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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.


Projects with Pre-Determined Meeting Times

(if you are interested in this project, you need to be able to commit to making this meeting time, which will not be eligible to be changed)


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)

This project will meet Thursdays at 5-6pm every week.


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)

This project will meet on Tuesdays at 5-6pm every week.



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)


This project will meet on Wednesdays at 3-4pm every week.


Other Lab Projects 

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)



Race Riots:  This project investigates the origins of all major race riots in the last 200 years of US history, to identify why police sometimes intervened to stop them but other times aided and abetted the violence. The team will work with collected data to understand patterns, do archival research to read source information about riots, and read scholarship on why race riots begin. (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)



How Useful Are Biological Weapons?: This project will investigate the military and strategic utility of biological weapons, pushing back on a series of alarmist publications about the use of these weapons in future conflicts. The team will assist with the writing of a research article.

(Led by: Professor Schram)



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


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)



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)







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)



Data on Organized Criminal Groups:  How do the profits from organized criminal groups and the goods they provide to local populations relate to the intensity of violent crime?  This project will examine this question in Canada, the US, Spain, and Ecuador.  The team will collect, clean, and compile relevant data from each government’s statistical website, and conduct research about the institutional background for organized crime in each country. (Led by: PhD Candidate Heesun Yoo)



Building Coalitions for Economic Sanctions: What determines the formation of sanctions coalitions? This project will examine what factors affect a state’s participation in sanctions from network perspectives. The team will collect and code data on sanctions coalitions and review scholarly literature on various types of international coalition such as military coalitions. (Led by: PhD Candidate Chae Eun Cho)


Coercive Agents and State Repression: How do a state agent’s incentives to comply with orders for repression balance against competing incentives agents have to limit abuses and avoid punishment for their actions? This project uses case studies and human rights reports to evaluate how the competing incentives of state agents such as police and security forces influence the implementation of repressive policies and the occurrence of abuses against populations. (Led by: PhD Candidate Jennifer Barnes)


The Human Rights Implications of Militarized Disaster Response:  This project focuses on military involvement in domestic humanitarian disaster response and its effects on citizens’ physical integrity rights, specifically in Mexico. The team will perform mapping of events in R, newspaper/Nexis Uni research, and coding data on post-disaster military deployments that received through a Freedom of Information Request from the Mexican government. (Led by: PhD Candidate Margaret Frost)



Exposure to Violence and Anti-Democratic Attitudes:  This project is on exposure to violence and public support for increasing military involvement in governing processes. This includes increasing the military’s control over the legal system and ability to directly assume governing roles (as opposed to the law-enforcement roles they are contracted/legally allowed to fill). The team will clean, code, and analyze data from a survey of 10,000 individuals in municipalities in Mexico. The project will also involve spatial mapping/analysis of distance from specific violent events. (Led by: PhD Candidate Margaret Frost)


Outreach: This team spearheads recruitment efforts, manages ROCCA’s on-campus and online presence, organizes events, and assists faculty mentors with grant applications, among other lab affairs.


Past Projects:

Politics of Nuclear Deterrence and the Nuclear Market: How do states go about extending nuclear deterrence to their allies? This project will examine the differences and similarities between the NATO and Warsaw Pact strategies of extended nuclear deterrence during the Cold War, drawing on primary sources from the historical archives of both sides. A separate activity will study the interaction of supply and demand in the market for nuclear facilities and materials. (Led by: Professor Gheorghe)


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: PhD Candidate Colin Henry)