Watson Institute at Brown University
International Relations

Honors Thesis Abstracts 2015

Social Movements and Processes of Political Change: The Political Outcomes of the Chilean Student Movement, 2011-2015
Yelena M. Bidé
What are the political outcomes of social movements, and how are these outcomes achieved? Existing studies focus almost exclusively on policy change, thus underestimating the broader political impact of social movements. I study the case of the Chilean student movement (2011-2015), and find that it had six political outcomes, which it achieved through three causal mechanisms. Using process tracing, content analysis, and interviews with student leaders, I conclude that the political outcomes of social movements extend beyond the realm of policy and that non-institutional outcomes—particularly changes in political consciousness—are important forms of political change. By altering the way citizens perceive and engage with their political institutions, non-institutional outcomes can have long-term implications for a country’s political system and culture. Moving beyond existing scholarship, I develop an original theoretical framework that offers a multidimensional conceptualization of the relationship between collective action and political change. To more fully understand the protests and social movements that continue to emerge across the globe, scholars must study their outcomes in both the institutional and non-institutional arenas.
Keywords: social movements, political change, non-institutional outcomes, political consciousness, causal mechanisms, Chile
Advisors: Arnulf Becker-Lorca, Janice Gallagher
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The Importance of Domestic Buy-In in Globalizing Social Policy: Origins Analysis of Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America
Shelby L. Centofanti
What influences a country’s decision to implement a poverty alleviation program? Most scholarship on poverty alleviation evaluates program outcomes, downplaying the context of a program’s adoption. Literature on program origins, in turn, tends to offer simplistic mono-causal explanations, such as economic crisis or individual leaders. My study of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs, the model for the fastest growing antipoverty program worldwide, finds that factors influencing the adoption of these programs are multidimensional and vary across countries and over time. Analyzing variables from political, economic, program learning, international, and social categories, I find that domestic buy-in from political actors and citizens is central to the implementation, design, and success of CCTs. In other words, CCTs are, largely, shaped by a domestic political process. Using a qualitative approach in order to analyze the policy formation process, I compare the adoption of CCTs in the foundational cases of Mexico and Brazil as well as the second wave cases of Nicaragua and Colombia. My research offers a framework that places policy development and politics at the center of the debate on global social programs and outlines how to improve evaluation techniques that can be applied to policy models more broadly.
Keywords: Conditional Cash Transfers, policy formation, origins analysis, Latin America, international influence
Advisors: Claudia Elliott, Pedro Dal Bó
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Compliance without Obligation: Examining State Responses to the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Samuel A. Davidoff-Gore
Why do some states comply with international human rights laws that they have not signed? As millions of Syrians flee as a result of the Syrian Civil War, Jordan and, to a certain extent, Lebanon, have hosted and protected Syrian refugees despite not being obligated to the international refugee regime. Scholars tend to study either compliance with international law or on state responses to refugees; however, this ignores the overlap between the two fields. Furthermore, it ignores the importance of past precedent in decision making. In contrast, I integrate these two bodies of scholarship and apply them to the comparative case studies of Jordan and Lebanon. I analyze Jordanian and Lebanese responses over time to Palestinian, Iraqi, and Syrian refugee situations. I find that for each refugee crisis, Jordan and Lebanon make decisions similar to their initial decision to host Palestinian refugees in 1948. This factor, along with political motivations and (dis)similar identities, helps explain the complex refugee situation in these countries.
Keywords: international law, refugees, identity, Arab Middle East, compliance
Advisors: Nina Tannenwald, Sarah Tobin
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International Institutions and State Leverage: IMF Program Design and Implementation in Argentina, 1991-2002
Guo Jin Daryl Eng
What factors determine IMF program design and implementation in borrower countries? Scholars tend to focus on the ex post effects of programs, while comparatively little attention is paid to the design and implementation of program conditionality. Understanding the problems programs are designed to address and the circumstances behind their interruption or completion, however, is essential for an accurate evaluation of their effects. In contrast to existing explanations that dichotomize factors influencing the IMF and those influencing borrower countries, I argue that a more nuanced approach that incorporates the interaction between these factors is required. Synthesizing theories of functionalism, structuralism, and principal-agent relationships with a domestic political economy approach, I offer a dynamic framework that evaluates the importance of political, institutional, and economic variables under varying circumstances. Applying this framework to the case of Argentina (1991-2002), I find that the IMF’s institutional priorities gave Argentina enormous leverage over the IMF. Therefore it maintained support for Argentina despite non-compliance until deteriorating economic conditions indicated a collapse was inevitable. This thesis sheds new light on the IMF’s decision-making process, and has wider implications for the future study of conditionality as well as policy-making at the national and international level.
Keywords: International Monetary Fund, conditionality, compliance, Argentina, crisis
Advisors: Jonathan Eaton, Mark Blyth
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Modeling Internet-based Citizen Activism and Foreign Policy: The Islands Dispute between China and Japan
Tomonobu Kumahira
How can citizens utilize the Internet to influence foreign policymaking? Optimists emphasize the Internet’s great potential to empower citizens, while pessimists underscore the persistent dominance of conventional actors in shaping diplomacy. These conceptual debates fail to build analytical models that theorize the mechanisms through which citizen activism impacts foreign policymaking in the Internet era. Focusing on the interactions between “old” institutions and new practices enabled by technology, I argue that Internet-based citizen activists are using multiple and evolving strategies to engage with conventional media and policymakers. My Hybrid Model provides an analytical framework with which scholars can describe new forms of non-electoral representation by citizen movements, while challenging foreign policy decision making theories established before social media. My model traces the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute between China and Japan, in which nationalist campaigns online and offline have fueled a series of confrontations since 2005. Presenting practical implications for foreign policymakers and the conventional media to respond to the transformation, this Hybrid Model also helps citizens play a more active role in international relations. In conclusion, I explore the analogy between the Internet and past innovations in communication technologies to shed light on the future of the Internet and politics.
Keywords: the Internet and politics, citizen activism, political representation, media, nationalism in East Asia
Advisors: Jordan Branch, Kerry Smith
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Macroeconomic Growth in the Aftermath of Sovereign Debt Default: Neoliberal Financial Infrastructure and Emerging Market Investment in Russia, 1999-2005
Sona Mkrttchian
This thesis explores whether there should be greater regulation and supervision of international capital flows given an increase in the prevalence of financial crises in so-called “emerging” economies. To answer this question, I process trace a case study of the Russian Federation’s 1998 debt default to determine the variables that led to the macroeconomic growth recorded in the aftermath of the decision to default on debt accumulated in the GKO-OFZ market. Traditional explanations of the aftermath of sovereign default explain market mechanisms through which restructured payments are enforced given a lack of international legal infrastructure. But these models do not test well across the “emerging market” economies of the 1980s and 90s. In the “emerging market” model, global capital flows stimulate economic growth—defined through output, borrowing costs, and trade flows—that offset projected penalty losses. I process trace the Russian case empirically from 1999 to 2005 in order to prove my argumentative framework that three critical junctures fused to create a political-industrial complex under the Putin administration that generated foreign investment above and beyond the potential market penalties. My findings suggest the international system should incorporate formal architecture to protect global lenders and diffuse the quantity of debt defaults.
Keywords: Emerging Markets, Sovereign Debt Default, Market Transition, Russia, Neoliberalism
Advisors: Jonathan Eaton, Linda Cook
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Islamic Immigration, Sex Trafficking, and the Media: The Implications of Racialized and Gendered Trafficking Discourses in the Netherlands
Esmé M. Ricciardi
This thesis studies the impact of the media on views on Islamic immigration through the lens of gender and sex trafficking narratives. According to Mahdavi’s Trafficking and Terror model derived from research on the United States, Islamophobia is infused into trafficking narratives to raise public support for U.S. government anti-terrorism measures in the Middle East. My research applies Mahdavi’s framework to the case of the “loverboys” in the Netherlands, a least likely case given the country’s history of liberal tolerance. Using discourse analysis, I examine perspectives on Islam, immigration, and sex trafficking in Dutch media and find that post-9/11 discussions of Islam and sex trafficking use gendered narratives to defend intolerance in a historically tolerant state. I find that this narrative, which focuses on protecting white women from brown men, is used to subtly support Islamophobic integration policies and anti-immigration measures in the Netherlands. This thesis offers a Mahdavi-inspired framework for understanding the correlation between Islamophobia and sex trafficking narratives outside of the U.S. context. This framework has implications for understanding Islamophobia and anti-immigration policies that can contribute to the growth of radical Islam, as well as the continuation of human rights abuses of migrants and sex workers.
Keywords: loverboys, Islamophobia, sex trafficking, trafficking narratives, gender
Advisors: Elena Shih, Claudia Elliott
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Political Economy and Global Arts for Social Change: A Comparative Analysis of Youth Orchestras in Venezuela and Chile
Emma L. Strother
An expansive movement comprised of UN Millennium Development Goals, international banks, and hundreds of programs worldwide, promotes access to the arts as a creative means of social change. Often grounded in cognitive science and inspired by the model of youth orchestras in Venezuela known as El Sistema, this movement contends that arts training—which fosters empathy, collaboration, academic achievement, and self-esteem—helps alleviate poverty and combat inequality. In contrast to the majority of literature on public arts programs—quantitative impact studies that assume the arts create social change through universal mechanisms—I examine the influence of political economy on the implementation of public arts programs. Through a mixed-method, comparative study of youth orchestras for social inclusion in Venezuela (1974-2015) and Chile (1964-2015), I find that the scope and intensity of government control, social welfare policy, and competition for public funds shape public arts programs’ social goals, daily operations, definitions of success, and impact study procedures. Therefore, we must reexamine our understanding of arts programs as a development model. Future global efforts to combat inequality should avoid over-standardization. This thesis offers a new Arts for Social Change Context Framework that places input variables at the center of analysis, with policy implications.
Keywords: El Sistema, public arts programs, social change, comparative
Advisors: Claudia Elliott, Arnulf Becker-Lorca
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