Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Coyoacán, Mexico

"...I spent the last academic year sharpening that research topic and diving into the existing research on it. Now, the GPD travel grant will allow me to return to Mexico and begin more focused, preliminary work that will provide the foundation for my dissertation."

Rebecca Martin

Spotlight on Graduate Student Research: Rebecca Martin

The Graduate Program in Development (GPD) is an interdisciplinary initiative that promotes social science research on social, political, and economic transformation in the developing world, with a special focus on inequality. Open to all PhD candidates at Brown, the program provides the interdisciplinary skills necessary for innovative research. Each year the program awards fieldwork research grants. This is the first in a series of Spotlights on Graduate Student Research highlighting that work.

July 21, 2015

Rebecca Martin is a graduate student in Brown’s Department of Political Science and a fellow in the Graduate Program in Development (GPD). She applied for the GPD fellowship to support her research in violence, insecurity, and political participation in the Global South. She works one-on-one with faculty mentor Peter Andreas, John Hay Professor of International Studies, on their shared research interest in the intersections between politics, security, and crime.

Here she describes her fieldwork and its connection to Watson’s research foci and its mission to promote a more just and peaceful world.

My research is on the political implications of violence and crime in Mexico. Specifically, I am interested in how physical insecurity caused by Mexico's "drug war" prompts different forms of political responses. Do citizens become more politically active, or less so? Do they voice their political preferences through state institutions (like voting), or through more informal means, such as protest or community mobilization? On-the-ground fieldwork in Mexico is central to the advancement of my research because some informal forms of political participation are difficult (if not impossible) to observe or measure from behind a university desk. Moreover, the definition of what is political is often locally defined and thus requires immersion within local contexts in order to understand the full range of political experiences. 

The GPD travel grant allows me to conduct early, pre-dissertation fieldwork to establish a strong analytical and experiential foundation for my future dissertation research. In fact, the very idea for my dissertation topic sprang from observations I made while conducting fieldwork last summer in Mexico City, which was also funded by a GPD travel grant. As a result, I spent the last academic year sharpening that research topic and diving into the existing research on it. Now, the GPD travel grant will allow me to return to Mexico and begin more focused, preliminary work that will provide the foundation for my dissertation. 

My research cuts across all three of the Watson Institutes' primary analytical interests (development, security, and governance) and contributes critical knowledge about the lasting impacts of violence and crime. Clearly, violence itself undermines peace. Yet, it is also critical that we understand the social and political environment left in in violence's wake so that we can devise more appropriate and nuanced post-violence policies. 

Housed at Watson and co-directed by Patrick Heller, professor of sociology and international affairs, and Barbara Stallings, William R. Rhodes Research Professor, the GPD is supported by an IGERT (Integrated Graduate Education Research and Training) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). More information.