Newsletter: Fall 2018 Recap

It's been a busy semester!

163 Events held in the Mortara Building July 1 - December 15:

Mortara Events: 41, GU Departmental Events: 122  

Mortara Director Professor Newman's Book Launch

Voluntary Disruptions: Soft Law, Finance, and Power, by Professor Abraham Newman

On September 5, 2018, Professor Newman launched his latest publication, Voluntary Disruptions: Soft Law, Finance, and Power at the Mortara Center. Highlighting two mechanisms—legitimacy claims and arena expansion—the book explains how soft law, typically viewed as limited by its voluntary nature, disrupts and transforms the politics of economic governance.

"Even as diplomats seem stymied to sign new treaties on a range of 21st century challenges, international organizations and expert groups continue to churn out best practices, guidelines and recommendations. This soft law has the potential to not only solve real world problems but also to transform global politics."

Energy and Climate Policy Research Seminar: Climate Change in the Age of Trump

New York Times reporter Lisa Friedman

NYT reporter Lisa Friedman presented her thoughts on reporting on climate change, specifically in the context of Trump's presidency on October 18, 2018. She explored data as a journalistic tool, citing this project that maps changes in temperature in your hometown since the year you were born. These types of visual tools make the science and impact of climate change more accessible. 

Mortara Faculty Fellows

The Mortara Faculty Fellows program supports faculty research and spurs interdisciplinary engagement. These Fellows are part of a research team funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Professor Marko Klasnja

Professor Marko Klasnja's projects broadly look at the relationship betweenpersonal wealth and politics, from two angles: in the general public, and among politicians. For the former, he and his co-authors have conducted surveys of several hundred individuals in the top 3-5% of the income and wealth distributions in the US and the Netherlands. These surveys explored the ways in which the wealthy (and the rest) 

understand and explain the causes of economic inequality, and examined their attitudes toward redistributive policies. For the second part, he has been collecting systematic data on wealth of politicians around the world. In this project, he will first focus on the extent to which political elites are wealthy and unrepresentative of their populations everywhere. Second, he will examine to what extent wealth is associated with political power, or abuse of power, and what may explain variation across countries.

The greatest benefit of working has a Faculty Fellow has come from talking to other Fellows about how to frame the broader importance of this work. Since one of the products of the project (particularly the second arm) will be the data, he also hopes to learn more about how best to share some of the results with the broader public along the way. 
Professor Charlotte CavailleProfessor Charlotte Cavaille's work examines the relationship between the welfare state, immigration and vote for the Far Right. In particular, she studies how concerns over immigration's fiscal costs increases support for the Far Right. She has spent the semester working on the theoretical background and collecting new data to test some of her arguments. A first set of results are available in a working paper that she presented at Columbia University, Korea University, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania and at the Ford School at the University of Michigan (Spring 2018 - Fall 2018).

Without the course release granted by the Faculty Fellows program, she would not have been able to do as much research. In addition, she has been able to connect with other fellows both academically and personally. Such connections are priceless for a junior scholar like herself, and she is extremely grateful for this program's existence.

Professor Emily MendenhallProfessor Emily Mendenhall has a book coming out in 2019, Rethinking Diabetes: Entanglements of Poverty, Trauma, and HIV. Mortara supported a book workshop for her in 2017, which provided substantial support for her to revise and improve the manuscript. Also, she just hosted an interdisicplinary seminar on Sydnemics with history professor Timothy Newfield, bringing together people from fields of history, biology, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, biostatistics, and medicine.  A syndemics framework examines the health consequences of identifiable disease interactions and the social, environmental, or economic factors that promote such interaction and worsen disease. This Series introduces the syndemics approach and how syndemics can be used to tackle health inequities in a comprehensive manner. They are putting together a Special Issue for Social Science and Medicine based on the workshop. 

Through the Faculty Fellows Program, the intellectual engagement with scholars thinking about similar issues from different perspectives and disciplines has been incredibly useful. It's also been helpful to guide her in thinking outside the box for communicating her scholarship. 

Lepgold Book Prize Award 2017

This award honors exceptional contributions to the study of international relations, with particular emphasis on the resolution of critical policy challenges.

Lepgold Prize Winner

Jonathan Renshon received the 2017 Lepgold Book Prize on October 23, 2018 for his book Fighting for Status: Hierarchy and Conflict in World Politics. The first book to comprehensively examine the dynamics of status in international politics, Fighting for Status presents a theory of status dissatisfaction that delves into the nature of prestige in international conflicts, specifies why states want status, and explains how they get it.

Remapping IR

Remapping IR LogoThis initiative showcases the diversity of cutting-edge approaches that exist to understand global politics and broadens the intellectual discussion on who, how and what matters in international affairs.


Remapping IR meeting

On November, 5, 2018, GU-Qatar Professor Harry Verhoeven presented his paper "Beyond Liberal Order: States, Societies and Markets in the Global Indian Ocean," which explores the macro-region of the countries around the Indian Ocean and their non-convergence to a liberal-democratic order. Here are some key takeways:

  • Deficiency in some of the current scholarship on liberal world order that defines the liberal world as North Atlantic, with East Asia as an extension of that system; little place for South Asia, Africa and Latin America in that system
  • Contrasted Pax Americana (international institutions with multilateralism, domestic expansion, traded largely with allies) with Pax Britannica (international capital mobility, traded largely with rivals)
  • Despite great international activity, there was no Indian Ocean hegemon but autonomous nations, embassies, guilds, armies, and other institutions (very different from the Western/Westphalian nation-state system) yet there was slavery and bonded labor, mutual discrimination and political and religious violence     

Following the talk, Mortara Undergraduate Research Fellow, Arjun Mehrotra (BSFS '20) engaged with the speaker to discuss politics in this region.

Professor Veeraraghavan Book Workshop

Professor Veeraraghavan Book Workshop

Professor Veeraraghavan conducted a book workshop on December 12, 2018 to receive feedback on his upcoming publication. His book will consider a novel state-society institutional formation that moves beyond simply state-led audits or citizen audits. Professor Veeraraghavan draws on the case of a state in India, based on multi-year ethnographic fieldwork. The state government has implemented the most far-reaching effort in opening its records, using what they call “social audits” in the context of governing the world’s largest anti-poverty program. Radical transparency is not about passively monitoring the state, but rather involves effectively surveilling state operations in a way that helps us change the state, leading it closer to democratic ideals. The use of surveillance, raises questions of power to the center of the analysis of transparency, which essentially means a shift from democratizing information to the idea of democratizing surveillance.