IR Honors Students and Thesis Abstracts

Natalie Adams-Menendez

Cohort: 2022


"A New Imperial Strategy? Human Rights and the Defense of American Foreign Military Intervention"


From the Cold War to the War on Terror, the United States has invoked the rhetoric of democracy, anti-communism, and national security to justify its foreign military interventions. However, scholarship is missing on its use of other forms of rhetoric - specifically human rights rhetoric. Reflecting on the establishment of the Responsibility to Protect in 2005 and arguments in 2021 to continue the American occupation of Afghanistan on the grounds of women's rights, what is the rhetorical relationship between human rights and US military intervention? When the United States intervenes militarily in a foreign country, does it use human rights rhetoric to justify its intervention? If so, which human rights does the US cite, and how do these statements match the reality of the human rights conditions on the ground for each case? For my thesis, I will conduct original textual analysis of American presidential speeches from the American Presidency Project as well as utilize human rights scores to compare American rhetorical justifications to the actual human rights situations of each case of military intervention. Through my research, I seek to critically analyze the existence and political implications of the invocation of human rights rhetoric in the past, present, and future of American foreign policy.

Brooke Beyer

Cohort: 2022

Education, Collective Memory and Transitional Justice in post-colonial Britain

My research explores how the British education system has informed collective historical memory of the British Empire in the U.K. In my thesis, I argue that the national history curriculum has historically been used to institutionalize a glorified view of the past which inhibits movements for reform and accountability in modern Britain. Through analysis of archival materials, scholarly literature, and interviews with students and educators, I will identify dominant narratives that omit and glorify the empire and analyze their impact on collective memory. I seek to situate my research within the field of transitional justice and examine 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

Research Question: What are the effects of the 2015 migration event on native attitudes towards incumbent immigrant groups in Germany?

At the core of my research project lies the question of how the 2015/2016 migration event, when approximately one million asylum seekers entered Germany, impacted (native) Germans’ understanding of who belongs and who does not. I will investigate this question by exploiting the exogenous variation in refugee presence on the county level introduced by mandatory residence requirements. My dependent variables are measurements of anti-immigrant attitudes among the native German society. In particular I am interested in how the arrival of refugees in 2015 affected native attitudes towards the various "incumbent" immigrant groups present in Germany.

Understanding how the “boundary of belonging” shifted is crucial to make sense of the society-wide ramifications of the large scale immigration in 2015. Moreover, with climate change, heightened political instability, and ageing societies in many European countries, 2015 is unlikely to remain an isolated event. I hope to present a case study of how a relatively homogenous society redefined itself in response to high immigration pressure.

Sharon Du

Cohort: 2022

Current scholarship has identified distinct styles of propaganda produced by the Chinese government, ranging from the ossified Maoist rhetoric recognizable in political courses, to light-hearted “positive energy” campaigns on Douyin. For the purposes of this thesis, “hard” propaganda is propaganda designed to signal state capacity rather than persuade, while “soft” propaganda advances grassroots narratives of everyday heroism to deflect from structural critique. My research questions thus comprise the following: firstly, do distinct styles of propaganda produce different effects on their audience? Secondly, what is the effect when divergent examples of propaganda interact in the same information environment, and how might this contribute to autocratic resilience? For my thesis, I seek to provide survey experiment evidence for the distinct effects of hard and soft propaganda, and a theoretical contribution as to why investment in both styles might amplify its effects.

Alex Durham

Cohort: 2022

How the rhetoric of Eurosceptic parties has changed in the post-Brexit era

The success of the United Kingdom’s referendum to leave the European Union marked not only a shift in international politics, but a win for Eurosceptic people and parties across Europe. In the wake of the vote, how have European citizens reacted? How has the rhetoric of Eurosceptic parties changed: do they view Brexit as a success and opportunity to use more hard Eurosceptic language, or do they view the referendum as a failure and are shying away from such language? Through studying the manifestos of political parties across Europe, compiling and analyzing extensive survey data gathered at the time of the referendum and the years after, and looking at how national media outlets portrayed the referendum to the British people, I seek to show that the use of hard Eurosceptic language has dropped in the wake of the referendum as Eurosceptic parties realize that the European people primarily view the UK’s withdrawal in a negative light.

Lily Zimeng Liu

Cohort: 2022

Understanding Data Privacy Protection of Resettled Refugees in the U.S. and the EU

In June 2021, the Bangladesh government shared the biometric data of 630,000 Rohingya refugees with the Myanmar government, allowing them to uniquely identify and persecute refugees if they were to return. Protecting refugees’ data privacy is critical because refugees are not only more vulnerable to coerced consent, they also face more devastating consequences if their sensitive data fall into the wrong hands. While the EU and the U.S. have some of the highest privacy standards for their citizens, little is known about the data privacy protection offered to refugees in their countries. My honors thesis seeks to measure the extent to which resettled refugees’ data privacy and security are protected in the United States and the EU, in comparison to that of host country citizens. Through evaluating data privacy laws and interviewing U.S. resettled refugees, government officials and policy makers, I hope to better understand the dataflow during refugee resettlement, identify risks to refugees’ data privacy, document refugees’ experiences with consent, and evaluate the extent to which data privacy laws and policy (de jure) were implemented in reality (de facto). The empirical data I collect from my interviews and the system map of refugee dataflow from my research can help policy makers better identify vulnerabilities to refugees’ data privacy and design reforms in the future. 

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.   

Nitish Vaidyanathan

Cohort: 2021

Chinese Influence in South America: Dimensions of Power in Argentina and Chile

How does China attempt to wield influence in South America?  China's economic and political influence has risen rapidly over the past decade. Beijing's growing power has taken overt forms like its rising stature in international institutions, as well as more subtle forms in the media and legislatures of countries all over the world. This thesis analyzes several country case studies to assess how Beijing is exercising power in South America.  More broadly, it illuminates how China’s hard, sharp, and soft power can interact as mechanisms of control. I find that China has consistently used coercive and manipulative tactics to build its influence abroad. These findings can help inform policymakers who seek to understand how China is actively expanding its global influence, particularly in those countries with which it has significant trading relationships