Mentor Meeting #2

I met with my mentor, Dr. Lauren Carruth, on December 8, 2016 for about half an hour. I had sent her an email a couple of weeks earlier to detail the progress I had made in class on my research topic, questions, and methodological decisions, so in the meeting we mainly discussed some of the details of the topic and scholarship surrounding it, some of the choices I need to make for planning my research, and other perspectives or factors for me to consider as I move forward.

We agreed that a small-n, case study analysis would probably be best suited to investigating the elements of coercive migration present in the European migrant crisis, because it would allow me to delve more deeply into the case that I am most interested in studying, and because there is so little existing scholarship on the topic of coercive migration that a deep study could reveal characteristics that would be important to broader, statistical study of such coercion. We discussed some of the confusing aspects of the topic related to definitions of terms like coercive migration (as opposed to forced migration) and what constitutes “successful” deterrence of coercion. The general trend in the literature I have read defines successful deterrence as somehow both avoiding doing what the coercer wants and avoiding accepting the consequences imposed by the coercer. However, I think successful deterrence of coercive migration might be more complicated than that or require different criteria altogether, since it is difficult to choose not to accept demographic changes. That is a decision I will have to work toward as I continue to read scholarly work on the subject and conduct my own research—perhaps I will only be able to decide at the conclusion of my project. Dr. Carruth encouraged me to be critical of theoretical definitions of success in compellence and deterrence, and to keep an eye out for places where the theory may not fit the empirical evidence.

She also suggested that I look at historical examples of coercive migration (such as the Mariel boatlift) that seem to have contexts parallel to the situation in Europe so I have a better idea of the different factors that might be more consequential than others, and she suggested considering how narratives of “deservingness” (whether refugees, especially of certain origins, should be given access to citizenship and welfare services, et cetera) affect the level of coercion or deterrence between Russia and the EU. We discussed other factors like populism and nationalism, which might also play into the EU’s decision to endure coercive migration or not and could also be indicators of whether Russia is successfully destabilizing the EU. I also need to find more literature on the effects that the proximity of a problem has on state decisionmaking.

We also discussed Dr. Carruth’s plans for her fieldwork in the spring, my involvement in a campus organization that advocates for refugees, and general current events surrounding refugees and newcomers in DC and in other parts of the world. As far as planning for class in the spring semester, I will need to decide whether to do interviews, and with whom, so that I can begin the IRB process as soon as possible if it is necessary for my project. Over the break, I will continue to stay updated on current events in Europe and the migrant crisis, especially any intergovernmental/international negotiations, and I will continue reading scholarly, peer-reviewed work to build my understanding of the variables that other schools of thought regard as important.

August 31 Mentor Meeting

I met with my mentor, Dr. Carruth, on Wednesday, August 31 to introduce myself and get to know her. Though I was a little nervous, she was very gracious and enthusiastic. I told her that my broad interest is in the politics of migration, and that I while have some ideas about where I might focus my project, I am still investigating and looking for puzzles in the field. I explained to her the research project I completed last year on migration to the European Union, and I asked her about her recommendations for reading. Although migration is not her main focus, Dr. Carruth suggested that I stay as informed as possible on current events regarding migration, and she mentioned several news apps that track keywords to curate content about migration from various news publications. Her other main suggestion was to consider the individual, personal narratives of migrants as a way to see puzzles in the broader picture. This was a new idea for me, and I plan on really trying to explore that aspect of migration.

I also asked Dr. Carruth about the research she does. She focuses on public health in the Horn of Africa, where she said there are several health puzzles, including the effects of rapidly changing diets in different populations. She noted that many of the people she has been researching have had family members attempt to migrate to Turkey or Europe, or have done so themselves. I’d like to ask her more about this in the future. Unfortunately, we were only able to meet for fifteen minutes due to schedule constraints, but I’m excited for our next meeting, and I plan on being more prepared for in-depth conversations about my research and research in general.

I think my main concern right now is time management through the research process. How much time should I be spending doing general research, just accumulating information? Will I know when I have enough information? I may need to set concrete reading goals and deadlines for myself so that I stay on track. I’m also concerned about keeping good track of my sources, but as we discussed in class, I can set up Endnote to help me with that issue. I think that will be a matter of diligence and even a bit of perfectionism to make sure I record my sources fairly and accurately.

My next steps are to continue reading as much as possible, and to read widely. I will definitely look for any triangulation of sources, as Dr. Boesenecker put it, and I have to remember that not all of my sources will necessarily be focused on migration (they could be more related to policy, theory, history, or even something else, which would tie into migration). I may set up a flexible timeline for myself, and I’d like to begin something like an annotated bibliography so I can keep good notes on the sources I find. Doing so will be a step toward categorizing my sources later on. Of course, I will continue to seek Dr. Carruth’s input on my research process, and I will keep her updated on my progress.