Watson Institute at Brown University
International Relations

Honors Thesis Abstracts 2011

Education, Critical Thinking, and Terrorism: The Reproduction of Global Salafi Jihad in Contemporary Egypt
Samura Atallah
What causes individuals to support global Salafi jihad, the revivalist terrorist movement spearheaded by Al Qaeda? Even more, why are highly educated technocrats who seem to have good opportunities in life willing to sacrifice their lives for the movement? Two kinds of theories—psychological and structural—have been proposed in terrorism studies to account for Salafi jihad support. Each body of theories offers helpful insights but it fails to explain the overrepresentation of technocrats. The central thesis of the study is that global Salafi support is best understood as a function of critical thinking skills, where low skills lead to support. One’s type of education is a good proxy measure for critical thinking skills. In Muslim-majority states, public education on the primary and secondary level, and technical education on the college level discourage critical thinking. This conclusion is based on a multiple regression analysis of global Salafi support for college students in Egypt. This study reconceptualizes the study of education in relation to terrorism by moving away from a narrow focus on the level of education towards a broader and deeper understanding of the type of education. This has broader implications for education reform as a counter terrorism measure.
Advisors: Pauline Luong, Geri Augusto
Keywords: global Salafi jihad, education, critical thinking, terrorism
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Determinants of Postcolonial Migrants’ Transnational Participation in Countries of Origin: Vietnam and Algeria in France
Huong Dang
Immigrants’ transnational participation in their countries of origin, or the phenomenon of migrant transnationalism, has risen to the level of inter-state agenda, where it lies at the nexus of development and social stability for both migrant sending and receiving countries. What, then, accounts for the variations across immigrant groups in their participation in the social, political, and economic spheres of their home countries? Existing literature has identified various forms and locations of transnationalism but ultimately fails to explain the underlying mechanisms of this phenomenon with an established research framework. My thesis addresses such weaknesses by attempting to answer the above question through a comparative study of the post-colonial Algerian and Vietnamese immigrant communities in France. Using the immigrant organizations’ websites as my primary data, I construct a model of interactions, at the meso-structural level, between selected determinants and variations in transnational activities. My findings suggest that the determinants, namely the antecedent conditions of migration, immigrant incorporation into the host society, and relevant state policies, hold meaningful explanatory power over immigrants’ transnational behavior. More broadly, this model would be useful for society’s understanding of transnational activities by other immigrant communities that also emerged from a history of decolonization and conflict among the involved states.
Advisors: David Lindstrom, Ulrich Krotz
Keywords: transnationalism, post-colonial, immigrants, comparative, meso-structural
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Counternarratives in the War on Terror: Jihadi and Western Media in the 21st Century
Jacob Friedman
Does Jihadi media engage in a direct response to Western media narratives in the War on Terror? Despite the high-profile nature of this conflict, little scholarship exists that analyzes how Jihadi media interacts with Western media; instead, this scholarship emphasizes Jihadi media’s attacks on Western governments, or its publicity of recent and future attacks. Moving beyond this focus, I argue Jihadi media increasingly seeks to capitalize on the Internet and other new technologies to respond to and subvert Western media narratives in the War on Terror in an attempt to gain new recruits for a global movement. This thesis brings new understanding to how the Jihadi movement gains legitimacy for its message through the media. I illustrate this argument by engaging in a close study of an English-language Jihadi magazine, Inspire, and its news coverage in the West. Inspire represents the highest-profile Jihadi media piece in recent memory, thus providing a prime opportunity for a study of the complex variables that dictate the nature of this relationship. If this model can elucidate previously overlooked mechanisms in Jihadi media, it can greatly help policy makers and scholars to understand the complex contours of the global Jihadi movement.
Advisors: James Der Derian, Nisha Shah
Keywords: Jihadi movement, media narratives, Internet, War on Terror, representation
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Modeling Energy Regimes: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study of Energy Choice Across Countries
Julien Philipp Sebastian Gaertner
What determines how countries use and produce energy? Do states determine their energy supply and usage strictly according to economic criteria? Or, are there other important predictors? In spite of the high political relevance of these questions, there exists no theoretical model that seeks to explain the determinants of energy supply and usage on a cross-country level.  Drawing on wide ranges of contributions from rational choice theory, regime theory and constructivist theory, I design a meta-model of energy choice that considers energy prices, geographic conditions, government composition, public opinion and cross-country peer effects as determinants of energy regimes. I test my model’s explanatory power over a set of four dependent variables (clean energy, fossil fuels, energy efficiency and CO2 intensity), which describe the environmental and economic properties of what I refer to as an energy regime. Next, I test my model econometrically through a research design based on instrumental variables and fixed-effects, using panel data from Europe. I then test the external validity of my model in an altered geo-economic context, by qualitatively analyzing the cases of Chile and Brazil. I find strong evidence for the relevance of energy prices, government composition and cross-country peer effects in shaping energy trajectories.
Advisors: Sriniketh Nagavarapu, José Carlos Orihuela
Keywords: energy regime, instrumental variables, Latin America, peer effects
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Statehood for Whom? A Great Powers Model for Changes in Statehood Criteria
Evan Rolfe
The criteria by which states have been recognized have changed significantly since the Peace of Westphalia, loosening to allow a broader range of territorial entities to participate in the international system. This thesis began with the goal of determining the mechanism by which statehood norms change, allowing new categories of states to be recognized. Existing studies have not addressed this question in a satisfactory manner. Legal theory has conceptualized statehood criteria as unchanging, while social science literature has focused only on long-term trends in changing criteria. My thesis fills this gap, arguing that an institutionalized council of powerful states changes statehood norms in accordance with its own interests. These interests can be affected by functional interactions, a power shift in the international system, or the process of bottom-up norm formation. I first develop my model through the in-depth examination of an easy case, and then use it to critique existing research on a number of historical statehood norm changes. Finally, I apply my model to identify possible outcomes in two unresolved cases. This study provides a practical framework for aspiring states seeking recognition, as well as a wider understanding of how the composition of the state system changes.
Advisors: Nina Tannenwald, Samuel Barkin
Keywords: statehood, recognition, norms, great powers: statehood, recognition, norms, great powers
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Privatization and Protest: Water Activism Across Urban India
Ambika S. Roos
The trend towards neoliberal globalization is pervasive and well-documented. Its very prevalence and power necessitates a better understanding of how it engages and is engaged at the grassroots level. This study contributes a new case study on citizen’s reactions to globalization, shedding light on movements contesting water privatization in urban India. How should we understand and explain this resistance? I investigate resistance to water privatization in protest campaigns in Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai, as well as in research organizations that facilitate the exchange of information and resources. Interviews and publications from activists, and state and international policy documents from 2002 to 2011 constitute the bulk of primary data for this research. I create an original, integrated framework, linking counter-hegemonic globalization, urban social movements, and environmental justice theories. I find that campaigns and organizations protesting water privatization emerge in response to social and environmental concerns in a specific urban context, challenging neoliberal globalization through the production of alternate knowledge. With their emphasis on water as a human right, activists engage the political structure to demand increased participation in policymaking processes. Fluidly linking the global and the local, water activists use networks and multiple communication tools to create a space for change.
Advisors: J.  Timmons Roberts, Caroline Karp, Daniel Smith
Keywords: activism, urban, water, privatization, India

Explaining the Persistence and Decline of Separatist Movements: The Case of India
Shanoor Servai
What explains different outcomes of separatist movements in federal democracies? Why do some movements persist while others decline? Previous theories of separatist movements through the lens of ethnic conflict, social movement, and civil war must be incorporated with theories on how domestic institutions accommodate territorial diversity to understand persistence or decline over time. Starting with the notion that “institutions matter,” I argue that in a federal state, the development of institutions that provide opportunities for political participation explains whether separatist movements persist or decline. I illustrate my argument by conducting a structured, sub-national comparison within India of the decline of violent separatism in Punjab with the persistence of violent separatism in Kashmir. This study draws attention to institutional variations within federal democracies and demonstrates that beyond the principle of federalism, differences in the practical functioning of institutions explain differences in outcomes. The integration of multiple theoretical frameworks contributes to the understanding of separatist movements as a continuum of phases of violence escalation and dormancy. This integrated framework explains persistence or decline and can be used to predict outcomes of separatist movements in other states.
Advisors: Ashutosh Varshney, Nukhet Sandal
Keywords: separatist movement, persistence/decline, institutions, phases, comparative
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Shifting Biases, Shifting Decisions: US Media Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 2005-2010
Jenna Stark
To what extent does the U.S. media influence policy? This thesis studies U.S. media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to determine whether a change in discourse has influenced political rhetoric. Scholars have previously concluded that the media is biased toward the Israeli side as it uses inflammatory language to describe the Palestinian people and omits crucial background information regarding the history of the conflict. I update these scholars’ work and assert that U.S. newspapers have begun to shift the frame formerly used to portray the Palestinian people to be less biased since Barack Obama replaced George W. Bush as president of the U.S. I draw this confliction from an evaluation of rhetoric used to describe the Israeli-Palestinian settlement conflict and peace process in two case studies. I analyze articles from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal from 2005-2010. I also analyze the discourse in speeches presented by George W. Bush and Barack Obama about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during their presidential terms. I apply my findings to the debate on the influence of the media on politics, in which media framing can alter the security of political elites and lead to changes in political decision-making.
Advisors: James Der Derian, Pauline Luong
Keywords: media, policy, Israel, Palestine, discourse
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Eyeing Prestige, Eluding Risk: Explaining European Union Security Missions and Operations
Katerina Wright
Why do European Union member states cooperate in certain Common Security and Defense Policy missions and operations and not others? Scholars have explained the presence of cooperation in the recent consolidation of EU foreign policy, yet existing literature has neglected remaining cases of absent cooperation. Studying absent cooperation provides a more comprehensive explanation of which variables are producing EU cooperation, and its source, substance, and purpose. Moving beyond a singular theoretical explanation, I argue within the framework of analytical eclecticism that member states cooperate first to project EU organizational power, and that cooperation significantly increases if a mission responds to a regional security threat, promotes the rule of law, and responds to a human rights violation. I rigorously test a range of theoretical hypotheses and systematically analyze all 24 CSDP missions. The utility of this analytically eclectic approach is the determination of the combinations and conditions in which variables influence cooperation. By expanding organizational analysis to the EU, this thesis transcends an explanation what the EU does, but rather characterizes what the EU is. These findings generate theoretical and practical implications about the purpose of power, and the parameters of future EU deployment and collaboration with other organizations and states.
Advisors: Ulrich Krotz, Nina Tannenwald
Keywords: European Union, CSDP, analytical eclecticism, organizational analysis
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