Faculty & Staff

Faculty Research

Robert Griffiths

Griffiths Book

As Africa’s strategic importance has increased over the past decade and a half, United States security cooperation with the continent has expanded. The most visible dimension of this increased engagement was the establishment of the U.S. Military Command for Africa (AFRICOM). Some critics are skeptical of AFRICOM’s purpose and see the militarization of U.S. Africa policy while others question its effectiveness. Recognizing the link between development and security, AFRICOM represents a departure from the traditional organization of military commands because of its holistic approach and the involvement of the Department of State as well as other U.S. government stakeholders. Nevertheless, AFRICOM’s effort to combine security and development faces formidable conceptual and operational challenges in trying to ensure both American and African security interests. The human security perspective’s emphasis on issues that go beyond traditional state-centered security to include protecting individuals from threats of hunger, disease, crime, environmental degradation, and political repression as well as focusing on social and economic justice is an important component of security policy. At the same time, the threat of violent extremism heavily influences U.S. security cooperation with Africa.

In this examination of the context of U.S.-African security relations, Robert J. Griffiths outlines the nature of the African state, traces the contours of African conflict, surveys the post-independence history of U.S. involvement on the continent, and discusses policy organization and implementation and the impact of U.S. experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan on the U.S.-Africa security relationship. Africa’s continuing geostrategic significance, the influence of China and other emerging markets in the region, and America’s other global engagements, especially in light of U.S. fiscal realities, demonstrate the complexity of U.S.-African security cooperation.

Gregory E. McAvoy

McAvoy Book Cover

Amidst the polarization of contemporary politics, partisan loyalties among citizens are regarded as one contributor to political stalemate. Partisan loyalties lead Democrats and Republicans to look at the same economic information but to come to strikingly different conclusions about the state of the economy and the performance of the president in managing it. As a result, many observers argue that democratic politics would work better if citizens would shed their party loyalty and more dispassionately assess political and economic news.

In this book, Gregory E. McAvoy argues—contra this conventional wisdom; that partisanship is a necessary feature of modern politics, making it feasible for citizens to make some sense of the vast number of issues that make their way onto the political agenda. Using unique data, he shows that the biases and distortions that partisanship introduces to collective opinion are real, but despite them, collective opinion changes meaningfully in response to economic and political news. In a comparison of the public’s assessment of the economy to those of economic experts, he finds a close correspondence between the two over time, and that in modern democracies an informed public will also necessarily be partisan.

Allison Bramwell

Allison Bramwell Book Cover

Today more than ever, cities matter to the economic and social well-being of the vast majority of Canadians. Canada’s urban centers are simultaneously the engines of the national economy and the places where the risks of social exclusion are most concentrated, making innovative and inclusive urban governance an urgent national priority.

Governing Urban Economies is the first detailed scholarly examination of relations among governmental and community-based actors in Canadian city-regions. Comparing patterns of municipal-community relations and federal-provincial interactions across city-regions, this volume tracks the ways in which urban coalitions tackle complex economic and social challenges. Featuring an inter-disciplinary group of established and up-and-coming scholars, this collection breaks new ground in the Canadian urban politics literature and will appeal to urbanists working in a range of national contexts.

Fabrice Lehoucq

Fabrice Lehoucq Book Cover

This book analyzes the origins and consequences of civil war in Central America. Fabrice Lehoucq argues that the inability of autocracies to reform themselves led to protest and rebellion throughout the twentieth century and that civil war triggered unexpected transitions to non-military rule by the 1990s. He explains how armed conflict led to economic stagnation and why weak states limit democratization - outcomes that unaccountable party systems have done little to change. This book also uses comparisons among Central American cases - both between them and other parts of the developing world - to shed light on core debates in comparative politics and comparative political economy. This book suggests that the most progress has been made in understanding the persistence of inequality and the nature of political market failures, while drawing lessons from the Central American cases to improve explanations of regime change and the outbreak of civil war.

David Holian and Charles Prysby

David Holian Book Cover

Voter perceptions of the personal traits of presidential candidates are widely regarded to be important influences on the vote. Media pundits frequently explain the outcome of presidential elections in terms of the personal appeal of the candidates. Despite the emphasis on presidential character traits in the media, the scholarly investigation in this area is limited.  In this book, Professors Holian and Prysby set out to examine the effect that trait perceptions have on the vote, how these perceptions are shaped by other attitudes and evaluations, what types of voters are most likely to cast a ballot on the basis of the character traits, and how varying patterns of media consumption influence voters’ reliance on their perceptions of the character traits of the presidential candidates. The authors examine presidential elections from 1980 to 2012 and find that traits do have a very substantial effect on the vote, that different candidates have advantages on different traits, and that the opinions expressed by media pundits about how the candidates are viewed by the voters are often simplistic, and sometimes flat out wrong.

“Candidate Character Traits in Presidential Elections is an extraordinary analysis that contributes a new level of understanding to an area much discussed but relatively neglected by social scientists. The personal qualities and character perceptions of presidential candidates are assumed to affect voter decision-making. Precisely how and of what degree of importance compared to other influences has been a murky area for interpretation. This is no longer the case. Holian and Prysby assess how such qualities impact the vote; what shapes and influences the development of such perceptions; and the types of voters most likely to perceive individual personalities as determinants of their votes. They do it with style and an in-depth familiarity with their subjects that in itself provides a good read. This is an exceptionally sophisticated study, one that fills a major void in our analysis of voting behavior. It should be required reading for all students of elections and the forces that serve to shape the outcomes.”  —William Crotty, Thomas P. O'Neill Chair in Public Life and Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University.

Susan Johnson

Susan Johnson Book Cover

Professor Susan Johnson’s research focuses on judicial behavior in the United States and Canada.  In her recent book on the nature of judicial behavior in the Supreme Court of Canada, Johnson and her co-authors use qualitative and quantitative research strategies to examine judicial decision making and to show how a collegial court setting shapes these decisions. The authors critically examine the ideological tendencies of decision making using confidential interviews with the justices, analysis of their decisions from 1970 to 2005, and unique measures of the justices’ ideologies. Their findings strongly conclude that political ideology is a key factor in decision making and a prominent source of conflict in the Supreme Court of Canada.

“This is a methodologically sound, substantively interesting, and yet accessible volume. The book expands on earlier assessments of attitudinal decision making in Canada by applying a macro-level perspective of judicial decision-making rather than taking a micro-level look at specific subfields of law. It also expands on the methods of the earlier studies of the Court by the concurrent application of several methods to achieve a broader and yet more exact assessment of ideology’s role in judicial decisions making, offering a unique contribution to attitudinal literature.” -  Reza Barmaki, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Book review in Canadian Journal of Sociology, v37 (n4) (Fall 2012): 450(4).

Carisa Showden

Carisa Showden Book Cover

This book illustrates how the politics surrounding sex work shape individual and collective agency. Negotiating Sex Work rejects the divided framework that the selling of sexual acts is either legitimate work or a form of exploitation, instead offering diverse and compelling contributions that reframe these viewpoints. A timely and necessary intervention into sex work debates, this volume challenges how policy makers and the broader public regard sex workers’ capacity to advocate for their own interests.

Carisa Showden

Carisa Showden Book Cover

Professor Carisa Showden, whose research focuses on political theory and feminist theory, recently published Choices Women Make, with The University of Minnesota Press.  Choices Women Make looks at the political, economic, and social forces affecting how different groups of women, in a variety of situations, exercise agency. In so doing, it interrogates what we mean when we say someone has "agency" or can act as an "agent" for herself. The book explains how agency--commonly understood as an individual construct--is fundamentally social and political in its development. To explore what social and political agency looks like, Showden looks at how and why different groups of women make decisions in the contexts of intimate partner violence, assisted reproduction, and prostitution.