The Cutting Edge

Gabon, Indonesia, and OPEC

Gabon and Indonesia – OPEC Membership Motivation

In 2009, Indonesia left The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.  Earlier this year (2016), they successfully rejoined, after fewer than seven years apart from the group.  Gabon left OPEC in 1995.  Earlier in our research, this exit seemed permanent, but in April of this year, they formally reapplied for membership.  Alongside Ecuador, who left in 1992 and rejoined in 2007, a distinct trend is beginning to emerge.[1]  Notably, Ecuador, Gabon, and Indonesia all fall at the very bottom of OPEC’s list in terms of share of oil reserves.[2]  Originally, the intent of this post was to investigate what drove Indonesia to reenter OPEC in contrast to why Gabon chose to remain on the outside.  Although Gabon has yet to be readmitted, their application signals a desire for membership, and searching for and understanding this desire has been the purpose of our project all along.  With the recent developments mentioned above, this blog will attempt to find a common thread between the shared desire of Indonesia and Gabon to rejoin OPEC.


As both countries have rather small oil reserves compared to those of larger member countries, a basic correlation between the two may be established.  That said, these two countries share few common characteristics, which makes a comparison of motivations more interesting.  Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands and is the world’s fourth largest country by population.[3]  Furthermore, Indonesia is the world’s most linguistically diverse country, with over 700 known languages currently spoken by its citizens.  Indonesia also has the world’s highest population of Muslims, which stands in stark contrast to Gabon’s heavily Christian population.[4][5]

Conversely, Gabon is one of the world’s least populated countries, with under two million citizens.[6]  With valuable natural resources and a small population, Gabon has a GDP per capita of almost $19,000, a number far greater than the just over $11,000 held by the population of Indonesia.[7]  Despite this gap, the unemployment rate in Gabon is over 20% – four times higher than that of Indonesia.[8]  Gabon and Indonesia are both  presidential republics with a powerful president, bicameral legislature, and a judicial branch headed by a supreme court.[9]

 Why They Left

An examination of why Gabon and Indonesia chose to reapply for membership would be incomplete without first understanding each country’s different reasons for leaving.

Indonesia’s official account of their decision to leave OPEC tells the story of a country not producing enough oil to be a net exporter or “deserve” membership.  As the government stated their intention of boosting oil production, this explanation is consistent with the narrative of a country attempting to cut their obligations until such a time as they have enough clout to truly participate in the organization.[10]  It has been suggested that Indonesia was simply displeased with how much weight they had in discussions, despite paying the millions in yearly membership fees required of all OPEC countries.  With little to bring to the table, the fees would have been cumbersome and likely caused the country’s leaders to question whether membership was worth the cost.[11]  The fact that OPEC did not even publically comment on the withdrawal of Indonesia lends credence to the argument that the country had little influence and therefore little to gain.[12]

An alternative story to one of high fees and low clout delves into domestic politics.  As oil prices were reaching their all-time highs in 2008, Indonesia found itself unable to sustain the level of oil subsidies they had previously maintained in their efforts to keep domestic prices low.  At the time, Indonesia was the only net importer of oil amongst all OPEC member countries, meaning that lower oil prices would leave the country better off by setting it apart from the hopes of the rest of the organization.[13] When the government raised oil prices in response to the international market, the population was hit hard.[14] Protests erupted across the country, with many demanding the return of subsidized prices.[15]  As a net importer of oil, Indonesia simply could not afford to meet these demands without significant changes.  Perhaps one of these changes was to save a bit of money and face by ducking out of OPEC, even if it was intended as a temporary measure.  Being the odd one out in an organization of net exporters would have made continued membership a contentious decision.

Gabon also tells a story of a country unhappy with the millions of dollars in OPEC fees.[16]  OPEC membership costs a flat fee and does not vary based on the size of a country or the amount of oil they produce daily.  The country requested to pay lower fees due to its “modest production”, though this proposition was rejected based on the principle of equal voting.[17] Gabon accused OPEC of not taking into account the changing world and limits for each country.  Because of this, many of the smaller countries believe they are unfairly hit with a fee that does not guarantee them an equal say, and a consistent criticism levied against the organization is that its policies may end up creating a “large producer’s club”.[18]  When Gabon exited OPEC in 1995, they produced less than a twentieth of OPEC’s largest oil producer – Saudi Arabia.[19]

Interestingly, Gabon may have exited OPEC thinking they would be better off going alone, rather than in protest of heavy fees and unequal say. When Ecuador left OPEC in 1992, they attempted to leverage their resources to attract foreign investment.  It is possible that Gabon thought they could sell themselves in this way once free from both fees and production quotas.[20]  These restrictive production quotas themselves may have been the deciding factor for Gabon.[21]  That said, every news story and government press release from Gabon maintains that the primary factor was OPEC’s rejection of the country’s proposal to pay a fee proportional to their oil production.

Why They Chose to Reapply

Two small members of OPEC left. Two small members of OPEC returned.  As detailed above, these countries have little in common besides their level of oil exports.  Despite this, they share a very similar narrative when it comes to their respective exits of OPEC.  High fees and restrictive quotas left both countries feeling as though they would be better off alone.  Around the time of Gabon’s (and Ecuador’s) exit from the organization, there were widespread fears of a “better out than in” mentality, whereby other states would follow members out of OPEC.[22]  Since the start of this year, those fears have largely been laid to rest.  The question remains – why did Indonesia and Gabon  return to an organization they accused of unfair fees and more?

Indonesia’s path out of and back into OPEC was decidedly anticlimactic.  Upon the exit, the organization said not a word.  Even at the time, the Indonesian government made it clear that they would keep the path to reentering OPEC open.[23]  The public reasoning behind leaving the organization was a story of high fees and production insufficient to belong to OPEC. Indonesia supposedly was going to push for higher production levels before reconsidering membership.[24]  However, the numbers simply do not bear out this strategy; with the exception of 2008, Indonesia significantly reduced the amount of crude oil produced per day in every year since 2007– a trend that began in 1991.[25]

The exact reasons behind this decline are beyond the scope of this project, but the general story is one of government mismanagement and a market not conducive to or attractive for investment.[26]  At the same time, Indonesia saw a massive increase in demand for oil, with consumption in thousands of barrels per day almost doubling that being produced.[27]  When consumption began to overtake production, the citizens of Indonesia had an interest in low oil prices and this desire only strengthened with a government cutting back on oil subsidies. With the gap between production and consumption at an all-time high, why would Indonesia choose to rejoin an organization largely focused on strengthening the global oil market and keeping prices high enough to support net exporters?

In many ways, Indonesia was in a spot where the benefits of membership outstripped the costs.  To this day, the country has little to offer OPEC in terms of production or oil reserves.  In fact, the move will likely upset some of the smaller members of the organization, as it takes another slice of their say off the table.[28]  Interestingly, the gap between production and consumption that drove Indonesia from OPEC may have reeled them right back in.  When the gap was small, membership fees and quotas were cumbersome.  Now, demand is so high that the government fears for their own energy security.  OPEC stands to gain by bringing in a Southeast Asian nation and Saudi Arabia in particular pushed for Indonesia’s return.[29]

Although it makes little sense for a country interested in low oil prices to join an organization with different intentions, the gap may have grown too extreme for Indonesia to place much stock in OPEC’s intentions.  The organization can offer energy security and a seat at the table.  However, the island nation sits next to major shipping routes, has a massive population, and skyrocketing demand for oil.[30]  In other words, Indonesia can offer OPEC quite a bit, and in return, the country gains a pat on the back and a seat at the table.  Being involved in conversations with the organization that controls the vast majority of world oil reserves is too attractive to resist.  As such, we conclude that, although Indonesia rejoining OPEC is contradictory to their desire for low oil prices, the offer of membership and its seat at the table is too tempting to decline.  Essentially, Indonesia has agreed to pay to sit at a table and be exposed to other members with financial and natural resources, technological information, and some modicum of market control.  Does that sound like an honor society?

Interestingly, Gabon expressed the same sentiment of a possible return as Indonesia upon their 1995 exit of the organization.[31]  Although they felt they were unduly burdened by fees, the country made sure not to burn any bridges with OPEC.  With the nature of their complaint being largely financial, it would follow that Gabon would only rejoin once they were in a position to pay the membership fees, or at such a time as the fees could be renegotiated.  Instead, the country seems to have rejoined in a scramble to recoup large budget deficits, with President Ondimba expressing his hope that such a move would help to stabilize oil prices currently hovering around historic lows.[32]

Gabon has found themselves in a difficult position, with revenues highly dependent on oil production and no way to control low prices.[33]  Supposedly, they have rejoined in the hopes of an OPEC led effort to increase global oil prices.  As we will elaborate in the third blog, global oil price trends show no indication of recovering to the level that countries such as Gabon desire.  At first, it was uncertain as to whether OPEC would readmit Gabon, whose production is less than 40% of the second smallest producer in the organization, Ecuador.[34]  Ultimately, Gabon was readmitted and the country aims to play a part in realizing OPEC’s desire to increase global oil prices, especially with oil production representing 43% of the country’s GDP.[35]

At first glance, Gabon’s decision is based on sound economic logic, as they are highly dependent on the global price of oil.  OPEC seeks to keep the market stable and flex its oil reserves to maintain oil prices at a reasonable level.  However, the organization has failed miserably to do so, with Saudi Arabia leading the way in a continuous rise in production and subsequent rock bottom oil prices.  With this in mind, what does Gabon stand to gain?

In many ways, the tiny country gains exactly what its much larger OPEC brother, Indonesia, gains.  This is little more than a pat on the back and a seat at the table.  That said, this particular seat gives Gabon an equal vote in an organization composed of some the most influential countries in the world.  Energy security, technology sharing, and some tiny say in the global oil market are worth more than the cost of membership.  As in the case of Indonesia, not much has changed in Gabon’s equation since they exited OPEC in 1995.  The country faces the same budget deficits and high fees compared to low production that they did years ago.


Despite multiple exits, membership in The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries currently stands at fourteen members.  This number includes every single member that has ever left the organization.  In the case of Gabon and Indonesia, leaving the organization did not better their lot in the global oil market.  Both countries still face deficits and are struggling with low oil prices.  At first it sounds laughable to compare OPEC with an honor society, but in many ways, the decision faced by Gabon and Indonesia parallels my own decision on whether or not to pay fees for any number of honor societies that send me letters or emails.  I have to decide whether cutting into my depressing, college student bank account is worth the benefits of membership.  This membership is something I can place on a resume, gives me some say in the actions of the group, and has the potential to introduce me to new ideas, influential people, and help improve my academic abilities.  Gabon and Indonesia decided to pay their fees and we would suggest they did not do so in the vain hope of increasing global oil prices, just as I would not join an honors society to land a better salary.  Instead, they joined for a seat at the table, technology sharing, and some level of energy security based on their connections within OPEC.  Is OPEC an honors society?


[1] “Member Countries”

[2] “OPEC Share of World Crude Oil Reserves.”

[3] The World Factbook: Indonesia

[4] Ibid.

[5] The World Factbook: Gabon

[6-9] Ibid.

[10-12] “Indonesia Leaves OPEC, Unhappy with Influential Power.”

[13] “Indonesia Pulls out of OPEC.”

[14-15] “Indonesia Leaves OPEC, Unhappy with Influential Power.”

[16] “Gabon Protests OPEC Fee; Withdrawal Reported.”

[19-20] “Gabon Protests OPEC Fee; Withdrawal Reported.”

[21-22] “Gabon Leaves OPEC: Membership Reduced to 11.”

[17] “Gabon Plans To Quit OPEC.”[18] “Gabon Leaves OPEC: Membership Reduced to 11.”

[23] “Indonesia to Withdraw from Opec.”

[24] “Indonesia Leaves OPEC, Unhappy with Influential Power.”

[25] “Indonesia Crude Oil Production and Consumption by Year.”

[26-27] “Crude Oil.”

[28-30] Berndt, Kirstin. “And Then There Were 13: Indonesia Rejoins OPEC.”

[31] “Gabon Leaves OPEC: Membership Reduced to 11.”

[32-33] Salvaterra, Neanda. “Gabon – At A Glance.”

[34-35] “Another Former OPEC Member, Gabon, Wants to Rejoin Oil Group: Sources.”


Works Cited:

Aglionby, John. “Indonesia Pulls out of Opec.” Financial Times. May 28, 2008. Accessed July 2016.

Berndt, Kirstin. “And Then There Were 13: Indonesia Rejoins OPEC.” The Diplomat. December 2, 2015. Accessed July 2016.

“Crude Oil.” Indonesia Investments. July 4, 2016. Accessed July 2016.

El Gamal, Rania, and Alex Lawler. “Another Former OPEC Member, Gabon, Wants to Rejoin Oil Group: Sources.” Reuters. April 15, 2016. Accessed July 2016.

“Gabon Leaves OPEC: Membership Reduced to 11.” MEES. January 9, 1995. Accessed July 2016.

“Gabon Plans To Quit OPEC.” The New York Times. January 9, 1995. Accessed July 2016.

“Gabon Protests OPEC Fee; Withdrawal Reported.” Oil & Gas Journal. January 16, 1995. Accessed July 2016.

“Indonesia Crude Oil Production and Consumption by Year.” IndexMundi. 2016. Accessed July 2016.

“Indonesia Leaves OPEC, Unhappy with Influential Power.” Oil & Gas Journal. June 2, 2008. Accessed July 2016.

“Indonesia to Withdraw from Opec.” BBC News. May 28, 2008. Accessed July 2016.

“Member Countries.” Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. 2016. Accessed July 2016.

“OPEC Share of World Crude Oil Reserves.” Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. 2015. Accessed July 2016.

Salvaterra, Neanda. “Gabon – At A Glance.” The Wall Street Journal. June 2, 2016. Accessed July 2016.

“The World Factbook: Gabon.” Central Intelligence Agency. 2016. Accessed July 2016.

“The World Factbook: Indonesia.” Central Intelligence Agency. 2016. Accessed July 2016.

Study of Studies

Teams in the Modern American Political Arena

In discussions about the causes and effects of American political polarization, the idea of “sorting,” an increasing correlation over time between characteristics in a group, is likely to play a primary role. In the context of polarization, these characteristics are associated with politics; for example, more Democrats are identifying as liberals over time (and vice versa), and more political party members are relocating to the same places as other party members over time.

Political scientists debate whether polarization is happening at all, or whether it consists entirely of partisan-ideological sorting within both groups of elected officials and the mass electorate [1]. This argument highlights the difference between issue distance, the ideological distance of mean issue positions between political groups, and issue consistency, the variation of issue positions within groups. If there is very little variation in the positions held by group members, that group is considered highly sorted.

Over the last several decades, issue distance between Democrats and Republicans- the two largest political groups- has increased relatively little, while issue consistency in both these groups has increased substantially [2]. Consistency in living areas has also increased in the last twenty years or so, and liberal Democrats are becoming more likely to live near other liberal Democrats, etc [3]. This trend might be surprising to some, as Democrats and Republicans are traditionally portrayed as diametrically-opposed forces. But if polarization is only defined as the difference between group ideological or issue positions, it doesn’t appear to have been occurring in the past several decades in America. Polarization may instead simply be a misnomer for “political sorting.”

However, many people would instinctively disagree with this conclusion. They feel rising tension in our modern political environment and likely attribute it to differences (read: disagreements) between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. Since differences in issue positions can’t explain this tension, some political scientists focus not on issue consistency or other types of sorting to describe polarization but rather on the behavioral effects of that sorting. Sorting of politically associated identities — party, ideology, issue positions, living area, demographics — in individuals has been known to increase their affective polarization, or their active dislike for opposing political groups (and reciprocal loyalty to their own group) [4]. In fact, even the perception of demographic sorting in political parties may increase affective polarization in those who hold that perception [5].

These results hint at how sorting is related to the more tangible aspects of polarization, namely anger, distrust, and stubbornness. As more Democrats become liberal (this does not mean the same thing as “Democrats become more liberal”), more Republicans become conservative. Similarly, if more liberal Democrats move to one place while conservative Republicans move to another, or more people of different races or religions join the same party as other people of their race or religion, people begin to get more angry at the political group that is not their own, and they become more willing to fight for their own group. This does not mean that they hold very different beliefs about the world than members of the other group; it just means that they hold different, heavily sorted group identities. Given these differences in sorted group identities, we shouldn’t be surprised that tension fills our political arena

Study of Studies

Online and Offline: How Your Friends Affect Your Politics

In an ideal democracy, we would talk about politics all the time. Imagine your friends and co-workers chatting about the latest political controversies, openly disagreeing, but still civilly exchanging ideas and arguments. Rather than debate, with both sides trying to prove each other wrong, it would be a deliberative effort, in search of common ground. Someone might change their mind occasionally after weighing the evidence. Just to be clear, this does not mean the “Can you believe Donald Trump is still ahead in the polls?” kind of political talk, so much as “I believe in policy X because…” or “I support candidate Y because…” If you’re having trouble picturing this, it’s probably because this is not how political deliberation usually plays out, whether in person or online.  Political deliberation has been studied both face-to-face and over social media, and the results diverge unexpectedly.

Besides the common belief that politics is a taboo subject, research has shown that most of us are inclined to discuss politics with people with whom we agree. In fact, we self-select into social circles composed of people who already share our opinions, hindering our exposure to different (cross-cutting) views[1]. However, some scholars think that this is an exaggerated problem. The majority of people know at least one person in their social network with whom they talk politics that holds views different than their own. People in networks with disagreement generally hold less polarized viewpoints[2], and exposure to disagreement breeds political tolerance[3]. Unfortunately, disagreement also makes people less enthusiastic about politics, but the evidence is mixed on whether or not this actually affects participation, such as voting[4].

There’s some debate about whether political discussion has the same effects online, particularly on social media. Research shows that people are most likely to encounter cross-cutting viewpoints in online settings that aren’t centered around politics, but where politics keeps coming up anyway[5] (like Facebook). In fact, there is a correlation between social media use and exposure to differing viewpoints[6]. However, unlike conversations in person, disagreement on social media has been found to result in increased polarization[7] and increased political participation online, such as sharing political content[8]. It is unclear why this difference exists. Are we more biased about the information we see online? Is online communication simply too impersonal for political persuasion? There are many unanswered questions about the role of social media in politics, making it a promising subject area for future research.


[1] Mutz, Diana C. “Cross-cutting Social Networks: Testing Democratic Theory in Practice.” American Political Science Review 96.01 (2002): 111-126. Web.

[2] Huckfeldt, Robert, Jeanette Morehouse Mendez, and Tracy Osborn. “Disagreement, Ambivalence, and Engagement: The Political Consequences of Heterogeneous Networks.” Political Psychology 25.1 (2004): 65-95. Web.

[3] Mutz (2002)

[4] Huckfeldt et al., (2002)

[5] Wojcieszak, Magdalena E., and Diana C. Mutz. “Online Groups and Political Discourse: Do Online Discussion Spaces Facilitate Exposure to Political Disagreement?” Journal of Communication 59.1 (2009): 40-56. Web.

[6] Kim, Yonghwan. “The Contribution of Social Network Sites to Exposure to Political Difference: The Relationships among SNSs, Online Political Messaging, and Exposure to Cross-cutting Perspectives.” Computers in Human Behavior 27.2 (2011): 971-77. Web.

[7] Lee, Jae Kook, Jihyang Choi, Cheonsoo Kim, and Yonghwan Kim. “Social Media, Network Heterogeneity, and Opinion Polarization.” Journal of Communication 64.4 (2014): 702-22. Web.

[8] Kim, Yonghwan, and Hsuan-Ting Chen. “Social Media and Online Political Participation: The Mediating Role of Exposure to Cross-cutting and Like-minded Perspectives.” Telematics and Informatics 33.2 (2016): 320-30. Web.


Data-Driven Analysis

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Evangelicals

Evangelical voters are a monolithic group, right? Certainly, the word “evangelical” conjures up a very specific image in our mind – perhaps a WASP who regularly attends church and strongly objects to homosexuality and abortion. Ever since the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan positioned himself as a champion of Christianity, faith-based voters have dominated the GOP. Around this same time, groups such as Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority arose, mobilizing millions of evangelicals into political action. More recently, it seemed that religious conservatives had once again found their voice in the Tea Party. In 2010, the Tea Partiers administered a stunning defeat to the Obama administration during the midterm elections, wiping out the majority in the House of Representatives that Democrats had maintained for half a century. Obama himself referred to the election as a “shellacking.” Although these religious conservatives were unable to unseat Obama in 2012, they turned out in sufficient numbers in 2014 to take the Senate as well as the House. Meanwhile, rising stars like Ted Cruz had made their mark, pushing the national party’s rhetoric further and further to the right.[1] The future looked bright for religious Republicans.

Now fast forward to the 2016 election. Enter Donald Trump. The current Republican frontrunner is neither the classic “establishment” frontrunner (who emphasizes tax cuts and small government) nor a prototypical Religious Right candidate (who focuses on social issues such as abortion, homosexuality, etc.) Instead, he is a man with a strange blend of nationalism and swagger, who definitely does not hew to the conservative orthodoxy. A former pro-choicer, Trump was a registered Democrat who in previous years actually supported Hillary Clinton.[2] Ordinarily, this sort of background would disqualify anybody from winning evangelical support. But of course, this is no ordinary election, and Trump is no ordinary candidate. Let’s take a look at the data to see what’s going on.

Candidate Poll

These are the results of a Pew Survey from this January. A few results jump out at us. Firstly, Trump is far and away the most likely to be seen as “Not at all” religious, which is frankly mind-boggling when you remember he is the GOP frontrunner. Now look at the two people above him – Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. That’s right, the two Democratic candidates are actually considered to be more religious than the likely Republican nominee.[3]

Given this information, how do evangelicals actually feel about Trump? Well for starters, talking about “evangelicals” as one large group isn’t particularly helpful. Perhaps differentiating among levels of religiosity would be a good way to sort evangelicals into groups. Frequency of churchgoing is a decent stand-in for religious intensity, and the data show some fascinating results.[4]

Evangelcial Support

Ah-hah!” you exclaim. “Just look at the gap between Trump’s supporters and the Cruz/Carson people!” And indeed, there is a rather stunning gulf between the church attendance of Trump supporters and Tea Partiers. Among evangelicals who either never or seldom attend church, Trump’s support is over 50%. This plunges to about 35% support among those who fill the pews every Sunday. Clearly, even though all of these people self-identify as “evangelicals,” religious intensity is not particularly evident in Trump’s demographic. The larger point here is that it is misleading to think of evangelicals as a single voting bloc. Rather it is more useful to subdivide them in terms of religiosity, and then measure their voting preferences

In addition to religious intensity, infrequent churchgoers are also motivated by different issues – issues that aren’t associated with the classic “Christian Right” stereotype. Consider this data:

Evangelical Issues

Among infrequent attenders, “Moral and Cultural Issues” (a.k.a., the bastion of the Christian Right) are not particularly important. Indeed, their focus is on economic growth and jobs, far more so than their highly religious counterparts.

I believe that Donald Trump has shattered the paradigm of the “evangelical monolith.” Once upon a time, evangelicals were largely perceived to be a unitary voting bloc, but Trump has revealed the cracks in the façade. Trump’s message of economic growth and populism has captured the less religious wing of evangelical voters, while the more highly religious flock to Cruz’s message of social conservatism and open display of Christianity. As Marco Rubio might say, “We have to dispel this notion that all evangelicals vote uniformly.”


[1] Salam, Reihan. “Ted Cruz Is Stuck in the 1980s.” Slate Magazine.

[2] Gass, Nick. “Trump has spent years courting Hillary and other Dems.” Politico.

[3] Remember, we’re talking about the party of Mike Huckabee, who once wrote a book called God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy. You can’t make this stuff up.

[4] Perl, P. and Olson, D. V.A. (2000), Religious Market Share and Intensity of Church Involvement in Five Denominations. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 39: 12–31. doi: 10.1111/0021-8294.00002



“Faith and the 2016 Campaign.” Pew Research Center. Pew: 27 Jan, 2016. Web. H

Gass, Nick. “Trump has spent years courting Hillary and other Dems.” Politico. Politico: 16 June 2016. Web.

Layman, Geoffrey. “Where is Trump’s evangelical base? Not in church.” Washington Post. Monkey Cage: 29 March 2016. Web.

Perl, P. and Olson, D. V.A. (2000), Religious Market Share and Intensity of Church Involvement in Five Denominations. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 39: 12–31. D Doi: 10.1111/0021-8294.00002

Salam, Reihan. “Ted Cruz Is Stuck in the 1980s.” Slate Magazine. Slate: 4 March 2016. Web.

Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff. “As Falwell Favors Trump, Pew Says Most Americans Still Want a R Religious President.” Christianity Today. Gleanings: 27 Jan, 2016. Web.

Aha Moment

From Research Question to Literature Interview

In my last blog post, I discussed the process of arriving at my research question: Given the criticism that it has promoted the use of essentializing language in peace agreements, how has UNSCR 1325 impacted women’s political participation in post-conflict states?

This question came to me in mid-Fall last year. At this point, I had read a lot (or at least it seemed like it—it was more than I had ever read for a college assignment!). I mostly focused on literature pertaining to UNSCR 1325: Women, Peace and Security and related topics, such as ambiguities in peace agreements1 and how women impacted by conflict are framed by transnational advocacy groups.2 Luckily, the next assignment was an annotated bibliography, which helped me to organize the articles I had read and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the most useful articles I encountered was “Peace Agreements or Pieces of Paper?” by Christine Bell and Catherine O’Rourke (2010). This article assesses the language pertaining to gender-based and women’s issues present in peace agreements from both before and after the passage of UNSCR 1325.3 Altogether, this piece was useful because it was so comprehensive: It included both a qualitative and quantitative assessment of these agreements. Based on both types of analysis, the authors conclude that UNSCR 1325 had not substantially impacted the language surrounding gendered issues in peace accords. References to women had only risen by 11% (from 16% to 27%) after the passage of UNSCR 1325, a fact that the authors use to indicate that there is still “a long way to go before peace agreements systematically include references to women.”4

I found myself constantly referring back to this article because of the wealth of knowledge it provided (I think I nearly memorized it by the end of the semester). It was one of the few quantitative analyses I had come across in the body of knowledge on the impact of UNSCR 1325. However, while I found this article to be immensely helpful, I did notice some phrasing and generalizations in it that troubled me. For example, while the authors delineate between the pre- and post-1325 eras in their quantitative analysis, they lump all peace agreements together in their qualitative analysis. This methodology, while giving a detailed picture of the content of peace agreements’ references to women, did not help me better understand the qualitative differences between pre- and post-UNSCR 1325 peace agreements.

Fortunately, I found other scholars that were able to fill in this gap. Ellerby (2013) and Perkovich (2015) use content analysis to evaluate peace agreements’ references to women and gender, to determine that the quality of these references improved since the passage of UNSCR 1325 in 2000. According to Ellerby, peace agreements passed between 2005 and 2009 take a more balanced approach towards gender by supplementing provisions for protection for female victims with calls for gender balance in post-conflict politics.5 Further, Perkovich notes that between 2009 and 2014, a greater proportion of peace agreement provisions related to women’s and gender issues that displayed “precise,”6 actionable language, such as gender quotas and statements of intent to act on relevant provisions. Still, she also concedes that even in the two best examples of gender-inclusive peace agreements from between 2009 and 2014,7 problematic essentializing language remains.

These three articles gave me great insight into the impact of UNSCR 1325 on peace agreements. Even so, I had trouble finding articles that evaluated peace agreements with the same level of systematic rigor. For example, in “Translating UNSCR 1325 from the global to the nation: protection, representation and participation in the National Action Plans of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda,” Annika Bjôrkdahl and Johanna Selimovic (2015) use “discursive analysis” to evaluate the two countries’ National Action Plans (NAPs) on gender parity in their security and political sectors. The two authors conclude that while they appear to encourage greater participation in these spheres, the NAPs of both countries “to a large degree perpetuate the status quo.”8  I certainly found this article helpful to my understanding of the impact of UNSCR 1325, as it brought my attention to the superficiality of some countries’ commitments to gender equality in peace-building. However, when reading the article, I noticed that the authors do not clearly explain their methodology. Without this clarification, I found it difficult to discern if confirmation bias swayed the authors’ findings. Were the authors choosing quotes and examples from the NAPs that supported their preconceived notions about the effects of UNSCR 1325?

This concern continued to play out as I finished my annotated bibliography and eventually, my literature review. UNSCR 1325 has the potential to meaningfully transform peace processes so that affected women and girls can influence their post-conflict environment. Consequently, its language and impact deserves to be systematically analyzed so as to objectively determine its weaknesses and strengths.
Despite its shortcomings, UNSCR 1325 has positively impacted peace-building worldwide. While interning in DC this summer, I got to witness this impact at a recent House Foreign Affairs Committee markup of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2016 (H.R. 5332). This bipartisan bill, authored by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-AL), calls for the “meaningful participation in mediation and negotiations processes seeking to prevent, mitigate, or resolve violent conflict” of women, and it mirrors much of the language found in the 18 recommendations of UNSCR 1325.
Given my concerns about the gap in the body of knowledge on UNSCR 1325 and my belief that women and girls affected by conflict can still benefit from its provisions, I think the next step in my research may be an article critique. My research stalled this past semester, but I plan to reanimate it this fall by breaking down my work into reasonable chunks, setting hard deadlines, and communicating more effectively with Professor Holmes. I’m excited to see where it goes!


1Thomas M. Franck, Fairness in International Law and Institutions. (Oxford Scholarship Online: Published in print, 1995, Published online 2012). doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198267850.003.0002; Daniel. Pehar, “Use of ambiguities in peace agreements,” in Language and Diplomacy, ed. J. Kurbalija & H. Slavik (Malta: Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies).

2R. “Charli” Carpenter, R. C. (2005) “Women, children, and other vulnerable groups”: gender, strategic frames and the protection of civilians as a transnational issue. International Studies Quarterly, 49(2), 295-334.

3Christine Bell and Catherine O’Rourke, “Peace agreements or pieces of paper? The impact of UNSC Resolution 1325 on peace processes and their agreements,” International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 59(4), 941-980. doi:10.1017/S002058931000062X

4Id., 968.

5Kara Ellerby, “(En)gendered security? The complexities of women’s inclusion in peace processes,” International Interactions 30, (2013): 435-460. doi:10.1080/03050629.2013.805130

6Lori Perkovich, “Empowering women or hollow words? Gender references in peace agreements,” Journal of Political Inquiry at New York University Spring 2015 (2015): 111-123.

7UN Peacemaker, The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (from the Philippines), (January 2014),; UN Peacemaker, Ceasefire Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement-Sudan (JEM), (February 2013).; UN Peacemaker, Sudan Ceasefire Agreement.

8Annika Bjôrkdahl and Johanna Selimovic, “Translating UNSCR 1325 from the global to the nation: protection, representation and participation in the National Action Plans of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda,” Conflict, Security & Development, 15, no. 4 (2015): 311-335. doi: 10.1080/14678802.2015.1071973, 312.

Aha Moment

Women, Peace, Security, and a Research Question

In March 2015, I came across a CNN report detailing how young Western women were joining ISIS due to the terrorist group’s social media recruitment strategies. Apparently, the reporters suggested, ISIS was attracting women with images of kittens, Nutella, and emojis online. I thought this report was at the very least, bizarre and ungrounded, and at most, trivializing and infantilizing. From my perspective, convincing women to join the ranks of a group known for its gender-based brutality must require a far more nuanced and compelling strategy.2

I kept this report in mind as I progressed through my Introduction to International Politics class during the Spring 2015 semester. When Professor Marcus Holmes, my instructor, had the class write a policy memo on any subject that we wanted, I jumped on the chance to explore the issues raised in the CNN report: the interaction between gender, women, terrorism, and social media. While researching, I found that the CNN report contained a grain of truth, as scholars agreed that ISIS was using social media to recruit women.3 However, I also discovered that women’s motivations to join ISIS ran deeper, as women seemed to be joining for religious reasons and as a way of coping with their perceived social and economic marginalization.4

After I turned this policy memo in at the end of the semester and received my grade for the class, Professor Holmes invited me to join the Political Psychology and International Relations lab. As my first assignment, I had to write up three research ideas I could explore during the upcoming semester. Although I produced two other research ideas—refugee camps in France and examining gun control policy in the United States—I found myself returning to the ideas I came across in my research for the policy memo and decided to pursue research on gender, women, and conflict.

However, I decided to change my research’s focus. I remembered reading about United Nation Resolution 1325 (2000)—Women, Peace, and Security—as I drew up my policy memo. UNSCR 1325 acknowledges that conflict has unique impacts on women and girls. It also calls for greater gender equality in peacekeeping and enhanced protection for women and girls in areas affected by conflict.5 It seemed like Iraq and Syria were areas where women were particularly vulnerable to conflict—Human Rights Watch reported that ISIS thrives off suppressing women’s freedom of movement, dress, education, and employment—and thus, places where UNSCR 1325 could be implemented. Consequently, I hoped to study how the international community could use UNSCR 1325 to support women in Iraq and Syria.

Upon returning to campus and beginning my work in the lab, I gradually began to realize that this project would likely be unfeasible. For one, ISIS is nebulous and difficult to study, especially for an undergraduate student lacking the means to conduct field work. In fact, ISIS is so hard to pin down that I could not find the exact number of women who had joined its ranks while writing my policy memo, as no organization was able to count them. After talking to Professor Holmes, I decided to modify the direction of my research, broadening my area of interest to understanding the impact of of UNSCR 1325 on gender-inclusive peacebuilding.

One of the most useful articles I had read on the topic was “Peace Agreements or Pieces of Paper: UN Security Council 1325 and Peace Negotiations and Agreements” by Christine Bell and Catherine O’Rourke (2010), which included a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the language pertaining to gender-based and women’s issues present in peace agreements from both before and after the passage of UNSCR 1325.6 They found that references to women had not been “systematically” (p. 968) included in peace agreements before or after UNSCR 1325’s passage, and when they were included, they were often “ambiguous in terms of feminist gains” (p. 968). That’s to say, while UNSCR 1325 promoted the inclusion of both women’s issues in peace agreements and women in peace processes, it has not substantially influenced the content of language surrounding women’s issues in peacebuilding. Peace agreements continue to frame women as mothers and victims rather than agents of peacebuilding and political engagement. This kind of language is “essentializing,” meaning that it reduces women to stereotypes based on their gender.

Altogether, I found these findings surprising. UNSCR 1325 had been hailed as a landmark resolution that was supposed to pave the way for women in more active peacebuilding roles. Its sporadic—and often, superficial—implementation led me to wonder where the gap between its ultimate goals and its enforcement lay. Although my topic’s expansion gave me more flexibility in determining the direction to take my project, I also felt overwhelmed. Fortunately, the next lab assignment was a conceptual map, which allowed me to give order to arguments and ideas raised in the articles I had been reading. As I mapped out these ideas, I reflected on the Bell & O’Rourke (2010) article. If language can shape behavior,7 I thought, perhaps peace agreements’ essentializing gendered language could affect if and how women are involved in peace processes and the post-conflict reconstruction process. Eventually, I arrived at a potential research question: Given the criticism that it has promoted the use of essentializing language in peace agreements, how has UNSCR 1325 impacted women’s political participation in post-conflict states?

concept map
My conceptual map. Apologies for my messy handwriting.

1Katie Sanders, “The truth about ISIS using Nutella, kittens and Emoji to ‘lure’ western women,” PolitiFact, February 19, 2015. Accessed May 22, 2016.

2Samuel Oakford, “Yazidi Women Captured by the Islamic State Suffer Terrible Fate,” Vice News, October 12, 2014. Accessed May 22, 2016.

3Ghaffar Hussain & Erin Marie Saltman, Jihad trending: A Comprehensive Analysis of Online Extremism and How to Counter It. London: Quilliam Foundation, 2014, Retrieved from

4Rivka Yadlin, “Female martyrdom: The ultimate embodiment of Islamic existence?” in Female suicide bombers: Dying for equality? Ed. Y. Schweitzer (Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, 2006); Karen Jacques and Paul Taylor, “Male and female suicide bombers: Different sexes, different reasons?” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 31, (2008): 304-326. doi: 10.1080/10576100801925695

5United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1325 (2000), October, 31, 2000. Retrieved from

6Christine Bell and Catherine O’Rourke, “Peace agreements or pieces of paper? The impact of UNSC Resolution 1325 on peace processes and their agreements,” International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 59(4), 941-980. doi:10.1017/S002058931000062X

7Guy Deutscher, “Does Language Shape the Way We Think?” The New York Times Magazine, August 26, 2010.

Aha Moment

How Research Begins

This blog post is about how I came to begin, but not quite finish my research.

Let me explain.

Almost a year and a half ago, Professor Marcus Holmes, my Introduction to International Politics professor, asked me if I would be interested in conducting an independent research. As a sophomore and history major, I was reluctant to accept. Since I enjoyed research, I figured I could transfer my passion for history into exploring historical perspectives of international relations. I accepted the invitation.

Before the spring semester of 2014 started, I wrote out a short biography about myself and some of the topics I was interested in researching. When the semester began, I enrolled in the Political Psychology and International Relations Lab, with Professor Holmes as my advisor. Being one of twenty or so student researchers, I was placed into a group of students who wrote similar biographies and research topics. My three initial research topics were on the impact of natural disasters on national confidence, protection of privacy over the Internet, and how students can change the views of national government.

As we discussed with the group about our research ideas, one group member stood out to me. She was interested in researching the politics of an apology between Japan and East Asian relations. Despite being a Japanese-American with an extensive knowledge of Japan, I was unaware of the political climate between Japan and other East Asian countries. Curious, I asked if I could work with her on the project.

We began by researching the politics of apologies (or apologizes), a relatively new area of study in International Relations. In fact, warring countries only began to expect or require an apology from the perpetrators after WWII. During and Second Sino-Japanese War and into WWII, Japan committed various wartime atrocities such as enslaving young women for prostitution (most commonly known as the Comfort Women) and conducting dangerous and unethical experiments on war prisoners. Still, seventy years after the war, China and Korea continue to distrust Japan’s intentions and are demanding an apology for wartime actions. Although my partner and I initially agreed to research together, we soon realized that we wanted to focus on different aspects of the Japan’s international relations. As a result, we decided that it was best to research the topics separately.

Independently, I created an “Idea Conceptual Map,” webbing out topics I believed to be related to Japan’ public apologies. I began to identify the different aspects that a political apology may have in the context of Japan, by looking into different examples of political apologies, cultural understanding of apologies, and the impact of who is communicating the apology.

After creating my conceptual map, I made an annotated bibliography as my first step of my literature review. I knew that literature on the politics of an apology were going to be limited, but I wanted to know broadly the impact of apologies in Japanese culture and how apologies influence people’s perception. I looked at mostly scholarly articles and a few newspapers and government notes. The articles I read ranged from how Eastern and Western cultures interprets apologies differently, to specific reasons for Japanese apologies, and to the different interpretations of wartime memory. All of the articles articulated Japan’s relationship and understanding of a political apology.

The more I researched, the more questions I had about Japan and the implications on the politics of an apology. Why did Japan just not apologize? Who is apologizing and who is receiving the apology? What is the focus of the apology? Realizing that I had more questions than answers, I decided to talk to Professor Holmes about narrowing down my research. As we talked, he suggested looking into Japanese national identity as a way to understand Japan’s reluctance to apologize. We predicted that Japanese national identity correlated to Japan’s reluctance to apologize, so I decided to look into how Japanese national identity changes overtime and measure their willingness to apologize for World War II atrocities. By the end of spring semester, I was committed to looking into the change in Japanese national identity between the nineteenth and twentieth century and how this change influences Japan’s willingness to apologize for past actions. I hoped to see a change or pattern in when the Japanese are more willing to apologize.

When fall semester began, I decided that my plan of looking at two centuries worth of national identity to be too ambitious to complete in a semester. Instead I decided to compare the national identity of Japan between 1995 and 2015. 1995 was the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war, and also when the Prime Minister of Japan made the first public apology for wartime atrocities. In 2015, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo made another public apology for the seventieth anniversary.

However, these two apologies were met with very different national and international reactions. Comparing these two years appeared to be more manageable than looking at a broader time period. At this time, I also began emailing Professor Ted Hopf of the National University of Singapore and Bentley Allan of Johns Hopkins University to better understand how to measure national identity. These two academics were researching how to quantify national identity to help Constructivist theories ground their framework in quantitative data. In international relations theory, Constructivism rests on qualitative rather than quantitative understandings. By quantify national identity, a sound basis is produced for constructivist arguments. This processing of contacting Dr. Allan and Dr. Hopf slowed down my initial attempt to understand how to approach understanding national identity. In addition, this semester’s course work kept me overwhelmed, limiting the time I had to spend the time to complete my research.

In hopes to better understand Japan’s history and political climate, I took a class in the fall semester on Modern Japanese History and Politics of China and Japan, . I learned a lot about specific Japanese ideologies and approaches to political topics, especially when it came to international relations. These two classes, however, clarified my original question to me as to why Japan refused to apologize for World War II atrocities. As it turns out, the differing wartime memory and thawing of the Cold War, resulted in the re-emergence of unresolved issues between Japan and East Asia in political disputes. The largest problem between Japan and East Asia appears to be Japan’s interpretation of the war. Due to the complex nature of Japan’s fascist military regime and disconnect with the people, the Japanese government has chosen to gloss over Japan’s wartime action in East Asia and emphasize Japan’s victimization by the atomic bomb in their history textbooks. To publicly apologize for wartime atrocities committed during the war, Japan will then also have to change their national historical understanding of the war, which they are not willing to do. In the end, I realized that national identity has nothing to do with Japan’s willingness to apologize, but rather historical understanding of wartime action and the politics surrounding this understanding limits Japan’s willingness to apologize.

With this newfound understanding of Japan and the politics surrounding their apology, I talked to Professor Holmes about what the next step would be for me to take. Since we were both still curious about Dr. Hopf and Dr. Allan’s work on national identity, we decided to continue working on that aspect of my research. Instead of comparing Japan’s national identity, we hoped that we could at least learn to code Japanese national identity using the method Dr. Hopf and Dr. Bentley created.

Making Identity CountThis brings us to this semester, spring of 2016. Professor Holmes and I were lucky enough to receive a proof of Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s upcoming book on national identity. In the proof, they listed a brief process of coding national identity and a chapter on their analysis of Japanese national identity. Their method of coding does not consist of a list of categories but rather three ways to approach topics: valence, aspirational versus aversive, and significant others. Valence assess whether or not the identity is a good or bad feature. Aspiration versus aversive is a comparative measure in whether or not the feature is something to strive for or avoid. Lastly, significant other is another comparative assessment in who or what they are measuring up with. All three of these topics can be used together to create a national identity category.

This method uses a mix of state documents and speeches, newspapers, popular books and movies, as well as textbooks. Once a list of codes is made, the top twenty are used as a basis of analysis. Although this method is subjective to the individual coder, the final product is largely an averaged understanding of national identity. Using this method of coding, the chapter on Japan addressed twenty-three national identity categories. There were four major topic categories, economic identity, state power, social identity, and other identities. The coder was able to conclude that the Japanese national identity consists of pride and the public prioritizes social issues over economic issues.

From the methods of coding and categorizing national identity in Dr. Hopf and Dr. Allan’s book, Professor Holmes and I agreed to continue looking at how to expand on their findings. I noticed that, despite the fact that the coding material consisted of material from 2010, most of the sources were not popular online media or television shows. As one of the most technologically advanced state, I assumed that there is a wealth of information that can help identify Japanese national identity online. I believe by further investigating online media sources, perhaps there is more to be learned about Japanese national identity. Therefore, I plan on looking into popular blogs and television programs such as anime, drama, and variety shows to expand on the national identity found in Dr. Hopf and Dr. Allan’s book.

Aha Moment

Land, Law, and (Eventually) a Research Question

In several of the recent Republican debates of the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and other candidates bickered mercilessly over a politically charged but often overlooked issue: eminent domain. Basically, the idea of eminent domain is the right of a government to expropriate private property (usually land) for public use.1 Really gets your heart rate going, doesn’t it?

… Hardly. This issue is really important since it carries implications for human rights, development, and environmentalism, but it doesn’t often incite interesting debates or passionate discussions in our domestic political arena. However, for indigenous groups and embittered peasants shut out of historical homelands in the name of resource extraction for the public good, this is a major issue.2 3 It’s an everyday reality, not just an abstract political concept, which inspires protest and sometimes violence. For me, it’s a fascinating topic that entails questions about land and loss, power and marginalization, privilege and ‘otherness’. It’s a topic that thousands are forced to question every day, and the reason I started a research project last year.

I study the evolution of land titling in Peru, and specifically its effect on indigenous peoples and its relationship to social conflict. I started this project a year ago without a specific goal in mind; I just knew I was interested in indigenous peoples and human rights, related political and legal institutions, and related social tension and conflict. I started my project playing with ArcGIS online, comparing map layers with data on poverty, health, and social ascension to the geographic boundaries of Native American territory, and found shocking correlations between these layers. These geographic boundaries made me start to think about land as a way of defining and studying groups of people.

So I had the first major component of my research: land. Specifically, indigenous people’s land. I continued my work by reading Carl Schmitt’s The Nomos of the Earth, which describes the ways in which land creates or can express law and order. I realized that land is not static or neutral as upon first consideration; land is dynamic. It does not only have to capacity for law-making and enforcing, but it is the most basic form of sovereignty and way of identifying a nation.4

My new perspective on land created an interest in studying indigenous land titling. How do indigenous groups defend historical homelands? How do they secure legal recognition for inhabited but informally held places? Systems of granting indigenous land titles vary widely across the world, but one particularly interesting and unique case I soon found was Peru.

Unlike many of its South American neighbors, indigenous land holdings in Peru are small and scattered sparsely across millions of acres of jungle and mountain terrain. The map below shows the contrast between Peru’s sparse land reserves and the larger swaths of land reserved for indigenous peoples in Brazil, Colombia and elsewhere. This is not because all of that untitled terrain is uninhabited; it’s because the evolution of land titling in Peru has created a system that does not give priority to indigenous ownership.

Map of Brasil

Today, land titling in Peru places an emphasis on individual rather than collective ownership as a result of neoliberal development practices, and in situations where communities do seek titles, the approval of a high percentage of community general assemblies is needed to make claims.5 6 Lands that may be traditionally or historically significant to indigenous communities but are not directly inhabited are not up for indigenous titling; they are instead under the agency of the state and may be auctioned off and zoned for resource extraction.7

The federal land titling system is harmful to indigenous communities in that it impedes access to not only a place to live and vital resources, but also a source of identity. Historian Ward Stavig wrote: “communal lands were vital to indigenous peoples’ social and biological reproduction, and little, if anything, was more important to them.” 8 After a violent historical legacy of taking land away from indigenous peoples in the name of various types of paternalistic, capitalist economics and land systems, the continuity of disrespect for indigenous land traditions today is a radical abuse.

The repercussions of this disastrous treatment of indigenous lands and ignorance of indigenous opinion are very present in Peru today, where protest, violence, and environmental degradation are increasingly prevalent.9 This social conflict, which almost always precipitates from opposition to resource extraction, led me to my research question today: How does a government decide how to distribute sovereign territory people? How do people respond to those decisions, and under what conditions do decisions about land lead to conflict?

My goal for this project is to study abroad to conduct research and to then produce a publishable research paper as a senior honors thesis. Designing my research method has proved difficult; how can I generate data as a representation of indigenous sentiment? How do I know that sentiment, and the protests and violence possibly accompanying it, is a response to land titling and not other specific injustices? Additionally, would it be more effective to conduct a small-N analysis with interviews and in-depth case studies to more deeply understand indigenous sentiment, or a large-N analysis with a survey or archival work that gathers basic information from a wider range of time and space?

In the coming weeks I’ll be working on study abroad plans and a concrete research design. Stay tuned for my next blog post, where I’ll address all these questions and share my thoughts and plans regarding methodology!


1U.S. Constitution. Ann. 14, amend. V.

2Rosette, Diego. 8 November 2014. “Tensions rise in Peru as indigenous groups protest new land concessions.” La Opinión.

3Hill, David. 2 February 2015. “Peru’s indigenous people protest against relicensing of oil concession.” The Guardian.

4Schmitt, Carl. 1950. The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum.Candor, NY: Telos Press Publishing.

5Plant, Roger, and Soren Hvalkof. Land titling and indigenous peoples. Inter-American Development Bank, 2001.

6Plant, Roger, and Soren Hvalkof. Land titling and indigenous peoples. Inter-American Development Bank, 2001.

7Plant, Roger, and Soren Hvalkof. Land titling and indigenous peoples. Inter-American Development Bank, 2001.

8Stavig, Ward. “Ambiguous visions: Nature, law, and culture in indigenous-Spanish land relations in colonial Peru.” Hispanic American Historical Review 80.1 (2000): 77-111.

9Hughes, Neil. “Indigenous Protest in Peru: The ‘Orchard Dog’ Bites Back.” Social Movement Studies 9(1) (2010): 85-90.

Aha Moment

How Should Campus Police Maintain Both Students’ Safety and Personal Liberties Given Newly-Acquired Assault Weapons?

Our research originated after the Ferguson, Missouri shooting and riots. The footage recorded by both residents and news crews showed the local police of this small town wearing gear, using weaponry, and driving vehicles one would only imagine belonging in a war zone. (Snowiss)

Ferguson PictureWe set out to discover how a local police force, protecting a small town of twenty-one thousand residents could purchase, pay for, and protect military grade weaponry.

Our initial investigations led us closer to home than we expected. We began to study the police forces most often overlooked but central to our lives, campus police. Every college campus of substantial size employs a police force to patrol their campuses and ensure the safety of their students. A college environment can be a dangerous place considering the large influx of young and developing students with newly acquired freedoms, independence, and reduced surveillance.  No doubt the levels of crime that naturally permeate society would also manifest on college campuses, potentially to a higher extent due to the risk of intoxication.

Notwithstanding the crimes at risk of occurring on college campuses, instances of police brutality, although uncommon, are still a concern.  Specifically, a response to an Occupy Wall Street movement on the campus of the University of California-Davis in 2011 indicates why this issue could potentially be concerning in terms of the dangers police forces could pose with high levels of weaponry.  In this case, various eyewitnesses testify that the students were protesting there rather peacefully, albeit some sources admit there were harsh and loud criticisms being shouted in the direction of the police. (Cherkis)  The police responded with pepper spray, after warning the students multiple times to leave; in total nine students and one non-student were arrested, and two police officers involved were placed on administrative leave.

This event is not isolated, and is only one example of a trend of increasing police brutality, even though 2014 showed the lowest civilian crime rate since the 1970’s. (Vibes) It is reasonable to assume that the possession of high levels of military weaponry by local police forces would give campus police the capability to inflict even greater harm if their authority is then used incorrectly or excessively. In relation to our research project, this incident raises the question of whether increased armament on college campuses today would increase the level of risk associated with possible events of police brutality.

But how far does campus police power currently extend? And furthermore, what does the inflation of small police forces in largely controlled settings have to say about our culture at large? These among others are questions we will explore in our research.


Cherkis, Jason. The Huffington Post. 2011. “UC Davis Police Pepper-Spray Seated Students In Occupy Dispute.” Nov. 20:

Snowiss, Mark. “Ferguson Riots Underscore Police Militarization in US.”VOA. Voice of America, 15 Aug. 2014. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

Vibes, John. “FBI Report: Americans Less Violent than Ever, Except for Police.” The Free Though Project. N.p., 12 Nov. 2014. Web.


Aha Moment

A View To A Kill: How Differences In Data-Sharing May Strain US-EU Relations

In a world that continues to become more integrated and connected through the internet and globalization, how does one maintain privacy? On the individual level, that is a much easier question to address than on the state and global level. The European Union approached this topic with the 1995 Data Protection Directive and, very recently, the General Data Protection Directive (GDPR). They both discusses topics such as the exportation of citizens’ data outside the EU and the right to be forgotten, which enables citizens to wipe links and information from the internet about themselves that meet certain qualifications dictated within the legislation.

Press release and comparison of GDPR and the 1995 Data Protection Directive:

The EU’s massive privacy legislation has sparked the growth of privacy legislation throughout the world, serving as a model for this new wave. It has increasingly become a globalized topic, leading to a more homogenous privacy approach throughout the globe. However, the United States, especially since 9/11, has strongly protested against such privacy legislation, writing legislation such as the Patriot Act. In order to avoid the EU influence, the United States created the Safe Harbor agreement with the EU. The private sector has also rebelled. Google limited the power of the right to be forgotten beyond the borders of the EU in a 2015 court case, citing its right to free speech, the jurisdiction of the EU legislation, and the potential major economic impacts of dealing with the right to be forgotten. This stance has created a divide in the privacy world between the EU and US regimes.

I am researching whether or not it is possible for this divide to be overcome. If this divide were to be overcome, the EU would most likely be the victor with the amount of existing dominance it has in such matters. I want to study the potential implications of the creation of an international privacy law based on EU policy. Going further, I want to explore how that policy would potentially impact legal and economical relationships between states. I would be interested to determine whether EU privacy law could truly become the globalized privacy regime, which was once led by the United States.

As a member of the generation that has grown up with social media and the internet, I have lived in a world that appears to have little privacy and even idealizes openness.

The Millennial Generation and Online Privacy:

The idea of being able to remove information that myself and/or others post from the internet forever is quite intriguing to me. We are constantly being reminded that every post can be seen for eternity, even after it has been removed. I am fascinated with the potential of the right to be forgotten, especially within the United States. I was raised in a NSA and CIA household, so the idea and importance of privacy is something regularly discussed. This includes privacy law; however, it has always had the bias of the US perspective. Growing up in Europe, exposed me to different cultures that value different things. In the US, citizens are willing to compromise privacy for security and freedom of speech, while, in Europe, citizens are much more concerned with maintaining privacy, which is also true for other countries and regions in the world, such as Canada and Latin America whose policies closely mimic those of the EU. My experiences sparked the idea of studying the global privacy regime, leading me to see if I could determine whether one regime could truly become the dominate one in a world with competing priorities.

But one may ask: why is this important? Why does it matter if the EU regime becomes the dominant privacy regime? The effects of such legislation would be colossal. First of all, there are major economic implications. It would dramatically affect the functioning and structure for search engines, especially major ones such as Google.

Latest in the Google versus EU case on the “right to be forgotten”:

New departments would need to be created in order to process and deal with just the right to be forgotten requests, access to certain information and activities of citizens would be restricted, and the sharing of data within search engines would change. Additionally, it would impact databases as citizens could remove their data whenever they desire. Governments, especially the United States, would have to restructure major parts of the government. The key US agencies affected would include NSA, CIA, Homeland Security, FBI, and any others that deal with the intelligence community. It would also realign the priorities that exist within the United States, thereby revolutionizing the post-9/11 era that has been governed by fears of security threats. The United States would pivot into an entirely different direction in intelligence, security, economics, and state-to-state relations throughout the globe, but, most of all, it would completely change the culture.

Furthermore, it would affect how much and which data is shared between states. Currently, the EU only shares information of its citizens with states that meet their security standards, which the United States does not. The only reason the United States has had access to EU citizens’ information is because of the Safe Harbor agreement, which expired this past year. A universal privacy regime would dramatically change the data sharing relationships between states as it would increase the emphasis on security and restricted access. A globalized policy regime would create ease and greater security, but there would also be difficulty in adapting it: economically, bureaucratically, and culturally.