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Undergraduate Research

In 2017, several undergraduate students conducted research across SGS's 15 programs, including those enrolled in the International Relations Honors Program, as well as the Global Studies and Human Rights Minor programs. Below is a snapshot of undergraduate research from this past year:

History and Human Rights Podcast Series

By Christina Schiciano,  B.A. in Political Science with Minors in Arabic and Human Rights '17, and Alina Utrata, B.A. in History and the Law with a Minor in Human Rights '17

For their human rights minor capstone project, Alina Utrata and Christina Schiciano created a podcast series to provide background on the major case studies in human rights to students or individuals who are interested in learning more about the subject. The episodes are around 30 to 40 minutes long, and provide a basic background of the history and more recent updates of major human rights case studies. There are currently two podcasts that are available. The first focuses on the Cambodian genocide during the Khmer Rouge period and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The second examines the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and a major case at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Rwandan genocide.

Listen to the podcasts via the Stanford Digital Repository.

Dam Them All: On the Failure of Dams and Dam Building Frameworks

By Christine Cavallo, B.A. International Relations with honors '17

While El Nino cycles demonstrate extreme weather events that fall out of the normal weather patterns, they may also serve as an example for environmental norms we will endure in the future. For this reason, the impacts they have on both international and domestic agreements and stability should be cautiously heeded. South Africa is one of the most water scarce nations in the world, and their dependence on external sources of water adds an interesting element to what is already a challenging question. Lesotho has an abundance of "white gold," as many of the regional river heads originate within their borders. The Lesotho Highlands Water Project serves as a massive international economic boost for Lesotho while also developing the infrastructure for 100% dependence on hydroelectric power. South Africa front most of the costs for construction of the dams and tunnels involved, and in return receives a consistent water source to their nearby provinces. But when Lesotho was hit by the 2015 drought, arguably even harder than South Africa was, many of Lesotho's population questioned why 40% of their water was still being diverted away from them. I look at how droughts impact international agreements such as the LHWP, and how we might see any relevant tensions or turmoil escalate in the future.

Read Christine's thesis via the Stanford Library's Digital Repository

Constitutional Engineering: Studying Promotions and Revocations of Religious Freedom in Thailand

By Karen Lee, B.A. in International Relations with honors '17

Thailand is one of the few countries in the world that has never been colonized by a Western power. It has also experienced more coups that any other country in the last century--eleven successful coups and seven attempted coups since the bloodless coup that ended the absolute monarchy in 1932. One would think that the lack of a colonial history means that Thailand is a unified country, but it has been plagued by ethnic conflict in its southern provinces since the 1950s and violence has intensified in the past decade. My research poses the question, "How has religious and cultural policy towards Thailand’s Deep South differed under elected versus military-led governments?". I engage and analyze existing literature on the relationship between regime type and religious freedom, code Thailand's twenty constitutions from 1932 to the present based on whether or not they have contained clauses restricting the religious and cultural rights of the Muslim minority in the South, and conduct a case study of four civilian and military regimes in 21st century Thailand.

Read Karen's thesis via the Stanford Library's Digital Repository

Broken Nuclear Vows: Explaining Why States Cheat on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

By Yegina Whang, B.A. in International Relations with honors '17

The question of why states pursue nuclear weapons has been significant topic of study due to the escalation of tensions during the Cold War period and intense fear of proliferation in its aftermath. Most research in this field is extremely difficult to produce due to the small sample size of states with nuclear capabilities as well as a lack of information on countries’ nuclear programs. Academics have offered some possible explanations of the rationale behind leaders’ decisions to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), such as the security model, domestic politics model, and norms model. In my thesis, I contribute to this existing literature by answering the more narrow question of why some states decide to sign, ratify, and then violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Why have only autocratic states broken the NPT? Does this apply to only the NPT or all international treaties? Through evidence provided by my analysis of large-n data sets and case studies of North Korea, South Korea, and Iran, I hypothesize that international isolation plays a key role in explaining a leader’s decision to cheat on the NPT.

Read Yegina's thesis via the Stanford Library's Digital Repository

Citizenship Contestation and Reprisal Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Kirsten Willer, B.A. in International Relations with honors '17

In the current world of nation-states, being is inherently a political action. Nation-states claim to act for the interests of their own people located within their territory, using their citizens as justification for the state's actions. How do states determine who belongs and has rights to the privileges of being citizen? In Africa, however, borders primarily remain in the arbitrary configuration drawn by colonial powers. What is the salience of citizenship when a group of people has somewhat randomly been brought into a state? What happens when states rescind the citizenship rights of ethnic minority groups? Under the direction of Dr. Jeremy Weinstein, My project investigates the outcomes of cases in sub-Saharan Africa where states have encroached upon the rights of ethnic minorities. I argue that these ethnic minority groups will react with violence to the state’s actions if they believe that citizenship is necessary to be a political and economic actor within the community.

Read Kirsten's thesis via the Stanford Library's Digital Repository