2019 Award Winners

2019 Best Dissertation Award

Anthony Dest, PhD, “After the War: Violence and Resistance in Colombia”

Based on over ten years of ethnographic research and activism in Colombia, After the War: Violence and Resistance in Colombia provides a firsthand account of communities confronting capitalism in the aftermath of the Peace Accords between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The black and indigenous communities of Northern Cauca profiled throughout the dissertation struggle to build autonomy in spite of immense pressure from the government, drug traffickers, paramilitaries, and guerrillas to acquiesce. Drawing on experiences that range from the negotiating table in Havana to the coca frontiers of Northern Cauca, the dissertation analyzes the bind facing social movements: integrate into the nation-state or expect repression. It therefore explores how the state and powerful political-economic actors contribute to the emergence of conflict amongst subaltern actors throughout Northern Cauca and challenges the assumption that conflict between ethnic groups and political actors is inevitable or natural by showing how it is socially produced. In order to do so, After the War privileges spaces of encounter between locals and outsiders; FARC guerrillas and non-combatants; drug traffickers and Evangelical Christians; black and indigenous social movements and mestizo peasant organizers. The ensuing relational study demonstrates how racism, capitalism, and patriarchy undermine the potential for interethnic coalitions in the context of multiculturalism. As such, After the War explores the perils of enclosure and the potential of emergent forms of struggle for self-determination that depend less on recognition from the state.

Anthony Dest earned his Ph. D. in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2019. His research explores how people struggle against violence, racism, and dispossession throughout the Americas by analyzing the politics and conditions of solidarity. His book manuscript examines why “peace” feels like war in spite of the 2016 Peace Accords between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Dr. Dest has received fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Inter-American Foundation, and Fulbright to support his research. His teaching interests include: race and identity in Latin America; anthropology of development; peace and conflict studies; and social movement theory. He previously worked at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and is currently on the coordinating committee of the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN). To learn more, contact Dr. Dest at dest.anthony@gmail.com.

Best Dissertation Honorable Mention

Modupe Oshikoya, PhD, “Exploring the Impact of Insurgencies on Gender-Based Violence and the Nigerian Armed Forces:  The Boko Haram Case”

The counterinsurgency tactics employed by the Nigerian armed forces to combat Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, otherwise known as Boko Haram, have resulted in widespread human rights violations committed towards the civilian population. These patterns of violence echo the armed forces long history of operating with impunity in past security operations, both within internal security operations in Nigeria, as well as during peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Their behavioral conduct raises important questions of state armed forces who engage in acts of violence against the very population they are tasked to protect whilst under stress. This Ph.D. research seeks to evaluate how the internal organizational culture of the Nigerian armed forces contributes to the perpetration of gender-based violence on the civilian population. Three major research questions are addressed: 1) In what way do militarized masculinities influence the behavior of individuals within the Nigerian armed forces to commit gender-based violence? 2) How does the immediate threat of direct violence by a group like Boko Haram impact on the levels of gender-based violence exhibited by the Nigerian armed forces? 3) What roles do communities have in creating an environment of permissibility that allows the occurrence of gender-based violence by the Nigerian armed forces? 

This research contends that the enduring nature of the Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria has cultivated a unique environment that has led to the ongoing perpetration of gender-based violence by the Nigerian armed forces. As such, the empirical research data evaluates the perpetration of gender-based violence on the civilian population living in active conflict zones impacted by the Boko Haram insurgency, as well as ethnoreligious and inter-communal violence. My original contribution to knowledge is the analysis of the internal organizational culture through external perspectives of the civilian population. Empirical research data from members of the civilian population living with or near deployed armed forces personnel give insights into their behavioral conduct and patterns of gender-based violence. These patterns of behavior by the armed forces personnel reveal shared organizational characteristics of culture that will be analyzed both methodologically and analytically.

Modupe Oshikoya is currently a tenure-track professor in the political science department at Virginia Wesleyan University.  Her current research interests include intra-state conflict, security and gender-based violence in Africa. She recently graduated with a Ph.D. in Global Governance and Human Security from the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston).  Her dissertation examined military violence committed against civilians in conflict zones in Nigeria. She obtained her BA with honors in Politics and Development Studies and an MSc in International Politics with a focus on African Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where her master’s thesis, titled ‘The Logic of Violence in Civil War’ focused on the civil war in Sierra Leone. Modupe previously worked for the House of Commons research service for six years, providing research briefings on international affairs.  She also worked for the British Red Cross on their Disaster Management Programme that helped UK citizens affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami. She co-authored a chapter in the ‘The Handbook of Civil Society in Africa’ (published October 2013), which looks at the effect of civil society organizations on democracy and governance structures in Africa. To learn more, contact Dr. Oshikoya at moshikoya@vwu.edu.

Best Dissertation Honorable Mention

Katelin Helene Siemens Neufeld, PhD, “The Political Solidarity Measure: Development and Validation in University Student Samples”

Although recent decades have seen many steps towards intergroup equality worldwide, many minority groups are still seeking equitable treatment. One route to resolving these inequalities is through political solidarityThere isn’t a comprehensive definition of political solidarity or way to assess it. A measure would allow researchers and advocates to quantify political solidarity and better compare the levels of political solidarity across different studies, contexts, and points in time. For example, measuring political solidarity for a particular “cause” before and after an advocacy campaign would help to determine if the advocacy campaign increased peoples’ solidarity.

To develop a valid and reliable measure, I carefully reviewed existing research and studied social movements. Based on this, I defined political solidarity as having three aspects: allyship with the minority outgroup, a connection to their cause, and a commitment to work with them for social change. Then, following best practices in measurement science, I conducted five studies that developed the “Political Solidarity Measure” or “PSM.” The PSM is a questionnaire: People indicate how much they agree or disagree with nine statements tailored to a specific group or cause (e.g., “I stand in solidarity with _____”). A group of statements assess each of the three aspects of solidarity. Importantly, we found the PSM predicted solidarity in both attitudes and behavior. In one study, people who scored higher on the PSM were more likely to create a public message of support for the outgroup and donate money to a related charity. Click here to read Dr. Neufeld’s full dissertation:  http://hdl.handle.net/1993/33293

Katelin Neufeld’s research interests reflect her upbringing in Treaty 1 Territory. Broadly, her research aims to understand and promote social justice, typically in the context of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations in Canada.  She does so using both qualitative and quantitative methods, which are influenced by her training in experimental social psychology and psychometrics, as well as teachings from Indigenous Elders and community members.  Currently, Katelin is a Research Associate with the Canadian Reconciliation Barometer (Principal Investigator: Katherine Starzyk) at the University of Manitoba, where she also earned her PhD in Social Psychology.

2019 Best Undergraduate Paper Award

Sydney Tisch, “We Each Have Stories to Tell:  A Queer, Activist History of ACT UP/Chicago”

Traditionally, the history of the radical, nonviolent group ACT UP’s (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) fight against the AIDS crisis is told as one that begins and ends in New York City. However, ACT UP was an international organization, where individual chapters grappled with how to best combat the growing AIDS crisis in their own contexts. Having lost a family member due to complications onset by AIDS and after living very close to Chicago for most of my life, I began to wonder who was fighting for the lives of those impacted by AIDS in the Chicago area and how were they doing it. Choosing the ACT UP/Chicago chapter as my case study, I seek to not only uncover its brushed-over history, but also to analyze its effectiveness as a nonviolent organization to create desired change in its local and regional context. 

Using archival data, I use Gene Sharp’s framework of “nonviolent struggle” to analyze ACT UP/Chicago’s goals, opponents, and tactics in order to understand the effectiveness of ACT UP/Chicago’s activism. Due to the large quantity of campaigns ACT UP/Chicago undertook, I categorize each campaign into one of three goals: 1.) to create a statewide public healthcare plan and end pharmaceutical greed; 2.) to create and implement a comprehensive and funded plan to address the AIDS crisis in Chicago; and 3.) to inform and mobilize the Chicago public. Ultimately, I argue that ACT UP/Chicago was fairly successful in creating city- and statewide change due to dedicated planning, an ability to mobilize large numbers of people, and persistent, long-term protesting. I also found that ACT UP as a whole was a much more collaborative organization amongst its own chapters than most histories of it show it to be, suggesting that retellings of the AIDS crisis and ACT UP should divert more attention to the successes of those outside of NYC and the collaborative nature of ACT UP as a whole. Click here to read Sydney Tisch’s full paper.

Sydney Tisch is a graduate of Pace University with a BA in Peace and Justice Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies and a minor in Queer Studies. Her work, focusing on queer justice and histories, has been published in the Dyson Society of Fellows’ peer-reviewed journal Transactions and, most recently, in the August 2019 edition of the International Feminist Journal of Politics. Sydney has also worked as a research assistant to Drs. Emily Bent and Matthew Bolton on topics regarding young feminists’ experiences at the United Nations and the humanitarian impact of nuclear testing in the Pacific region, respectively. Her research with Dr. Matthew Bolton was published by Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute and circulated at the United Nation’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. Some of her research interests include uncovering ignored queer histories, understanding how nonviolent movements function, decoding international debates on nuclear disarmament, playing with “campy” media and its political implications, and exploring the violence of gender/being gendered, among other interdisciplinary issues. She is actively involved with queer activism, such as a student-based campaign she spearheaded that demanded that the president of Pace to release a statement reaffirming the university’s support for transgender students in reaction to President Trump’s October 2018 transphobic memo, making Pace the first New York City-based university to do so.