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Research-in-Progress Brown Bag Speaker Series

Please see below for information on past and future research-in-progress presentations, hosted by the Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs at the American Political Science Association. All events take place at APSA headquarters. 

Questions? Email [email protected]

Upcoming Events

WEDNESDAY, MAY 9, 2018, 12:30-1:30PM
The United States and Political Islam: Dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab Revolutions
Mohamed-Ali Adraoui, PhD 
Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellow at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

ABSTRACT: This presentation will deal with the US policy towards the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. How has the main world State power been dealing with the principal Islamist movement, especially in the aftermath of the Arab upheavals? What is the intellectual approach to political Islam, from the birth of the Muslim Brotherhood to the most recent period, specifically among the Obama Administration over the Arab Spring? Has the anti-US potential has been tamed or not? What is the role of the Cold War context in how the Muslim Brotherhood has been used (or not) to fight Communism?

In the light of the discourses held by the US leaders and diplomats, Adraoui will highlight the difficulty to address the Muslim Brotherhood. Adraoui will more specifically shed light on the way the US policy of engagement of the Islamist movement has been conducted by using the US State Department archives over the last century.

The theoretical framework used will be constructivism as Adraoui will principally focus on the importance of ideas and identities in the construction of the US diplomacy towards the main Islamist movement in the Arab world. 

BIO: Adraoui is a political scientist and historian whose research interests focus mainly on international relations, specifically relations between Western countries and Islamist movements. He holds a PhD from Sciences Po Paris after defending his thesis in 2011 on contemporary Salafism. Adraoui was a two-year Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute (2013-2015). From 2015 to 2017,  he was a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore.

Adraoui is a Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellow at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University working on US policy towards the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.


WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2018, 12:30-1:30PM
Beyond Africa: Forging a Black Political Consciousness in Canada, 1830-1865
Niambi Carter, PhD
Assistant Professor, Howard University 

ABSTRACT: Black immigration, or “back to Africa” movements as they are sometimes called, are often treated as ephemera.  At best, these movements are categorized as a rhetorical device of black nationalists; at worst, they are considered failed philosophical commitments that never materialized in Black liberation.  What this, often dismissive, history misses is the important interventions that "dreaming Africa" engendered.  For practical, political, and emotional reasons a majority of Blacks did not return to Africa.  In fact, many Blacks, even those sympathetic to the cause of repatriation, resisted the call to return to the motherland.  Still, their inability, disinterest, or reluctance in returning to their ancestral home did not dampen Black desires to seek better fortunes outside of America.  Escaping America was the primary consideration, location was a distant second. While Blacks were debating the many possible destinations, the most viable option was Canada. By treating calls to go "back to Africa" literally we overlook the importance of Canada in forming a Black American racial consciousness.  By looking at first hand narratives from Black publications of the 19th century, I argue "back to Africa" movements were about using immigration as a tool for Black liberation.  Viewed in this light, this call is more than a mere slogan.  Rather, "back to Africa" movements allowed Blacks to create more robust visions of freedom and independence.  Thus, this paper deepens our understanding of Black identity formation in the period and the myriad ways Black Americans envisioned their freedom and ultimate liberation.

BIO: Niambi Carter is a proud member of the Department of Political Science at Howard University. She earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from Duke University (2007) working primarily in the area of American Politics with a specific focus on Race and Ethnic Politics.  She is the recipient of a number of fellowships and awards from organizations such as the Ford Foundation, the Consortium for Faculty Diversity, and the Western Political Science Association. Her dissertation research on African American public opinion on immigration is the material for her book manuscript currently under development. Prof. Carter is also actively involved in other work that examines lynching and race in American politics and the political ideology of African American Republicans.  Her work has appeared in the Journal of Politics; Political Psychology; Politics, Groups,and Identities; the Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy; the DuBois Review; Politics and Gender; and many others.

Past Events

FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2018, 12:30-1:30PM
Can the U.S. Supreme Court be a Model for Japan?  Rethinking the Role of Courts in a Comparative Perspective
Takeshi Akiba, PhD

ABSTRACT: The research in progress is a comparative study of judicial policymaking in the U.S. and Japan. While the current Japanese Constitution adopted a U.S. style system of judicial review, only recently has its Supreme Court begun to use this power on issues that have significant policy impact. The research involves case studies in both countries to assess the process and impact of such intervention by the Courts, and to consider the conditions for the Courts to perform such roles successfully. (*The presentation will be made in a manner that will not require prior knowledge of the Japanese system; and in a manner that will provoke reflections and conversations about the U.S. system.)

BIO: Takeshi Akiba is an Associate Professor at Akita International University, Japan. He holds a Ph.D. from the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at UC Berkeley (2010). He teaches and conducts research in Japanese and U.S. Constitutional Law, emphasizing the historical and social context of constitutional development. He recently published a book (in Japanese) titled "The Japanese Nationality Case and the Evolving Role of Courts in Japan " (2017). 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 31, 12:00/12:30-1:30PM
Voting Against Violence? Insecurity and Economic Uncertainty in Nigeria’s 2015 Election
Carl LeVan, PhD
Associate Professor, American University's School of International Service
Discussant: Dr. Dorina Bekoe, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University

ABSTRACT: In 2015, Africa’s largest political party was routed at the polls by an opposition party less than two years old. How did different issues shape electoral outcomes? Drawing on extensive field research and a large-N survey, I demonstrate that voters engaged in economic voting. Perceptions of national economic performance, average levels of citizens’ wealth, sub-national economic conditions, and expectations for whether Muhammadu Buhari or incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was more likely to improve the economy all systematically correlate with presidential electoral outcomes across states. Other tests suggest that proximity to violence did not systematically shape electoral outcomes. This is surprising given the scale and scope of Boko Haram’s terrorism as well as numerous polls in which citizens ranked insecurity as the nation’s top priority. I also show that fear of an increase in insurgent violence under Buhari mobilized the People's Democratic Party’s base, while the All Progressives Congress built a broader electoral coalition on the economy, corruption, and electoral integrity. The results contribute to a growing literature suggesting that African voters increasingly assess political candidates on the basis of performance and campaign promises, as well as emerging research on the effects of insurgent violence on parties and elections.

BIO: LeVan focuses on comparative political institutions, democratization, and African security. His book Dictators and Democracy in African Development: The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria explains two categories of public policy performance over fifty years. His new book, co-authored with with SPA Professor Todd Eisenstadt and Loyola University Professor Tofigh Maboudi, is Constituents before Assembly. Their empirical study of all new constitutions 1974-2014 finds that participatory constitution-making has long term positive effects on the level of democracy. He is the co-editor, with Patrick Ukata, of the Oxford Handbook of Nigerian Politics (forthcoming, 2018). He has also published influential critiques of power sharing in Africa and his 2011 essay "Questioning Tocqueville in Africa" won the Frank Cass Prize for Best Article by a Young Scholar from Routledge/Taylor & Francis Publishing. Other research examines coalition governments in Africa, and property rights and migration in Abuja, Nigeria. Prior to joining academia, he worked as a legislative director in the U.S. Congress and then as an adviser to Nigeria's National Assembly. 

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11,12:30 – 1:30PM 
First to the Party: the Group Origins of Political Transformation
Christopher Baylor, PhD 
APSA Centennial Center William A. Steiger Fellow and 2017-2018 Congressional Fellow

ABSTRACT: The United States has scores of potential issues and ideologies but only two major political parties. How parties respond to competing demands for their attention is therefore central to American democracy. First to the Party argues that organized groups set party agendas by forming coalitions and invading party nominations to support candidates committed to their interests. Where the nominees then go, the parties also go.

BIO: Christopher Baylor is an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. He has taught at Wellesley College and the University of California Los Angeles, where he received his PhD in political science focusing on political parties and interest groups. The University of Pennsylvania Press is publishing his first book, First to the Party: the Group Origins of Political Transformation, in November 2017. He has also published in Studies in American Political Development and the Monkey Cage.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20,12:30 – 1:30PM 
New Measurement Strategies for U.S. Congressional Responsiveness to Interest Group Advocacy
Carolina Ferrerosa Young, PhD Candidate (Columbia University)
APSA Centennial Center William A. Steiger Fellow and 2017-2018 Congressional Fellow

ABSTRACT: Studying the way that the U.S. Congress responds to interest groups in American politics is getting increasingly complicated. Over time, ideological polarization has changed the day-to-day culture of the institution and, in turn, the legislative process has become more labyrinthine in ways that are unorthodox (Sinclair 2000). This not only creates more opportunities for interest groups - in particular - to lobby via new avenues; it also makes it more difficult to scientifically analyze legislative responsiveness to said groups using a single empirical method. I take this perspective to heart in my research by using multiple methods to study interest group political behavior and subsequent issue representation. Chiefly, my work emphasizes three main approaches: using new text analysis tools to investigate old questions, leveraging natural regression discontinuities to map the political landscape, and working in partnership with real-world organizations to run field experiments on congressional responsiveness. In this talk, I present these strategies and preliminary findings. 

BIO: Carolina Ferrerosa Young is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, where she studies American politics with a minor in quantitative methods. She is currently completing a dissertation on congressional responsiveness to interest group advocacy as a visiting scholar and William A. Steiger fellow at APSA's Centennial Center in Washington, DC. Originally from Arlington, Virginia, Carolina graduated from the University of Virginia's Distinguished Majors Program in Politics and spent several years before graduate school helping to run randomized controlled trial evaluations of federal social programs for U.S. government agencies. She is a Columbia University Dean's Fellow, an APSA Minority Fellow, and a recipient of the 2012 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. From 2017 to 2018, she will serve as an APSA Congressional Fellow on Capitol Hill.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25,12:30 – 1:30PM 
Partisan Group Organization in the U.S. Congress & the Liberal Democratic Roots of the Conservative House Freedom Caucus 
Emily Baer, PhD
APSA Centennial Center William A. Steiger Fellow and 2017-2018 Congressional Fellow

ABSTRACT: The emergence and effectiveness of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) over the past two years has taken many observers of Congress and scholars by surprise. According to dominant theories of political parties and power, this group of junior arch conservatives should play a limited role in the legislative process and party business. How do party factions successfully advocate for their interests in a majoritarian institution designed to suppress their influence and participation? I argue that partisan member groups today reflect the enduring institutional legacy of the first organized member group in the modern Congress – the Democratic Study Group (DSG). The organizational model established by liberal Democrats in DSG has been adopted by members in both parties to increase their capacity to work together and challenge the status quo. I analyze the institutional conditions that give rise to partisan groups like DSG and the HFC, and compare the founding memberships of both groups. I then analyze how the DSG model of organization, including the group’s resources and tools, membership recruitment strategies, and leadership structure, shaped the development of the HFC. I conclude with some comments on the implications of the liberal organizational model for our understanding of the effectiveness of the House Freedom Caucus in the House today.  

BIO: Emily Baer is a 2017-2018 American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in summer 2017 where she studied Congress and political parties. Her dissertation research examined how party factions in Congress develop the capacity to pursue procedural, policy, and leadership change in the House of Representatives through a case study of the Democratic Study Group and the 1970s reform era. She was previously a National Fellow at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.  

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 12:30 – 1:30PM 
The Tunisian Success Story: The Role of the Military
Sharan Grewal, PhD Candidate (Princeton University) and APSA Centennial Center Visiting Scholar

Discussant: Sarah Yerkes, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

ABSTRACT: Why has Tunisia's transition to democracy succeeded, while the other revolutions of the Arab Spring have failed? While existing accounts emphasize Tunisia's level of development, strength of civil society, and culture of compromise, I highlight the behavior of its military, which resisted pressures to stage a coup in 2013. Drawing on interviews, archives, and a survey experiment of military officers, I argue that the Tunisian military had the capacity and opportunity to stage a coup, but calculated that its interests were best preserved under democracy. Democratization had brought an end to two despised coup-proofing tactics: a political and material marginalization of the military, and a regional favoritism of officers hailing from the coast. With the majority of officers benefiting from democracy, the military had been coopted into the new democratic order. More generally, the case of Tunisia suggests that certain autocratic coup-proofing strategies, in this case, marginalization and discrimination, may be more conducive to democratic consolidation than others.

BIO: Sharan Grewal is a PhD Candidate at Princeton University and a Visiting Scholar at the American Political Science Association's Centennial Center. He studies the comparative politics of the Middle East, with a focus on democratization, civil-military relations, and religion. His dissertation examines why some transitions to democracy succeed and others fail through case studies of Egypt and Tunisia, a survey experiment of military officers, and a cross-national analysis. His work has been published by International Organization, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Washington Post's Monkey Cage, among other outlets.

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