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Listed below are brief descriptions of our current projects, as of August 2021. Please note that these projects are subject to frequent changes or removal depending on each faculty’s circumstances/needs, even after the applications are due.


Arms Transfers and Alliances: This project examines the decision to provide security to other states through arms transfers, formal alliance contracts, or both. (Led by: Professor Smith)





Conflict Evolution: In this project, the team will research armed groups and violent actors relevant to a variety of conflict cases across the globe. Some groups are small and disorganized while others are well established and play a major role in a given conflict. This project aims to clarify actors’ role in the evolution of conflict networks over time.  (Led by: Professor Dorff)



The Evolution of International Organizations (IOs): This project investigates the motivations behind and the processes leading to IOs’ adoption of major institutional reforms, or significant changes requiring member state agreement in line with IO rules. (Led by: Professor Ritter









Outsourcing Repression: This project investigates why government actors who could use force themselves instead use civilians as agents of state repression. Students examine how states mobilize civilians for violence and collect data on government involvement in race riots in the US. (Led by: Professor Ritter)




Bureaucratic Repression: This project explores the processes by which bureaucrats in all types of states use repression on behalf of national governments, and how that contrasts with the use of violence by government agents.

(Led by: Professor Ritter)




For Whom Does Terrorism Work: Even if terrorists don’t usually achieve their objectives, do the supporters of terrorism nonetheless get what they want? (Led by: Professor Coe)




Slowing Down Nuclear Proliferation: Has the nonproliferation regime been successful in slowing down states’ ability to develop nuclear weapons? (Led by: Professor Coe)





Native American Wars: This project will collect and code conflict events that occurred during the so-called “Indian Wars” in the United States. (Led by: Professor Schram)







Alliances: This project studies the content of military alliances, the optimal design of alliance treaties, and implications for armed conflict. This is for a book project on how alliances might create entangling costs and why those entanglements are, under some circumstances, worth it and, at other times, risky but impossible to avoid. The project studies examples like NATO in addition to examining quantitative data on military alliances throughout history. (Led by: Professor Benson)



China, US, Taiwan Relations: China and Taiwan have a long-standing dispute about Taiwan’s sovereignty. As China has become militarily stronger over the past few decades the dispute over Taiwan has heated up, and there is uncertainty about what role the US might play in the dispute going forward. Today, policies that sustained a fragile security balance in the past have been changed or are being challenged. This project analyzes this security problem for the purpose of adding to our understanding of international relations in general and to understand what policies might decrease tensions and contribute to a resolution of the dispute. (Led by: Professor Benson)





Reducing Prejudice toward Refugees: This project studies the role of social networks in reinforcing and overcoming prejudice, with two likely research sites: Uganda and small-town Tennessee. (Led by: Professor Larson)






Small Arms Trade Networks and Political Violence: This project aims to characterize the political economy of global trade in small arms and light weapons, to show how trade networks are structured and evolve, and to explain how political violence is spread and conserved through these networks. (Led by: Professor Benson)








State vs. Organized Crime Confrontation Data: In this project, the team will research confrontations between Mexican security forces and organized criminal groups. Through this data collection, group members plan to first research how confrontations affect citizens’ experiences with violence and insecurity. Second, for a later project, the team aims to uncover how civilian collective action influences network patterns of violence overtime in Mexico.  (Led by: Professor Frost)



Variation in Interstate Alliances: Alliances are commonly used to maintain cooperation between states. However, alliances can differ greatly in their terms of agreement and scope. This project seeks to understand the variation in alliances and how it affects state behavior. (Led by: Professor Bils)




Economic Origins of War and Peace: When and why did governments shift from viewing the outside world as a realm of threats and targets of predation, to instead viewing it as a place with opportunities for cooperation and mutual prosperity?  We will examine moments in history when this view seems to have changed, including the negotiations over how to end the World Wars, the plans for reconstructing Germany and Japan after WWII, the movements to end the slave trade and abolish slavery in the UK and US, and others.  This project will involve reading histories on and primary sources from these cases, looking for underlying economic incentives for change. (Led by: Professor Coe)



The Significance of Deaths in Bolivian Political Conflict: What meaning do the deaths suffered in political conflict have for social movements and political change?  This project will focus specifically on Bolivia’s political conflict from 1982 to the present.  It will use historical research and interviews to build a database of narratives of all the individuals who died in this conflict. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of the database will contribute to our understanding of the political impact of social movements, political and cultural constraints on violence, and the importance of violence and suffering, life and death in the process of social change. (Led by: Professor Bjork-James)


Political Internet Spaces: How do people use the internet for political, particularly extremist, purposes outside of Twitter and Facebook? To date there is no systematic data collection of political internet use beyond those two platforms.  This project will find, compile, and categorize English-speaking digital platforms beginning in 2003. Building an “actor” list of political internet spaces will enable further research on extremist organizing and mobilizing on these platforms. (Led by: Professor Henry)