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Featured Faculty

Our faculty members are on the cutting edge of research in all of the sub-fields of political science. Their publications drive understandings of theory, define historical context, and set the stage for research done around the world. Here is a sample of our featured faculty members and the work and research they do.

Political Psychology

Howard Lavine

Howard Lavine is the Associate Dean of the Social Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Arleen C. Carlson Professor of Political Science and Psychology. His work centers on the psychological underpinnings of mass political behavior, populism, partisan asymmetries, and democratic inversion. 

"The way things should work is that you form policy preferences. Those should come first - substantive political preferences. Then your party identification and candidate choices should reflect those substantive policy preferences," Lavine explains. The idea of democratic inversion suggests that it's working the other way around. 

"What many people are doing is identifying with a party first, or perhaps a particular candidate," Lavine says. "Then they find out what the party, or the candidate's, preferences are; then change their own minds, to move into alignment with a candidate or partisan position. That's the 'inversion.'"

While American membership in groups and associations that add elements to people's identities without bringing politics into the picture have declined, "other social identifications that we have always had, by race or gender or geography, by urban or rural identity, by religiosity including what religious denomination we belong to, these are lining up more and more with the political parties," Lavine says. "So all of who you are aligns with whether you're a Democrat or Republican. People are less motivated by policy substance than they are with showing their loyalty to the team."

Professor Lavine's work can be read in Open versus Closed: Personality, Identity and the Politics of Redistrubution and The Ambivalent Partisan: How Critical Loyalty Promotes Democracy.

Political Theory

Anuja Bose

Professor Anuja Bose joined the Department of Political Science in Fall 2019. Professor Bose observes that solidarity is evoked as a crucial resource for social movements to mobilize effectively. It is also often evoked to describe the dense civic ties that are necessary for nation-states to be held together cohesively. There are two forms of solidarity at work here: the political solidarity of social movements and the social solidarity of nation-states.
 
I am interested in thinking about the relationship between these two forms of solidarity. For example, how do the relations of political solidarity in social movements re-articulate the settled forms of social solidarity in nation-states? I turn to the era of decolonization in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean to think about this question.  Decolonization was one of the most transformative political changes of the 20th century, and when we turn to political theorists from this era, we can see profound reformulations of both social and political solidarity, and therefore of political community more generally.

Read more about Decolonization and Solidarity.

Robert Nichols

Professor Robert Nichols latest book, Theft is Property! Dispossession and Critical Theorypublished by Duke University Press, is due out January 2020. 

Drawing upon Indigenous peoples' struggles against settler colonialism, Theft is Property! reconstructs the concept of dispossession as a means of explaining how shifting configurations of law, property, race, and rights have functioned as modes of governance, both historically and in the present. Through close analysis of arguments by Indigenous scholars and activists from the nineteenth century to the present, Nichols argues that dispossession has come to name a unique recursive process whereby systematic theft is the mechanism by which property relations are generated. In so doing, Nichols also brings longstanding debates in anarchist, Black radical, feminist, Marxist, and postcolonial thought into direct conversation with the frequently overlooked intellectual contributions of Indigenous peoples.

Comparative Politics

Lisa Hilbink

Professor Lisa Hilbink studies comparative constitutionalism and the justice system in Chile and Latin America. In recent years, she has been focusing on human rights and popular perceptions of the justice system in those regions, examining how those perceptions affect people’s willingness to turn to the courts when rights are violated. 

In August 2017, Hilbink and graduate students Bridget Marchesi and Valentina Salas traveled to Colombia and Chile to conduct research for their project Equal Rights & Unequal Remedies: Understanding Citizen Perceptions of and Engagement with the Judicial System, which was funded by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Human Rights Initiative. 

In November 2019, Hilbink returned to Chile on a previously planned research trip to work with Chilean partners to create an educational program with and for low-income people to develop their knowledge of constitutional rights and legal literacy. On October 18, just weeks before Hilbink was scheduled to make this trip, long simmering tensions exploded into demonstrations and violence, triggered by a hike in the subway fares in Santiago. Unexpectedly, she witnessed firsthand a historic rupture in the legal status quo connected to the Pinochet dictatorship and the beginning of a process to write the first ever constitution with democratic origins in Chile. 

Read more about Professor Hilbink's historic trip to Chile.

August Nimtz

Described as "an extraordinary work of political historical analysis," Professor August Nimtz has completed his new book, due to be published in late 2019. Marxism versus Liberalism: Comparative Real-Time Political Analysis will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in the Marx, Engels, and Marxisms series.

Performing a comparative real-time political analysis, Marxism versus Liberalism presents convincing evidence to sustain two similarly audacious claims: firstly, that Karl Marx and Frederick Engels collectively had better democratic credentials than Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill; and secondly, that Vladimir Lenin had better democratic credentials than Max Weber and Woodrow Wilson. When the two sets of protagonists are compared and contrasted in how the read and responded to big political events in motion, this book contends that these Marxists proved to be better democrats than the history's most prominent Liberals. Exploring the historical scenarios of The European Spring of 1848, the United States Civil War, the 1905 Russian Revolution, the 1917 Russian Revolution, and the end of World War I, Marxism versus Liberalism carefully tests each claim in order to challenge assumed political wisdom.

International Relations

Tanisha Fazal

Professor Tanisha Fazal's widely anticipated book, Wars of Law: Unintended Consequences in the Regulation of Armed Conflict, was published in May 2018. This work assesses the unintended consequences of the proliferation of the laws of war. In the mid-19th century there was one codified law of war. In 2018, there are over 70 such laws, and they place increasing constraints on belligerents. I argue that this increase has generated significant consequences for the commencement, conduct, and conclusion of both interstate and civil wars. States fighting interstate wars today prefer not to step over any bright lines where the laws of war would apply unequivocally. Thus, these states have stopped declaring war and concluding peace treaties. Rebel groups – particularly, secessionists that seek their own independent state – by contrast, have increasingly engaged with the laws of war. Secessionists are relatively unlikely to target civilians, and there is an increasing rate of peace treaty usage in civil wars that contrasts with the decline in interstate war. This research is based on two major original datasets as well as a series of case studies, and is particularly unusual in combining analysis of interstate and civil wars.

Professor Fazal taught a Summer 2020 course on the International Relations of COVID-19. Watch the video recap Professor Fazal shared on Twitter.

Mark Bell

Professor Mark Bell has been announced as the winner of 2019's Amos Perlmutter Prize for his essay, "Nuclear Opportunism: A Theory of How States Use Nuclear Weapons in International Politics." This prize recognizes the most outstanding essay submitted for publication by junior faculty members to the Journal of Strategic Studies and is named in memory of the founding editor of the journal.  In his essay, Bell offers a theory to explain why emerging nuclear powers use nuclear weapons to facilitate different foreign policies, such as becoming more or less aggressive, providing additional support to allies or proxies, seeking independence from allies, or expanding the state's goals.

American Politics

Tim Johnson

When the U.S. Supreme Court makes decisions, almost all of its process takes place in secret. Most secretive are the conference discussions where the justices privately deliberate about cases and cast initial votes. Unfortunately, the only records kept during these meetings are the justices' personal handwritten notes not available to the public until they leave the Court and grant public access open to their archives. Professor Tim Johnson's latest project, SCOTUSNotes, asks volunteers to transcribe these notes in an effort to better understand how law and legal policy are made by the U.S. Supreme Court.

With support from the National Science Foundation Johnson has endeavored to provide unprecedented access to historical Supreme Court conference discussions. Specifically, we have gathered justices’ notes to provide a systematic account of what transpires during the Court’s conference. Beginning February 13, 2018 we will begin the process of transcribing notes taken by Justices Harry A. Blackmun and William J. Brennan. These papers include more than 12,000 pages of conference notes spanning the 1959 to the 1993 terms and they include an estimated 3 million words of text.

Fully transcribed notes will allow us to answer a variety of questions including, but not limited to, how conference discussion frames majority, dissenting, or concurring opinions, the extent to which justices discuss precedent, whether they discuss separation of powers issues, and the degree to which justices may switch votes during the discussions.

Listen to Professor Johnson discuss his project!

Read about SCOTUS Notes.