Banners, Barricades, and Bombs: How Social Movements Affect Public Opinion

Protest, Plaza del Sol, Madrid

It’s an argument we’ve heard before: governments should not negotiate with terrorist organizations that engage in violent activity. This idea is pervasive throughout the academic and policy worlds, but what about public opinion? Do citizens think the government should shun social movements that adopt extreme tactics often associated with terrorist organizations?

Social protest takes various forms, and organized social movements have various intentions—from benign disruption to purposeful violence. In their forthcoming paper for Comparative Political Studies, Connor Huff and Dominika Kruszewska look at how the tactical choices of social movements affect public opinion about whether or not—and to what degree—governments should negotiate with social movements.1... Read more about Banners, Barricades, and Bombs: How Social Movements Affect Public Opinion

Pursuing Sustainability—Connecting Science and Practice


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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday will welcome 130 heads of state who have pledged to sign the Paris Agreement, the UN global agreement on managing climate change. For William Clark, Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy, and Human Development at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), sustainability is a global imperative and a scientific challenge like no other.

He sees the Paris Agreement as just one step, though an important one, in this urgent pursuit, as officials wrestle with how to meet the needs of a growing human population without jeopardizing the planet for future generations.... Read more about Pursuing Sustainability—Connecting Science and Practice

On Love and Metamorphosis

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Andrea Ortiz went down to the Charles River on the afternoon that she—victoriously—submitted her senior thesis. There she was, a girl born in Mexico City, an immigrant raised in Miami, a bright light, the first in her family line to get to Harvard. Yet she felt a wave of sadness, and that, she reasoned, made no sense. So she sat by the river to think until it came to her: this was yearning.

“You never accomplish anything alone. I was feeling the absence of the people who were most influential in getting me to this point,” she said later. “I wished they could be here too.”... Read more about On Love and Metamorphosis

Coming of Age, Setting a Goal

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Hanna Amanuel knows something about dignity. Even as a child in the Bronx, she saw it in places others did not—the bravery of new immigrants; the potential in low-income grade schoolers of color who, like her, were often underestimated; and in her mother, a proud woman from the Horn of Africa.

Amanuel will graduate in May. With her sharp intelligence, a Harvard degree and the future it implies might seem to have been a given; an accomplishment, yes, but not an unusual one. That is not the case. She got here because mentors of color drew her onto a path that included competitive private schools, role models, and the reassurance that she too could succeed.... Read more about Coming of Age, Setting a Goal

Bridging Theory and Practice: A Life in the Field

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Robert Bates’s When Things Fell Apart: State Failure in Late-Century Africa released as a classic

During the turmoil in Uganda after the fall of repressive leader Idi Amin Dada, political scientist Robert Bates was in the field. At the time, he was widely known for his astute public policy analysis of agricultural decline in Africa. His war zone experience led to the great concern of the latter part of his career—the study of political violence.... Read more about Bridging Theory and Practice: A Life in the Field

Neoliberal Policy Implementation Goes Hand in Hand with Stronger Symbolic Boundaries

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Jonathan Mijs and Michèle Lamont

Citizens in countries that implemented more rigorous neoliberal policies over the last two decades (1990 to 2010) draw stronger symbolic boundaries between themselves and unwanted others. Based on publicly available data from the European Values Study, our research suggests that neoliberal policy implementation is intricately related to the ways in which citizens define worthiness.... Read more about Neoliberal Policy Implementation Goes Hand in Hand with Stronger Symbolic Boundaries

Research Spotlight: Beth A. Simmons

Researchers Say International Criminal Court is Flawed, But Essential

The International Criminal Court is saving civilian lives in multiple countries, according to research that provides the first quantitative evidence.

The study by professors at Harvard University and Texas A&M, which will be featured in the summer issue of the journal International Organization, has drawn widespread attention from people on either side of a polarized debate about the ICC’s role in international justice.

Vocal critics have long claimed the ICC is an ineffective obstacle to peace processes while enthusiasts believe it useful in advancing global peace and security. The underlying question: is the ICC irreparably flawed or an institution worth investing in?

Now researchers Beth A. Simmons and Hyeran Jo have contributed a systematic study that can impartially inform this pressing debate in international affairs.... Read more about Research Spotlight: Beth A. Simmons

The Secrets of Containment: Making the Invisible Visible

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Peter Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor at Harvard University, is fascinated by the “concrete visuals behind what might appear to be pure abstraction.” His new film Containment is about nuclear waste and its safekeeping for now and the next 10,000 years.

The film is co-directed with Robb Moss, Harvard College Professor and chair of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, a friend with whom Galison also produced the documentary Secrecy, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008.... Read more about The Secrets of Containment: Making the Invisible Visible

Scholars and the Public Eye

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Harvard professor Jennifer Hochschild remembers the first time a scholarly article about blogging came across her desk. She laughs now describing how she and fellow editors at Perspectives on Politics did not know what to make of it in 2003.

“We spent a lot of time among the editors saying, ‘Is this really political science? Is this really appropriate? Is this a flash in the pan? Is this a game?’” said Hochschild, a professor of government and African and African American studies at Harvard and president of the American Political Science Association. “I don’t think we were hostile. We just didn’t understand it.”... Read more about Scholars and the Public Eye

Q & A on Scholars and the Public Eye

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Condensed from interviews with Noah Feldman, Jennifer Hochschild, and Dani Rodrik.

 —with Noah Feldman

Q. How was writing for a popular audience viewed within the academic world earlier in your career and has that attitude changed?

A. When I started teaching in 2001, some of my senior colleagues thought that the fact that you wrote something that a non-academic would want to read was active evidence that what you’re writing couldn’t be of value to scholars. Happily, things have really changed enormously now. Now many scholars understand the real question isn’t “what is the genre a person is writing in?” It is “what’s the content of the argument a person is making?” And a subtle, sophisticated, and scholarly argument doesn’t always have to be wrapped up in inaccessible jargon.... Read more about Q & A on Scholars and the Public Eye

Noah Feldman on How to Write for a Popular Audience

These tips are condensed from an interview.

Here’s the unspoken secret of the contemporary media world: in the age of the Internet and social media, every single media outlet is hungry for good content. That ranges from the more popular aspects of scholarly journals straight through to the big media news generators—whether that’s Huffington Post or even Buzzfeed or Vice.

The point is that it doesn’t have to only be the New York Times or the Boston Globe or the Washington Post. They’re all eager for interesting content that nobody else is providing, and that’s what scholars have to offer. We’re never telling the same story that everybody else is telling because we’re aiming to say something original from a scholarly perspective. Whether we’re right or wrong, we always have something new to say.

Six things to keep in mind:

  1. When the media call you, take their calls because that’s how you begin the process of getting your ideas out there. I think many academics think, “Oh, I’m not going to take all those media calls because it’s a distraction.” Or, “It’s not narrowly within my expertise.”... Read more about Noah Feldman on How to Write for a Popular Audience

A Life’s Work Battling Religious Illiteracy

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As prejudice toward Muslim Americans heightens, a Harvard professor welcomes the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of Shia Ismaili Muslims, and a champion of pluralism

Ali Asani is once again disheartened about the destruction of another cultural treasure as a result of narrow exclusivist mentalities taking root in nations all over the world. In the Middle East this exclusivism is associated with the upsurge of tribalism that threatens the very existence of nation-states. When the self-declared Islamic State recently decimated the iconic Arch of Triumph in Palmyra, Syria, Asani was horrified but not surprised.... Read more about A Life’s Work Battling Religious Illiteracy

Making Education Count

Finding Possibilities of Peace in the Unlikeliest of Places

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Sarah Dryden-Peterson, assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (GSE), has spent years investigating the dimensions of education in conflict settings. During her time at GSE, her mission has proved ever more important as conflicts intensifying in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and Somalia both demand immediate action and provide new opportunities for exploration.... Read more about Making Education Count

What Others Think of Us

Social Esteem and Participation in Contentious Politics

Taking a look at recent episodes of social unrest, public protest, and other forms of contentious politics around the globe will tell you a lot about 2014. 

The year opened with violence in Kiev as thousands took to Independence Square in the Ukrainian capital to remove the Yanukovych government from power. Gay rights activists in St. Petersburg, Russia—but also throughout the world in a display of solidarity—protested the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in light of Russia’s controversial laws on “non-traditional” sexuality.... Read more about What Others Think of Us