We are excited to be a co-sponsor of this event featuring Dr. Juan Masullo, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University. Read more about the event below, and we hope to see you there.
REFUSING TO COOPERATE WITH ARMED GROUPS: Civilian Agency and Nonviolent Resistance in the Colombian Civil War Thursday, 1 December 2022 4.15-5.30 pm, Science Center 199 Swarthmore College (directions)
How do communities living amidst violence activate their agency and organize nonviolent resistance to protect themselves from armed groups’ violence and rule? In this talk, Dr. Masullo will explore the conditions that led ordinary and unarmed civilians in Colombia to collectively refuse to cooperate with heavily armed groups.
Juan Masullois an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University. He is also a co-editor of Qualitative & Multi-Method Research, the biannual publication of APSA’s Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Section, and associate editor of the International Studies Review.
Sponsored by the Department of Political Science, Latin American and Latino Studies, and the Peace and Conflict Studies Department.
Come join the Political Science Department at the Brown Bag Lunch Thursday, September 16th at 12:30pm to hear Professor Tierney give a short talk on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the international consequences. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP. The event will be held in Parrish Tent and lunch will be provided.
Professor of Political Science Dominic Tierney recently joined Matt Leon of KYW Newsradio to discuss the American withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict and what could’ve been done differently to prevent the resurgence of the Taliban.
Tierney argues that the rapid collapse of the Afghan government was not preordained in 2001 but had become increasingly predictable over the most recent weeks and months. Most surprising, however, seemed to be the lack of armed conflict that preceded the Taliban’s return to power.
“By and large, commanders of the Afghan army surrendered and basically negotiated deals in a process that had probably been in the works for a very long time,” Tierney tells Leon. “It speaks to the deeper issue that we have never really understood the local dynamics in Afghanistan. It may as well have been on the moon from the view of most Americans and, frankly, most D.C. politicians.”
Tierney also discusses the history of American involvement in Afghanistan since 2001 and identifies a lack of nuance in U.S. foreign policy as a potential cause for ultimate failure in Kabul.
“In 2002, the Taliban reached out to the United States and basically stated that they were willing to accept a negotiated deal,” says Tierney. “The amazing thing is that the Bush administration … didn’t even consider it. At the time, we thought the Taliban and the al-Qaeda were the same guys. They were the bad guys, and we were going to put all of them in one bucket and take them out.”
He argues that this “crusading mindset” led the U.S. to waste the leverage it had at the time and allowed the Taliban to slowly reemerge by 2006, culminating in a nationwide insurgency.
Looking ahead, Tierney believes that it will take time before one can evaluate the impact of President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw, especially as it relates to the rights of the nation’s girls and women.
“It’s very certain that there will be restrictive dress and things like that,” he says. “However, the hopeful story is that Afghanistan ends up looking like Iran: a theocracy, rather than Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale. Maybe we could see the Taliban accepting women as doctors and midwives, and allow them to have some education. Hopefully, regional powers can use their leverage to strongly pressure the Taliban to allow some rights.”
Tierney also appeared in other outlets, such as The Guardian, to discuss recent developments in Afghanistan:
Professor Smithey’s and Prof. Paddon Rhoads’ honors seminars were covered in this story by Ryan Dougherty about the honors program during the pandemic.
“Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Sociology Lee Smithey invited six authors to join his honors seminar on nonviolent civil resistance. Students heard the inside story from the writers whose books they were reading.“The results were pretty special,” says Smithey, whose hybrid seminar was held both online and, on warmer days, on the lawn outside Trotter Hall. “And the authors were each impressed with their conversation with the students and the level at which our students engaged the literature.”
From our friends in the Political Science Department:
“State Failure and War in the Middle East: A Conflict of Our Times”
Wednesday 18th January
11:45 AM – 12:45 PM
*Sandwiches will be provided
Please join us for a lunchtime talk with William Reno, Professor of Political Science & Director, Program of African Studies, Northwestern University. Professor Reno will speak about his ongoing research in the Middle East. A leading expert on political violence, the organization and behavior of insurgent groups and the politics of authoritarian regimes, Professor Reno is the author of Corruption and State Politics in Sierra Leone (Cambridge University Press, 1995), Warlord Politics and African States (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998) and Warfare in Independent Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2011). He visits Swarthmore from Iraq.
Political Scientist Dominic Tierney and Nell Bang-Jensen ’11 recently led a discussion on the media’s responsibilities in times of war.
The discussion followed The Body of An American, which explores the friendship of photojournalist Paul Watson and playwright Dan O’Brien (played by Harry Smith and Ian Merrill). Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.
Swarthmore’s zeal for interdisciplinary studies and collaboration took center stage at the Wilma Theater earlier this month, when Associate Professor of Political Science Dominic Tierney and Nell Bang-Jensen ’11 guided a lively discussion on the media’s responsibilities in times of war.
The discussion followed a performance of The Body of an American, which explores the international repercussions of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. The image skewed the perception of the U.S. intervention in Somalia and may have dissuaded its leaders from intervening in catastrophes such as Rwanda, Tierney says.
“The play deals with important issues about the power of photographs in wartime, which resonates with my teaching and research,” says Tierney, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and an official correspondent of The Atlantic. “I was excited to participate.”
One of the actors in the play, Harry Smith, is a friend of Tierney’s. He recommended him as someone who had researched the events in Mogadishu and could lend context to the performance. In what Bang-Jensen deems a “funny coincidence,” it was she who called Tierney to arrange the collaboration.
“I sent him the script in advance so he could get a feel for it and see the connections to his own work,” says Bang-Jensen, who works in the Wilma’s artistic department. “There are different levels on which to interpret the play: How do we come to terms with the idea that war lives inside all of us, and how can we solve these internal wars before we can solve global ones?”
The play centers on photojournalist Paul Watson, who is haunted by what he believes he heard the soldier say right as he took the prize-winning photo: “If you do this, I will own you forever.” Playwright Dan O’Brien, also obsessed with the notion of hauntings, heard Watson tell the story on the radio in 2007, and a friendship bloomed between them. Written by O’Brien and directed by Michael John Garcés, the production runs through February 1.
Tierney’s appearance followed the January 16th performance, which drew a young and socioeconomically diverse audience (thanks partly to the WynTix program that offers $10 tickets to students and theater employees). With the Charlie Hebdo attack in France fresh on everyone’s minds, the audience pondered the media’s obligation to citizens.
“It’s the constant question of how the media can give outsiders a more nuanced view of what’s happening,” says Bang-Jensen, “going beyond these images that often only tell one part of the story.”
Also lending context to the performance was an exhibit of wartime photography in the lobby. It included the work of David Swanson, an embedded correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer in Iraq in 2004 and the husband of Laila Swanson, assistant professor in set and costume design for Swarthmore’s Department of Theater.
Swarthmore’s connections to the Wilma don’t end there, however. Madeline Charne ’14 has been an intern at the theater since June, and Matt Saunders, assistant professor of design and resident set designer, has designed sets for its productions such as Age of Arousal and Angels in America.
“I feel very lucky to be a part of this wonderful melding of worlds,” says Bang-Jensen, who majored in English literature with a theater minor at Swarthmore and then traveled for a year as a Watson Fellow. “It’s so exciting to engage these fellow artists at the professional level, and for these academic conversations to carry beyond the classroom and manifest as art.”
The Arab Spring, Four Years Later: Hope or Despair?
Lecture by Dr. Sean Yom, Temple University
Monday, Oct. 6, 4:30 p.m., Kohlberg Scheuer Room
Four years on, the Arab Spring had generated wildly contrasting outcomes. From democratization in Tunisia to authoritarian revival in Egypt to civil war in Syria, the regional wave of popular protest has certainly washed away the foundations of the old order.
Can democratization spread to other countries without incurring the risk of war? This lecture aims to answer this question, giving a bird’s eye view of different processes and events from a political scientist’s perspective.
Sean Yom is Assistant Professor of Political Science (comparative politics). His research broadly focuses on authoritarianism and development, and he is now finishing his first book on state-building and political order in the post-colonial Middle East.
Since 1945, most major American wars have ended in regret. The era of U.S. power has also been a time of military frustration, stalemate, and loss, in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. What should we do when a conflict becomes an unwinnable war? Can we cut our losses and leave without seeing everything we fought for crumble into ashes?
The stakes are incredibly high. How wars end, and the U.S. exit strategy from conflict, may decide the fate of thousands of American soldiers, impact America’s reputation and global image, cast a long shadow over the home front, and shape the future of the allied country.
Based on interviews with dozens of leading generals, ambassadors, and secretaries of state, this book project provides a guide to handling military failure and escaping from a quagmire. The talk will explain how the United States can avert military disaster, negotiate with opponents, withdraw its troops, train local forces, bind the wounds of veterans, reconcile with enemies, and remember military loss in ways that foster national learning and renewal.
Michael Walzer, emeritus professor at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey is one of the most renowned living political philosophers.
Walzer’s pioneering work on justice, communitarianism, just war theory, and Jewish political thought has illuminated a variety of intellectual landscapes for decades. Walzer has also been a co-editor of the democratic socialist journal “Dissent” for nearly half a century.
He is the author of dozens of books including “Spheres of Justice,” “Just and Unjust Wars,” “Exodus and Revolution,” and most recently “In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible.”
Michael Walzer will offer a Q & A session at 4:15 pm in Kohlberg Scheuer Room. The Q & A will center on questions offered by students who have been reading his work in their classes, but all interested members of the Swarthmore community are welcome to attend.
Sponsored by the Religion Department, Department of Political Science, Peace and Conflict Studies, Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.
It’s almost time for my ten-year Swarthmore reunion! When people ask me about having kids — a seemingly inevitable, if highly uncool, side effect of being a decade out of college — I will probably point them toward my only child (so far), the Armed Group Institutions Database (AGID; see our project page here: http://rkthb.co/11859 and watch the video at the bottom of this post). I’m currently an Assistant Professor at Drexel University, where I work on topics in human rights and armed conflict.
The AGID comes out of my sense that political science research has done a pretty lousy job integrating insights from other disciplines. My conviction that we ought to be better at interdisciplinarity is, as one of my Ph.D. advisors correctly stated, “such a Swat thing.” That’s certainly true — I don’t think I’d have read across so many fields without my liberal arts background. It’s equally true, though, that researchers who are stuck inside disciplinary boundaries often get the answers wrong — no matter where we went to college.
The particular set of findings that spurred the development of the AGID is from social psychology. I frequently summarize social psych findings on violent conflict (and violent behavior) as follows: War is bad for your brain. Armed conflict situations are full of stimuli that, experiments show, make people more prone to violence: fear, uncertainty, sleeplessness, general stress, insecurity, glorification of violence, alcohol, drugs, highly traditional masculinities — you name it, war’s got it. Looking at it from that perspective, the puzzling question isn’t “Why do armed groups commit so many human rights violations?” but rather “Why do some armed groups commit so few human rights violations?”
That’s where the AGID comes in. My work suggests (again, borrowing from researchers in psychology, sociology and behavioral economics) that groups that cultivate a strong positive identity around civilian protection, whether by informal methods or formal education, should commit more carefully controlled patterns of violence against civilians. Once complete, the AGID will allow us to test that theory (and along the way will provide a wealth of data about armed group structures that’s never been gathered in one place before).
Interested in getting involved with this research? There are lots of ways to do so. As you may have noticed from the project page (http://rkthb.co/11859), this project is partially crowd-funded, which means that we’re actively looking for help from folks who like science and/or human rights. (Honestly, who doesn’t like science and human rights?) $14 pays for an hour of my research assistant’s work; $110 pays for a whole day. If you don’t have money but you do have time (and you’re an undergraduate who wants to see how cutting-edge social science research works), try your hand at some volunteer data-gathering. Have questions? Just write me: email@example.com.