Research Library

Simmons, Beth A., and Richard A. Nielsen. 2014. “Rewards for Ratification: Payoffs for Participating in the International Human Rights Regime?.” International Studies Quarterly.Abstract

Among the explanations for state ratification of human rights treaties, few are more common and widely accepted than the conjecture that states are rewarded for ratification by other states. These rewards are expected to come in the form of tangible benefits - foreign aid, trade, and investment - and intangible benefits such as praise, acceptance, and legitimacy. Surprisingly, these explanations for ratification have never been tested empirically. We summarize and clarify the theoretical underpinnings of "reward-for-ratification" theories and test these propositions empirically by looking for increased international aid, economic agreements and public praise and recognition following ratification of four prominent human rights treaties. We find almost no evidence that states can expect increased tangible or intangible rewards after ratification. Given the lack of empirical support, alternative explanations seem more appealing for understanding human rights treaty ratification.

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Simmons, Beth A., and Judith Kelley. 2014. “Politics by Number: Indicators as Social Pressure in International Relations.” American Journal of Political Science.Abstract

The ability to monitor state behavior has become a critical tool of international governance. Systematic monitoring allows for the creation of numerical indicators that can be used to rank, compare and essentially censure states. This article argues that the ability to disseminate such numerical indicators widely and instantly constitutes an exercise of social power, with the potential to change important policy outputs. It explores this argument in the context of the United States’ efforts to combat trafficking in persons and find evidence that monitoring has important effects: countries are more likely to criminalize human trafficking when they are included in the US annual Trafficking in Persons Report, while countries that are placed on a “watch list” are also more likely to criminalize. These findings have broad implications for international governance and the exercise of soft power in the global information age.

Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran
Najmabadi, Afsaneh. 2014. Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran. Durham: Duke University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Since the mid-1980s, the Islamic Republic of Iran has permitted, and partially subsidized, sex reassignment surgery. In Professing Selves, Afsaneh Najmabadi explores the meaning of transsexuality in contemporary Iran. Combining historical and ethnographic research, she describes how, in the postrevolutionary era, the domains of law, psychology and psychiatry, Islamic jurisprudence, and biomedicine became invested in distinguishing between the acceptable "true" transsexual and other categories of identification, notably the "true" homosexual, an unacceptable category of existence in Iran. Najmabadi argues that this collaboration among medical authorities, specialized clerics, and state officials—which made transsexuality a legally tolerated, if not exactly celebrated, category of being—grew out of Iran's particular experience of Islamicized modernity. Paradoxically, state regulation has produced new spaces for non-normative living in Iran, since determining who is genuinely "trans" depends largely on the stories that people choose to tell, on the selves that they profess.

Cohen, Dara Kay, and Ragnhild Nordås. 2014. “Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Introducing the SVAC Dataset, 1989-2009.” Journal of Peace Research 51 (3): 418-428. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Which armed groups have perpetrated sexual violence in recent conflicts? This article presents patterns from the new Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict (SVAC) dataset. The dataset, coded from the three most widely used sources in the quantitative human rights literature, covers 129 active conflicts, and the 625 armed actors involved in these conflicts, during the period 1989–2009. The unit of observation is the conflict-actor-year, allowing for detailed analysis of the patterns of perpetration of sexual violence for each conflict actor. The dataset captures six dimensions of sexual violence: prevalence, perpetrators, victims, forms, location, and timing. In addition to active conflict-years, the dataset also includes reports of sexual violence committed by conflict actors in the five years post-conflict. We use the data to trace variation in reported conflict-related sexual violence over time, space, and actor type, and outline the dataset's potential utility for scholars. Among the insights offered are that the prevalence of sexual violence varies dramatically by perpetrator group, suggesting that sexual violations are common – but not ubiquitous. In addition, we find that state militaries are more likely to be reported as perpetrators of sexual violence than either rebel groups or militias. Finally, reports of sexual violence continue into the post-conflict period, sometimes at very high levels. The data may be helpful both to scholars and policymakers for better understanding the patterns of sexual violence, its causes, and its consequences.

Steiner, Gerald. 2014. “Problem Discovery as a Collaborative, Creative, and Method-Guided Search for the “Real Problems” as Raw Diamonds of Innovation”.Abstract

This paper poses that the creative search for frequently hidden “real” problems is critical if innovation aims at comprehensive system improvements and changes in thinking paradigms, rather than simple, incremental changes. These hidden real problems can perhaps best be symbolized by raw diamonds, which one strives to find in order to then grind them into sparkling diamonds, i.e. innovation. Currently, problem solving-related research focuses on the analysis and solution of predefined problems, with little emphasis on problem reframing and systemic discovery; moreover, inter- and transdisciplinary collaborations for problem finding and the application of convoluted methods receive little attention. To illustrate the search process for raw diamonds, i.e. the real problem, by way of example, a comprehensive “toolbox of convoluted methods” is applied as part of a comprehensive problem discovery process. The Planetary Model of Collaborative Creativity (PMCC) serves as the conceptual basis for this method-based search for the real problems. It shows that this toolbox requires 1) Collaborative effort; 2) Comprehensive competences (personal, professional domain, systemic, creativity, and sociocultural competences); and 3) A circular creative problem solving process, which is embedded within a sequential working process.

Bates, Robert H, and Steven Block. 2014. “The Political Origins of the Africa’s Economic Revival”.Abstract

Writing in the 1990’s, William Easterly and Ross Levine famously labeled Africa a “growth tragedy”.1 Less than twenty years later, Alwyn Young noted Africa’s “growth miracle”2, while Steven Radelet less effusively pointed to an Africa that was “emerging” and noted its rising rate of economic growth, improving levels of education and health care, and increasing levels of investment in basic infrastructure: roads, ports, and transport3. In this paper, we address Africa’s economic revival. In doing so, we also stress the political changes that have taken place on the continent. Once notorious for its tyrants – Jean-­‐Bedel Bokassa, Idi Amin, and Mobutu Sese Seko, to name but three – in the 1990s, Africa joined the last wave of democratization; self-­‐appointed heads of state were replaced by rulers chosen in competitive elections. In this paper, we assert that the two sets of changes – the one economic and the other political – go together, and that, indeed, changes in Africa’s political institutions lent significant impetus to its economic revival.

Bates, Robert H, and Steven Block. 2014. “Political Institutions and Productivity Growth in Africa’s “Renaissance””.Abstract

People speak of an “African renaissance.” We report and explore data that suggest that the continent’s return to positive growth can near entirely be explained by changes in total factor productivity growth. We find as well that changes in Africa’s political institutions played a major role in this transition and that the channel linking institutional change to changes in economic performance runs in significant part through changes in policy choices. We conclude with reasons to be cautious in assessments of the depth and durability of the changes in Africa’s economies.

Temkin, Moshik. 2014. “How to Kill the Death Penalty.” Los Angeles Times. Publisher's Version

Op-ed published on May 26, 2014.

30-Second Ancient Egypt
der Manuelian, Peter, ed. 2014. 30-Second Ancient Egypt. Ivy Press, 160. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We’ve all heard of pyramids, hieroglyphs and Cleopatra, but how much do you really know about ancient Egypt? Why was the Nile integral to the unification of Egypt? What is the mystery surrounding Queen Hetepheres’ tomb? What did the Amarna Letters reveal? What did the ancient Egyptians eat and drink?

30-Second Ancient Egypt presents a unique insight into one of the most brilliant and beguiling civilisations, where technological innovations and architectural wonders emerge among mysterious gods and burial rites. Each entry is summarised in just 30 seconds using nothing more than two pages, 300 words and a single picture. From royal dynasties and Tutankhamun’s tomb, to hieroglyphs and mummification, interspersed with biographies of Egypt’s most intriguing rulers, this is the quickest path to understanding the 50 key ideas and innovations that developed and defined one of the world’s great civilisations.

After the Revolution: Youth, Democracy, and the Politics of Disappointment in Serbia
Greenberg, Jessica. 2014. After the Revolution: Youth, Democracy, and the Politics of Disappointment in Serbia. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

What happens to student activism once mass protests have disappeared from view, and youth no longer embody the political frustrations and hopes of a nation? After the Revolution chronicles the lives of student activists as they confront the possibilities and disappointments of democracy in the shadow of the recent revolution in Serbia. Greenberg's narrative highlights the stories of young student activists as they seek to define their role and articulate a new form of legitimate political activity, post-socialism.

When student activists in Serbia helped topple dictator Slobodan Milosevic on October 5, 2000, they unexpectedly found that the post-revolutionary period brought even greater problems. How do you actually live and practice democracy in the wake of war and the shadow of a recent revolution? How do young Serbians attempt to translate the energy and excitement generated by wide scale mobilization into the slow work of building democratic institutions? Greenberg navigates through the ranks of student organizations as they transition their activism from the streets back into the halls of the university. In exploring the everyday practices of student activists - their triumphs and frustrations - After the Revolution argues that disappointment is not a failure of democracy but a fundamental feature of how people live and practice it. This fascinating book develops a critical vocabulary for the social life of disappointment with the aim of helping citizens, scholars, and policymakers worldwide escape the trap of framing new democracies as doomed to failure.

Lamont, Michèle, and Joseph Guay. 2014. “Is Neoliberalism a Threat to Civil Rights?.” Boston Globe. Publisher's Version
Lamont, Michèle, and Ann Swidler. 2014. “Methodological Pluralism and the Possibilities and Limits of Interviewing.” Qualitative Sociology 37 (2): 153-171. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Against the background of recent methodological debates pitting ethnography against interviewing, this paper offers a defense of the latter and argues for methodological pluralism and pragmatism and against methodological tribalism. Drawing on our own work and on other sources, we discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of interviewing. We argue that concern over whether attitudes correspond to behavior is an overly narrow and misguided question. Instead we offer that we should instead consider what interviewing and other data gathering techniques are best suited for. In our own work, we suggest, we have used somewhat unusual interviewing techniques to reveal how institutional systems and the construction of social categories, boundaries, and status hierarchies organize social experience. We also point to new methodological challenges, particularly concerning the incorporation of historical and institutional dimensions into interview-based studies. We finally describe fruitful directions for future research, which may result in methodological advances while bringing together the strengths of various data collection techniques.

The Rise and Fall of Human Rights: Cynicism and Politics in Occupied Palestine
Allen, Lori. 2014. The Rise and Fall of Human Rights: Cynicism and Politics in Occupied Palestine. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Rise and Fall of Human Rights provides a groundbreaking ethnographic investigation of the Palestinian human rights world - its NGOs, activists, and "victims," as well as their politics, training, and discourse - since 1979. Though human rights activity began as a means of struggle against the Israeli occupation, in failing to end the Israeli occupation, protect basic human rights, or establish an accountable Palestinian government, the human rights industry has become the object of cynicism for many Palestinians. But far from indicating apathy, such cynicism generates a productive critique of domestic politics and Western interventionism. This book illuminates the successes and failures of Palestinians' varied engagements with human rights in their quest for independence.

Lamont, Michèle, Stefan Beljean, and Matthew Clair. 2014. “What is Missing? Cultural Processes and Causal Pathways to Inequality.” Socio-Economic Review 12 (3): 573-608. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper provides a framework for understanding the ways in which social processes produce social inequality. Specifically, we focus on a particular type of social process that has received limited attention in the literature and in which inter-subjective meaning-making is central: cultural processes. Much of the literature on inequality has focused on the actions of dominant actors and institutions in gaining access to material and non-material resources, or on how ecological effects cause unequal access to material resources. In contrast, we focus on processes that contribute to the production (and reproduction) of inequality through the routine and taken-for-granted actions of both dominant and subordinate actors. We highlight two types of cultural processes: identification and rationalization. We describe and illustrate four processes that we consider to be significant analytical exemplars of these two types of cultural processes: racialization and stigmatization (for identification) and standardization and evaluation (for rationalization). We argue that attention to such cultural processes is critical and complementary to current explanations of social inequality.

Asad, Asad, and Tamara Kay. 2014. “Theorizing the Relationship Between NGOs and the State in Medical Humanitarian Development Projects.” Social Science and Medicine, 1-9. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Social scientists have fiercely debated the relationship between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the state in NGO-led development projects. However, this research often carries an implicit, and often explicit, anti-state bias, suggesting that when NGOs collaborate with states, they cease to be a progressive force. This literature thus fails to recognize the state as a complex, heterogeneous, and fragmented entity. In particular, the unique political context within which an NGO operates is likely to influence how it carries out its work. In this article, we ask: how do NGOs work and build relationships with different types of states and – of particular relevance to practitioners – what kinds of relationship building lead to more successful development outcomes on the ground? Drawing on 29 in-depth interviews with members of Partners in Health and Oxfam America conducted between September 2010 and February 2014, we argue that NGOs and their medical humanitarian projects are more likely to succeed when they adjust how they interact with different types of states through processes of interest harmonization and negotiation. We offer a theoretical model for understanding how these processes occur across organizational fields. Specifically, we utilize field overlap theory to illuminate how successful outcomes depend on NGOs' ability to leverage resources – alliances and networks; political, financial, and cultural resources; and frames – across state and non-state fields. By identifying how NGOs can increase the likelihood of project success, our research should be of interest to activists, practitioners, and scholars.

Olupona, Jacob K. 2014. “To Save the Girls, the World Must Help Nigeria.” Huffington Post. Publisher's Version
Subbaraman, Ramnath. 2014. “A System for Household Enumeration and Re-identification in Densely Populated Slums to Facilitate Community Research, Education, and Advocacy.” PLOS One 9 (4): e93925. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We devised and implemented an innovative Location-Based Household Coding System (LBHCS) appropriate to a densely populated informal settlement in Mumbai, India.

Methods and Findings
LBHCS codes were designed to double as unique household identifiers and as walking directions; when an entire community is enumerated, LBHCS codes can be used to identify the number of households located per road (or lane) segment. LBHCS was used in community-wide biometric, mental health, diarrheal disease, and water poverty studies. It also facilitated targeted health interventions by a research team of youth from Mumbai, including intensive door-to-door education of residents, targeted follow-up meetings, and a full census. In addition, LBHCS permitted rapid and low-cost preparation of GIS mapping of all households in the slum, and spatial summation and spatial analysis of survey data.

LBHCS was an effective, easy-to-use, affordable approach to household enumeration and re-identification in a densely populated informal settlement where alternative satellite imagery and GPS technologies could not be used.

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Brenner, Neil, and Christian Schmid. 2014. “The ‘Urban Age’ in Question.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38 (3): 731–755. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Foreboding declarations about contemporary urban trends pervade early twenty-first century academic, political and journalistic discourse. Among the most widely recited is the claim that we now live in an ‘urban age’ because, for the first time in human history, more than half the world’s population today purportedly lives within cities. Across otherwise diverse discursive, ideological and locational contexts, the urban age thesis has become a form of doxic common sense around which questions regarding the contemporary global urban condition are framed. This article argues that, despite its long history and its increasingly widespread influence, the urban age thesis is a flawed basis on which to conceptualize world urbanization patterns: it is empirically untenable (a statistical artifact) and theoretically incoherent (a chaotic conception). This critique is framed against the background of postwar attempts to measure the world’s urban population, the main methodological and theoretical conundrums of which remain fundamentally unresolved in early twenty-first century urban age discourse. The article concludes by outlining a series of methodological perspectives for an alternative understanding of the contemporary global urban condition.

Brenner, Neil, and Nikos Katsikis. 2014. “Is the Mediterranean Urban?.” Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization, 428–459. Berlin: Jovis, 428–459. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Is the contemporary Mediterranean zone an urban space? This chapter from the volume Implosions/Explosions reflects on this question through an exploration of recent cartographic evidence compiled from state-of-the-art geospatial datasets created by leading research labs at Columbia University's Earth Institute, the Oak Ridge National Lab, and the European Commission, among others. We begin by considering various representations of concentrated urbanization, with specific reference to traditional indicators such as population (size and density) and the geographical extent of major urban regions. Such representations reveal a thick web of urban development stretching around the Mediterranean zone, albeit mainly in apparently bounded settlement configurations. In a second, more speculative step, we consider several possible representations of extended urbanization, the broad fabric of land uses, infrastructures and sociospatial connectivities that at once facilitate and result from the configuration of dense agglomeration zones. Such maps significantly broaden our understanding of the contemporary urban condition by demonstrating the ways in which the formation of the Mediterranean urban system hinges upon the reorganization of land uses and interspatial connections across the entire continent and beyond. In the early twenty-first century, understanding the “urban” character of the Mediterranean—or any other zone of the earth’s surface—requires not only fine-grained empirical data and cartographic sophistication, but systematic theoretical reflexivity regarding the categories being used to classify sociospatial organization.

Reimers, Fernando M. 2014. “Bringing Global Education to the Core of Undergraduate Curriculum.” Diversity & Democracy 17 (2). Publisher's VersionAbstract

Living in a highly interdependent world is not an option—but at present, being educated to do so competently is. Despite the many courses and initiatives designed to support international and global education in colleges and universities around the country, the undergraduate curriculum as a whole is not adequately preparing most students to be capable global citizens (see Reimers 2013; National Research Council 2007). Lack of serious commitment to designing a curriculum that prioritizes global learning for all undergraduates has on most campuses made global education a peripheral undertaking, limited primarily to those students and faculty specializing in international area studies. Without leadership to make global education more central to the undergraduate curriculum, global learning will become ever more marginal—with compounding consequences for most college graduates, who will be ill-equipped to live as global citizens.

Bringing global education to the core must begin with deliberation among faculty and administrators about the kinds of competencies graduates should be able to demonstrate, and to what purpose. Imagine, for example, a world where all college graduates understand how their lives are influenced by global processes and events, where they have the motivation and capacity to collaborate with others across national boundaries to advance the well-being of humans and the planet.…