2012 Election issue of THE FORUM is out

The latest issue of The Forum is out. It has a number of interesting articles on the 2012 elections. Many readers will have access to the entire issue–because their library subscribes. Yet even if you don’t have full access, Morris Fiorina has a terrific ungated piece that details how he would run a seminar for political journalists.  Two of the essays (one by James Campbell, the other by James Ceaser and Verlan Lewis) look at structural explanations for the outcome in the presidential race. Two others (one by Costas Panagopoulos, the other by William Mayer) explore the strategic choices that influenced Obama’s victory. Other essays examine contextual factors, such as the role of advertising, interest groups, and campaign spending. In sum, lots to chew on. Hats off to Ray La Raja and Byron Shafer for bringing us such timely commentary.

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CFP: Macedonia 2013: 100 Years After the Treaty of Bucharest

Macedonia 2013: 100 Years After the Treaty of Bucharest: Skopje & Ohrid, Macedonia, 25 July – 3 August 2013

Deadline for abstracts and proposals: February 15, 2013

Nevena Trajkov, Department of Political Science, Eastern Michigan University, asks that members know about a conference this summer in Skopje and Ohrid, Macedonia this summer. 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Balkan Wars and the signing of the Treaty of Bucharest, which divided Macedonia among Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia.  The conference will explore the implications the Balkan Wars and the Treaty had on Macedonians and the Macedonian identity for both domestic and regional politics, most notably, after the establishment of an independent and sovereign Republic of Macedonia. Panels are organized around interdisciplinary themes, with more specific topics are listed on the conference website at www.umdglobalconference.org. Abstracts should be in 12 point Times New Roman and approximately 200-250 words. Abstracts should be e-mailed toinfo@umdglobalconference.org.  For more information about UMD, please visit www.umdiaspora.org.

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Section Award Nomination Deadline

The APSA Politics and History Section deadline for section award nominations is March 1, 2013.

The Walter Dean Burnham Award is given for the best dissertation in the field of Politics and History. Nomination Instructions: The committee welcomes nominations of outstanding dissertations from Ph.D.s awarded in the previous two calendar years. To nominate a dissertation for this award, send the committee an electronic copy of the dissertation and arrange for a supportive letter from the advisor or other faculty member of the dissertation committee. Award Committee:

Alvin Tillery, Chair, Rutgers University, Political Science, atillery@rci.rutgers.edu

Priscilla Yamin, University of Oregon, Political Science, pyamin@uoregon.edu

Sean Farhang, University of California, Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy, farhang@berkeley.edu

The J. David Greenstone Book Prize recognizes the best book in history and politics in the past two calendar years. Award Committee:

Eileen McDonagh, Chair, Northeastern University, Political Science, e.mcdonagh@neu.edu

Daniel Kryder, Brandeis University, Politics, kryder@brandeis.edu

Anthony Chen, Northwestern University, Sociology, anthony-chen@northwestern.edu

The Mary Parker Follett Prize recognizes the best article on politics and history published in the previous year. Award Committee:

Amel Ahmed, Chair, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Political Science, aahmed@polsci.umass.edu

Daniel Galvin, Northwestern University, Political Science, galvin@northwestern.edu

Christopher Howard, College of William & Mary, Government, cdhowa@wm.edu

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Emancipation Proclamation Symposium

The University of Illinois at Springfield will offer a symposium on October 19 and 20 that deals with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Among other things, the symposium will include several presentations expressly chosen to deal with issues that would concern contemporary political scientists who work on race and politics.  It will also include presentations directly related to Politics and History. Click here for more information.

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Walter Dean Burnham Dissertation Award Announced

The Politics and History Section of the American Political Science Association is pleased to announce the 2012 Walter Dean Burnham Dissertation Award.

Committee: Catherine Boone, Chair , University of Texas at Austin; Beth Rosenson, University of Florida at Gainesville;  James Shoch, California State University at Sacramento

Recipient:  Gwendoline Alphonso, Fairfield University
Gwendoline M. Alphonso’s dissertation,  “Hearth and Soul: Political Parties, Family Ideologies, and the Development of Social Policy in the 20th Century” (Department of Government, Cornell, 2011) examines the changes and continuities in ideational visions of the family, as reflected in American social policy making from the Progressive Era (1900) to 2005. Using a wealth of data — from party platforms to Congressional committee hearings to Congressional debates to bill sponsorships — she shows how the current valorization of the “traditional family” is not a new development but rather part of an enduring pattern in which two sets of family ideals have competed for prominence and found their respective homes primarily in one party or another during the last century of American history.

Alphonso demonstrates the evolving connection between two main ideals (The Soul ideal, emphasizing a family’s character, morality and spirituality, and the more ‘materialist’ Hearth ideal focusing on families’ economic conditions) and the political parties, arguing that the shifting allegiance of the parties to these ideals reflects changes in their constituent bases, as they both court and respond to their core supporters. Her innovative use of committee hearing data in particular allows her to draw a strong link between each party’s family ideology and social agenda on the one hand, and the concrete experiences and demographics of the dominant factions among their constituents on the other. Shifts in party ideologies occurred in conjunction with shifts in the characteristics of their constituents, for example with regard to region, income, and marital status. The dissertation also provides a nuanced understanding of both the commonalities and differences between the two parties–and the factions within each party–with regard to the family ideals in the three eras she studies. The dissertation makes clear that the two major parties have borrowed from and absorbed each other’s family ideals and also adapted them to fit into their pre-existing broader ideological frameworks.

In all, her analysis of the ebb and flow of the Hearth and Soul conceptions of family suggests a complex and layered picture of the relationship of the parties to social policy, in which changing regional demographics and electoral factors play an important role in explaining the parties’ shifting commitments to one or another family vision and associated social policy. The dissertation shows how this dynamic plays out with regard to a wide range of social policies including health care, intermarriage, juvenile delinquency, education, and welfare.

The originality of her argument and the creative and meticulous nature of her research make Gwen Alphonso a most deserving winner of the Walter Dean Burnham dissertation award.

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2012 Mary Parker Follett Award Announced

The Politics and History Section of the American Political Science Association is pleased to announce the 2012 Mary Parker Follett Award.

Award Committee
Alan M. Jacobs (Chair), University of British Columbia; Devin Caughey, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Daniel Galvin, Northwestern University; Catherine Paden, Simmons College

Award recipient
Dumitru, Diana, and Carter Johnson. 2011. “Constructing Interethnic Conflict and Cooperation: Why Some People Harmed Jews and Others Helped Them during the Holocaust in Romania.” World Politics 63(1): 1-42.

The Follett Award Committee gave intensive consideration to a pool of 40 journal articles and book chapters in the field of politics and history published in 2010 or 2011. These articles ran the subfield gamut from American political development to comparative-historical analysis to the historical study of international relations to methodology.

Among this pool of nominees, the committee found a standout winner: Diana Dumitru and Carter Johnson’s World Politics article: “Constructing Interethnic Conflict and Cooperation: Why Some People Harmed Jews and Others Helped Them during the Holocaust in Romania.”

When we say that this piece was a standout, we mean it. At one point in the process, we whittled down our pool to a dozen strong contenders. Then each of us separately picked and ranked our top three articles. Our plan was then to compare and argue over our assorted Top 3’s and, somehow, forge a consensus on a winner.

But there was, in the end, no debate to be had. Independently, all four committee members – an intellectually diverse group – had ranked Dumitru and Johnson’s article first. All there was to discuss was what made this paper so impressive.

In their article, Dumitru and Johnson seek to understand the radically varying responses of non-Jews in Eastern Europe to the Holocaust. Why, they ask, did some non-Jews join in the mass violence against their Jewish neighbors, while others risked life and limb to protect Jews from persecution and death? It is a question that strikes at the fundamental sources of interethnic conflict and cooperation.

The authors’ innovative strategy for answering this question is to exploit a natural experiment that unfolded in the region of present-day Romania. Two neighboring territories in this region – Bessarabia and Transnistria – had Jewish populations of similar size. Both were part of the Russian Empire until 1918, and both were subjected to the same state policies of extreme anti-Semitism under the tsars. Both saw waves of ruthless pogroms by deeply anti-Semitic gentile populations.

But after the establishment of the Soviet Union, their political paths parted: Bessarabia became part of Romania, and Transnistria joined the Soviet state. And it is at this point that the two regions experienced two very different policy “treatments.” As part of Romania, Bessarabia continued to experience extreme state-sponsored anti-Semitism. Transnistria’s citizens, in contrast, lived under early Soviet policies that were radically inclusive. These Soviet policies sought to systematically destroy negative stereotypes of the Jews, to foster positive images of Jews, and to integrate the Jewish population into mainstream Soviet society.

After 23 years apart, Bessarabia and Transnistria were then reunited under Romanian rule in 1941 – as the Nazi program of genocide reached Romania.

Dumitru and Johnson sought to discover whether those 23 years apart – under very different policy regimes – made any difference to how populations in the two regions responded to the Holocaust. Could a mere two decades of inclusive, anti-discriminatory state policies fundamentally change interethnic relations? Some prominent theories of ethnic politics would have answered these questions with a clear “no”: a short spell of favorable policy surely could not undo ethnic hatreds cemented by a long history of institutionalized racism and conflict. Meanwhile, constructivist understandings see ethnic hatreds as malleable but do not offer clear predictions about what it takes to reshape ethnic relations. Is 20 years of inclusive policy enough?

To find out, Dumitru and Johnson had to reconstruct the behavior of ordinary Romanians 70 years ago, embarking on a remarkably ambitious and enterprising program of data collection. First, they drew on Holocaust archives in Israel and the U.S. to qualitatively compare the testimonies of over 300 Jewish survivors and gentiles who lived in the two regions. Second, they took a random sample of the Jewish testimonies and analyzed them in a fascinating way: they looked for descriptions in these testimonies of specific interactions between gentiles and Jews. They then coded each individual interaction for its degree of negativity or positivity, and statistically compared the distributions of negative and positive interactions in the two regions. Third, they mailed a survey to Jewish survivors who had been in either Bessarabia or Transnistria during the Holocaust, asking them about the attitudes of the local gentile populations. Amazingly, they received 60 responses – including from 18 people who had experience in both regions and could compare patterns of behavior between them.

These diverse streams of evidence converge on a clear finding: state policy mattered, and the effects are massive. Non-Jews in Transnistria – which had experienced two decades of inclusive policy – were not just far less likely to join in Nazi persecution. They were also far more likely to try to protect Jews than were their counterparts in Bessarabia. Moreover, the evidence here points to the enduring effect of state action: Transnistrian gentiles were much more willing to risk their lives to help Jews even after the Soviet state had left the scene. The authors go on to carefully consider a range of potential confounds and rule them out with strong reasoning and compelling evidence.

One of the most satisfying things about this paper is that it showcases the unity of inference underlying qualitative and quantitative social science, using each method to complement the other. Dumitru and Johnson leverage detailed historical knowledge to identify two highly similar cases that were differentially impacted by an exogenous shock of major theoretical interest, generating a nearly experimental manipulation of their causal variable. Informed by intensive case analyses, this powerful design enables the authors convincingly to identify causal relationships without relying on a complex statistical model – exemplifying the “design-based” approach to inference now commonly employed by quantitative social scientists.

While shedding light on a transformative event in modern world history, the article’s findings also have much broader implications. The study advances our understanding of interethnic relations and the sources of ethnic conflict, and suggests lessons for present-day policy debates over multiculturalism and affirmative action. Yet the article also speaks to canonical questions in the discipline: about the interaction between institutions and culture; about the development of political culture over time; about the importance of the state and its policies relative to the character of civil society; and about the sources of social cooperation.

The committee went looking for an article that examined a substantively important political phenomenon; that made a major theoretical contribution to the discipline; that displayed empirical rigor and ingenuity; and that threw into sharp relief the distinctive contributions that historical analysis can make to the study of politics. In Dumitru and Johnson’s article, we found it: a model of historically informed, theoretically grounded social science.

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J. David Greenstone Award for Best Book in Politics and History

The Politics and History Section of the American Political Science Association is pleased to announce the J. David Greenstone Award for Best Book in Politics and History (2010-11).

Thomas M. Keck, Chair, Syracuse University; Amel Ahmed, University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Colin Moore, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Julian Go Boston University, Sociology, for Patterns of Empire:  The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2011)


Patterns of Empire offers a persuasive challenge to the story of American exceptionalism. Relying on a sustained comparison with the British case, Go argues that the U.S. experience with imperial rule during its rise, height, and current decline has not been fundamentally different from that of other imperial states. Although the received scholarly wisdom has long held that the American empire was somehow more “liberty-loving” or tutelary than its European rivals, Go’s careful comparative analysis shows that the imperial policies and institutions of the United States were remarkably similar to those of Britain. In their long ascent to hegemony, both nations moved to expand their territory and both established formal administrative colonies. Indeed, as Go demonstrates through a series of detailed case studies, British rule in India was remarkably similar to American rule in the Philippines, just as American rule in Guam differed little from British rule in Fiji.

Yet the contribution of this book goes well beyond the welcome observation that the American approach to empire was in no way exceptional.  It also accounts for much of the variation among colonial governing systems. Challenging past theories of imperialism that focus on metropolitan institutions, Go persuasively argues that the institutions of colonial rule in both empires emerged from the interactions among imperial officials and colonial subjects. In this account, the agency of non-western peoples is shown to play a central role in shaping these “patterns of empire.” As Go puts it, “rather than omnipotent powers that easily make and remake their subjects and spaces, and rather than entities shaped from within, [empires] must be understood as adaptive dynamic entities that are shaped and reshaped by foreign societies as much as they strive to control them” (27).

This argument proceeds in several stages. Reviewing the history of the U.S.’s early-nineteenth-century westward expansion in North America and late-nineteenth/early-twentieth-century expansion overseas, particularly to the Philippines, Go makes clear that leaders of the American empire treated their colonial subjects with as much condescension and brutality as did leaders of the British empire during corresponding periods of its evolution. And not only were the practices of American empire less exceptional than sometimes reported, but where those practices were relatively benign, that fact is attributable not primarily to enlightened principles on the U.S. side, but to the insistent demands of colonial peoples for self-determination. In Go’s words, “[w]here seemingly exceptional colonial policies surfaced at all, they had less to do with America’s unique values, virtues, and traditions than with the specific character of the colonies themselves” (93). As he notes, only this explanation makes sense of the fact that U.S. occupations of some territories were significantly more benign than others. Here, he draws useful contrasts between the Philippines and Puerto Rico, on the one hand, and Guam and Samoa, on the other.

Go tells a similar story about U.S. empire during its hegemonic period in the aftermath of World War II. According to the exceptionalist story line, at the height of its power, the U.S. “decolonized its empire, refused to take new colonies, pushed for free markets, and supported self-determination around the world” (107). Again drawing on a comparison with Britain, Go finds this imperial behavior less singular than is sometimes claimed. Like the mid-twentieth-century U.S., mid-nineteenth-century Britain repeatedly declined opportunities to expand its territorial holdings, sometimes supported the sovereign aspirations of colonial peoples, and generally pushed for free and open markets above all else. And while the post-war U.S. did indeed grant independence to the Philippines, it retained a variety of hierarchical relationships with Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and asserted new such relationships over the Marshall Islands and a number of other Pacific territories. The post-war U.S. also undertook a variety of overt and covert military interventions in nominally independent states, particularly in Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

Go does not suggest, of course, that there were no significant differences between the U.S. and British empires at their respective heights. Rather, he repeatedly demonstrates that what differences there were resulted not from any inherently democratic or liberty-loving spirit on the part of the U.S., but from different patterns of engagement and resistance by colonial subjects, as well as shifts in the global landscape of sovereign nation-states from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.

Finally, Go argues that the decline of Britain’s global economic hegemony in the late-nineteenth century was accompanied by an increasingly aggressive policy of foreign military interventions. Recounting the history of U.S. military deployments since 1973-in Granada, Panama, Haiti, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Chad, Sinai, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Somalia, Zaire, Bosnia, Croatia, Sudan, Nigeria, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan-he makes clear that the U.S. is in the midst of a similar phase of imperial decline. Rather than “the work of [a] powerful empire[] flexing [its] muscles,” these regular military interventions reflect the situation of an “ailing hegemon[] tactically trying to ward off impending doom” (205).

This masterfully written book represents several of the best traditions of politics & history research. In the historical sociology tradition of Theda Skocpol, it deploys the comparative method to illuminate large substantive questions of power and governance. It traces big, slow-moving processes over 300-plus years of history across multiple continents, and yet supports its key claims with careful archival research. And its central argument questions the received wisdom about the past in ways that are of broad contemporary significance. In particular, Go’s observation that “falling empires, like rising ones, do not behave well” (x) provides a cautionary lesson for the U.S. role in the world today.

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