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2021 Senior Honors Thesis Presentations

  • Kathleen Fallon

    "What Mediators Mean for Peace: Analyzing the Implications of Local, Regional, and International Mediation Efforts on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Matt Zierler

    Abstract

    The United Nations has long been a vestibule for peace for the international community. Since the creation of UN peacekeeping operations following World War II, the blue helmets have been used as a sigil of international dedication toward worldwide peace. However, the success at which these operations have been able to fulfill this task has been inconsistent, mandated action often deviating from action taken on the ground. Given this relationship, this thesis looks to address this issue by looking into the involvement of international actors in mediation processes associated with major peace agreements. In this thesis, I posit that the greater involvement of local or regional groups in these negotiations indicate greater strength of the associated peacekeeping operation, operating off the assumption that a mediating actor with closer proximity to the negotiating parties will have better insight on the solutions needed in the area than other international actors. Looking at the examples of the mediation processes in Côte d'Ivoire, Central African Republic, and Mali, I analyze the proportionate involvement of mediating parties relative to the efficacy of the correlated peacekeeping operation. I find that, through the purview of the three case studies considered, there is not conclusive evidence for the relationship I pose. The complexity of the case studies provided ultimately brought about different implications for each mediation process and each peacekeeping operation, indicating that the role of certain actors is more complex than can be summarized in the scheme used in this work. Nonetheless, this work does establish the continued potential for improving how and by whom peace is made, emphasizes the prevailing presence of France in its postcolony, and finally suggests that a greater issue may lie in the breach of Vattelian sovereignty by international actors in these mediation processes.

  • Callie Keller

    "Japan and R.O.K Security Relations through G.S.O.M.I.A

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Simei Qing

    Abstract

    This research project will seek to re-analyze the nature of security relations in the region through this pact to better understand the bilateral pact and its relevance to a bilateral relationship between South Korea and Japan. To analyze this, the paper will ask “What factors best explain the current nature of Japan, American, and South Korean security relations as exemplified in the General Security of Military Information Agreement (G.S.O.M.I.A)?”. This question will not only analyze a potential for bilateral security interests between Japan and South Korea but will also seek to question what America’s role is in Asian regional security and if the nature of the security environment is changing.

  • Julia Kemple-Johnson

    "The Commodification of Privacy"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Lisa Barksdale-Shaw

    Abstract

    In the United States, technology companies capitalize on a lack of knowledge, regulation, and common understanding of what should be “private” in the digital realm through predatory data-mining practices. This thesis crafts a comprehensive system to protect individuals from egregious violations of their privacy in the digital realm through a multi-faceted analysis of the right to privacy from the 1890s to the present.  By examining this time period, I can track the evolution of the legal right to privacy from its theoretical inception in Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis’s “The Right to Privacy” to the patchwork framework of protections provided in various United States Supreme Court decisions and legislation. To determine what aspects of privacy should be protected, I engage in a study of the philosophy of privacy in the modern era and adapt the pragmatic approach to defining privacy in the digital realm that Daniel Solove explores in “Conceptualizing Privacy. My legal and philosophic analyses of the right to privacy allow me to critically examine various solutions to privacy violations in the digital realm based on their effectiveness and feasibility. This thesis argues that the United States must implement a statutory limitation on the commodification of data based on the European Union’s Fair Information Practices as set forth in the EU Directive 95/46/EC, where the State regulates data mining, instead of relying on the goodwill of technology companies or expecting individual citizens to protect themselves.

     

  • Elizabeth Lancaster

    "When We Go One, We Go All: QAnon and the Modern Political Conspiracy Theory"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor John Jackson

    Abstract

    On January 6th, 2021, rioters stormed the Capitol in protest of what they believed to be a stolen election. Though this was not the first time QAnon was in the spotlight, the riot was many people’s first introduction to the conspiracy theory. But what is QAnon, and why do so many people believe in it? QAnon is a conspiracy theory which claims that the Hollywood and Washington elite are part of a plot in which they partake in sex trafficking, kidnapping, pedophilia, and cannibalism; but that Donald Trump and his associates are secretly working to take them down. QAnon is a particularly fascinating belief system, as it brings together completely disparate groups with sometimes vastly different beliefs. This presentation will explain how white, suburban parents ended up believing in the same conspiracy theory as far-right antisemites. Through polysemy, right-wing populism, and a paranoid outlook of the world, QAnon has managed to unite people to save the world from the global elite and their Satanic cabal.

  • Allison Lobia

    "Analysis of Interventions to Manage IUU Fishing in Comparative Context: Transponders and PSMA Implementation"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Mark Axelrod

     Abstact

    Every year, billions of US dollars are lost due to illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing around the world, not to mention the severe toll IUU fishing plays on the long-term sustainability of fish stocks, but countries can take action through policy to combat these practices. India, Cambodia, Namibia, Peru, Somalia, and Indonesia, six countries with variable levels of government involvement in international sustainable fisheries policies, are compared to determine if certain policies lend themselves to decreases in IUU fishing. By assessing catch quantities and IUU catch estimates over multiple data points, trends were discovered in connection with policy implementation choices. While illegal behavior is difficult to control and detect, certain governance actions such as transparency, communication and cooperation can combat IUU activity. These changes, although implemented by governments, must be motivated or approved by the people or the changes will not be effective nor be likely to stay implemented. Those countries engaged in data transparency from vessel monitoring showed improvements in identifying vessel activity and identification is necessary to act. Conversely, the countries widely did not share the same improvements by implementing the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) but did facilitate communication between governments. In this way, PSMA has been able to increase global response and encourage more widespread sustainable governance while combatting IUU fishing. As these findings show, the use and sharing of transponder data will be influential in the coming years, and will promote more countries to increase monitoring, transparency and global communication. This study demonstrates the importance of not only monitoring resource use, but also how that information is used after it is collected. Additionally, while PSMA facilitates increased communication and transparency, it does not influence countries’ IUU responses to the same level transponders are able to achieve.

     

  • Anthony Luongo

    "Thinking Beyond the State: U.S. Democracy Assistance in Africa since the Cold War"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Matt Zierler

    Abstract

    Since the end of the Cold War, most countries on the African continent have experienced significant political liberalization without complete democratization. During the Cold War, the US prioritized the containment of communism over democracy promotion, resulting in support for sometimes brutal but cooperative autocrats. Since the Cold War ended, the US has mostly – but not unconditionally – committed to more serious democracy promotion on the continent. In this project, I explore the impact of US democracy assistance – a major component of democracy promotion – on the African continent since the end of the Cold War, arguing that the most effective aid empowers ordinary citizens to resist state domination through civil society action and elections. Such assistance supports but importantly does not replace a strong domestic push for democracy. By contrast, aid that works with states – most often to pursue developmental goals – tends to feed patronage networks that reduce incumbents’ need to gain legitimacy through democratic processes. I test this theory with quantitative analyses that are accompanied by qualitative case studies to more clearly identify relevant causal mechanisms. My findings are relevant to scholars of democratization as well as policymakers concerned with improving democracy promotion strategies

     

  • Seth Marvin-Vanderryn

     "The Victory of the Animal Laborans: Environmental Degradation and Modern Discontent"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Brianne Wolf

    Abstract

    Relying heavily on Hannah Arendt's thought, my paper aims to argue a politics defined by material interests is flawed - climate change and the modern loss of meaning are realizations of these flawed politics. While many believe these two problems need to be addressed merely by changes in policy, argue their existence signals large political problems in the modern world.

  • Delaney McDermott

     "Bridging the Gaps Between Arab Americans: How Identity Formation and Trumpian Immigration Policy Creates Difference Between Arabs in the U.S.

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Linda Sayed



    Isabelle Thelen - "The Position of Christian Citizens Within Non-Christian Politics in the Writings of Saint Augustine"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Ben Lorch

    Abstract

    This thesis examines how a Christian citizen might approach a non-Christian politics. In order to investigate this question, the thesis seeks to understand the political teachings of Christianity by turning to several writings of Saint Augustine, who articulates with incredible clarity and originality what politics should be according to Christianity as well as whether and how Christians should participate in their political communities when these seem incompatible with the demands of the Christian faith. In the dialogue On Free Choice of Will, the thesis examines whether or not Christian citizens ought to engage in the political life at all considering the moral compromises inherent in politics. In the dialogue, Augustine implies that the political life deserves appreciation by modifying the antipolitical morality of his student, Evodius. The thesis next considers what sort of politics Christian citizens might aim towards in practice by turning to Augustine’s correspondence. The thesis concludes by asking both whether politics is an essential part of a virtuous Christian life and whether the Christian political teachings articulated by Augustine throughout his writings are justifiable based on reason alone. These questions are explored in Book XIX from the City of God, which argues that the proper end of a human life is eternity but also suggests that this end does not preclude and may even require participation in politics and society.  

  • Danny Olweean

    "Farmers, Workers, and Pandemic Relief"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Anna Pegler-Gordon

  • Shiksha Sneha

    "Being Desi: Studying South Asian American Political Behavior"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Sejuti Das Gupta
     Abstract

    South Asian Americans make up 5.4 million of the 18.4 million Asian Americans. The population increased by about 40% from 2010 to 2017 and is one of the fastest growing voting populations in the United States. However, literature and research surrounding South Asian political behavior is severely lacking. Existing literature primarily focuses on the cultural aspect of that community or studies political behavior of Asian Americans as a homogeneous category. This paper investigates the relationship between cultural identity and political behavior. It uses mixed methods combining secondary and primary data. The primary data is drawn from 14 long interviews of old and young respondents, in addition to a survey. Overall, two main findings are a) the younger group did not have as many socioeconomic struggles when they were growing up and b) they are more depoliticized than the older generation.

  • Isabelle Thelen

    "The Position of Christian Citizens Within Non-Christian Politics in the Writings of Saint Augustine"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Ben Lorch

    Abstract

    This thesis examines how a Christian citizen might approach a non-Christian politics. In order to investigate this question, the thesis seeks to understand the political teachings of Christianity by turning to several writings of Saint Augustine, who articulates with incredible clarity and originality what politics should be according to Christianity as well as whether and how Christians should participate in their political communities when these seem incompatible with the demands of the Christian faith. In the dialogue On Free Choice of Will, the thesis examines whether or not Christian citizens ought to engage in the political life at all considering the moral compromises inherent in politics. In the dialogue, Augustine implies that the political life deserves appreciation by modifying the antipolitical morality of his student, Evodius. The thesis next considers what sort of politics Christian citizens might aim towards in practice by turning to Augustine’s correspondence. The thesis concludes by asking both whether politics is an essential part of a virtuous Christian life and whether the Christian political teachings articulated by Augustine throughout his writings are justifiable based on reason alone. These questions are explored in Book XIX from the City of God, which argues that the proper end of a human life is eternity but also suggests that this end does not preclude and may even require participation in politics and society.  

  • Chris Tyson

    "Our Work Begins Here: Settler Colonialism, Land-Grant Universities, and Ecological Catastrophe"

    • Faculty Advisor: Professor Tacuma Peters

    Abstract

    This project attempts to grapple with past, existing, and future ecological catastrophes. Specifically, I explore the relationship between land-grant universities, settler colonialism, and world-transforming ecological destruction. Focusing on two periods of land-grant university history - the latter half of the 19 century and the beginning of the 21st century - I argue that MSU (and land-grant universities in general) are not simply ill-equipped to address climate catastrophe. These universities’ histories of colonialism and dispossession, production of knowledge and citizens that are harmful to human and non-human life, role in capitalist development, and management of land and ecosystems along settler lines means that they are active producers of climate change.