Aha Moment

Conceputalizing a Russian Minority: A Case Study of Ethnic Conflict in Post-Soviet Estonia

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the international community’s watchful gaze has turned away from Eastern Europe and its Soviet environs. Instead, debacles in the Middle East and South China Sea are among the most highly publicized and hotly contested issues in the world, and Eastern European states are relegated to global obscurity and internal insecurity.

For a region of such geopolitical importance, this relegation is unfair and unproductive. Eastern Europe, physically and culturally, is the crossroads of the East and West. Since dialogue on American-Russian relations is ubiquitous both in the Ivory Tower and at the kitchen table, it is nonsensical that the region placed squarely in between these two global powers is rarely discussed in international discourse. Studying Eastern Europe would aid scholars and laymen alike in understanding Russia, one of the key players on today’s global stage.

Whenever the region does manage to break into international coverage, it’s usually reserved for negative portrayals of its faltering post-socialist regimes. Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula made waves in the West, as did Viktor Orbán’s repressive and xenophobic rise to power in Hungary. The international community only appear to care about investigating events in Eastern Europe when the events pose severe and external threats to the region’s stability — it is purely logical for scholars to take time researching, reflecting, and learning about Eastern Europe before conflict erupts, in order to mitigate the costs of conflict once they materialize.

This drive sparked my passion for researching the Baltic states, specifically Estonia. The three states have been comparatively successful since the USSR’s demise in terms of political and economic development, especially when compared to countries in the Balkans that underwent similar transitions in the post-socialist era. But Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia still face an endemic lingering issue in these states on how to properly integrate a sizable Russian ethnic minority into their respective civic societies.

The concept of a Russian minority intrigues me. As someone who grew up entirely in the United States, it is a common cultural motif that the Russians are strong and powerful, and their nation is something to be weary or suspicious of. Take the depictions of Russian President Vladimir Putin that frequent American media outlets: they portray Putin as masculine, strong-willed and exceptionally powerful. It is extremely difficult to conceptualize of Russians as a minority given their seemingly irrepressible dominance, yet the status of ethnic Russians in the Baltics resembles that of a subjugated class much more so than a powerful one.

Images like these show President Vladimir Putin projecting strength and assertive dominance. While clearly staged, their ubiquitous appearances on US media outlets make it difficult to conceptualize a society where Russians are weak or disadvantaged. (Courtesy photo – ABC News)

The fate of ethnic Russians in post-Soviet Baltic states is diametrically opposed to this Western phenomenon of Russian dominance. Once all three states restored their independence in the early 1990s, all made swift moves to re-solidify the superiority of ethnic Balts and disenfranchise Russian ‘occupiers’ who had emigrated to the Baltic states during the Cold War[1]. [MG1] Baltic politicians implemented a series of stringent anti-Russian policies, ranging from the passage of so-called ‘language laws’[2] — which limited the usage of foreign, non-Baltic tongues in civic life and employment — as well as the elimination of citizenship for thousands of ethnic Russians, which remains a severe problem for over 80,000 individuals in Estonia[3].

It is difficult to reconcile the miserable experiences of ethnic Russians in Baltic society with the narratives of dominance portrayed in Western media. Nevertheless, it is imperative that observers recognize the failure of Baltic states to sufficiently integrate Russians into civic society, and that we strive to understand the relationships between poor integration and various societal outcomes.

The aim of understanding this failure drew my attention most closely to Estonia. Estonia is prone to ethnic tension due to the presence of a sizable Russian minority, which consists of about a quarter of its national population. The harsh treatment of ethnic Russians has occasionally led to violent outbursts, most notably in the 2007 Bronze Night Protests that erupted over disagreements regarding a controversial Soviet-era statue in Tallinn. 

This river marks the border between Narva, Estonia and Ivangorod, Russia. The two countries have had a tumultuous relationship since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the treatment of ethnic Russians has only exacerbated tensions. (Courtesy photo – James Hill for The New York Times)

I am interested in determining what structural factors are responsible for driving conflict between ethnic Balts and ethnic Russians. I determined that linguistic differences were a major contributor to tension as the lack of a lingua franca between the two groups prevented meaningful integration, an argument suggested by both ethnic Russians and ethnic Estonians alike[4]. However, I failed to see how this difference could be the primary way of understanding the conflict, as ethnic Russians with little knowledge of the Estonian language express a willingness and desire to learn the language in many research studies — if unique linguistic heritage was the driving force of conflict, I’d expect to see a fierce reluctance to learn Estonian, which does not appear to exist among ethnic Russians.

I developed a hypothesis for what drives ethnic conflict in Estonia. This hypothesis rests on the assumption that ‘ethnic conflict’ can be most effectively condensed into ‘hate crimes’ as a means of statistical observation as it is difficult to gauge an abstract concept like conflict without first determining a concrete measurement.

This determination allowed me to mirror my research off a similar paper that attempted to link ethnic conflict (in the form of hate crimes) and political polarization among ethnic groups in interwar Poland[5]. Using this paper for inspiration, I developed the following research question, which I will discuss more in my next blog post: Does political support for pro-Russian parties among ethnic Russians in Estonia predict higher crime rates on a county-by-county basis?

[1] Kadri Leetmaa, Tiit Tammaru and Daniel Baldwin Hess (2015), “Preferences Toward Neighbor Ethnicity and Affluence: Evidence from an Inherited Dual Ethnic Context in Post-Soviet Tartu, Estonia”, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 105:1, 162-182.

[2] Jennie Schulze (2009), “Estonia caught between East and West: EU conditionality, Russia’s activism and minority integration,” Nationalities Papers – The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity.

[3] Tacita Vero (2007), “Many ethnic Russians in Estonia have gray passports, live in legal limbo,” Slate Magazine.

[4]  Gerli Nimmerfeldt (2009), “Identificational Integration of Second Generation Russians in Estonia”, Studies of Transition States and Societies.

[5] Jeffry Kopstein and Jason Wittenberg, “Deadly Communities: Local Political Milieus and the Persecution of Jews in Occupied Poland” Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 44, No. 3, March 2011, pp. 259-83.

Aha Moment

Making Identity Count with Popular Media and Culture


Almost a year and a half ago, I began my research with the Political Psychology and International Relations (PPIR) Lab. I started by looking at Japan and East Asian relations and political apologies, and my project eventually morphed into examining national identity. The path of my research project can be read here on the Social Science Research Methods Center website.[1]

Using the ideas and methods from Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s book, Making Identity Count, I expanded their demographic survey of extant literature to include popular media and culture so that there is more representation of the common people in the analysis of national identity. Although national identity is something that is represented in all aspects of life, where it is represented in the demographic survey can change the interpretation of national identity categories.[2]

Literature Review

My research is based off of a proof of Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s book, Making Identity Count. Professor Holmes and I received a proof of their book earlier this spring, and the book discusses how to create a quantitative method of measuring national identity as well as a brief process on coding national identity. National identity is critical in understanding Constructivism. Constructivism is one of the three mainstream International Relations theories. Constructivist theory is the idea that states act according to their perceived identity, instead of their relation to power. The problem with Constructivism, however, is that it relies heavily on a subjective sense of self. The lack of reliability and validity of Constructivism has been one of the main critiques of the theory. To address this issue, Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley believe that by measuring national identity quantitatively can help produce reliable information to better understand interstate integrations through national identity.

National identity is a network of categories that help creates a definition of what it means to be a member of a nation. This “network of categories” before representing the state, begins on an individual level. However as humans, a part of how we understand ourselves in relation to others is through our identification with a group. Group habits and social norms are strong forces in our day-to-day lives that restrict our range of intentional actions. How an individual feels and decides are reflections of “social stocks of knowledge,” which are the norms they receive and reproduce everyday. These norms are also reflected in institutions, and also can be applied more broadly on the state.

From the norms and social stocks of knowledge groups develop national identity categories, unintentionally, through extant literatures. Demographic surveys create categories that are found in everything that is said or written, because they are deeply integrated in our perception of self. The book is based off of the assumption that because states are ideationally integrated and represent national identity, political leaders act on the socially constructed stocks of knowledge in the society that they represent. The goal for Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s research was to survey as many types of texts and create a list of categories that are most representative common stock of knowledge on national identity. By better understanding national identity categories, we can see them as constraints on political leaders and their policies, because represent the state. Their decisions become the actions of the state, which in theory reflects the people and their ideas about the state. By quantitatively understanding national identity, Dr. Allan and Bentley hope build a more comprehensive theory of Constructivism.

In Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s research they used public speeches, newspapers, textbooks, novels, and movies as their base texts to gather common knowledge on national identity. This research is heavily interested in interstate interactions within the framework of Constructivism. In other words, how diplomats and state officials interact on their understanding of what the state should do. However, if we are examining national identity we must go beyond how the country’s top officials views of the state and go into more mainstream sources as well. I agree with Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s assumptions that national identity is ideationally integrated within a whole nation and that it is near impossible to extract one’s self from the social constructed categories. However, I find the choice of texts from their research to lack sufficient representation of the common people. Only movies and novels can be interpreted as popular media and culture. But how many people read these books and watch these movies? Do they fully represent the Japanese people? I examined popular media and culture as an extension on the existing demographic survey conducted by Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley to helps better identify how the people view their state.


Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s method of conducting demographic surveys to reflect national identity is a simple yet complicated process. Instead of having a list of pre-theorized categories and notions, identity categories are created by an analyst based off of three concepts. The three concepts are 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. Taking these concepts into consideration, an analyst examines the extant literatures, and then decides whether or not certain ideas are significant identity categories. This process can produce a list of fifty to a hundred categories. The top twenty categories are then examined to construct a dominant discourse that later can be used to describe the unique identity of the state. Although the purpose of this method is to create a reliable and objective source of national identity, the book emphasizes on the equifinal product of the research. Variation in may exist during the coding process, but in the end the top categories should remain consistent regardless of who the analyst is.

As a part of my research, I chose to examine popular media and culture as an additional source of material to examine national identity. Specifically I will be examining Japan’s popular media and culture, because I began my research questioning whether Japanese national identity influenced Japan’s foreign policy with East Asian countries. I am fluent in Japanese, and well acquainted with Japan’s popular trends and media. I know from experience that not a lot of my friends and family members read the most popular books or watch movies regularly (which are a part of the extant literature used in demographic survey by Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s study as a source of popular voice). But does that mean they are any less Japanese than people who do? Of course not! I want to examine alternative source of social common knowledge that resonates with the broader Japanese population. If something is popular, that means a wide range of individuals commonly shares these ideas. Why would popular media and culture not have information pertaining national identity?

I examined two TV drama series, two celebrity blogs, two music artists, and an article on trending topics and people from 2010. Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s research is based off of information present in 2010, and I wanted to stay consistent with their time frame with my extant literature. The TV series I chose held the highest average viewing rates in Japan.[3] They were “Freeter, Ie wo Kau” and “Rinjō,” which roughly translates to “Part-time worker, buys a house” and “Presence.” The first series a is family drama about a socially withdrawn son’s attempt to buy a house for his depressed mother by finding a stable job. The second series is a mystery drama where a team of coroners works with the police to solve murders. I only watched the season finale for both series, due to time restraints. I looked into celebrity blogs, because blog popularity often comes from of the relatedness of the posts. I examined the most popular celebrity blogs from April of 2010, because I was unable to find a list of top ranking blogs for the year. April was chose arbitrarily.[4] A former reality show participant writes the first place blog, usually on her day-to-day activities and promoting various products. The second place blog is no longer available to view. A former professional wrestler, and television entertainer, writes the third place blog. She often writes about her day-to-day activities with her family. From the blogs I chose, I read the posts on the fifteenth of every other month. If a post for the fifteenth did not exist, I read the next available post of that month.[5] The two music artists I examined, AKB48 and Arashi, sold the top four selling singles in 2010. I examined their music videos and lyrics for theses singles as a part of my analysis.[6] Lastly, I read an article on the top trending people and topics as interpreted by Oricon Chart. Oricon Chart is a trend-collecting site that is often used in Japanese media as a reliable source.[7] The article broadly discusses the trends of 2010, and I read made notes base on these trends.


The raw identity categories are on the table below. Due to the small scale of my research, any category with more than four raw identity counts is presented in the table. Eighteen identity categories were identified. The data presented here is small sample of popular media and culture from 2010, to match the data year presented in Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s book.

Categories Total TV Dramas Blogs Music Trends
Finding a Job 6 6 0 0 0
Family 11 5 3 0 1
Parental love 6 5 1 0 0
Goals 6 4 0 1 1
Starting over 4 3 0 1 0
Letting go of the past 4 2 0 2 0
Positive anthem 4 0 1 3 0
Working hard 4 3 0 1 0
Feeling close to others 7 5 1 1 0
Moving forward 4 3 0 1 0
Going to help someone 4 0 4 0 0
Promotional 6 0 5 0 1
Food interests 6 0 5 0 1
Looking up to 6 6 0 0 0
Job purpose 4 4 0 0 0
Kawaii 4 0 1 2 1


Family is the most prominent category presented in my research. Interestingly, this category is also present in Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s research as “family-orientation” in the chapter on Japan. However in their book, the category is seen as a negative aspect of Japanese identity. In the book they explanation this may be due to the difficulty of raising a child. Families are no longer multi-generational and often isolated. Although government programs, such as cash child allowances, have been implemented to ease some of the burden of raising children, the effectiveness is yet to be determined. On the other hand, in popular media and culture family is portrayed positively, almost as an ideal to be achieved. Celebrities post photos of their children and husbands in a loving environment. TV series depict the dedication of a socially withdrawn son finding a job to support his depressed mother. Whether it is repairing existing relations or building a new family, the Japanese people closely relate to the concept of family. Although the Japanese acknowledge the difficulties of building families, the aspiration of good family relations is still present.

Japanese popular media and culture differs from the data presented in Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s research through the presence of positive messages. Prominent categories in their research discuss aging, welfare, self-sacrificial, along with other phrases that are typically negatively associated. However, in my research I found phrases such as goals, starting over, moving forward, and going to help someone as prominent themes that express confidence towards the future. Perhaps it is only in popular media where positivity for the future, whether it is immediate or long term, is expressed explicitly. Something is popular because a demand exists, and if the Japanese people are demanding positive messages I believe it is telling us that they are forward looking nation ready to take on the future.


There are many shortcomings in my findings, especially when compared to that of Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s. For one, the analysts for Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s research consisted of graduate students and junior faculty members trained in qualitative methods. Undergraduate students also participated in their research, but received a two-week of training on how to analyze information to increase reliable results and decrease over-reading of information. Although I kept in mind the three concepts (valence, aspirational versus aversive, and significant other) as I went through my materials, I lack the specific training that the analysts had for this project. As a result my data may be different than I if I had received the same training as the analysts for this project.

In addition, Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s study examines text that is central to the identity of the Japanese people. This means using information well circulated throughout Japan, and works to limit political action through their understanding of Japanese identity. Of the extant literature used by Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley textbooks, public speeches, and newspapers are managed under the supervision of the government. It is understandable that they have the power to limit political actions and represent the state. Popular books and movies, however, are more reflective of the common people who vote for the politicians. Although my choice of extant literature is not related to the government directly, it is an extension of public views on national identity that cannot be fulfilled simply by books and movies.


National identity is how a state understands itself in relation to other states. This understanding is rooted within each individual and manifests in the culture and extant literature of the state. Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s book, Making Identity Count, examines how to quantitatively analyze national identity to build reliability in Constructivist theories. Their methods appear to be replicable, and it provides a quantitative analysis of national identity. In their research they conduct of demographic survey on textbooks, newspapers, public speeches, and popular movies and books. As an extension of the literature used, I examined popular media and culture to examine more of Japan’s grassroots understanding of national identity. Despite the fact that national identity is integrated within the psyche of the nation, depending on the choice of extant literature differences in national identity categories emerge. In my research on popular media and culture, I saw Japanese people responding to positive family relations. Despite of the struggles depicted in the book on “family-orientation,” Japanese people appear to want to achieve good familial relations. Similarly, a general trend of positive views towards the future can be seen in my identity categories. Although I lack the proper training as the analysts for Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley’s research, I believe that general population based demographic surveys can provide a more nuanced understanding of national identity. The extent in which my categories influence political leaders for state actions is debatable at best. However, including more popular extant literature in addition to that used by Dr. Allan and Dr. Bentley may provide a holistic understanding of national identity.

[1] Link:

[2] Ted Hopf and Bentley B. Allan, eds., Making Identity Count: Building a National Identity Database, 1 edition (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016).

[3] Link:

[4] Link:

[5] Link:


[6] Link:

[7] Link:

Aha Moment

Developing a Research Question: Political Polarization in Europe

What on Earth is going on? While my official research project was about the roots and causes of polarization in Europe, it’s best summarized by this overarching question. Following American politics, I had noticed that in the last few years, anecdotally, the country had become more divided. Watching the 2016 Presidential primary season, it felt like the two parties were at completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

I knew that the data already somewhat supported this belief. In the Summer of 2015, I took a two-week summer course titled “Polarization and the Electorate” in Washington, D.C. I learned about how intensely polarized the United States had become in the last 10 years. I specifically remember reading about a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center that quantified polarization among the American public. They found that Democrats and Republicans were much more ideologically divided than in the 1990s. The course involved meeting with many different people related to politics (academics, fundraisers, legislators, interest groups), to discuss political polarization in the United States and its causes.

I learned a lot about the role polarization played in the United States, and people pointed to various causes, including the media, the growth of money in politics, and demographic changes. Towards the end of 2015, another news story caught my attention. The United Kingdom’s Conservative Party fulfilled one of their campaign promises if elected: they passed a law to establish a referendum on membership in the European Union. I found that much of the rhetoric behind the “Leave” campaign mirrored what I saw in the United States. A common refrain behind the campaign was to stop immigration and focus on the UK instead. If you replace “UK” with “US,” you have Donald Trump’s campaign. In France, the “National Front” party and in Germany the “Alternative for Germany” were also movements in their nations that almost exactly mirrored this rhetoric.

This moment of realization, that these movements are so similar, is what prompted my research question. While many people pointed to many different factors in the United States, I wondered if there was a common theme among the European countries, since each nation had different media environments, campaign finance laws, and demographic trends. Additionally, I noticed that while there were similar movements in all the countries, they encountered different levels of political success. During my studies in the US, some people pointed to the “first past the post” electoral system as a cause for polarization. I wondered if the different electoral systems were the reasons that polarization was controlled in some of these countries.

Looking back, I realize that “intense confusion” is probably not the best way to describe how I came to my research question, but in some ways, it truly was – I was intensely confused by how politics around the world were changing so rapidly. Thanks to a research grant from the Charles Center, I had the opportunity to go to Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to explore political polarization in Europe. My focus was on exploring the cause of polarization and which institutional factors controlled or enabled the polarization.

I think it goes to show how just following the news and reading more about what you find interesting can help provide some great research questions and lead to projects you never knew you would be doing!

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.