IR Honors Students and Thesis Abstracts

Natalie Adams-Menendez

Cohort: 2022

A New Rhetorical Strategy? Human Rights and the Defense of United States Foreign Military Intervention

Previous academic literature indicates that the United States has used the rhetorics of democracy, international norms, and national security to justify its foreign military interventions from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Kerton-Johnson 2010). However, scholars have failed to substantially investigate the use of human rights rhetoric. When the United States has intervened militarily in a foreign country, how has it used human rights rhetoric to justify its military action? Which human rights does the U.S. cite, and how do these statements match the reality of the human rights conditions on the ground for each case? To answer these questions, I conducted original textual analysis of 60 presidential speeches from the American Presidency Project and compared human rights justifications from these speeches to the actual human rights situations of each case. Through my research, I critically analyze the existence and political implications of the invocation of human rights rhetoric in the past, present, and future of American foreign policy. This thesis finds that American presidents historically have used human rights rhetoric to justify U.S. foreign military intervention, particularly during responses to humanitarian crises in the 1990s and more recently since its 2011 intervention in Libya. Further, within these justifications presidents most often invoke the rhetoric of personal integrity rights, such as the human right to "life, liberty, and security." American presidents frequently portray U.S. foreign policy as addressing human rights violations and by documenting this practice, this thesis contributes to our understanding of U.S. foreign policy and how it is justified to domestic and foreign publics.  

Brooke Beyer

Cohort: 2022

Education, Collective Memory and Transitional Justice in Postcolonial Britain

What role do textbooks and educational materials have in institutionalizing officially-sanctioned narratives of the past? How can history education be used to inculcate national identity and inform collective historical memory? My research seeks to answer these questions with regard to the case of modern Britain, specifically how the British education system has shaped the collective historical memory of the British Empire since 1900. Through textual analysis of history textbooks from 1900-1960 and an original survey connecting educational experience with opinions about the empire, I seek to critically analyze the dominant narratives of the empire within educational materials from the twentieth century to the present and analyze their impact on collective memory. My empirical research finds that the national history curriculum has institutionalized a glorified view of the past while omitting key historical episodes that do not fit the narrative of imperialism as a “civilizing mission.” The thesis concludes by examining how education reform can be leveraged to promote truth, reconciliation, and justice at the systemic level in Britain and other postcolonial societies.

Justin-Casimir Braun

Cohort: 2022

Germany’s Contested ‘Boundary of Belonging’: Anti-Immigrant Attitudes amidst the Summer of Migration

In 2015 and 2016, more than a million refugees arrived in Germany. How did this Summer of Migration impact native Germans’ understanding of who belongs to the German community and who does not? My thesis initially establishes that attitudes towards all immigrant groups except refugees improved during the refugee crisis. Why might this be the case? I investigate two potential causal pathways: First, I investigate the impact of county-level exposure to refugees on attitudes towards incumbent immigrant groups using a cross-sectional and a differences-in-differences design. While the cross-sectional analysis indicates that increased refugee presence on the county-level leads to improved attitudes towards other outgroups, the differences-in-differences design yields no conclusive findings. Second, I examine whether the national news media coverage drives the attitudinal shift, by analyzing the salience and sentiment of coverage on various immigrant groups. I show that the salience of other immigrant groups decreased relative to the coverage on refugees. The sentiment analysis indicates that the sentiment in national news coverage of incumbent immigrant groups improved somewhat during the refugee crisis, relative to coverage of refugees. Together these findings suggests that Germany’s “boundary of belonging” shifted to become more inclusive of non-refugee immigrants, which are culturally “close” to the native population as a result of the 2015/2016 refugee inflow. These findings present an important case study of how a homogenous society’s definitions of inclusion and exclusion adjust in the face of increased immigration. 

Sharon Du

Cohort: 2022

Hard and Soft Propaganda: Marketing Autocracy in Contemporary China

Current scholarship has identified distinct styles of propaganda produced by the Chinese government. Huang (2015) describes “hard” propaganda as propaganda designed to signal state capacity rather than persuade; by contrast, Yang (2013) illustrates how “soft” propaganda advances narratives of everyday heroism to deflect from structural critique. However, literature on hard and soft propaganda remains bifurcated, even as both styles rapidly alternate in the Chinese information environment. My thesis offers the first empirical study of hard and soft propaganda, investigating whether distinct styles of propaganda produce different effects, whether propaganda variants interact with one another, and how this might contribute to autocratic resilience. I conduct an original survey experiment with over 650 mainland Chinese participants, who are treated with hard and/or soft propaganda based on the Three Child Policy. I find that citizens are significantly more likely to share and enjoy soft propaganda, and less likely to identify it as “political propaganda” in comparison to hard propaganda. Both hard and soft propaganda encourage citizens to seek redress through official channels, while soft propaganda also stirs an entrepreneurial response. Though hard and soft propaganda create political backlash, exposure to both varieties also makes it harder for participants to identify soft propaganda as political propaganda, and easier for participants to identify hard propaganda as political propaganda. I conclude that hard and soft propaganda result in distinct effects, and that a diverse informational strategy may reinforce autocracy over time.

Alex Durham

Cohort: 2022

How Eurosceptic Party Rhetoric is Changing in the Post-Brexit Era

Euroscepticism has been on the rise in Europe for the past two decades and saw its first major political win in the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in 2016. Scholars feared this “Brexit” referendum would spark a wave of Euroscepticism to wash over the continent and prompt more “leave” referendums, but the drawn out negotiations over a withdrawal deal have dampened much of the European public’s Eurosceptic fervor. How have Eurosceptic parties reacted in the post-Brexit era? In this thesis, I use a combination of Eurosceptic party manifesto data, Eurobarometer survey data, and case studies of specific Eurosceptic parties to assess to what extent the rhetoric of Eurosceptic parties changed in reaction to Brexit, and explore the factors driving these changes. My analysis suggests that hard Eurosceptic rhetoric, which is rhetoric advocating for a member state to leave the EU, dropped slightly in the aftermath of Brexit. This thesis contributes to the literatures on Eurosceptic thought, European Union cohesion and empirical studies that use rhetoric as a measure to gauge political party intentions.

Zimeng "Lily" Liu

Cohort: 2022

A Descriptive Analysis of Data Privacy Protections for Refugees Resettling in the United States

Protecting data privacy of refugees is important because unauthorized disclosure of refugees' sensitive information or coerced data collection can endanger their safety, well-being, and agency. This thesis evaluates the extent to which the U.S. government, nonprofits, and international organizations protect refugees’ data privacy during the resettlement process in the United States. Through analyzing relevant data privacy policies, as well as in-depth interviews with both refugees and practitioners, I track the quality of nine key components of data privacy, stakeholder incentives and implementation challenges both in theory and in practice. This thesis finds that government actors are most prone to systematic data privacy violations due to administration changes and insufficient protocols of obtaining refugees’ meaningful consent. Nonprofits, on the other hand, are most prone to accidental data privacy violations through unauthorized access of refugees’ identification documents and delaying refugees the right of access. In general, staffing shortage, redundant information systems, and refugees’ susceptibility to identity scams could create more data privacy risks. Interviews with refugees also suggest that several factors, including power dynamics and the lack of clear explanations, may create meaningful barriers that prevent refugees from objecting to unwanted information disclosure. Potential causes of refugee data privacy violations, data-system mapping, and stakeholder recommendations identified in this thesis can inform future studies in examining data privacy vulnerabilities more systematically and improve data privacy protection for a wider range of refugees in the future.

Rachel Ochoa

Cohort: 2022

United States Cyber Policy: The Legal Justification for Counter Cyber Attacks

How does the United States legally justify its cybersecurity strategy? Over the past two decades, cyberspace has evolved into a web of sophisticated communications networks that pose security vulnerabilities for countries, companies and individuals alike. States face a challenge regarding how to defend themselves or respond to cyberattacks, both practically and legally. This thesis analyzes an important case of a cyberattack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and United States’ response: Operation Glowing Symphony. By analyzing the original attack by ISIS, the U.S. response, legal review and justification, this thesis offers insight as to how the U.S. global cyber policy is developing and evolving.  The findings from this thesis can help bring transparency to cyber policy, and a better understanding of how the U.S. will continue to navigate cyberspace.

Barby Hernandez Cantu

Cohort: 2021

The Politics of Data Privacy Law Adoption in Latin America: A Descriptive Analysis

Personal data has become a powerful asset for private organizations and governments. In exchange for free services, we provide troves of information to third parties that use this information for a variety of purposes from the creation of targeted ad campaigns to “nudging” behavior. This collection and processing of personal data has important political implications and can endanger an individual’s right to privacy. In spite of the importance of regulating personal data, there is wide variation in the adoption of data privacy laws across countries and regions. This thesis explores the adoption of data privacy laws in Latin America, a less studied region where adoption of data privacy laws varies. To understand how and why countries differ in their policy responses, this thesis constructs a dataset of data privacy laws across Latin America, analyzes three country case studies and provides an overview of how the European Union’s latest regulation on data privacy (GDPR) has influenced the current data privacy law landscape in Latin America. In my analysis, I find that cross-national variation in data privacy laws was influenced by several factors, including the government’s interest in adopting these policies, the participation of stakeholders, interest in attracting foreign investments and exogenous events that, in some cases, prompted governments to speed up the adoption of these laws.  

Chloe Stoddard

Cohort: 2021

Truth and Justice: Understanding Franco's Use of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) for Political Gain and Envisioning Justice for Impacted Individuals and Communities

In this thesis, I argue that Franco sought to systematically use sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) through a variety of methods to gain political power in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and his subsequent dictatorship. Through my analysis of victim and witness testimony, legal documents, and expert opinion, I find that women’s and LGBTQIA+ liberation was viewed as a threat to the regime’s power and therefore the bodies and actions of women and LGBTQIA+ individuals were heavily policed. Additionally, Spanish culture was rapidly shaped to encourage violence against women, sexual violence was used as a weapon during the war and method of repression during the dictatorship, and children were trafficked from mothers to Franco sympathizers in Spain and abroad to prevent the continuation of a political identity he considered a threat. After decades of the Spanish government blocking legal pathways to criminal prosecution and reparations, opportunities for justice, while limited, have started to become available. Finally, this thesis concludes by considering domestic, regional, and international options to pursue justice for individuals and communities that have been impacted by sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by Franco's forces and regime.   

Mustafa Tikka

Cohort: 2021

Dividing the Indivisible: Do the People of Azad Kashmir Support the Division of Kashmir?

Kashmir has been a cause of continuous strife between India and Pakistan and, consequently, a constant threat to regional peace and stability. Originating in the ambiguous decision of the British regarding the princely states of India, the dispute has led India and Pakistan, both of whom lay claim to the state, to wage several wars since partition. Several peace proposals have appeared over the decades. Yet, the views of Kashmiris, particularly Pakistani-held Kashmir, are largely ignored and remain unknown. In this thesis, I utilize primary and secondary historical sources and an original survey to detail the views of Azad Kashmiris on both militancy and the proposals regarding the division of Kashmir and the creation of an independent, united Kashmir. I find that the majority of surveyed respondents from Azad Kashmir oppose the division of Kashmir and support a proposed independent state.  A majority are also divided on the question of the use of armed struggle/militancy as a plausible course of action. The thesis concludes that no peace process and settlement will be workable and ensure justice and fairness unless it involves and engages the people of Kashmir.