Below are PhD Candidates on the job market for 2021-2022 in the fields of Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory.
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Dissertation Title: Norms-Based Compliance and Traditional Governance in Sub-Saharan Africa
Research Summary: My broader research agenda investigates the conditions that underpin political order in weak states. In particular, I am interested in the circumstances that give rise to quasi-voluntary compliance by ordinary citizens in contexts in which the formal state’s ability to enforce its decisions and deliver services is limited.
The novel insight of my wider work is that in the context of many developing countries, state building often involves cooperation with rather than elimination of pre-statist modes of social organization. While territories occupied by weak and fragile states suffer from a litany of challenges, they are not necessarily ungoverned or devoid of compliance.
When does the interaction of weak states with non-state institutions such as traditional chiefdoms produce political order? Under what conditions do citizens comply when governments in weak states ask them to pay taxes, register property, or receive vaccinations? How does the combination of strategic and normative considerations drive the behavior of people living in areas defined by weak statehood? These are some of the questions that connect my published work, my dissertation and intended book project, as well as my future research plans.
Dissertation Title: The “Ethnic Card” and the Commodities Boom in Mexico: Consequences for Identity and Public Good Provision among Rural Groups
Research Summary: Prior to the commodities boom of the mid-2000s, ethnicity was rarely an important vehicle for social mobilization in Mexico. And yet, today, after 300 years of assimilation policies that forced many groups to suppress their indigenous identity, ethnicity is increasingly used as a mechanism of social resistance in the context of battles over resource extraction. Importantly, not all emergent resource conflicts are framed in ethnic terms. Even in areas with similar percentages of indigenous residents, activists in some municipalities mobilize against resource extraction using ethnic claims, while in others, commodities conflicts continue to be articulated in class terms.
My dissertation examines this important and unexplored variation in the salience of ethnicity among rural groups in Mexico by asking: under what conditions do conflicts over natural resources lead to the use of ethnic identity as a mode of resistance? How are different rural groups using the “ethnicity card” as a mechanism for participation? And, what are the consequences for public good provision when different communities adopt different identity discourses for mobilization and claims-making?
Existing studies show that commodities extraction has negative effects on the environment, public health, and economic re-distribution in the developing world. Likewise, recent evidence suggests that extraction leads to contention, especially in indigenous areas. However, the question of how patterns of identity and public good provision have shifted in response to conflict for commodities remains unanswered. I argue that the geographically patterned rise of ethnically-oriented resource conflict in rural Mexico is the result of two intersecting dynamics: first, the rise in commodity-based exploitation and, second, the institutionalization of indigenous rights.
While the rapid increase in natural resource concessions in a context of rising commodity prices created a motive for mobilization, the new indigenous legal regime altered the incentives for different strategies of resistance: class vs ethnically-based. To explore these links, I use a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods. On the one hand, I employ matching techniques using two original datasets on conflicts claiming ethnic rights at the municipality level from 2000 to 2020. On the other hand, I utilize individual and group interviews in indigenous communities to understand the mechanisms of identity formation. This combination of research approaches elucidates both macro and micro-level variations in conflict and identity patterns that have been previously under-studied. The implications of these findings are important both theoretically and empirically since previous studies on ethnicity in Mexico have not considered how the exploitation of natural resources and territory affects how rural groups frame conflict and demands.
John P Harden (Website)
Dissertation Title: Maintaining the Inflated Self-Image: Leader Narcissism and Foreign Policy Decision-Making
Summary: My research focuses on the human factor in International Relations (IR). More specifically, my research agenda analyzes the role that personality plays in preference formation and subsequently foreign policy decision-making. My dissertation answers the question ‘how do leaders matter?' by examining how narcissism impacts the foreign polices of world leaders. In contrast to the existing literature, which typically assumes that leaders care foremost about political or state interests, I demonstrate that narcissists have other important goals.
The Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Concept defines grandiose narcissism as a desire to maintain an inflated self-image through promotion and protection. I argue that more narcissistic leaders will direct their energy towards foreign policies which promote and protect their inflated self-image. One manifestation of this goal is that narcissists want to stand out as unique and capable of anything in foreign affairs. This means that narcissistic hawks engage in less international conflict, while narcissistic doves engage in more international conflict.
A second manifestation is that narcissists have their sights set on high-profile diplomatic initiatives involving other Great Powers. However, their aggressive behavior and poor perspective-taking increases Great Power tension. Narcissists engage in more Great Power conflict. They are especially likely to unilaterally initiate Great Power conflicts. Using survey experiments, quantitative analysis of historical cases, and process tracing, I find that more narcissistic leaders do approach foreign policy differently.
From a policy perspective, the central takeaway is that narcissistic leaders will more likely focus on their image rather than state interests. Optics become more important than long-term consequences. Narcissists are more prone to bombastic and high-stakes foreign policies that put the countries they lead at risk. For example, narcissists will eschew working with allies even though they will also be focused on high-stakes Great Power politics and Great Power conflict.
Noteworthy Awards: Francis R Aumann Award for Distinguished Teaching (2020-2021) and 1st prize in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division at The Ohio State University Hayes Graduate Forum (2020).
Publications: Harden, John P. "All the World’s a Stage: US Presidential Narcissism and International Conflict." International Studies Quarterly (2021).
Dissertation Title: The Spirit of the Republic: Non-Domination, Citizenship, and Shared Identity
Summary: The republican theory of freedom as non-domination has received considerable attention from political theorists and political practitioners alike. This approach to freedom argues that for individuals to be free of arbitrary interference, we must have well designed institutions, careful constitutionalism, and a contestatory citizenry. Despite the attractiveness of this theory of freedom, there is one major unresolved dilemma: just how do we create citizens who are active and willing to defend the institutions that protect freedom in the first place?
I argue that while republican political theory provides robust tools to identify unfreedom in the modern world, it does not adequately deliver a plausible theory of how to form political citizens. To that end, I argue that the present deficiencies in republican political thought can be diminished by looking outward to care ethics to help carefully design a theory of the political citizen who cares about their role as a political actor. This model of the citizen, who I call the civic steward, is inculcated with an other-regarding ethic of care. The civic steward, through participation in civil society and caring service work, provides a mechanism by which republican political thought can ensure the maintenance of republican institutions over generations, and helps to hold dominating actors to account through a vigilant citizenry. I argue for several policy considerations throughout the project, including national service and active civic education.