging norms and the process of decolonization, military occupation continues to be an important international issue. There have been forty-two occupations that have begun since the end of World War II; of these, thirteen remain ongoing, and twenty-nine have ended. This project asks: Why do some of these occupations endure, while others end? Specifically, Why and how do states end military occupation? I theorize that the interaction between conditions at the international, dyadic, and domestic levels of analysis significantly shift the cost-benefit analysis of occupying states.

There has been very little comparative work on the processes of military occupation – the studies are limited to a few books and articles that do not directly address the question at hand, nor do they have a coherent and logical definition of military occupation from which to build. To fill this gap, I created an original dataset identifying forty-two military occupations, 1945-2014 and collecting data on 32 variables. Using this data, I build my theory and develop hypotheses using diverse literatures, including territorial disputes, inter- and intrastate wars, failing states and falling empires, the demise of colonialism, and case studies of the individual cases of military occupation.

I then test my theory by analyzing two cases of military occupation that share several important similarities: Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor (1975-1999) and Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara (1975-Present). Through comparative process-tracing, I ascertain how conditions at the three levels of analysis interact to result in these divergent outcomes.

Ana Velitchkova


The Making of Modern Citizens: Cosmopolitanism behind the Iron Curtain

How is social integration achieved under modern non-democratic regimes? My dissertation finds that cultural elites in former state-socialist Bulgaria,Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Romania developed alternative historical forms of modernity, which were not only sources of social solidarity and domestic peace but also facilitated international cooperation across the Iron Curtain following World War II. These homegrown modernities were typified by the most prominent volunteer and autonomous transnational movement in Eastern Europe during state-socialism — the constructed international language Esperanto. Simultaneously local and global, Eastern European modernities were inspired by a local ethics of civility as fellowship, by Marxism as understood and lived under state-socialism, and by global models, particularly social, economic, and cultural rights norms. The synthetic Eastern European modernities were grounded in unique modes of social relations, practices, institutions, and discourse styles and consisted of expectations of the individual, civil relations, relation with the nation-state, and international relations.