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2012 Political Science Honors Theses Presentations and Reception

Thursday, May 10, 2012

3:30 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

2012 Political Science Honors Theses Presentations and Reception 
Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street

LARA B. BASS: The Most Dangerous Trade: States Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear Weapons 

This paper seeks to examine potential variables that may lead to an increased likelihood of state-to-state nuclear trafficking. I will look at four different influential factors: the role of individuals in charge of nuclear programs, the relationship between a civilian government and military authority, a state’s relationship to its neighbors, and a state’s relationship to the United States. Using Pakistan and North Korea as test cases, this paper finds that three of these variables might affect the probability that a state will traffic nuclear weapons to another state: more power given to individuals not held accountable to their government, a state with an enemy of equal unconventional strength and no strong ally in the region, and reliance on United States aid.

Advisor: Rose McDermott, Department of Political Science
Second Reader: Nina Tannenwald, Department of Political Science

SASKIA BRECHENMACHER: Memory Wars in Divided Societies: The Political Uses of the Past in Contemporary Ukraine 

Since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, political conflicts over the interpretation of the national past have become increasingly salient and divisive in Ukrainian society. This thesis attempts to explain this development by analyzing the role of collective memory in Ukrainian politics and examining how and to what purpose political elites have attempted to shape historical narratives into symbolic political capital. While the initial period after independence was marked by substantial continuity with the Soviet past and a primarily symbolic introduction of nationalist narratives, the electoral manipulation of regional divisions and the rise to power of a national democratic opposition have brought conflicts over the interpretation of the past to the forefront of Ukrainian politics. In an increasingly competitive political climate marked by persistent regional divisions, politicians have made history a battleground for diverging conceptions of Ukrainian national identity as well as a tool to mobilize their respective core electorates.

Advisor: Linda Cook, Department of Political Science
Second Reader: Omer Bartov, Department of History

KATHERINE M. CIELINSKI: Unfilled Promises: Bureaucrats, Unions, and the Enforcement of Workers’ Rights in the H-2A Guest Worker Program 

Each year, tens of thousands enter the United States on short-term H-2A visas. This study explores the enforcement of labor legislation within the program, and questions why legal protections for these temporary agricultural workers are enforced unevenly, and at times inadequately, across the United States. Using a combination of regression analysis and personal interviews, the paper addresses the tools that labor officials have, and the various factors that influence bureaucratic decision-making. The findings provide broad insights into the complex structure of labor bureaucracy, while also demonstrating how public officials and workers’ advocates can better address concerns within the H-2A program.

Advisor: Ross Cheit, Department of Political Science
Second Reader: Wendy Schiller, Department of Political Science

REUBEN F. HENRIQUES: The Jury Box and the Ballot Box: Mandatory Participation, Democratic Legitimacy, and the Liberal Citizen 

Ought a liberal democratic state make its citizens participate in the political process? Mandatory participation might either make decisions more legitimate or make people better citizens. Examining jury duty and compulsory voting, I argue that both rationales ground the former more than the latter. While democracy demands that juries and elections be accessible to all citizens, under almost any conception of democratic legitimacy, mandating jury service legitimizes outcomes in ways that mandating voting does not. Further, although even reticent jurors learn important values of communal deliberation, voting is individualistic and atomized, making its ability to foster democratic virtues more dubious.

Advisor: David Estlund, Department of Philosophy
Second Reader: Sharon Krause, Department of Political Science

JEANNE JEONG: Free Markets and Free Speech: What Business Do Corporations Have With the First Amendment? 

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to allow corporations and unions to spend unlimited general treasury funds on independent expenditures for electioneering communications. Since the ruling, popular media, scholars, advocacy groups, and politicians have voiced concern that introducing more money in the political system will have detrimental effects on democracy. This thesis first argues that Citizens United is a libertarian decision, because it conflates the economic and political spheres. Following a critique of that conflation, the thesis proposes that corporations, which are driven by the profit-seeking motive, are not reasonable citizens. As such, their unbridled inclusion in democratic discourse threatens to undermine the free and equal moral standing of citizens, as well as the democratic justification for free speech.

Advisor: Corey Brettschneider, Department of Political Science
Second Reader: John Tomasi, Department of Political Science

SHAWN T. PATTERSON: Modern Senate Elections: An Exploration of Changing Dynamics 

How do people get elected to the highest legislative body in the United States? The bulk of current research on Senate elections focuses on the period prior to 1994. This year represented the Republican Resurgence and the beginning of the literature on nationalized House elections. In light of recent Senate races in which more ideologically extreme candidates have won against more traditionally qualified contenders, this thesis attempts to show that the nationalization that took place in the House also took place in the Senate. More specifically, variables of candidate success that focused on the individual have become less powerful predictors of electoral success than more macro-level variables, such as the health of the economy and presidential approval.

Advisor: Wendy Schiller, Department of Political Science
Second Reader: Roger Cobb, Department of Political Science

SARAH D. RUTHERFORD: How We Evaluate Political Philosophies: The Relationship between Philosophers’ Gender Values and Brown University Students’ Opinions of Their Philosophies 

Brown University Political Science students rarely discuss the gender discrimination inherent in many classic political theories. My study argues that awareness of this gendered dimension will significantly alter students’ opinions of political philosophers. I constructed and fielded a survey experiment based on the writings of Rousseau to test this hypothesis. I found that students who were exposed to Rousseau’s gender norms rate his political theories 14 percentage points lower on a scale of admirability and applicability than those who were unexposed. Students who perceived his philosophies to exclude women rated his theories 18 percentage points lower than those who thought his philosophies were gender inclusive. My findings demonstrate the causal role that text selection plays in determining students’ opinions towards political philosophy, revealing the need for careful, responsible material selection by professors and discussion section leaders in social science classes.

Advisor: Michael Tesler, Department of Political Science
Second Reader: Gavril Bilev, Department of Political Science