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American Politics

Rafael Jacob 

Dissertation: Party, People, or Policy? Uncovering the Impact of Advertisement on Voter Behavior in Ballot Initiative and Candidate-Centered Campaigns

We have acquired over the last several decades a fairly rich understanding of the impact on voter behavior of political communication in general and of political advertising specifically. However, much of this knowledge pertains to “traditional,” candidate-centered elections. Comparatively very little is known with regards to ballot initiative races. In principle, these pit not people, but proposed policies, against each other.

However, in practice, these campaigns not only feature ads discussing policy, but also frequently include ads highlighting a measure’s backers and foes, be they individuals, non-profit groups, media outlets, industries, or political parties. This, in turn, leads to a basic question: what type of advertising message carries the greatest weight with voters in initiative contests – and how does it differ (if at all) from the effects found in candidate-centered elections? Through an original experiment, this paper aims to break new ground in the political communication and voter behavior literature by tackling this question.

Committee: Kevin Arceneaux (Chair), Michael Hagen, and Heather LaMarre

Comparative Politics

Nicolaos Catsis

Dissertation: Examining the Impact of Colonial Administrations on Post-Independence State Behavior in Southeast Asia

This project examines the impact of colonial administrations on post-independence state behavior in Southeast Asia. Despite a similar historical context, the region exhibits a broad variation in terms of policy preferences after independence. Past literature has focused on pre-colonial or independence era factors. This project, however, proposes that state behavior is heavily determined by a combination of three colonial variables: indigenous elite mobility, colonial income diversity, and institutional-infrastructural levels. It also constructs a four-category typology for the purpose of ordering the broad variation we see across post-colonial Southeast Asia. Utilizing archival research and historical analysis, I examine three case studies in the region; Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, which share a common colonial heritage yet exhibit markedly different post independence trajectories. As most states have some legacy of colonialism, the theory and typology presented in this paper have broad applications for the region and the post-colonial world more broadly. They suggest that the colonial period, contrary to more recent literature, has a much greater impact on colonial states after independence.

Committee: Hillel D. Soifer (Chair), Roselyn Hsueh, Sandra Suarez, and Lu Zhang

International Relations

Aja Binette 

Dissertation: Environmental NGOs in Climate Change Negotiations: Using Social Network Analysis to Examine Patterns of Participation and Locations of Power

The structure of the environmental movement has undergone significant change over the development and evolution of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Using social network analysis and an original dataset of relationship ties between environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), my dissertation examines: (1) the ENGO network structure in the lead up to three important historical time points in the history of the UNFCCC, the Kyoto, Copenhagen, and Paris Conference of the Parties (COPs), (2) changing patterns and types of ENGO participation with the formal climate change negotiations through the UNFCCC, and (3) the interaction between an ENGO’s network position and the ENGO’s depth of participation with the UNFCCC. Based on social network theory, an ENGO’s structural position is a reflection of an ENGO’s perceived power, legitimacy, and/or an organization’s capabilities. Yet, despite the expectation that ENGOs with high degrees of participation are representative of the larger environmental movement, there is not a direct relationship between an ENGO’s structural position and their involvement with the UNFCCC. Rather, it is the structure of the environmental movement that has changed in response the perceived success and failures of the UNFCCC process. When the UNFCCC process has all but broken down (as was the case in Copenhagen) the ENGO network constricts, and disassociates with the ENGOs heavily embedded with the UNFCCC process leading to a divisive environmental movement. These findings have three main implications: (1) problematizes existing claims that the international system is undergoing a process of democratization, (2) blurs the line between state and non-state actors, expanding the conceptualization of what the role of non-state actors in formal international negotiations is, and (3) questions the prospects of the UNFCCC developing (and states adopting) effective climate change policy that has the support of the environmental movement.

Committee: Mark Pollack (Chair), Sarah Bush, and Orfeo Fioretos

Political Theory

Ashish Vaidya

Dissertation: Beyond Neopatrimonialism: A Normative and Empirical Inquiry into Legitimacy and Structural Violence in Post-Colonial India

The purpose of this project is to demonstrate that the rational-legal bureaucratic institutions inherited by post-colonial states from their former colonial patrons have clashed with indigenous cultural norms, leading to legitimation failure. This lack of legitimacy, in turn, leads to political and bureaucratic corruption among the individuals tasked with embodying and enforcing the norms of these bureaucratic institutions. Instances of corruption such as bribery and solicitation of bribes, misappropriation of public funds, nepotistic hiring practices, and the general placement of personal gain over the rule of law on the part of officials weaken the state’s ability and willingness to enforce its laws, promote stability and economic growth, and ensure the welfare of its citizens. This corruption and its multidimensional detrimental effects on the lives of citizens are forms of what has been called structural violence. In this project, I examine four case studies of Indian subnational states that have experienced varying degrees and types of colonial bureaucratic imposition, resulting in divergent structurally violent outcomes. Deeming these systems “violent” has normative implications regarding responsibility for the problems of the post-colonial world. Corruption is often cited as a reason not to give loans or aid to certain developing countries; but viewing the matter in terms of structural violence highlights the need for not only economic assistance but also institutional overhaul.

Committee: Joseph Schwartz (Chair), Jane A. Gordon, Bhrigupati Singh, Hillel D. Soifer, and Sean L. Yom


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