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The 2019-2020 Department of Political Science at Michigan State University Job Market Candidates

Michigan State University’s graduate program in Political Science is proud to present our current job market candidates.  Our program produces productive scholars and excellent teachers; many have presented papers at professional conferences and have served as teaching assistants or taught their own courses.  We encourage you to give consideration to our candidates.

Dissertation: The Leader’s Toolkit: The Effects of Pro-Government Militias on Human Rights

Lora’s primary research agenda examines the role of pro-government militias (PGMs) in state repression. Specifically, she is interested in understanding why leaders deploy specific types of security agents to engage in repression, as well as how the characteristics of militias influence the forms, targets, and levels of state violence. Lastly, she explores how leaders may utilize PGMs to prolong their tenure in office and maintain their political power. In order to perform these analyses, she uses a novel dataset on PGM characteristics and repressive actions with a global sample from 1989-2007. Her dissertation finds evidence that leaders strategically employ PGMs to maximize their effectiveness and repressive capacities. These findings demonstrate that the capacity to carry out state-sponsored violence is not always limited to official forces, and leaders can make strategic decisions to maximize their repressive capabilities. In addition to her dissertation, Lora is also interested in the role of secrecy in national security and studies gender and political violence.

Committee: Jakana Thomas (Chair), Michael Colaresi, Benjamin Appel, Erica Frantz

Dissertation: Contemporary Liberalism and the Nation

Daniel’s primary research seeks to understand the role of political particularity within contemporary liberal theory in particular, as well as more broadly within the history of political philosophy. More specifically, Daniel is interested in the manner in which the individualistic and universalistic premises of liberalism influence representations of community and incorporation, the status of patriotism and the legitimacy of national interests, and the foundation of identities and loyalties. Daniel’s dissertation, completed July 2019, pursues these questions by tracing the roots and consequences of the theoretical debate between recent normative accounts of cosmopolitanism and nationalism. Surveying representative liberal theorists on the ideal shape of the political community, Daniel’s dissertation makes two related arguments. First, Daniel argues that liberalism is deeply inconsistent concerning the nature of the political community and the moral distinction between citizens and aliens, a problem that Daniel traces to hitherto under-appreciated assumptions in John Rawls’s fully developed political theory. Second, as a result, Daniel argues that liberal cosmopolitans and liberal nationalists are equally incapable of making liberalism self-consistent without turning liberalism into either a comprehensive ideology or an ironic myth. The impossibility of removing liberalism’s inconsistency reveals, Daniel argues, the permanency of imperfection in politics and the need to temper liberal idealism with prudence. In addition to his primary research, Daniel is also broadly interested in ancient and modern philosophy, especially eighteenth-century political theory and moral psychology, as well as American, European, and global political history and development.

Committee: Dustin Sebell (chair), Arthur Melzer, Richard Zinman, Corwin Smidt

Dissertation: The Politics of the Fall in Augustine of Hippo

Michael Giles (M.A. 2016) is a PhD candidate in political science at Michigan State University. His scholarship tackles the question of faith and politics in the history of political thought.

Mike’s research program contains two main components. First, he makes an effort to understand faith on its own terms, the better to know its political import. In his dissertation, he examines St. Augustine’s account of the Fall of humanity. For many believers, the Fall powerfully explains many of the realities that dominate our lives, and yet Augustine’s account of it is frequently passed over. In the dissertation, Mike attempts to expose and come to grips with the most politically salient aspects of that teaching.

The first chapter focuses on the original goodness and subsequent corruption of labor. Mike brings Augustine into conversation with Locke and Marx and shows that (for Augustine) the Fall explains the moral experience of work. The second chapter addresses the meaning of sociability in a fallen world. It poses the question: are we social or anti-social beings? Augustine explains the depth of our longing for unity and friendship as well as the human tendency to quarrel. The concluding chapters analyze two different consequences of the Fall according to Augustine, namely that human beings are slaves to desire and punished with death. Augustine’s defense and explication of the Fall reveals that our political challenges are frequently deeper, more intractable, more problematic than we wish, and that humility should conquer our pride and faith in progress. This does not make Augustine dismissive of politics, but rather sensitive – and willing to speak to – its most cherished ambitions.

Second, Mike attempts to describe, in a precise way, the posture of modern political thought toward religious faith. He has found that posture to be more complex that it initially appears. His research has focused specifically on the question of whether or not faith is morally and politically useful, addressing this concern (in two separate papers) in the thought of Montesquieu and Alexis de Tocqueville. His other interests include American government, normative ethics, and the interplay of economics, politics, and political philosophy.

Prior to his doctoral work at MSU, Mike completed a B.A. in Political Economy at Hillsdale College in 2012. He is a 2019-2020 Humane Studies Fellow, and his research is supported also by the LeFrak Forum and Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy.

Committee: Dustin Sebell (Chair), Arthur Melzer, Eric Petrie.

Dissertation: Attorneys, Merits Briefs, and U.S. Supreme Court Decision Making

Jessica’s primary research agenda seeks to advance scholarly knowledge about how attorneys influence judicial behavior on the U.S. Supreme Court. Specifically, she focuses on the most important substantive aspect of what attorneys actually do, which is develop legal arguments in written briefs. In her dissertation, Attorneys, Merits Briefs, and U.S. Supreme Court Decision Making, she investigates how attorneys use written legal arguments to appeal to Supreme Court justices. She suggests that skilled attorneys are better than novices at understanding how to strategically build a legal argument that appeals to the justices’ preferences, both legal and political. Outside of her dissertation research, she is working on several projects about attorney strategies and skills and is also interested in the Supreme Court’s interactions with the other branches of government.

Committee: Ryan Black (chair), Matthew Grossmann, Ian Ostrander, and Corwin Smidt

Dissertation: Julie, Not Emile: Rousseau’s Alternative Education

Emma’s broad research interests include Rousseau, women in political thought, liberal education, citizenship and virtue, and pedagogy. She is working on a dissertation examining the relationship between Rousseau’s Julie and Emile, and women’s education more generally in Rousseau’s thought. This project presents Julie as an alternative education to the one presented in Emile, especially for the reader, and explores how this novel properly prepares the reader for Emile.

Emma came to Michigan State as a University Distinguished Fellow, and is an award-winning educator, having been awarded the Department of Political Science Best Graduate Assistant Teaching Award and twice nominated by the College of Social Sciences for a University Excellence in Teaching Citation.

Committee: Arthur Melzer (chair), Dustin Sebell, Constance Hunt, Matthew Mendham

Dissertation Title: The Determinants of State Repression

Nathaniel is a graduate student (ABD) who is currently serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University. His research interests include state repression, climate change, non-violence, and conflict. His dissertation seeks to understand how economic and demographic characteristics of states affect the use and implementation of repression. At Nebraska Wesleyan, he is teaching courses on international politics, global rebellion, democratization, as well as other courses in international relations and comparative politics broadly.

Committee Members: Chair Dr. Benjamin Appel, Jakana Thomas, Erica Frantz, and Christian Houle