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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 Colloege 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 wihtout bringing politics into the picture have declined, "other social identifications that we have always had, by race or gender or geography, by urban or rual identity, by religiosity including what religious demonination 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 Repulican. 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

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 hav efuctioned 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.

Nancy Luxon

Professor Nancy Luxon is editor of a forthcoming book, Archives of Infamy: Foucault on State Power in the Lives of Ordinary Citizens. 

Crisscrossing the Atlantic to bring together unpublished radio broadcasts, book reviews, and essays by historians, geographers, and political theorists, Archives of Infamy provides historical and archival contexts to the recent translation of Disorderly Families by Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault. This volume includes new translations of key texts, including a radio address Foucault gave in 1983 that explains the writing process for Disorderly Families; two essays by Foucault not readily available in English; and a previously untranslated essay by Farge that describes how historians have appropriated Foucault.

Archives of Infamy pushes past old debates between philosophers and historians to offer a new perspective on the crystallization of ideas—of the family, gender relations, and political power—into social relationships and the regimes of power they engender.

Professor Luxon joined KUMD to discuss the book.

Comparative Politics

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. Maxism 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 constrasted 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

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 forieng 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.


Jane Sumner

Professor Jane Sumner's article The Gender Balance Assessment Tool (GBAT): A Web-Based Tool for Estimating Gender Balanace in Syllabi and Bibliographies was included in the journal Political Science and Politics most influential articles of 2018! 

This article introduces a web-based tool that scholars can use to assess the gender balance of their syllabi and bibliographies. The citation gap in political science is described briefly as well as why under-citing women relative to men is a problem that should be addressed by the field. The Gender Balance Assessment Toll (GBAT) is presented as a way to make assessing gender balance easier with the aim of remedying the gender gap. This is followed by an outline that explains in nontechnical terms how the tool identifies author names and then predicts their gender to produce a single document-level percentage of women authors. Finally, best practices for diversity in syllabi and bibliographies are discussed, and various public sources that can be used to find scholarly work by women, as well as scholars of color, are listed.

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!

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.

Comparative Politics

David Samuels

After winning major awards for his last book, Democratization: An Elite Competition Approach, Professor David Samuels' new book is headed to press. The new Cambridge University Press title, Partisans, Anti-Partisans, and Non-Partisans: Voting Behavior in Brazilhas received an immense amount of advanced praise. Timothy Power of Oxford University says, "Few works on Brazilian politics have been as theoretically and comparatively informed, or have rivalled the rigourous methodological standards of this study."

Conventional wisdom suggests that partisanship has little impact on voter behavior in Brazil; what matters most is pork-barreling, incumbent performance, and candidates’ charisma. This book shows that soon after redemocratization in the 1980s, more than half of Brazilian voters expressed either a strong affinity or antipathy for or against a particular political party, in particular, that the contours of positive and negative partisanship in Brazil have been shaped mainly by how people feel about one party – the Workers’ Party (PT). Voter behavior in Brazil has largely been structured around sentiment for or against this one party, and not any of Brazil’s many others. We show how the PT managed to successfully cultivate widespread partisanship in a difficult
environment, and also explain the emergence of anti-PT attitudes. We then reveal how positive and negative forms of partisanship shape voters’ attitudes about politics and policy, and how they shape their choices in the ballot booth.