MPSA Blog: Top 10 Posts from 2016

MPSA Blog: Top 10 Posts from 2016

Regardless of your research interests, your academic (or Alt-Ac) role, or your aspirations for the new year, there is something on this list of MPSA’s most popular blog posts from 2016 that is sure to pique your interest:

MPSA would especially like to thank regular contributors Newly Paul, Adnan Rasool, Michael A. Smith, and Harry Young for sharing their research, political perspectives, and pedagogical insights with us this calendar year. We look forward to highlighting even more NSF-Funded research, conference presentations, and MPSA member interviews in the coming months. If you’re interested in sharing your work with MPSA’s members and the discipline, we’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes for a safe and productive 2017!

MPSA Member Interview: Emily Kalah Gade

Emily Kalah GadeEmily Kalah Gade is a PhD Candidate at the University of Washington at Seattle and has recently been awarded a Moore/Sloan Data Science and Washington Research Foundation Innovation in Data Science Postdoctoral Fellowship. She also competed at the 2012 Olympic Trials (rowing) in the lightweight double sculls and placed second in that same event at the 2013 US National Team Trials. Gade is also the two-time champion and current course record holder in the lightweight women’s single scull at Henley Women’s Regatta (UK). Here we ask her a few questions about her experience and perspective:

Congratulations on your Moore/Sloan and WRF Innovation in Data Science Postdoctoral Fellowship! What do you wish non-academics knew about civilians in conflict zones, political violence and nonviolent resistance?
Thanks! Well, given all the talk about terrorism in the context of the presidential election, I’d say this: it’s hard to conceive of a civilian experience in a conflict zone from most of the West, or to hold space in our daily lives to empathize with the darkness that mars certain human experiences. I think that makes it hard to understand the choices people make when they are soaked in the deep horror of those circumstances – including turning towards violence. Political violence or insurgency are often conflated with “terrorism”, effectively vilifying people who stand against a state. While denoted definitions of terrorism vary, the connotation of terrorism seems to be using violence against civilians for a loosely defined political aim, which in my view is never justified. Some people who stand against a state should be vilified, but others have legitimate grievances and few alternatives. In some cases, people using violence against a state are not the only ones committing grievous crimes, and indeed may not be committing the most grievous crimes. Many of these movements are victims in their own right, and use nonviolence as well, which often goes unnoticed in the West. State abuses of human rights are underreported, especially when compared with the amount of press non-state actors’ violence receives. I think it is easy to forget about the power disparities between even governments we think of in a positive light and the people they govern, or to forget that America too was born of revolution (and terrorism) against the British Crown.

Mixed up somewhere in all of that, stories of suffering from these conflict zones have become almost titillated, like slowing down to look at a car crash on the freeway, and I think they voyeurism of that helps us remove ourselves from those experiences. It’s hard to remember that there are positive things happening in conflict torn places too, that people have babies and get married and fall in love in all but the most extreme situations, and I think that helps construct people who live in those areas as “other”. When people are conceived of as “the other”, “the victim”, or especially “the radical”, their lived experiences in those spaces, and the human quality of each interaction, is sanitized or distorted, and the soul of each person’s story, its humanity, is gone.

Who has had the greatest influence on your research and/or career?
Mary Kaldor. I read her book when I was a Masters student at the London School of Economics and immediately signed up for her class. She ended up being (albeit briefly) a wonderful mentor. I really admired her scholarship, she gave me great feedback on my Master’s thesis, told me to try to publish it, and her belief in my project gave me confidence I hadn’t had before. It doesn’t hurt that she is a truly sweet human being. Afterwards, I switched from studying sustainable ag/development to conflict/political violence and haven’t looked back!

What are the similarities between sculling and political science, if any?
I’m not sure how similar they are, but I think I approach them in almost exactly the same way. I would say I learned the following from being an elite athlete:

  1. How to take big goals and break them down into manageable daily activities
  2. How to find ways around seemingly insurmountable obstacles
  3. How to deal with sometimes scathing criticism, learn from failure, and endure pain/ discomfort
  4. How to hone self-control and self-discipline
  5. The importance of good self-care and recovery habits (!!), and,
  6. Above all, just keep going!

I think almost all of that applies to getting a PhD or to writing an article/book.

Do you have a favorite writing resource or process to keep you motivated?
Having a writing schedule. Working out before starting!  Keeping work out of my personal life and personal time (don’t work in bed, don’t work in designated “relax”/social times). Making sure to take breaks (even just to stand up and walk around) every 45/hour or so.

What would you tell undergraduate students considering a career in political science?
Sky’s the limit! Political science is the study of why people do what they do, basically. That means you have a lot of freedom to study whatever it is that makes you tick. I think the whole area is fascinating, but if you aren’t into research and writing than might not want to make it a career!

What are the top three things on your bucket list?

What book are you currently reading for leisure? Are you enjoying it?
Ghost Fleet – Sci-fi by a political scientist! It’s great. 🙂

This post is part of a series of interviews with our members. Read more MPSA Member profiles.

MPSA - Emily Kalah Gade

3 Questions for MPSA Member Emil Ordukhanyan


Emil Ordukhanyan is Senior Lecturer at UNESCO Chair on Human Rights, Democracy and European Studies at Yerevan Brusov State University of Languages and Social Sciences-Armenia. Ordukhanyan is also the founder of the Armenian Political Science website. Here we ask him a few questions about his experiences:

  • What projects are you currently working on? 
    Currently I work with my research group on the following project: Consociational Democracy: Political Morphology and Potential of Realization in Post-Soviet South Caucasus Countries. In our research we found out consociational democracy is one of the most actual theories of democratization for post-soviet societies, especially for those in South Caucasus region. My research group is convinced the model of consociational democracy is a real tool to face the challenges to democracy in post-soviet South Caucasus societies. I really believe our research will be the rebirth of this concept for post-soviet South Caucasus changing societies, because otherwise the variations of democracy which are built in these countries are a direct way to pseudo democracy or even ethnocracy.
  • What is the one thing that you wish everyone knew about your research?
    I am convinced the concept of Consociational Democracy, being always actual for political science, is especially vital for South Caucasus plural societies which are aiming democratic values as priority. This is the only way to build democracy, rule of law and peace in this region.
  • Who has had the greatest influence on your research and/or career?
    In my very first research I was deeply influenced by the following work of Samuel Phillips Huntington “Political Order in Changing Societies” because this work helped me to understand and to analyze political order with its peculiarities in post-soviet Armenia as changing society. I’m sure this work of the eminent professor is always actual and irreplaceable for the world political science.For my current research the works of the honorable professor Arend Lijphart on democracy and democratization are very useful. His concept of Consociational Democracy is the keystone for my research.As for my career, I’m very grateful to my PhD supervisor, Academician Dr. Gevorg A. Poghosyan and I’m also thankful to Dr. Levon Gh. Shirinyan to help me in my current research.

This post is part of a series of interviews with our members. Read more MPSA Member profiles.

MPSA Member Profile: Eric Raile

Eric Raile is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and serves as the Director of the Human Ecology Learning & Problem Solving (HELPS) Lab at Montana State University, Bozeman. Notably, Raile has recently made an investment in the association and his career by recently becoming one of MPSA’s Lifetime members. We asked him a few questions about his involvement with MPSA and his research habits.  MPSA Lifetime member Eric Raile

What do you value most about being a member of MPSA?
The conference organizers make real efforts to improve the experience for everyone and are not afraid to experiment. A conference attendee can readily find high-quality panels that feature cutting-edge research. The organization also clearly cares about improving outcomes for graduate students and early-career faculty, including the provision of information about events and opportunities. In addition, the American Journal of Political Science is an excellent academic publication.

What projects are you currently working on?
The analytical framework for political will and public will that I have developed with collaborators is the focal point of one research line. This research stems in part from my previous work on corruption and public ethics for the US government. Currently, we are investigating political will and public will for climate-smart agriculture in Uganda and Senegal. Another line of research considers coalition management in multiparty presidencies. A recently published piece looks at how presidential decisions influence subsequent costs of governing in Brazil. Additionally, a survey of residents in three states has provided the data for multiple studies examining public views of the loss of whitebark pine trees due to climate change and of corresponding management strategies in the greater Yellowstone area. We presented a piece on public perceptions of the problem of losing whitebark pine at the MPSA conference in April. A similar project beginning soon will try to use carefully constructed narratives to influence preparedness for flooding events along the Yellowstone River in Montana. Nearly all these projects are collaborative in nature. I am fortunate to work with many first-rate researchers.

Do you have a favorite writing resource or process to keep you motivated?
I am trying hard to carve out blocks of time to write on a daily basis. Nothing here is revolutionary, but I find that I am much more efficient if I can set aside chunks of time in a quiet place and can work on a single project (rather than multiple research projects at once) over days or weeks. Consistent contact with a project keeps me more engaged and allows my brain to keep working on the project during other times of the day. This is all easier said than done, however.

What would you tell undergraduate students considering a career in political science? You need not become a politician or a political campaign staffer when you earn your degree in political science. You can certainly do these things if you wish, but political science is a terrific discipline for developing transferable skills that will serve you well as you change jobs throughout your career. Political science prepares you for a variety of ways to make a difference – from working for government agencies to think tanks to nonprofit organizations. Many of our students end up being successful entrepreneurs or private-sector employees, as well.

What is your typical day like during the academic year? During the summer?
During the school year, a typical week involves a mix of teaching, research, administrative, and service activities. The distribution changes from day to day. On the teaching side, a day might include some class preparation, time in the classroom, a bit of grading, and advising of undergraduate and graduate students. I also have multiple research projects at different stages of the research process (i.e., planning and design, data collection, analysis, writing). Further, I am the director of a social science research laboratory and the faculty advisor for the Model United Nations program and devote some time every week to managing these activities. Of course, keeping up with email traffic requires a daily commitment, as well. The summer looks similar, though without the time in classrooms and with the work less tied to specific times and places. In all, the schedule suits me as repetitiveness and boredom are never problems!