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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.

Of Dinners and Diplomacy: What White House State Dinners Reveal About Relationship Building and Goodwill Signaling in U.S. Foreign Policy

By Emily Bishko, International Relations '20

Behind their glamour, White House State Dinners are innately political events that put the U.S. president face-to-face with a foreign counterpart for an evening of food and entertainment, usually followed or preceded by days of bilateral meetings. This thesis explores how these Dinners fit into presidents’ diplomatic toolbox by asking How do White House State Dinners relate to U.S. Foreign Policy? It answers this question by quantitatively examining the characteristics of international states invited to Dinners since the first one in 1874 through President Obama's last Dinner in 2016. It then offers in-depth case studies of the Dinners hosted under Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan to further illuminate why Dinners occur. This thesis finds that Dinners are used as signals and as mechanisms to improve leaders' interpersonal relationships. It further concludes that the United States invites states to Dinners to endorse U.S.-oriented behavior, to build regional influence, to maintain traditional relationships, and/or to celebrate diplomatic breakthroughs.

Read her thesis here.

Nations by the Numbers: Ethnoracial Data Collection and National Identity in the United States and France

By Erica Scott, International Relations '20

The question of how large, multicultural democracies balance diversity and national identity is crucial in an age in which these countries are both continuously diversifying and witnessing a surge in xenophobic nationalism. The politics of data collection exists at the heart of this tension, as quantifying people based on race, ethnicity, or religion can imply government legitimation of social divisions. In the United States, counting citizens by race and ethnicity is extremely common, yet this same practice is forbidden by law in France. From the French perspective, ethnoracial census categories serve to advance group-oriented rhetoric and undermine a unified French national identity. The motivation for my research is to test this claim — does government collection of ethnoracial data have adverse effects on the coherence and strength of national identity? In addition to analyzing the history of ethnoracial data collection in the United States and France, I conduct a national survey experiment of Americans assessing how ethnoracial categorization impacts respondents’ feelings of national identity. Ultimately, I find that ethnoracial categorization influences the national identification of white and black Americans, an effect that I posit stems from a relationship between Americanness and whiteness.

Read her thesis here.

Clinging to Power: British Economic Policy and Political Coercion in Egypt, 1930-1952

By Veronica Kim, International Relations '20

By the onset of the Great Depression, the British Empire was in decline. As a result, the British government began to seek new methods to continue exerting British power and influence in strategically important regions overseas without risking confrontation or revolt. What were these “new methods” of control, and to what extent were they successful? My thesis studies the interplay of British economic and political power in Egypt between 1930 and 1952 and examines how the British used economic policy to maintain political influence in Egypt during this time. Egypt constitutes a unique case among the regions most crucial to British imperial strength due to the defensive importance of the Suez Canal and the strength and coherence of its nationalist movement, which offered a singular challenge to British imperial power. By relying on qualitative analysis of British archival records, I find that the British employed economic policy in two ways: when political negotiation was not possible, and when the government needed to cover up the political damage of its actions. In the 1930s, economic and political relations between the two countries were favorable enough that the British were willing to offer economic concessions to achieve their political goals in Egypt. Yet during and following the Second World War, the British dropped the guise of goodwill and began to impose changes by force, hoping that economic compromises offered after the fact would forestall any serious backlash from the Egyptians over this political interference. However, these cover-up methods ultimately failed, setting the stage for Egyptian revolution in 1952.

Read her thesis here.