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Undergraduate Research

IR honors students.

Below is a snapshot of undergraduate research conducted by students enrolled in the International Relations Honors Program from this past year.

Closing the Floodgates: The Origins of U.S. Immigration Policy Towards Latin America in the 1965 Hart-Celler Act

By Renata Miller, International Relations '19

In the 1965 Hart-Celler Act, the US Congress placed a cap on immigration from the Western Hemisphere for the first time. Previously, the number of Latin American immigrants who entered per year was not restricted by a quota. Why did Congress enact this policy at this time? Previous scholars have dismissed it as a hazy compromise behind closed doors that the Johnson Administration made in order to pass this landmark piece of legislation. Yet given that this policy is one of the founding blocks of our immigration policy toward Latin America today, it is important to study it further: what exactly drove members of Congress to curb immigration from Latin America? My thesis contributes a new statistical analysis on the breakdown of the Western Hemisphere vote in the House and in the Senate. I then apply my statistical findings to a historical analysis in order to provide a more comprehensive narrative on the inclusion of this provision. In my regression analysis, I find that the economic ideology of congress members and the number of Mexican immigrants in their district were the most predictive variables. This is interesting given that most of the literature on the Hart-Celler Act ignores the economic debate and focuses on the issue of race. Therefore, in my historical analysis, I highlight the economic debate over immigration from Latin America with quotes from the House and Senate floor. This paper contributes to the current literature on the Hart-Celler Act by creating a more robust picture of the Western Hemisphere amendment: the economic debate was more determinative than previously thought. Arriving to a more complete understanding of the roots of our immigration policies toward Latin America is especially important today, at a time when the debate over immigration from the region is front and center in our national politics. 

Read her thesis here.

Do Mass Killings Breed Transnational Terrorism?

By Elena Lund, International Relations '19

On September 11th, 2001, the world witnessed the deadliest terrorist attacks in history. At the hands of nineteen terrorists, nearly three-thousand people were killed and over six-thousand more were injured. Only six years earlier, at least two of these hijackers were fighting in the Bosnian genocide alongside other Al Qaeda operatives. But why had Al Qaeda decided to set up operations in Bosnia during the genocide? What were their specific goals? And how did they use post-genocide Bosnia to realize those goals? Utilizing a large-n quantitative analysis on all mass killings and terrorist attacks from 1970 to 2006 in addition to a historical case study on the relationship between the Bosnian genocide of 1992-1995 and Al Qaeda, this thesis attempts to answer the question – do mass killings breed transnational terrorism? – more generally. To do so, terrorist groups that emerge from or claim to represent the victims of mass killings are identified and their attacks are analyzed compared to the attacks of other terrorist groups. In conclusion, this thesis argues that mass killings breed transnational terrorism by prompting the formation of new terrorist groups and by fostering an aggrieved population susceptible to the recruitment mechanisms of preexisting terrorist groups..

Read her thesis here.

Erasing the Rohingya: The Historical Roots of Myanmar's Crimes Against Humanity

By Kanani Sofia Schnider, International Relations '19

Located in the heart of Southeast Asia, Myanmar is a majority Buddhist country that recently transitioned from an authoritarian regime to a nominal democracy. Despite this, violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority of Rahkine State has only escalated. In August 2017, Myanmar’s military began a scorched-earth campaign against the stateless Rohingya, committing crimes against humanity and driving thousands of Rohingya into Bangladesh. One year later, the UN has recommended for Myanmar to be criminally investigated for the most egregious crime in international law: genocide. Though the Rohingya have been present in the Rahkine region for centuries, the military claims that they are illegal immigrants. From a contemporary human rights perspective, this thesis analyzes the historical, political and religious origins of today’s genocide of the Rohingya people. Employing history as a means to understand the Rohingyas’ current suffering, this thesis situates the Rohingya narrative in the larger context of post-colonial Burmese state-building and in comparison to other Burmese minorities in order to understand the Rohingyas’ vulnerability. Through historical analysis, this thesis strives to raise awareness of the Rohingyas’ erasure and human right to national belonging.

Read her thesis here.

Ethno-religious diversity and recovery after conflict in post-ISIL Iraq: a geospatial approach

Lloyd Lyall, International Relations, '19

After domestic conflict, why do some settlements recover faster than others? The problem of post-conflict reconstruction regularly attracts billions of aid dollars and carries hefty humanitarian and security implications, but little empirical work has focused on what causes differences in post-conflict recovery at the sub-state level. I explore the variation in recovery speed among Iraqi villages after the 2014-2017 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) insurgency and focus primarily on the role of ethno-religious diversity in explaining the differences. Using satellite-observed nighttime light emissions as a proxy for economic activity, I construct an 81-month panel of economic output in 351 Iraqi settlements occupied by ISIL. This information is combined with settlement-level data on ethno-religious composition. In spatial autoregression and generalized synthetic control approaches, I evaluate the causal effect of ethno-religious diversity on post-conflict recovery across space and time. The results show that diversity has a large and significant negative influence on recovery. This result is robust to a variety of different specifications, and the magnitude of the effect grows over time. I argue that diversity slows reconstruction because it alters the local dynamics of security and cooperation and alters the strategies of local elites. Broadly, my findings support constructivist views on identity which suggest ethnic and religious identities can become “activated” in certain social conditions.

Read his thesis here.

Living up to Responsibilities: UN Humanitarian Interventions and the Impact of R2P

By Grace Anderson, International Relations '19

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, which was unanimously signed by UN member states in 2005, declared that states have a responsibility to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. R2P was revolutionary for the time given that previously the UN considered domestic state sovereignty as inviolable and was only allowed to intervene if the state threatened international peace and security. Fourteen years later, R2P has been invoked in humanitarian interventions in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire but has been ignored in other cases of mass atrocities such as in Syria. This thesis examines how R2P has changed the way the UN performs interventions in conflicts and whether it has succeeded in preventing and abating mass atrocities. Specifically, this thesis takes a quantitative approach in analyzing how R2P and other factors have affected how fast the UN intervenes in civil wars and then examines these causal mechanisms qualitatively using three case studies of Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Syria.

Read her thesis here.

The "Black Blouse Girl": The History of Sexual Violence in the Vietnam War and Opportunities for Justice

By Audrey Huynh, International Relations '19

Although there has been extensive documentation of the atrocities committed by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, little to no academic literature exists on the sexual violence perpetrated by the U.S. military against Vietnamese civilians. In 2018, I identified a massive archive of U.S. military records that details cases of sexual violence committed against over 400 Vietnamese civilians. Using these case files as an initial evidentiary basis, my thesis explores the following research question: What is the history of the sexual violence perpetrated by the U.S. military against Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War, and what legal and political mechanisms existed to bring justice to victims? Through qualitative analysis of U.S. military records, tribunal transcripts, American soldiers’ and Vietnamese survivors’ memoirs, and interviews with Vietnamese and American civilians, I construct a comprehensive account of the sexual violence that occurred during the Vietnam War and explore the U.S. government’s silence surrounding these crimes. I also evaluate the viability of several different mechanisms of transitional justice within the context of addressing wartime sexual violence in Vietnam. Ultimately, I outline recommended frameworks for transitional justice for Vietnamese survivors and their families, with the goal of holding the U.S. more accountable for war crimes they commit and setting a precedent for rule of law and justice for wartime sexual violence. 

Read her thesis here.

The Case for Congresswomen: Gender Equality in Congress as a Determinant of Political Outcomes

By Tashrima Hossain, International Relations '19 

On November 7, 1916, Jeanette Rankin (R-MT) was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Half a century later, 1992 became the “Year of the Woman” as 48 women were elected to the House, and six were already sitting in the Senate. Since this watershed movement, women’s advancement into Congress has continued at a slow yet unremitting pace. While female Congresspersons now compose twenty-three percent of the overall legislative body, the existing gains have not translated to equal participation and legislative productivity. This raises the central question of this thesis: Between 1992 and 2015, how did the increase in women’s representation in the United States Congress affect legislative outcomes? To analyze the question, this thesis evaluates four hypotheses about differences between women’s and men’s influence on Congress – including productivity, diverse legislative outcomes, distinct leadership styles, and representational focus. Through both a quantitative and qualitative approach, this thesis seeks to make the case for Congresswomen.

Read her thesis here.

The Decision to Prosecute: Accountability for Human Rights Violations in Chile and Argentina after Military Regimes

By Hana Kapasi, International Relations '19

The transition from military regimes to democratic governments is a difficult one for all states, particularly those with a history of human rights abuses. This thesis explores the differences in human rights prosecutions after military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina through the lens of the following two questions: How did the quantity and judicial mechanism of prosecutions for human rights abuses in Argentina and Chile differ and what was the role of political legitimacy in the decision to prosecute? To answer the first question, details of how the prosecutorial patterns differed between the two countries are examined, including trial location, level of crime prosecuted, rank of those prosecuted, and verdict. Next, qualitative evidence from newspaper articles, speeches by public officials, and publications from international advocacy groups is used to build a causal story about how the trials were both a reconciliation tool and a political negotiation point in each country. In Argentina, democratic actors found it advantageous to heavily prosecute immediately after the transition; when democratic stability was challenged however, amnesty was granted, indicating political motivations for prosecution trends. Human rights prosecutions in Chile after the democratic transition were sparse and avoided high ranking officials. The trends were also a political compromise to protect democracy given the negotiating power of the exiting military regime. Argentina and Chile differ in their prosecution details, yet in their causal stories share a similar thread of being heavily influenced by the political repercussions that came with the trials. The story in these two countries can be used to better understand how, when, why countries use prosecutions for reconciliation as well as how to encourage accountability for human rights violations in the future.

View her thesis here.

The Eagle And The Dragon: Sino-German Military Cooperation 1919-1938

By Kyle Kinnie, International Relations '19

In an age when a politically and militarily resurgent China is beginning to reshape the liberal international order, it is instructive to look backward to a time when a weak and fragmented China turned to foreign powers for tutelage. My thesis explores the evolution of Sino-German military cooperation between 1919, when Germany was stripped of her colonial possessions, and 1938, when the last German military advisors were recalled from service in China, to show how the German military missions created the first truly national Chinese armed forces. To this end, I use English-, German,- and Chinese-language sources across a variety of media and disciplines to shed light upon this little-known chapter of diplomatic history, about which little scholarly material exists in English. I conclude that the Sino-German was, to a remarkable degree for its time, grounded in reciprocity, and equality, and it was National Socialist ideology, German bureaucratic politics, and a shift in German geopolitical motives that unilaterally ended their military cooperation and possible alliance. Throughout my examination of what the German military missions to China could and could not accomplish, a recurring lesson is for policymakers to "mind the gap" between expectations and reality. By examining an earlier period of cooperation with a Western power, I hope my thesis can be of use in predicting how and why China decides to cooperate within the international system.

Read his thesis here.