Why I Participate At Political Science Rumors

by on 2014-04-10- 8 Comments

The first rule of the internet is not to read the comments for any op-ed one posts.  Why?  Because the cover of anonymity allows people to say awful stuff.  Of course, Twitter amply demonstrates that people will say awful things on the internet even when one can be clearly identified.  Anyhow, over the past several years, a series of websites have been gathering spots for both aspiring and experienced political scientists to exchange in rumors and opinions about the profession (to be clear, anyone can post so it might be economist students seeking to troll or other folks entirely).  Given yesterday's post about PSR, I thought I would explain my presence there.

Continue reading

Thursday Linkage

Thursday Linkage

by on 2014-04-10- 1 Comment

As we hurtle to the end of the semester, here are some stories for the week that caught my eye:

  • Felix Salmon on why wonk bloggery is the future of journalism
  • From Kyle Dropp and co-authors, Americans who can't find Ukraine on the map are more likely to support intervention there. What does this say about low information voters?
  • Kim Yi Dionne and coauthor review the strange raid of a US-funded AIDS effort by Ugandan authorities as part of the emergent state-backed homophobia campaign
  • Rich Cincotta pours cold water on the idea that food prices drove the Arab Spring: local prices didn't increase that much
  • Seymour Hersh suggests that Turkey might have been behind the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, as an attempt to draw the U.S. in

Continue reading

Number Crunching the ISA Twittersphere

by on 2014-04-09- 5 Comments

Felix Haas has written a monster blog post over at Bretterblog with interesting descriptive statistics from the #ISA2014 hashtag. Among other fascinating points:

  • 11% of IR scholars at the conference tweet, compared to only 2% of the global population
  • The most popular tweet of the conference contained the Sheraton lobby wifi password
  • Most prolific tweeter: Annick Wibben
  • Number of tweets sent by Laura Seay while simultaneously participating on the Twitter roundtable: 61

Haas also details how he gathered and coded the tweets, which itself is interesting methodologically in terms of how social scientists can leverage Twitter for content analysis. (His data is non-exhaustive for example, but that is partly due to the limitations of the Twitter API.) And last but not least, Haas reveals his position in the Great "What is Star Wars?" Twitter Battle of 2014.
Continue reading

An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Professor vs. Teacher and Dr. vs. Mrs.

by on 2014-04-09- 8 Comments

Like any good protestant preacher, I’ve decided to start a multi-week series where we can examine a topic in depth from multiple angles.[1]  My chosen topic: women in academia.  This is a topic that has been written on extensively in peer-reviewed articles and on the blogosphere (see The Monkey Cage's wonderful discussion for a recent summary).  However, to my knowledge, most of those writing on the topic have been senior: the perspective of a woman “in the trenches” (ie junior) has been somewhat missing in the discussion.  I want to add my two-cents to the discussion and I’ve purposely decided to make the tone of this discussion somewhat light.  Yet, make no mistake, I’m very aware that there are some very nasty, horrible, and life-altering components to this topic.  Maybe one day I’ll talk about those aspects as well.

Anywho –  with an eye towards making the tone somewhat light, I’ve decided to title this series “An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week” – this is a nod to Jo Dee Messina’s song “A Woman’s Rant,” which I love. My first rant:  academic titles and gendered (mis)perceptions.

Continue reading

You Make My Work (Im)Possible: Reflections on Professional Conduct in the Discipline of International Relations

by on 2014-04-09- 33 Comments

This is a guest post by Professor Cynthia Weber, Department of International Relations at the University of Sussex

Five months ago, ‘Michaela’ posted this query on the website Political Science Rumors in a thread called ‘a good place to study queer IR?’

  • am currently a MA student looking to move into a PhD program in the next 2 years. I am interested in studying queer IR and was wondering if you can recommend some good programs. I'm more interested in systemic theorizing than individual level (1st image) type of stuff. Thanks.

A Google search for Political Science Rumors describes the site as ‘The forum for Political Scientists to discuss Political Science and rumors in the profession’.  Others describe it more harshly: ‘Caffeinated’  describes it as ‘that nest of vipers’ that should not be listened to by anyone ‘unless you are a therapist and then please do!’.  The site seems to be directed at ABDs, recent PhDs, and others just starting out in the field who are looking for information about educational programs, conferencing, publishing, and landing a job.  But, as Caffeinated points out, it can have a nasty edge to it, which is something an MA student like Michaela would not necessarily know.

Michaela’s post generated four types of responses.  One was to query what Queer IR is.  A second was to answer her question with concrete suggests for where to study.  A third was to warn her that studying Queer IR would never get her a job.  A fourth was to be gleefully homophobic in ridiculing queers, Queer IR and specific pieces of Queer IR scholarship as well as OPs (Oppressed Peoples) and ‘our current crop of gender/ethnic/sexual “studies” departments’ that OPs apparently work in and support.  A large number of posts – which I will not repeat here – were in this fourth category of responses. The website – which posts comments anonymously and refers to posters through randomly-generated pseudonyms – allows readers to vote ‘Yea’ in favor of posted comments or ‘Nay’ against posted comments.  Leaving out comments that were ambiguous, this is how the votes tallied as of April 5, 2014:

  • Openly Hostile and/or Overtly Homophobic posts: Yea – 210       Ney – 18
  • Supportive/Constructive posts that answered Michaela’s question: Yea – 41         Ney – 3
  • Fight-back posts against the Hostility and/or Homophobia: Yea – 9           Ney – 16
  • Michaela’s original post asking where to study Queer IR was also voted on:  Yea – 4; Ney – 8.

A colleague brought this feed to my attention because the Queer IR scholarship attacked in the feed was authored by me.  After nearly three decades of doing poststructuralist, feminist and queer scholarship, such attacks are old news.   What is deeply troubling to me about this feed is not what these attacks mean for me personally or for my scholarship but what the gleefully hostile and/or homophobic posts and their endorsements by the site’s community of readers do in and to (those in) the discipline of IR.  Among the things they do are:
Continue reading

Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement: Some Analytical Questions*

by on 2014-04-07- 8 Comments

(This is a solicited guest post by University of Chicago's Eric Hundman, who is currently conducting fieldwork in Taiwan. Also follow him on Twitter.)

sunflowersAt around 7:30pm on Tuesday, March 18, around 300 protesters scaled the fence around Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan (Taiwan’s equivalent of a parliament) and occupied the building. The protesters then barricaded themselves inside the legislative chamber and began organizing, with the help of opposition legislators and the acquiescence of “patient, though confused police.” The executive branch in Taiwan probably* does not* have the authority to send police inside the legislature, so when Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) refused President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) request to evict the occupiers, they gained a certain measure of security.

By the following day, the protest leadership had elaborated its demands, while the streets outside the building had filled with sympathetic protesters, advocacy groups, volunteer staff, academics leading discussions, and stages for speeches and musical performances. This core protest organization developed very quickly and persisted – despite the trials of March 24, when riot police used force to decisively end an attempt to occupy the Executive Yuan, and even after April 2, when notorious “former” gangster Chang An-le (張安樂) raised a counter-protest. What became the “Sunflower Movement” organization also led a massive rally last Sunday, March 30 outside the Presidential Palace that drew close to 500,000 people; the coordination of this event was so thorough that by two hours after the rally ended, the streets were entirely clear of both people and detritus. The protest continues today, though the leadership has just announced they will leave the Legislative Yuan on Thursday, April 10.

To many, the spark motivating this protest was oddly obscure. On July 3, 2013, Taiwan and China signed the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA), which would, for example, allow greater Chinese investment in Taiwan’s banking and telecom sectors. After working its way though a series of widely criticized consultations, on March 17 the chair of the relevant review committee, in violation of an agreement with opposition lawmakers, announced the CSSTA had cleared committee (timeline here*). This amounted to legislative approval of the bill, since the ruling KMT party has enough votes to pass it. The protesters moved to block passage, and demanded that a new oversight structure be put in place governing agreements with China. They also demanded that the CSSTA bill be carefully reviewed after implementation of oversight.

These events raise a host of fascinating puzzles, but I will limit my discussion here to two that draw on the social movements literature. First, how did anger at an ostensibly minor procedural violation explode into what some continue to call a “constitutional crisis”? Second, what are the likely outcomes of the protest?
Continue reading

Political Science without a Net

by on 2014-04-07- 2 Comments

Marc Maron, on his popular WTF Podcast, made an offhand remark that he does not prepare for his comedy performances.  He feels that preparing is for cowards, that you need to be ready and willing to fail in your work since there is a fine line between a unique achievement and total failure. Skirting this line led him to ruin many times in his career, but it has also led him to the transcendent place he is at now.  He has reached the heights of his field by putting it all on the line and risking total devastation by focusing on his Podcast, a new and untested medium at the time.  Now he has one of the most popular podcasts, a TV show, and is more popular than ever on the comedy circuit.  duck net

Maron’s path to success reminds us that we need to think a bit about this frame in our own work in Political Science.   Are we really willing to fail?  Are we cowards?  Do we skirt that fine line between success and ruin?

Continue reading

Sunday Linkage: Rwanda at 20 Years

by on 2014-04-06- 2 Comments

Today, April 6, 2014, marks twenty years since the day someone shot down a plane on approach to the Kigali, Rwanda airport, killing everyone on board. That plane was carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, who had just returned from Arusha, Tanzania-based negotiations over a power-sharing arrangement intended to put an end to Rwanda's civil war. All hopes of a peaceful settlement ended with the plane's destruction. Overnight, roadblocks went up around the capital as some extremist Hutu leaders (who opposed the power sharing arrangement and thus had a strong incentive to want Rwandan President Habyarimana dead) directed their
Continue reading

Accountability in Public Service Provision: Lessons from a Film Festival

by on 2014-04-05- 1 Comment

This Saturday's highlight was the screening of the film Powerless at the Environmental Film Festival at Yale, where I was honored with the opportunity to participate in a panel on the film. Begin with the trailer, and then go see the entire film. It's excellent.

The film depicts the desperate situation of the Kanpur Electricity Supply Company (KESCO) in Uttar Pradesh, India. Due to widespread electricity theft, the company incurs heavy losses and is unable to invest in power generation capacity to deal with daily power cuts. The urban poor refuse to pay their bills because of low incomes and
Continue reading

Post-ISA Blogging: Does “Star Wars” Count as Science Fiction?

by on 2014-04-04- 16 Comments

Many Ducks are posting about their highlights from #ISA2014. Mine - aside from the Bloggers' Reception and the many smart junior scholars I met in the lobby - was a meta-theoretical twitter conversation with former Duck Patrick Thaddeus Jackson occurring as I was headed to the airport.

First the context. Just before departing, I live-tweeted Chris Tenove's "Representations Beyond Borders" panel (description here) after my presentation on same. There were many terrific papers: Wendy Wong and Ron Levi on "money as representation"; Chris on who gets to represent the aggrieved at the ICC; Hans-Peter Schmitz on how representations of acoholics prevent alcohol from being taken seriously as a global problem despite its global health burden.

My paper was on science fiction representations in advocacy campaigns (here is the YouTube trailer). While discussing my paper, Sarah Stroup observed that scholars of the sci-fi/IR intertext have largely (and surprisingly) neglected Star Wars. When I tweeted thus, the great PTJ (from somewhere else at the conference) replied with:

The rest of the conversation is below the fold, but suffice to say even if I accept PTJ's definitions of science fiction and high fantasy (and I'm not at all sure I do) I am unconvinced that Star Wars is

  • a) pure theology and no science/naturalism*
  • b) a morally ordered rather than contingent universe** or
  • c) that either of these claims would render Star Wars apolitical if true.***

Indeed as an empirical if not interpretive "fact," (though let it be noted that PTJ and I also disagree on the definition of 'facts'), Star Wars is understood as and increasingly invoked in ways that are extremely political and subversive.

See? Also: this and this.

Now I don't know exactly what is going on here - the Sith Lord has been barred from the ballot in Ukraine - but I do (tentatively) think PTJ and I agree on three things:

  • 1) We need a stronger research agenda linking the interpretation of sci-fi artifacts to the study of their circulation in our world
  • 2) Sarah Stroup is right that the Star Wars gap in the IR/sci-fi literature is interesting and puzzling and
  • 3) there is much-greater-than-zero chance of a Star Wars roundtable at ISA in New Orleans in which PTJ will show up in costume.

Continue reading

Friday Nerd Blogging

by on 2014-04-04- Leave a reply

Game of Thrones Season 4 premieres this Sunday. For your viewing parties, check out this website for Westeros-inspired fare. For those of you not yet familiar with the show, and therefore ill-advised to read Season 4 commentaries, here's a helpful series trailer to whet your appetite. (She said with a straight face.)

Continue reading

Thursday Linkage: Slouching towards Semester’s End

Thursday Linkage: Slouching towards Semester’s End

by on 2014-04-04- Leave a reply

While Amanda is a glutton for punishment with both ISA and Midwest appearances, my wife and I are tag-teaming it - ISA for me and Midwest for her. In between diaper changes, Finding Nemo, and oatmeal, here is what I'm reading. Cambridge refuses to publish book on Putin for fear of libel, the IPCC Fifth Assessment report on climate change impacts is out, Japan cancels a whale hunt after ICJ ruling, China bags clean mountain air, no climate change at this year's G20, and more.

Continue reading

Mid-Week Linkage

by on 2014-04-03- Leave a reply

duckgrouchFewer linkage posts lately due to conference travel, grad admissions season, linkage burnout etc. Here's a few for your clicking pleasure:

Human Security:



Continue reading

Social Media and Protests

by on 2014-04-03- 6 Comments

[Note: A more detailed version of this post appeared at my personal blog.]

The Cairo protests that ultimately led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak received a great deal of attention on Twitter—the most used hashtag in 2011 was #egypt—leadingYellow rubber duck much discussion over whether we were seeing  "a Twitter revolution." But the mere fact that protests occurred at the same time as an increase in calls for regime change on social media does not establish that the latter in any way fueled the former. The same factors that lead people to take to the streets might drive behavior online. Absent a credible identification mechanism, there's no way to settle this matter empirically. But one question we might reasonably ask is whether we can at least identify a clear mechanism by which they might do so.

At this point, you're probably saying to yourself, "Um, yeah. Obviously." Because you're probably thinking that social media can help people learn that they're not alone. That Twitter can help break the fear wall. But there are problems with that argument, as Andrew Little discusses in a fascinating new paper, "Communication Technology and Protest."

Continue reading

An East-West Bridge for Ukraine

by on 2014-04-02- Leave a reply

[Note: This is a guest post by Joshua B. Spero, Associate Professor of International Politics and Coordinator of International Studies at Fitchburg State University.]

Since the Russia-Ukraine crisis accelerated with Russia’s territorial consolidation in Ukraine, Europe is back on the radar screen as great powers and international institutions struggle to de-escalate this security dilemma. After President Obama’s European trip and coordination with European Union (EU) and NATO leaders on 26 March, the international community should pause to consider that, unlike classic power politics regarding heartland Europe, there might still be ways to avoid zero-sum decisions. Virtually lost in the Russia-Ukraine crisis remains the post-Cold War partnership in the heart of Central-East Europe – the Poland-Germany bridge for East and West. Given the U.S. President’s admonition in Brussels that Russia’s actions in Ukraine underscore its “regional power” status and illustrate its “weakness” toward its neighbors not its “strength,” the quarter century-old Poland-Germany crisis management mechanism anchors heartland Europe’s integration, promotes key consultation with Russia and Ukraine, and helps reduce America’s European role while still tying the U.S. to Europe.
Continue reading

Translating Conference-Speak

by on 2014-04-02- 2 Comments

I’m leaving for the Midwest Political Science Association conference this afternoon, a wonderful 3 days since I returned from ISA.  I’m a little (*cough*) “conferenced-out” – it wasn’t a good idea to do both conferences so close to each other.  I am excited, however, to see all the fabulous IO panels at Midwest.

As I finished up the last of my conference slides this morning, I was reflecting on the “conference-ese” we all use and what our phrases actually mean.  To the untrained participant, the phrase might not get noticed.  For the seasoned conference participant, however, it is obvious what the phrase really means.  Let me translate some of these:

Continue reading

Data Street Cred

by on 2014-04-01- 2 Comments

I am not known for being a statistics whiz.  I have published quantitative work, but I am seen, rightly so, as more comfortable with qualitative work, comparing apples and oranges.  Still, I had the gumption to offer advice on twitter about data today.  What and why?

Continue reading

Patricia Weitsman Scholarship

by on 2014-04-01- 2 Comments

Patty didn't want flowers, so instead endow a scholarship at Ohio University.  This is from an email her husband sent out to her supporters:
Please visit Ohio.edu/ Give and note in the online form that the gift is in memory of Dr. Patricia Weitsman and request that funds be designated to The Patricia A. Weitsman Memorial Scholarship, or call (740) 593-0732 to make a gift via phone
She was such a great person, a terrific teacher and influential scholar.  I am glad that that her school will have something lasting to mark her memory and her contributions.
Continue reading

Dear Friends of Patty

by on 2014-03-31- 1 Comment

Dear friends of Patty,

The news is awful.  The second battle with leukemia is over, but this time, Patty lost.  The last effort to treat the disease failed, as she died last night.  I thought her friends in the IR business should know.

Continue reading

Imposters at the ISA?

by on 2014-03-29- 2 Comments

Long ago, Dan Drezner posted about the imposter syndrome.  The basic idea is that many folks feel as if they will be found out, that there are other folks out there that are smarter, more informed and that one is just getting away with being less than that until eventually getting found out.

Continue reading