Political Theory, History of Political Thought, History of the Emotions, Secularization Studies
A Political Theory of Wonder: Feelings of Order in Modern Political Thought
My work is situated at intersection of the history of political thought, the history of the emotions, and secularization studies. Fundamentally, my research is directed towards understanding how our emotional habits condition our responses to political phenomena. In future research, I plan to extend this research to modern notions of property and the environmental politics.
I have designed and taught introductory courses in political theory, modern European thought, and modern republican thought. In addition to these courses, I am interested in offering more specialized classes on the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, Continental political thought, the political history of the emotions, early modern humanism, theories of freedom, and conceptions of property.
My dissertation answers the following question: How has wonder, an emotion tied to religion and philosophy in premodern European political thought, been used in the context of a modern, supposedly disenchanted politics? The past few decades have seen a dramatic reassessment of the importance of the emotions in the history of political thought. However, this broad reassessment has yet to address how canonical political thinkers conceptualized and deployed wonder in their theories of politics. I argue that we find in the writings of Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, and Hannah Arendt a subterranean debate on the proper conceptualization and political use of wonder in modernity. When Western political thought departed from a vision of the world as pre-structured by a divine, admirable order, there was no longer a readily available interpretation of the meaning of the potentially disruptive experience of wonder. Competing individuals and groups could make claims for wonder to be directed towards emerging aspects of political life as the foundation of political order.By using wonder to channel disruptive feelings of novelty into the cognition of order, these claims could structure the realm of possible actions. Moreover, a feeling of wonder could be used to secure temporal stability within the fundamentally precarious conditions of modernity. Thus, I argue that Hobbes responded to the political use of divine signs during the English Civil War by incorporating wonder into his design for the emotional apparatus of the sovereign state; that Kant argued for a transformation of the feeling experienced by political and religious enthusiasts into a form of wonder befitting the republican and cosmopolitan order which became possible after the French Revolution; that Marx argued that the rise of capitalism was accompanied by a re-enchantment of political life through an affective attachment to the commodity form; and that Arendt attempted to redirect the wonder of political theorists and citizens towards the unexpected events and deeds of political life. In each of these political interventions, ancient Greek and Roman texts were used as a resource for rethinking wonder. The ultimate contribution of this work is in revising the understanding of modernity for political theory by viewing reason and the emotions as not in opposition to one another, but as intertwined by wonder. The conclusion of this work is not to reject the rationalist project of modernity, but to show the deep imbrication of emotion at its very core.
Accepting Risks and Making Bold Gestures: Why Decision-Makers Initiate Conciliation in Rivalries
I am interested in how decision-makers initiate conciliation in strategies rivalries and the conditions under which they choose to do so. My research specifically examines decision-makers’ motivations for undertaking bold, risky conciliatory gestures. I also study how the receivers, or the targets, of these overtures perceive these types of signals in international relations.
I am interested in teaching courses on a range of topics in international relations, comparative politics, and research methods. These include, but are not limited to, international relations theory, international security, conflict resolution, the Cold War, diplomacy, foreign policy decision-making, and qualitative methods. I would also enjoy teaching survey and/or special studies courses on the Middle East and South Asia. All these courses can be taught at either the undergraduate or graduate level.
The conventional argument in the international relations and social-psychological literature maintains that states should employ an incremental, or step-by-step, approach to initiate conciliation towards adversaries. Decision-makers are cautioned against making large, costly conciliatory gestures since they denote weakness, embolden rivals, and expose them to political pressure. Given these risks, it is puzzling why some leaders undertake bold conciliatory gestures when smaller, less radical avenues exist to engage rivals. This project applies theories and approaches from political psychology to examine why, and the conditions under which, decision-makers extend these types of olive branches in international relations. I employ a least-similar cases research design and select several rivalries – Egypt-Israel (1973-1979), the U.S.-the Soviet Union (1985-1988), and India-Pakistan (1998-2004) – to examine these questions. I found that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee undertook bold moves when they confronted strong, hawkish governments; when they found the rivalry costly to sustain; and when negotiations reached a deadlock. In each case, the leaders were personally involved in shaping and deciding on these initiatives since they were disillusioned with either their foreign policy bureaucracy or with third-party intermediaries. Showing considerable empathy, they were motivated to undertake such gestures to mitigate their rivals’ insecurity and remove the psychological barriers such as fear and mistrust that, they believed, had stalemated negotiations.
Political Theory, Comparative Politics, Critical Theory, Translation Studies
Translational Moments: Citizenship and Community in Meiji Japan
I am broadly interested in the politics of intercultural exchange, translation, and the transnational history of political thought. I aim to contribute to ongoing debates in comparative political theory and the diversification of the canon by introducing Western audiences to non-European thinkers.
My primary teaching focus is comparative political theory and non-Western (particularly East-Asian) political thought. I also teach a variety of courses on late-modern political thought, Marxism, and critical theory.
My dissertation examines the first translations of European political theory into Japanese in the mid- to late-19th century. Specifically, I consider the impact that the translations had on the emergence of discourse of citizenship during Japan’s rapid modernization. Prior to the 1860s, there were no words that clearly related European words for “freedom,” “society,” and “citizen.” Many Japanese thinkers encountered the problem of how to represent what it meant to be a citizen (as opposed to a subject) in their translations of thinkers like J.S. Mill, Rousseau, and others. I draw on recent work in the political theory of aesthetics to show how the influence of these translations contributed to the transformation of established social roles and duties. I look at four episodes, or what I call “translational moments,” in which struggles to establish new translation words or to found new practices based on those words influenced Japanese political development. More broadly, the dissertation intervenes in debates in comparative political thought by showing how translation is itself an often-overlooked mode of theorizing outside of the European context.
International Relations, Political Psychology, International Security, US Foreign Policy, Public Diplomacy
Presidential Beliefs, Advisors’ Capacities, and the Formulation of Intervention Policy
My research interest lie in the intersection of international relations, political psychology, leaders, and decision-making. I have examined the psychological drivers of leaders’ foreign intervention preferences, decision-making processes and choices.
I am an experienced teacher who can offer classes in international relations policy and theory, political psychology, international security, US foreign policy, and leadership.
This dissertation investigates the psychological and rational factors that undergird American presidents’ foreign intervention decisions. While conventional international relations scholarship generally overlooks micro-level variables, decades of psychologically-based research into leaders’ foreign policy decision-making has proven a rich area of study. Even though the psychological approach has enriched international relations scholarship, it often does so without considering the rational factors that also affect decision-making.This dissertation seeks to bridge that divide by exploring the psychological and rational dynamics within a “foreign policy team,” comprised of an American president and his/her chosen advisors, that influence a president’s decisions of whether and how to intervene in foreign crises. I introduce a new theory that intervention decisions emerge from the interactions between a president’s beliefs about a particular intervention and a foreign policy team’s relevant expertise and their ability to learn from and adapt to a conflict as it evolves. In testing my theory, I conduct a quantitative study of president’s predilections towards conflict initiation based on their personal experiences of wars and two in-depth, qualitative comparative case studies which examine Presidents George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton’s handling the civil war in Bosnia and humanitarian intervention in Somalia.
Comparative Politics, Formal Model & Quantitative Methodology, Race, Ethnicity, & Politics, Democratic & Authoritarian Governance, Political Insitutions, Ethnic Politics, Political conomy of Development, China, India, Machine Learning, Social Network Analysis, Casual inference
Autonomy in Autocracy: Explaining Ethnic Policies in Post-1949 China
I apply various quantitative and qualitative methods to address various topics in comparative politics, including democratic and authoritarian governance, ethnic politics, institutions, and the politics of local public goods provision and economic development.
As appropriate to the department's needs, I am prepared to offer a range of undergraduate and graduate courses in comparative politics (e.g., politics of authoritarian regimes, ethnicity and politics, political economy of development, and comparative institutions) and a variety of quantitative methods (e.g., game theory, statistical programming, causal inferences, social network analysis, and machine learning).
In my dissertation, I study government policies and institutional arrangements toward subordinate ethnic groups in authoritarian regimes. With a focus on post-1949 China, I develop and test a new political logic of ethnic local autonomy (minzu quyu zizhi) to explain how the designation of ethnic autonomous territories (EATs) shapes the governance of non-Han groups and sustains the Chinese Communist Party's rule. Building on the literatures on authoritarianism, decentralization, and ethnic politics, I develop a multi-level principal-agent model, in which I argue that ethnic local autonomy allows the central leader to establish his supremacy over subnational political elites while countering his rivals within the central leadership. Through statistical analysis, elite interviews, and archival research, I demonstrate that ethnic local autonomy is not simply introduced to defuse potential mobilization from non-Han groups. Instead, central leaders create ethnic autonomous prefectures and counties to constrain the power of recalcitrant provincial elites when they face strong rivals within the Politburo.In a broad vein, my dissertation contributes to the literature on authoritarian power sharing and institutional co-optation by moving the analytical focus beyond the central inner circle. By examining central-local relations in non-democratic states, I show that co-optation can serve as the autocrat's strategic attempt to address the dilemma of delegation. Furthermore, my dissertation speaks to the literature on ethnic politics, which has overlooked the governance of ethnic diversity in non-democratic states and the impact of ethnic cleavages on autocratic survival. My dissertation explores not only the mechanisms through which the granting of ethnic local autonomy takes place but also how such institutional configuration affects regime stability. While most studies have examined how ethnic local autonomy can resolve or prevent ethnic conflicts, I demonstrate that ethnic local autonomy can also protect a regime from collapse by managing agency loss and power struggles within the dominant ethnic group. Unpacking the political dynamics that drive the introduction of ethnic local autonomy will be an important step to clarify how local decentralization defuses or exacerbates conflicts.
Comparative Politics, Government & Politics in Africa
Eroding Dominance From Below: Opposition Party Mobilization in South Africa’s Dominant Party System
I study politics in Africa with a focus on sub-national politics, primarily concentrating on local government. In addition to my research in South Africa, I am also interested in how political parties in Africa mobilize support in generally uncompetitive party systems, and how political institutions facilitate or impede the ability of citizens to achieve responsive government. In my research I use a mixed methods approach, including both quantitative and qualitative methods, and historical analysis.
I am prepared to teach courses on Politics and Government in Africa, Political Economy of Development, Introduction to Comparative Politics, and International Relations. The methodology courses that I can teach are Introduction to Data Analysis, and Research Design to both undergraduate and graduate students.
In countries ruled by a single party for a long period of time, how does political opposition to the ruling party grow? In my dissertation, I study the growth in support for the Democratic Alliance (DA) party, which is the largest opposition party in South Africa. South Africa is a case of democratic dominant party rule, a party system in which fair but uncompetitive elections are held. I argue that opposition party growth in dominant party systems is explained by the strategies that opposition parties adopt in local government and the factors that shape political competition in local politics. I argue that opposition parties can use time spent in local government to expand beyond their base by delivering services effectively and outperforming the ruling party. I also argue that performance in subnational political office helps opposition parties build a reputation for good governance, which is appealing to ruling party supporters who are looking for an alternative. Finally, I argue that opposition parties use candidate nominations for local elections as a means to appeal to constituents that are vital to the ruling party’s coalition. I find that where the DA is the incumbent party, improvements in household access to basic services such as piped water and proper sanitation are associated with increased support for the party. I also find that when DA-run wards perform better than their neighboring ANC counterparts, support for the DA in the neighboring ward increases in the next election. Next, I examine whether the DA’s reputation for good governance convinces ANC partisans to support the party. I find that the DA’s reputation as an anti-corruption party is a stronger predictor of vote choice than attitudes toward the DA mayor in the cities of Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay. Finally, I examine the changes over time in the DA’s nomination of local government candidates in Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and Western Cape provinces in all local government elections (2000 – 2016). I find that while the DA has been successful at increasing the representation of black candidates in its candidate pool, these candidates are not winning elections or seats at the same rate as the white candidates who reflect the party’s voter base. The findings from my dissertation contribute to our understanding of how local level dynamics contribute to the process of democratization in Africa’s party systems.
What Do Think Tanks Think? Proximity to Power and Foreign Policy Preferences
political psychology, civil war, nuclear weapons, American grand strategy
American foreign policy, international relations, international law
While scholars have investigated the foreign policy preferences of professors and foreign policy elites, there has yet to be a similar study of those who work at think tanks, the group of experts who serve as perhaps the most important link between the worlds of scholarship and policy. This paper argues that experts are more hawkish the closer they are to power, both figuratively and literally, and shows this through the first study to use survey methods to inquire into the foreign policy preferences of think tank analysts and fellows (think tank employees, or TTEs) relative to professors who are experts in international relations. The author finds that TTEs are 0.47 standard deviations more hawkish than professors as calculated based on a standard survey measuring militant internationalism (MI). Controlling for self-described ideology mitigates this effect although it remains statistically significant. Among professors, those who have worked for the federal government are higher on MI, as are TTEs located closer to Capitol Hill. Differing levels of regional expertise cannot explain these differences, except perhaps in the case of Iran. Overall, the results argue for a selection mechanism whereby those who favor more interventionist policies abroad are more likely to be recruited into positions where they can influence public opinion and policy.
International Relations, Methods (Quantitative and Qualitative)
How the Power of Business Affects the Commercial Peace: Commercial Interests, Economic Interdependence, and Militarized Conflict.
My research examines the relationship between complex economic interdependence and interstate conflict, particularly the management of militarized disputes. Although business and economic interest groups tend to be overlooked in national security policy, my investigation highlights the importance of business as a causal actor influencing interstate conflicts as part of the policy-making process. I address these issues through a multi-method approach that enables the examination of this controversial hypothesis from multiple perspectives, including detailed process tracing case-studies and large-n statistical analysis.
I have experience teaching courses on International Political Economy, the Politics of Latin American Economic Development, and Economic Statecraft. My research and background have also prepared me to teach courses on Chinese Politics, Foreign Policy, International Security, and the integration of Quantitative and Qualitative Methods. Additionally, I am qualified to teach courses on the politics and economics of East Asia due to my fieldwork and extensive time living in the region.
For decades, international relations scholars have engaged in a vigorous debate over whether there is substantive evidence showing that economic interdependence decreases the likelihood of interstate conflict. A consensus has grown in favor of the commercial peace thesis due to positive results found across various operationalizations of economic ties, including bilateral trade, FDI and monetary integration, as well as monadic, dyadic, and network model designs. Yet, skeptics are correct to point to the lack of development of a testable causal mechanism that explains how and under what circumstances economic integration reduces militarize disputes.My dissertation, How the Power of Business Affects the Commercial Peace: Commercial Interests, Economic Interdependence, and Militarized Conflict, addresses this problem with the development of a two-level theoretical framework incorporating interest group politics at the domestic level within the interstate bargaining process. I assert the degree of business influence on foreign policy mediates the effectiveness of economic interdependence to reduce conflict. I test this theory through a mixed method approach — (1) quantitatively examining the interaction of private sector size and bilateral trade on the likelihood of violent militarized disputes, and (2) two qualitative case studies tracing the process by which business exerts influence on security policymaking for the rival dyads of Colombia-Venezuela and China-Japan. The results demonstrate why understanding the role of business elites in foreign policy enables a more specific and conditional theory of the commercial peace, by which interstate conflicts are less likely to be resolved with military force between countries with significant economic ties.
My research applies game theory, statistical methods of causal inference, survey experiments and qualitative methods to exploration of the political economy of technological advancement. In addition, I study the role of modern communication technologies in collective actions, focusing on both their dynamics and structure. I also have a strong interest in network analysis. My paper (jointly with Konstantin Sonin) exploring the network of political connections nd their role in wealth of businessmen was published in Economics of Transition.
I would be excited to teach comparative politics, political economy, and applied quantitative methods and Russian Politics. At UCLA, I led sections and designed assignments for undergraduate-level courses in the politics of post-communism and quantitative methods. Working with Keith Chen of the UCLA Anderson Business School, I helped design and then served as teaching assistant for technology analytics and causal inference.
My research applies game theory, statistical methods of causal inference, survey experiments and qualitative methods to exploration of the political economy of technological advancement. Governments have historically had a major role in promoting science and technology. Yet political incentives of governments are, in many ways, similar to incentives of private companies for several reasons. First, the results of experiments are hard to predict, and many fail. Second, even when R&D succeeds in producing valuable innovations, these typically come only after a significant time lag. Over that time, the office-holder who made the R&D decision may have faced re-election and may, in fact, be out of office. Third, unlike many other types of public spending (e.g., infrastructure construction or education reform), R&D is much less visible to the public. Therefore, even if the politician is still in office when the results of his decision-making materialize, he may not receive credit for them. All these characteristics of R&D make the choice of officials who do fund it appear puzzling. My dissertation, “Political Economy of Technological Advancement”, explores the incentives of political incumbents to engage in R&D policy and the political and economic impacts of such engagement. I suggest three motivations of self-interested officials who do engage in R&D spending: electoral benefits, rent-seeking, and coalition-building. I offer the perspective on government incentives to invest in R&D in countries with both high and low political accountability, and their effect on a set of political and economic outcomes.
Comparative Politics, Political Economy, Methodology, Politics of Western Europe, Politics of Japan, Legislative Studies
Opposition Structure and Government Policy Making in Parliamentary Democracies
My research focuses on the congruence between voter and party interests, how parties position themselves ideologically to potentially become attractive coalition partners, how party alliances (including party blocks) form inside and outside of the government, and the electoral costs and benefits of party alliances and party mergers. I am particularly interested in the strategies that yield representative results. Accordingly, I seek to understand how policy outcomes change in response to the strategy adopted by parties.
I am prepared to teach a broad range of courses in Comparative Politics and Research Methods at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I would be interested in teaching the following courses: Introduction to Comparative Politics; Comparative Political Institutions, Electoral Politics, Political Parties and Party Systems, European Politics, Comparative Political Economy, Welfare State Politics, Research Methodology, Data Analysis, Computational Research Methods and Research Design.
My dissertation focuses on how government polices, particularly economic policy change in response to the structure of the party system. I examine how the structure of the opposition influences government spending. I find that in response to a unified opposition, a coalition government increases spending. In the second half of my dissertation I examine long-term alliances between opposition parties and I find that a coalition government reacts to big alliances in the opposition in a similar way to unified parties.
Propaganda after Prophecy: The Politics of Truth in Contemporary Iran, 1941-2009
My research falls at the intersection of modern and contemporary political theory, the history and historiography of political thought, and media studies. I am currently interested in secularism and its afterlives; the politics of truth and truth-telling; and the mediation of political space and activity. Though my current research project on propaganda is centered around contemporary Iran, my interests also pertain to modern and contemporary American and European political thought.
I am interested in teaching introductory courses for political theory, global politics, and Middle Eastern politics. I am also interested in teaching more specialized courses within the rough boundaries of the canon of political theory and beyond it on religion, media, and utopia. Finally, I am capable of teaching courses on method, specifically concerning ways of reading authors, texts, corpuses, and canons across historical, geographical, and mediatic difference.
Propaganda after Prophecy examines uses of propaganda and engagements with the problem of truth in contemporary Iran. It asks if deliberation is an adequate concept for theorizing communication during a legitimation crisis. It situates the appearance of propaganda as a predominant mode of communication in the context of a narrative of decline that gained currency in the 1940s: within this narrative, modernity was perceived as indicating the culmination of the end of the prophetic tradition and accompanied legitimation crises during which the totality of social and historical reality was questioned. The concept that gained currency in contemporary intellectual history to name the condition of being after prophecy was a conception of mediation derived from the received history of Islamic philosophy, namely, the barzakh, the condition of the soul dreaming in its sleep. Thus, to be after prophecy was conceptualized as being between the state of sleep and waking life or, rather, a state between the darkness of ignorance and the enlightenment of understanding. By examining the history above, I offer an historically inflected theorization of propaganda, in which I argue that propaganda, in this context, was employed as a mode of communication that restored faith in the world and enacted it anew, for better and for worse.
Comparative Politics, Indian Politics, Criminal Politics, Anti-Poverty Programs, Methodology, Casual Inference With Observational Data, Mixed-Methods, Computational Social Science
Do Criminal Politicians Deliver? Evidence from India
Broadly, my work is in comparative politics with a regional focus on India. I study how corruption and criminal elements impede (or facilitate) public service delivery and how politicians’ personal characteristics shape governance strategies. Methodologically, I’m interested in combining qualitative fieldwork with causal inference using observational and spatial data.
My teaching interests span from Indian politics to developing a course on fieldwork and research design. Ideally, this course will combine elements of qualitative fieldwork and hypothesis generation with instruction in collecting and analyzing data from the field. At UCLA I have taught 17 courses, across three different disciplines (Political Science, International Development Studies and Communication Studies).
Despite intense political competition, candidates facing criminal charges are routinely elected across India at higher rates than clean candidates. My dissertation asks, why do voters elect “criminal” politicians? Once elected, how do criminal politicians perform in office? Using a mixed methods approach, I argue that criminal candidates’ access to money, muscle and networks helps them win campaigns, even though they may underperform in office. Drawing on 10 months of fieldwork, I test if criminal candidates harm (or improve) benefit delivery at the local level. I construct a novel dataset detailing the criminal histories, wealth and electoral results of all state legislative candidates in India since 2003. I combine the candidate dataset with original data on the geo-locations of over 20 million public works projects from India’s largest anti-poverty scheme (NREGS).Using a regression discontinuity design, I estimate the causal impact of electing a criminally accused politician on the distribution of NREGS projects. Preliminary results indicate that fewer NREGS projects are completed in constituencies that elect a criminally accused politician. Secondly, using spatial data analysis and machine learning, I investigate whether criminal politicians target their voter strongholds with NREGS benefits more effectively than un-accused politicians. Specifically, I examine how local politicians target their supporters by mapping the location of 20 million welfare projects to micro-levels of political support (estimated from polling station results). This dissertation is the first study of how criminally accused politicians fare in relaying state resources to their constituents. My research is funded by the American Institute of Indian Studies Jr. Fellowship, UCLA’s Dissertation Fellowship and the UCLA International Institute.
International Relations (Public Law, International Organizations, International Political Economy, & Human Rights), Political Methodology, Comparative Politics (Latin America)
Past Regret, Future Fear: Compliance with International Law
My research examines the role of international law on state behavior, primarily in newly transitioned democracies. My dissertation and book project examine how rulings from international human rights courts are implemented in Latin America, focusing on domestic political incentives for non-compliance. In other work, I examine the design of the international law on state responsibility and its consequences for compliance; and the determinants of citizen attitudes toward transitional justice in Colombia.
I am interested in teaching a variety of courses in International Relations and Quantitative Methodology at both the undergraduate and graduate level. As an instructor, I have taught the undergraduate course in International Law and the Math Review course for incoming graduate students. I enjoy teaching both introductory courses on international relations and statistical inference, and courses on more specialized topics like international law, international organization, international political economy, and advanced research design.
Why do democratic governments that support human rights sometimes defy the rulings of international human rights courts? In my dissertation, I examine this question in the context of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. I argue that non-compliance results from (1) high capacity constraints that limit leaders' ability to comply; and from (2) democratic leaders responding to voter preferences against compliance. Although human rights scholars generally assume that voters support compliance, I find that attitudes toward compliance are not so uniform when the military is implicated. Despite the abuses committed by military officials in recent dictatorships, the military is still a trusted institution in many Latin American states, andsome voters would prefer to leave the past alone. Leaders thus face a dilemma when they receive judgments from the Inter-American Court: do they follow international law, or do they choose the policies that voters want? I show that the leader's decision to comply is a function of the public's preferences on compliance and the leader's need to be accountable to the public. I test my theory using an original dataset of all Court orders from 1989 to 2014. My results show that leaders become more responsive to the public's preferences as their need for accountability increases, but this does not necessarily result in more compliance. Rather, the public's attitude toward the military moderates the effect by dictating the direction of the leader's response. I supplement my statistical work with evidence from semi-structured interviews with attorneys and judges, as well as a qualitative study on overturning amnesty laws.
American Politics, Racial & Ethnic Politics, Public Opinion, Political Psychology, Political Communications, Campaigns & Elections
How Out-Group Threat Shapes Mass Behavior and Attitudes
I use a variety of methods to study the origins and political consequences of racial attitudes in American politics.
I can teach courses on American politics, racial and ethnic politics, public opinion, and campaigns and elections, as well as undergraduate methods, research design, and programming.
My dissertation explores group relations in geographic space and is guided by a central question: what happens when out-groups enter or attempt to enter homogeneous spaces dominated by a single group? How do these dominant groups respond to the perceived threat of “others”? In the first study which was published last year in the American Political Science Review, I leverage a unique historical event, the migration of large numbers of black Southerners into California during the Second Great Migration (1940s-1960s), to estimate the effects of rapid demographic change on white voting. The second study investigates a previously unexplored vehicle for racial threat, new mass transit (NMT). NMT provides rapid and affordable arterial connections between segregated communities, potentially generating inter-group contact in communities that previously experienced very little. The study proposes that support for public goods can be shaped by this prospective group threat. I find evidence for this theory using voting data from a 1962 bond vote in San Francisco County that would provide funds for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system and facilitate the entry of black East Bay residents into primarily white inner-ring suburbs of San Francisco. The third project, which is scheduled for early this fall, plans to leverage an original lab experiment with UCLA students to examine how various types of intergroup contact---passive versus intensive, in-group versus out-group---shape behavior and attitudes about multiculturalism
Comparative Politics, Quantitative Methods, Authoritarian Politics, Media & Politics, Middle East & North Africa
Warts and All: Media Freedom in Authoritarian Regimes
My research is in Comparative Politics, with a focus on authoritarian regimes. I explore why authoritarian governments sometimes embark on political reforms and the wide variety of regime outcomes to which political reforms can ultimately lead. I also investigate the strategies that opposition activists use to promote political change in authoritarian regimes. My research involves quantitative methods, such as formal modeling and machine learning, and qualitative approaches, such as field interviews. I am currently working on two projects that use machine learning to measure pluralism in media content in Arab authoritarian countries.
I have extensive experience creating and teaching courses in Comparative Politics. I have also taught in American Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory courses, as well as in the Communications department. I have taught statistics and game theory to both undergraduate and graduate students. I am prepared to teach courses in Comparative Politics, authoritarian politics, the politics of the Middle East and North Africa, the role of the media in politics, political economy, game theory, and statistics. I am committed to creating inclusive and interactive learning environments.
Why do some dictators allow more freedom to journalists than other dictators? Moreover, why does a dictator sometimes allow more media freedom in some years than in other years? I present a novel theory, formalized in a game-theoretic model, in which I argue that allowing greater freedom to the news media can enhance the credibility of an authoritarian ruler’s promises to opposition groups to make future concessions in other policy areas.I test this theory through a case study of the former Ben Ali dictatorship in Tunisia, based on interviews I carried out there with Tunisian journalists, former regime officials, and former opposition activists. I also conduct cross-national comparative statistical tests of the theory using an original dataset on the legalization and banning of opposition media in Arab countries during the post-Cold War era.
History of Political Thought (Enlightenment, republicanism, American political thought), Contemporary Political Theory (democratic theory, liberalism, postcolonial studies, feminist studies, critical theory), and public law (Constitutional law, civil liberties, race and the law, gender and the law)
The dissertation explores republican thought in the early modern period in order to rethink how we regard authority in contemporary political life. The study challenges the neo-republican derivation of legitimacy from individual freedom in order to retrieve the emphasis on constitutional design and mores that energized early modern republicanism. I turn to early modern writers such as James Harrington (1611–1677), the third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713), Montesquieu (1689–1755), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) to consider how political institutions and persons ought to embody authority. The retrieval of authority as a central concern for early modern republicans changes our understanding of the republican problematic both then and now. When neo-republicans prioritize freedom as the linchpin of republican government, they introduce a tension between government that secures individuals against domination and government controlled by the people. A constitutive tension runs through early modern republican vocabularies, but it is not that between liberty and democracy. Rather, liberty and democracy constitute a coextensive preserve placed in productive tension with the principle of authority. The dilemma organizing republican theory in the early modern period is the classical one between democratic and aristocratic institutions and manners. The desideratum of the mixed constitution is republican legitimacy, not individual freedom. From the early moderns we learn that republican legitimacy requires the simultaneous affirmation of popular power and aristocratic judgment, of liberty and authority.
The Domestic Incorporation of Human Rights Treaties
My research interests include human rights, international law, transnational activism, and the impact of domestic politics on international cooperation, particularly in Latin America.
Courses in international relations, human rights, international organization & law, public policy, Latin American politics, and introduction to research methods.
Why do some treaty members change their domestic laws to align them to international treaty obligations, while other members do not? I explore the role of rival domestic activism on treaty incorporation. I argue that because human rights treaties activate social conflict over distribution and morality, some domestic groups mobilize to stop the incorporation of human rights standards into national legislation. When groups that oppose incorporation are strong, they can delay or block the government’s efforts to incorporate international human rights standards into domestic law.I test this argument by examining legislation adopted in Latin America to incorporate treaties against child labor and marriage. I analyze two original datasets of the national legislation adopted in the region to prohibit these practices, including the loopholes that carve out exceptions and dilute human rights protections. I complement this analysis using qualitative evidence from over 60 semi-structured interviews with policymakers, civil society advocates, and representatives of international organizations across six Latin American countries.
Comparative Politics, Political Institutions, Political Parties, West European Politics, British Politics
The Party Politics of Political Decentralization
My research explores the interaction between political institutions and political parties, with a focus on the U.K. and Western Europe. In particular, I examine the ways in which political institutions influence disagreements among members of the same party and the ways in which party elites can solve these disagreements.
Courses in comparative politics including constitutional design/ political institutions, political parties, and British and European politics. Research design and undergraduate-level formal theory.
Since the 1970s, several Western European democracies have devolved substantial decision-making powers to sub-national governments, some for the first time. Why do central governments voluntarily give away power? More precisely, because modern democracies are organized around and run by political parties, why do parties that wield national-level power ever choose to reduce the scope of that power? I argue that nationalized parties sometimes devolve power to regional governments when voters in different regions cannot be satisfied through a single, national-level policy alone. This occurs when policy preferences in one or more regions are incompatible with those in the rest of the country. By devolving some decision-making authority to regional governments, a party may be able to accommodate differing policy preferences in different parts of the county and limit the damage to the party’s electoral fortunes such differences could create.I primarily focus on the case of Scottish devolution in the United Kingdom, tracing the evolution of the British Labour Party's attitudes towards the issue. I argue that New Labour made devolution an integral part its platform in the mid-1990s because doing allowed the party to shift its economic policies rightward to compete with the Conservatives for English votes without losing Scottish votes to the left-leaning Scottish National Party. I develop a formal model representing the challenges a nationalized party faces when trying to win votes in more than one region of a country. I show that, as the preferences of voters in different regions diverge, a party may be able to win votes using a combination of policy and political decentralization when it would be unable to do so using a single national-level policy alone. After applying this model to the United Kingdom, I explore some if its implications using the cases of decentralization in Spain and Belgium.
The Chains That Bind: Global Value Chain Integration and Currency Conflict
My research focuses on international integration and its distributional consequences. I specifically focus on how international integration impacts exchange rate politics, monetary policy, and electoral outcomes. My regional focus spans the U.S., European Union, and East and Southeast Asia.
I can offer courses on international and comparative political economy, international relations theory, international organizations, foreign policy, and introductory statistical methods. My teaching philosophy is to provide students with the fundamental tools to critically analyze the major topics of the course, which we do together in class (whether lecture or seminar-style format) or individually via analytical essays. Course evaluations and sample syllabi available at http://www.ryanweldzius.com/teaching.
In my dissertation, I address how global value chain integration affects exchange rate politics. Since the Great Recession, elected officials have expressed increasing concern over currency manipulation amongst developed and developing economies. As barriers to trade continue to decrease, there is persisting fear among policymakers that countries will engage in competitive devaluations to boost exports and protect against imports. I evaluate the role that international integration plays in constraining currency manipulation. The very agreements that decreased these trade barriers between countries since the 1990s also increased the protections for firms operating in foreign markets. The “deep provisions” found in these regional trade agreements (RTAs), coupled with improvements in communication and transportation costs, has led to an unbundling of the production process, where final goods are increasingly made by combining domestic and foreign inputs. These global value chains, which transcend both national borders and the traditional confines of the firm, now make up over 50 percent of the share of total exports across Europe, North and South America, and East and Southeast Asia. Building on a rich literature that links value chains to exchange rates and trade, I explore the long-term relationship between global value chain integration and currency politics. I find that deeper integration tends to have an appreciating effect on undervalued exchange rates, thus ending the currency manipulation that concerns many of the advanced economies.