I met with Professor Scott Freeman on Wednesday, December 4 for roughly 20 minutes, and then continued our dialogue on email. We first discussed my puzzle and the methodology I intended on pursuing and evaluated briefly the methodological tradeoffs involved (how interpretivist discourse analysis was useful in understanding local meaning-making as opposed to the utility of a neo-positivist approach which may seek to understand the causes behind the broader phenomenon of democratization). In our conversation about my puzzle and methodological justification, I shared with Professor Freeman some of the constructive feedback I received on my interpretivist sketch and we specifically focused on what it is I isolated as my object of inquiry. Though I explicitly mentioned my object of inquiry as the ideas of “governance”, my representations focused on ideas of the “Kuwaiti government”. I have since met with Professor Boesenecker and resolved this, but in the process I also realized that the literature review was very helpful in examining and more deeply analyzing my topic. Specifically, neo-positivist literature was revealed to be quite valuable despite the fact that theories and concepts did not function to provide me with variables as in a neo-positivist research project. Noting conceptual elements derived from the literature review, such as a concomitant increase in standard of living and industrialization as well as oil resource-dependency, I realized that the literature pointed to important points of tension to examine (ie: the dynamic history of elite competition and cooperation between the monarchy and the merchant class, a relationship of dependency bypassed by nationalized oil, etc.) within my topic even if it departed from a different understanding of causality and knowledge aim.
Beyond reviewing and incorporating scholarly literature, the only lingering questions I have are about accessing further documents and mapping for exposure in the ways I discussed in my interpretivist sketch and in my meeting with Professor Freeman. I intend to work on this over Winter Break. Because most of my primary sources are limited to the 30+ constitutional convention records, I need to diversify the types of sources I analyze by including images, interviews, memoirs, etc. I have already made some progress to this end, finding a large amount of relevant digital images and recorded interviews. In terms of planning for the execution of my research next semester, I hope to make further progress in locating more sources, which is why I intend on visiting the National Assembly Library in Kuwait over Winter Break. Overall, I am satisfied with the progress I have made over the semester and I am excited to begin my research in SISU-306 with Professor Freeman’s generous support.
I am proposing to research citizenship and democracy because I would like to explain how it became possible that Kuwait established a constitution and National Assembly in the 1950s and 1960s. I am studying discourses about Kuwaiti citizenship and governance in the 1950s-1960s. Within these discourses, we see representations of the ruler-subject relationship as one that is familial and honorable and representations of the Kuwaiti State as independent, Arab, Islamic, and democratic, revealing emergent and evolving meanings of democracy, “shura”, and governance. I propose to study this in order to help my reader better understand Kuwaiti society and politics in the 1950s-1960s and the intersubjective meanings of citizenship and democracy.
My two primary sources are as follows: one is a speech by the Emir Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah inaugurating the first constitutional convention meeting in 1962, cited and transcribed in the other, a comprehensive record of that meeting written by the elected members. The speech represents the Emir as honorable, paternal, religious, and faithful in his people and “their” democratic project. The Emir begins with the standard introductory religious phrase or the “basmallah”, mentions the recent independence of Kuwait from the British which he claims is a “new era for Kuwait which always knew since its inception only freedom and dignity”, and makes dua and prays for the members of the convention and the people of Kuwait. He congratulates the people on their constitutional convention and progress toward democracy via enshrining the National Assembly or Majlis and explicitly labels it as their majlis. He then lists a series of representations of the people and the Kuwaiti state as: Arab and a component of the Arab Ummah and Arab family (he describes other Arab states as “sisterly”), as independent, and as democratic. This primary source describes the Emir’s representation of citizenship and democracy, as well as self-governance, as that explicitly belonging to the people. He ends by offering “paternal” advice to his “children”: to make sure that all decisions they reach are representative of the people and the product of consensus. Of course, the discursive actor in this primary source is the Emir.
The other source, the record of the meeting by the elected officials, refers to the Emir using honorifics and notes applause after the conclusion of his address. The source documents the members’ subsequent election via secret ballot to chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of the convention, and their expressions of gratitude to their peers for entrusting them with such duties. Despite the Emir’s exit after his address, the members pledge to each other that they will execute their duties in collaboration with the Emir. Interestingly, in doing so, they repeatedly affirm both their ideals of democratic self-governance and their duties to establish a constitutional monarchy and free legislature – they do not reconcile constitutional monarchy and democracy as much as they almost conflate the two. To the members, many of whom are merchant class (though not exclusively), the representations of Kuwaiti citizenship and governance aligned with the ones espoused above: democratic, religious, Arab, familial, honorable, and importantly cooperative. Though the initial source exposes the aforementioned representations of the Emir, the people, and the State of Kuwait, the presence of these representations in this source suggests their reproduction by the officials and merchants.
These common themes appear to be intertextual and indicate that there are intersubjective meanings to be examined. It is of vital importance to also recognize that these discourses on democracy and citizenship do not exist in a vacuum. Rather they are “mediated by… other dominant discourses… to produce potent new ways of conceptualizing” democracy and citizenship in 1950s-1960s Kuwait, converging with discourses on Islam, independence, and Pan-Arabism. When considering the interaction between these discourses, one can understand how the Emir was understood to be a paternal figure, the people of Kuwait an immediate family comprising a branch of the Arab and Muslim Ummah, and the Kuwaiti State to be independent, free, democratic, and constitutionally monarchic all at the same time. Thus, only by contextualizing these sources in their milieu can we appreciate the development of the intersubjective meanings of Kuwaiti citizenship and democracy in the 1950-60s.
In my research, I will go beyond these two primary sources by referring to canonical texts from the Quran and Sunna that (partially) inform these understandings through the concept of shura, as well as other sources that illustrate the salience of Pan-Arab and independence ideologies that appeared in the mentioned representations. Significantly, I will try to map for exposure in order to locate texts that may demonstrate contestations of the discourse. While I observe that the actors in the two primary sources include the Emir, appointed ministers, elected convention members, and the merchant class, crucially absent are women and non-merchant classes which comprise the rapidly growing middle-class in the 1950s-1960s. As such, I have to be cognizant about exposure to locate counter-discourses and instances of discursive resistance.
 Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. Fitzgerald, The Craft of Research (4thed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. p. 49.
Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Constitutional Convention Inaugural Address, in Kuwait, “Mahathir Al-Majlis Al-Taiseesy: Almahthar Al-Awal” Kuwait National Assembly Records. January 20, 1962. p. 2. http://www.kna.kw/chapter1_meetings/001.pdf. (Accessed November 6, 2019).
 Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Constitutional Convention Inaugural Address, in Kuwait, “Mahathir Al-Majlis Al-Taiseesy: Almahthar Al-Awal” Kuwait National Assembly Records. January 20, 1962. p. 2. http://www.kna.kw/chapter1_meetings/001.pdf. (Accessed November 6, 2019).
 Ibid, 4.
 Ibid 2, 3, 4. 5.
 Jean Carabine, Unmarried Motherhood 1830-1990: A Genealogical Analysis, in Discourse as Data: A Guide to Analysis, ed. Margaret Wetherell, Stephanie Taylor, Simeon J. Yates, London: Sage, 2011. p. 269. (Accessed: November 7, 2019).
 Peregrine Schwartz-Shea and Dvora Yanow, Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes, New York: Routledge, 2012. p. 88, (Accessed November 7, 2019).
 Ibid, 89.
Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Abdullah, Constitutional Convention Inaugural Address, in Kuwait, “Mahathir Al-Majlis Al-Taiseesy: Almahthar Al-Awal” Kuwait National Assembly Records. January 20, 1962. p. 2. http://www.kna.kw/chapter1_meetings/001.pdf. (Accessed November 6, 2019).
Carabine, Jean, Unmarried Motherhood 1830-1990: A Genealogical Analysis, in Discourse as Data: A Guide to Analysis, ed. Margaret Wetherell, Stephanie Taylor, Simeon J. Yates, London: Sage, 2011. p. 269. (Accessed: November 7, 2019).
Booth, Wayne, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. Fitzgerald, The Craft of Research (4thed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. p. 49.
Kuwait, “Mahathir Al-Majlis Al-Taiseesy: Almahthar Al-Awal” Kuwait National Assembly Records, January, 20 1962. p. 2, 3. http://www.kna.kw/chapter1_meetings/001.pdf. (Accessed November 6, 2019).
Schwartz-Shea Peregine, Dvora Yanow, Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes, New York: Routledge, 2012. p. 88. (Accessed November 7, 2019).
My research question as expressed for small-n study is:
“What explains the difference in success and failure in the US’ intervention in West Berlin in the Berlin airlift (1948-1949), in Korea in the Korean War (1950-1953), and in Vietnam in the Vietnam War (1955-1975)?
The dependent variable as articulated here would be the outcome of these interventions and will be assigned values of “success”, “mixed success”, and “failure”. Taking inspiration from Howard, I operationalize “success” as both the achievement of the objective of intervention (in my cases deposing/preventing a communist government) as well as whether the intervention resulted in positive peace/improvement in the state of the country that experienced intervention.For example, I would look at whether, say, the Berlin airlift was successful according to whether it a) did or did not prevent a communist government and b) whether the state of West Berlin experienced positive peace/improvement as a result of the airlift or not. For a case to be a failure, it must not meet either requirement. Meeting one requirement but not the other would be a mixed success (ie: preventing a communist government but not improving the conditions of the state). Additionally, partial fulfilment of both requirements would also constitute a mixed success. To inform the assignment of success/mixed success/failure values, I must consult primary document sources including US Presidential Papers, local and international media coverage, and UN reports/documents.
For my first case of West Berlin, I consulted declassified records from the National Security Council. Specifically, the source is called “Remarks by Mr. Lovett at 12/16/48 NSC meeting on the significance of the Berlin airlift”.This source argued that the US’ intervention was successful in that it attained its objective, seeing as the airlift “had now become a vital part of our foreign policy…. [as it] had the effect of wielding the western Germans into a unity that we had been unable to get otherwise…” and because it began deterring communism as evident by the fact that “one old-time Communist in the Ruhr area had recently been beaten by an 82.6% of the vote”.According to this source, one can label this intervention as a success insofar as it prevented a communist government. The second source, the declassified document “A New Start for the Alliance”, recognized that the condition of West Berlin has improved because of the airlift, resulting in “the comparative calm of Europe in recent years [which] has been one of the fruits of the policy expressed in the Berlin airlift”.Seeing as both sources demonstrate the intervention a) deterred communism and prevented a communist government, and b) resulted in the improvement in the country’s condition, the outcome of the US intervention in West Berlin can be understood to be “successful”.It should be recognized that I must interrogate my primary sources by “triangulating them” or corroborating them with other kinds of documents such as media, UN reports, etc. Triangulation is, of course, important to ensure the validity of my research. I would have to do the same for my other cases.
For the sake for concision, I will expand upon the other two cases very briefly. In a research design, they will follow the same operationalization and primary source process as that of my first case. I have defined Vietnam as a failure for failing to prevent a communist government and for failing to produce positive peace as a result of the intervention, and have defined Korea as a mixed success because it resulted in a partitioning of North and South (allowing the rise of communist government in one of two partitioned states) and because the conflict between North and South was never resolved.
Howard Lise Morjé. UN Peacekeeping in Civil Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Page 7.
United States National Security Council. Remarks by Mr. Lovett at 12/16/48 NSC meeting on the significance of the Berlin airlift. United States: 1948. U.S. Declassified Documents.Page 2(Accessed October 27, 2019).
United States Department Of State.A New Start for the Alliance. United States: 1996. U.S. Declassified Documents. Page 1(Accessed October 27, 2019).
United States National Security Council. Remarks by Mr. Lovett at 12/16/48 NSC meeting on the significance of the Berlin airlift. United States: 1948. U.S. Declassified Documents.Page 2(Accessed October 27, 2019).
United States Department Of State.A New Start for the Alliance. United States: 1996. U.S. Declassified Documents. Page 1(Accessed October 27, 2019).
I am proposing to research the causes of humanitarian intervention because I would like to find out why some states/IGOs intervene militarily in humanitarian crises, in order to help my reader better understand why some humanitarian crises result in military intervention while others do not.My research question would be more precisely articulated for large-n analysis as:
What explains the variation in states/IGOs responses to humanitarian crises?
In this instance, my dependent variable would be states/IGOs’ responses to humanitarian crises. In a preliminary sense, I have considered quantifying and operationalizing “response to humanitarian crisis” as ordinal numbers of 1-5 ranked as: (1) no response, (2) humanitarian aid delivery, (3) naming/shaming in UN resolutions, (4) sanctions, and (5) military intervention/peacekeeping. Had my research question focused on only one of these response types, it would have observed the variance in the scale of, say military intervention or humanitarian aid delivery, rather than the overall variance in the extent of response. I am attempting to study the latter. Binder does something similar to what I seek to accomplish when he defined his dependent variable as “strength of UN response”, though it lacked an interval number/unit of measurement.As I am consulting various datasets, I am also searching for ways to operationalize my dependent variable into interval numbers. These contemplations are still early at this stage and will naturally require the use of datasets.
Moreover, it appears I will have to compile data from various datasets to assemble my own. This is because these datasets rarely include data exclusive to my cases (humanitarian crises). Some, like the Correlates of War Project’s “Militarized Interstate Disputes” dataset observe instances of military disputes (including those in response to humanitarian crises as well as those that are not) as cases.The coverage of this dataset is first a limitation not in terms of breadth -as it stretches from 1816-2010-, but in the difficulty of “cleaning” the set to include only military disputes responding to humanitarian crises. Additionally, another concern about this sources’ limitation is its isolation of militarized responses and neglect of other types of responses which I must examine in my research. Though this dataset is very expansive within the realm of militarized responses (including anything from “threat to use force” to “declaration of war” as such responses), it still ignores the dimensions I listed above: the delivery of aid, naming/shaming, and sanctions.Nevertheless, this source still provides helpful data including both the type/degree of militarized response, hostility levels, and number of fatalities. This dataset will also be supplemented by several others including The Correlates of War Projects’ “National Material Capabilities” dataset which includes figures for one of my independent variables – countervailing power –measured in part via military expenditure, military personnel, population size, etc.The coverage and limitations of both mentioned datasets are identical.
Specifically, I would clean the first dataset by essentially “adding” a new column with a nominal indicator describing whether the instance of military intervention was in response to a humanitarian crisis or not (a definition which is of course a methodological decision of case selection which must in turn be justified). I would then exclusively use data from the remaining cases indicated as relating to humanitarian crises. As these instances would still only be cases of humanitarian crises that have provoked military intervention, my compilation of a dataset would be far from finished as I would have to do the same to other datasets I find that will have to consult, including those dealing broadly with the delivery of humanitarian aid, sanctions, etc.
Booth, Wayne; Colomb, Gregory; Williams, Joseph and Fitzgerald, Willam. The Craft of Research, 4thEdition. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 54.
Binder, Martin. 2015. “Paths to Intervention.” Journal of Peace Research 52 (6): 716.
Correlates of War Project; Palmer, Glenn; D’Orazio, Vito; Kenwick, Michael R.; and McManus, Roseanne W. McManus; “Militarized Interstate Disputes (v4.3).” 2019.http://www.correlatesofwar.org/data-sets/MIDs. Accessed October 9, 2019.
Correlates of War Project; Sing, David J.; Bremer, Stuart. “National Material Capabilities (v5.0).” 2019.http://www.correlatesofwar.org/data-sets/national-material-capabilities. Accessed October 9, 2019.
I am proposing to research the causes of humanitarian intervention because I would like to find out why states and/or international organizations pursue (or do not pursue) military intervention in response to humanitarian crises, in order to help my reader better understand why some humanitarian crises result in military intervention while others do not.
Initially, the observation that not all humanitarian crises result/resulted in military intervention seemed to me a curious occurrence. Notably, the distinction of military intervention is an important one. Some humanitarian crises have provoked a variety of responses ranging from standard naming and shaming to economic sanctions and embargoes to unilateral military intervention and United Nations peacekeeping operations. To make this question more manageable, I have sought to focus on only military interventions (including those that are unilateral or those that involve coalitions or UN peacekeeping). Among these responses, it is interesting to notice how some humanitarian crises, despite receiving massive media attention, have only resulted in naming and shaming. Why is that so? Implicit in that question is why there hasn’t been a greater response, including military intervention. Therefore, the question also begs: what level of severity corresponds to (or at least legally warrants) greater action?
The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty or the (ICISS) labels this concept the “Just Cause” threshold.[i]The 2001 report’s “Responsibility to Protect” (ratified by UN member states in 2005) discusses states’ obligation to protect the human rights of individuals in other states. This responsibility includes three pillars with the first being the responsibility of host states to protect and respect their citizens’ human rights and the second involving the obligation of the international community to assist those states in fulfilling their responsibilities should they be unable to meet them (an example could be delivering aid to a state that cannot meet the first pillar on its own).[ii]The third pillar, and perhaps most controversial, includes the Responsibility to React which involves the previously mentioned ways of intervening, which also list militarily as a last resort.[iii]This of course is a very concise summary of the most relevant dimensions of the Responsibility to Protect to the research question, though the report mentions other responsibilities “to prevent” and to “rebuild”.[iv]The third pillar, in assessing how to react, must refer to the Just Cause Threshold to determine the appropriate course of action proportionate to the severity and persistence of human suffering and the host states’ responsiveness to the international community and its own obligations to uphold human rights.[v]The “puzzle” in this question is not whether or not the international community has these thresholds/guidelines for action (however perfect or imperfect they may be) but why there has been such a variation in responses to different crises and by different states to the same crises (which could be said pre- and post-ratification of R2P). The question is not one regarding the existence or non-existence of international legal architecture, but one problematizing actor behavior in reaction to acute humanitarian crises. Additionally, considering the fact that despite the overall decline in number of interventions (by major and non-major powers) from during and after the Cold War (1945-1989 versus to 2005), there is also a puzzling increase in number of interventions by International Organizations, the causes of humanitarian intervention are not so easily answered.[vi]International organizations went from accounting for 57 interventions or (a mere 8.3%) to 87 interventions, which is an astounding increase to 20.5% of all interventions from 1989-2005[vii]. One must note, however, that these figures supplied by the source does not distinguish between humanitarian and non-humanitarian interventions. Still, this is even more puzzling when one attempts to speculate reasons behind such an increase. If one is lead to believe that the end of the Cold War meant less need to intervene by the US and the USSR/Russia in proxy wars, this may well explain the overall decline in interventions but not the subsequent increase by those initiated by international organizations. An unsubstantiated speculation could be an evolution of humanitarian intervention norms, but it is only that – speculation. This why studying the reasons states/international organizations intervene is ever more pressing and puzzling. Not only is the “puzzle” of extreme significance (as it concerns both theoretical concepts of peace/war and human rights as well as and material consequences on international peace and security), it is also one that is hotly contested by scholars.
The common assertion among realists is that the pursuit of humanitarian intervention (or any intervention for that matter), is an act solely meant to advance self-interest. While this may be a popular belief among human rights skeptics and anti-imperialists alike, it does not carry well into research. Seldom do complex social processes lend themselves to such reductive truisms. While interest and realities of cost/outcome may factor in to constrain the likelihood of an actor’s desire to intervene in humanitarian crises, scholars like Bellamy and Negrón-Gonzales point to social norms as playing a primary, if not central, factor in this calculus.For instance, Bellamy observes the change in humanitarian intervention norms in Darfur as they have evolved since the US’ intervention in Iraq. He looks at how the status of the United States and the United Kingdom as “norm-carriers” has been diminished and how the language of R2P is more present in Darfur.Importantly, Bellamy’s reference to norms is critical because the very way in which R2P was invoked suggests that this the phenomenon of intervention extends beyond straight-forward considerations of interests. Bellamy illustrates how states used the language of R2P’s Just Cause Threshold to argue in support and against intervention by arguing that the responsibility to protect has or has not been transferred form the host state to the international community; an interesting development that at times has been at odds with even states’ own stances on the issue (ie: the US was in favor of intervention but was against the transfer of the R2P from Sudan to the UNSC which would legitimate intervention).Negrón-Gonzales builds on this by observing how states responded to the very norm of R2P in various ways ranging from of rejection, hard/soft feedback, and endorsement in the UNSC (without neglecting to observe how both high and low-salience states reacted by looking at how their interests in Libya and/or Syria informed their decisions vis-à-vis norm response).Curiously, Binder broadens the scope from norm-actor interactions to looks at causal paths/processes using “fs/QCA to compare the SC’s response to more than 30 major humanitarian crises after the Cold War”, identifying the “testable explanatory conditions… [as] (1) the extent of a humanitarian crisis (2) the level of international media attention (3) the strength of spillover effect (4) the strength of countervailing power, and (5) the level of previous institutional involvement in the crisis.While Binder looks considers “sunk costs” and path-dependence in service of the final variable, this study’s analysis is neither exclusively within the domain of rational/cognitive decision-making variables nor does it neglect/over-emphasize the role of norms or interest.The sheer variety of ways scholars have approached this question, as well as the elusiveness of a single conclusion enjoying consensus, attest to its puzzling nature.
Finally, I will discuss my second question concisely. Bellamy observes how the US – despite the presence of legal legitimations of self-defense pursuant to Chapter VII, Article 51 of the UN Charter – “felt obliged to argue that Operation Enduring Freedom would improve humanitarian conditions inside Afghanistan”.US Secretary of Defense Rumsfield’s, referring to the intervention in Afghanistan, reiterated this, saying, “that the Taliban and the al Qaeda made a practice of doing harm and repressing the Afghan people. The Afghan people were starved in some measure because the Taliban and al Qaeda stole humanitarian food aid and kept it from them” and that “[e]ven before September 11th, the united States had been the larger [sic] donor of food aid to the Afghan people…”.As such my second asks why the United States used moral/normative justifications of humanitarian intervention in Afghanistan despite the existing of legally legitimate framings invoking self-defense.
Again, my questions are:
Why do states and/or international organizations pursue military intervention in response to humanitarian crises?
Why did the United States use moral/normative justifications of humanitarian intervention in Afghanistan despite the existing of legally legitimate framings invoking self-defense?
Another possible question could also be: What explains the substantial increase in number of interventions initiated by international organizations after the Cold War despite the massive decrease in overall number of interventions initiated by major and non-major powers?
International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. 2001. “The Responsibility to Protect.” Responsibility to Protect, 1–87.
International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. 2001. “The Responsibility to React.” Responsibility to Protect, 29-35.
Pickering, Jeffrey, and Emizet F. Kisangani. 2009. “The International Military Intervention Dataset: An Updated Resource for Conflict Scholars.” Journal of Peace Research 46 (4): 597.
Bellamy, Alex J. “Responsibility to Protect or Trojan Horse? The Crisis in Darfur and Humanitarian Intervention after Iraq.” Ethics & International Affairs 19, no. 2 (2005): 31–54. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-7093.2005.tb00499.x. Negrón-Gonzales, Melinda, and Michael Contarino. “Local Norms Matter: Understanding National Responses to the Responsibility to Protect.” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations20, no. 2 (2014): 255–76. https://doi.org/10.1163/19426720-02002006.
Bellamy, Alex J. “Responsibility to Protect or Trojan Horse? The Crisis in Darfur and Humanitarian Intervention after Iraq.” Ethics & International Affairs 19, no. 2 (2005): 32. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-7093.2005.tb00499.x.
Negrón-Gonzales, Melinda, and Michael Contarino. “Local Norms Matter: Understanding National Responses to the Responsibility to Protect.” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations20, no. 2 (2014): 262. https://doi.org/10.1163/19426720-02002006.
Binder, Martin. 2015. “Paths to Intervention.” Journal of Peace Research52 (6): 724, 716. doi:10.1177/0022343315585847.
Charter of the United Nations, Chapter VII Article 51.
Bellamy, Alex J. “Responsibility to Protect or Trojan Horse? The Crisis in Darfur and Humanitarian Intervention after Iraq.” Ethics & International Affairs 19, no. 2 (2005): 37. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-7093.2005.tb00499.x.
Federal News Service. 2019. United States Department of Defense. Accessed September 30. https://archive.defense.gov/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=2636.
This also in turn reflects the sentiments in Mutua, Makau W. “Savages, Victims, and Saviors: The Metaphor of Human Rights.” Harvard International Law Journal42, no. 1 (2001): 201–45. It would be interesting to synthesize how Mutua’s SVS metaphor operates within a case, for instance.
Both neo-positivist sources are situated within the same conceptual grouping analyzing social norms as the primary factor in intervention, though both acknowledge that norms interact with interests/strategic concerns. Even in considering this however, these sources do not apply cognitive/decision-making lenses on intervention, but rather concentrate mostly on social norms. Both sources also look at the Right to Protect in similar and complimentary ways. Bellamy observes through small-n cases the salience and appropriations of R2P as a norm and observes the role/status of norm-carriers like the US and UK. Bellamy interestingly notes the states’ need to invoke established normative framings of human rights to justify even legal wars. The most important contribution from this source extends beyond its observation of the diminishing status norm-carriers and highlights the subjectivity of the threshold for transfer of the R2P from the host state to the international community as well as the observation of the contradictory invocations of R2P to argue in support and against intervention. Negrón-Gonzales and Contarino’s article expands on this by acknowledging the diversity of ways states engage with the norm through different types of “feedback”. The sources’ methodology “summaries governmental positions on R2P, as expressed at 2012 UN Interactive Dialogue on R2P and in a few other UN discussions as well as the voting of Security Council members during the Libyan and Syrian crises” which is then used to articulate states’ postures vis-à-vis the R2P norm into either “rejection”, “hard feedback”, “soft feedback”, and “endorsement”. The point of the source is to understand the relationship between state’s interests and international norms by looking at how those most affected by the norm (high-salience states) respond versus those that are low-salience.
I use the readings for key theories/definitions within the same school of thought of social norms and for insights into the logic of case selection/size for my research. Though both case-sizes mostly retain the same ontological assumptions, they produce different data types whereby large-n illustrates generalized patterns of probabilistic/causal inference and small-n allows for greater scrutiny of the necessary and sufficient conditions of variables and their elaboration/explanations. These sources prompt the study of feedback to norms, but topically consider cognitive/decision-making lenses – a possible site for exploration in my research. This literatures also informs my understanding of the conversation and provokes further questions concerning how states seek to mobilize/diffuse norms of intervention besides investigating norms as one of other explanatory variables behind intervention decisions.
 Bellamy, Alex J. “Responsibility to Protect or Trojan Horse? The Crisis in Darfur and Humanitarian Intervention after Iraq.” Ethics & International Affairs19, no. 2 (2005): 31–54. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-7093.2005.tb00499.x.
 Negrón-Gonzales, Melinda, and Michael Contarino. “Local Norms Matter: Understanding National Responses to the Responsibility to Protect.” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations20, no. 2 (2014): 255–76. https://doi.org/10.1163/19426720-02002006.
 Negrón-Gonzales, Melinda, and Michael Contarino. “Local Norms Matter: Understanding National Responses to the Responsibility to Protect.” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations20, no. 2 (2014): 261. https://doi.org/10.1163/19426720-02002006.
Ontology concerns the reality of the world. Before considering the means with which we know, or the ends to which we apply our thinking, we must first decide what reality and being are. For instance, our ontological assumptions about the state of the social and natural worlds necessarily influence how we approach them. If as objectivists we are to believe that the social world is similar to the natural world in that it is governed by universal laws that operate regardless of whether or not we have discovered them, then we are likely to believe that the social world can be measured and that the “footprint” of the researcher is minimal as meaning exists external to the human actor. In this sense, our ontological assumptions motivate us – or perhaps even permit us – to seek transcendental positivist knowledge with the intention to predict. If on the other hand, we depart from a constructivist ontology (of which I find myself persuaded), we would consider ourselves to be thoroughly embedded in and inseparable from our research as actors and producers of meaning. Because of our own role in the study of and creation of meaning, the very role of the researcher is not that of an objective observer but that of an active manufacturer and consumer of meaning. Schwartz-Shea and Yanow put this quite succinctly when stating that “In interpretive research, human beings are understood not as objects, but as agents”. This, of course, includes the researcher. Thus, the researcher’s ontological assumptions impose themselves on what she or he would consider valid knowledge. While an objectivist would think social processes and conditions such as poverty or war operate according to particular “laws” and would therefore seek to measure and predict these phenomena on a universal scale, the constructivist scholar would argue that our understandings of things such as poverty and war are contextually-dependent and informed by different discourses. Instead of seeking to predict things such as war, the constructivist would opt for the study of specific grammars/structures of meaning that define what war/poverty is and how it is understood by a group of people in a specific space and time. Though both neo-positivists (largely composed of objectivists) and interpretivists (consisting mostly of constructivists) can study “issues” or “topics” ranging from war, poverty, marriage, women’s rights, etc., their respective assumptions color the methodology or research decisions to be made. The type and purpose of knowledge generated, as well as the methods (where method is a specific tool used – such as ethnography for example – methodology refers to the totality of choices made in one’s research, including a variety of decisions such as selection and operationalization of variables, etc.) are implicated by our ontological assumptions.
As already discussed, at this moment, I consider myself an intepretivist. Perhaps due to bias as a result of my appreciation for “post-colonial” and post-structuralist scholarship, I find myself very sensitive to the lack of a singular, objective truth, especially due to the mentioned role of the scholar as agent and consumer. Looking at things such as the persistence of Orientalist discourses as well as the long-standing imperviousness of race science and the conditionality of humanity in European intellectual history (ie: Hegelian non-history of the non-white “savage”, eugenics, etc.), I recognize that knowledge itself can often be an exercise of power by asserting one’s authority on the subject/object studied. As such, I gravitate towards interpretivism not because it is contextualized (as Neo-positivism can be cognizant of context as well) or because it is necessarily “harmless”, but rather because its goal implicitly recognizes a multiplicity of meanings and also, to a certain degree, because of the researcher’s self-presence. This is a rather awkward way to say that though Neo-positivism is just as rigorous with all its hypothesis testing and its own set of methodological choices, the criteria for knowledge production as per interpretivism includes things such as “cultural competence, contextually, reflexivity, and trustworthiness/credibility” which more directly or more transparently situate the researcher and their relationship to the subjects under scrutiny. In relation to what can be studied, I am (at this point in time) of the opinion that though things can be real (ie: that Pearl Harbor happened) the meaning(s) attached to occurrences or events are more subjective. In this vein, I do not have a fully-fledged list specifying what things I believe can or cannot be studied, though I do think that, departing from a constructivist ontology that perceives meaning as a result of continuous and dynamic social processes, meaning is also therefore situated as these social processes necessarily differ from place to place and across time. This means that for my research, I am interested in understanding localized constructions of meaning through an interpretivist lens. That being said, I am really excited to try methodologies that depart from other ontological assumptions so as to more critically vet my own.
 Abbott, Andrew Delano. Methods of Discovery: Heuristics For The Social Sciences. New York: W.W. Norton, 2004. Pages 43, 46-47.
 Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine, and Dvora Yanow. Interpretive Research Design: Concepts And Processes. New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 2012. Page 47.
 Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 2004.
 Class Discussion September 10, 2019.
I met with Professor Scott Freeman on Wednesday, September 11 for roughly 20 to 30 minutes. Professor Boesenecker had already recommended Ostrom’s “Governing the Commons” and I was eager to further expand the readings I was doing.Professor Freeman proved to be an immense help in doing so and was a great resource as I begin familiarizing myself with the conversation(s) and puzzles in my topic. We started by discussing how research was to be approached this semester (ie: I would “try on the hats” of both neo-positivist and interpretivist research and would therefore benefit from consuming diverse types of data). Because of the fact that I would need “cases” for both case research as well as interpretivist study, and also because it is essential to investigate concrete instances of commons and their use, Professor Freeman and I spoke at length about specific locations and time periods that could be examined. I already had rough preliminary sketches of places that I might be interested in looking at, but was curious about how cases would even be selected and the way that the definition of “commons” itself would necessarily influence what qualifies for study. The conversation was much more conceptual than it was methodological. We did not particularly discuss how cases themselves would be selected (and which ones would and would not) but rather simply considered different viewpoints of what qualifies as commons (and whether commons could be defined that way if they are excludable).
Ultimately, what ensued was a very informative conceptual foundation that began raising further questions as well as situating them within the context of those asked by other scholars. For instance, in a very basic sense, we identified major points discussed such as population (which could be a control variable across cases) and government/market/institutional action. If a puzzle is whether Tragedy of the Commons is inevitable should humans be left to their own devices, such a question should be answered having controlled for things such as population size and relative size of the commons being consumed, technological capacity (ie: people with industrial capacities will be able to exploit a resource at a significantly larger scale than those who do not have these capacities), and other relevant variables.
We also generally mapped out the scholarly conversation insofar as mentioning the two main camps/approaches/bodies of literature being an economic perspective on the commons (Ostrom) and political ecology. Under the latter, a wealth of disciplines operate by introducing the crucial variable of power, with a critical subset that includes anthropology and geography. We discussed briefly some of the assumptions and the different kinds of knowledge/data generated by the two larger approaches and generally had a very thought-provoking meeting, ending in the recommendation of a fascinating reading of locally-controlled fisheries in Mexico which looked at practices, pressures, and rituals of land use in commons.Currently, we are in correspondence as Professor Freeman is emailing me further notable authors for study. All in all, the meeting with my mentor went really well and was very productive.
Ostrom, Elinor. Governing the Commons: the Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
 Basurto, Xavier. 2005. How Locally Designed Access and Use Controls Can Prevent the Tragedy of the Commons in a Mexican Small-Scale Fishing Community. Society and Natural Resources 18(7): 643–659.
I am interested in examining the role social norms/identities play in shaping actor behavior, particularly in the context of global commons. I am intrigued by the question of whether the competitive (and ultimately destructive) self-gain patterns theorized in the Tragedy of the Commons need be considered inevitable or whether different conceptions of culture, self, norms, and property/ownership might influence consumption patterns of shared resources. On a more meta-level, I am really curious as to why actors do the things they do, as I am not completely satisfied with realist or liberal conceptions of self-gain as a sufficient explanatory variable on its own. Whether my research happens to apply this problem to commons or any other case, I am most excited to understand this “puzzle” of international and human/sociopolitical conduct.
Because I considered my research on the topic of the Tragedy of the Commons tentative, I have read broadly over the summer. Firstly, I have of course read foundational texts like Garrett Hardin’s frequently cited article in Science “The Tragedy of the Commons” and then sought to understand the surrounding discourse via “Property in the Commons: Origins and Paradigms” which contextualized the previous work and describes the ongoing conversations of the topic and relevant conceptions of property.A few questions that came to mind, especially in light of class readings/discussions on situated/transcendent knowledge, include the observation that the concept of the Tragedy of the Commons is very much tethered to the specific context from which it was derived, namely Europe/England. Hardin cites William Forster Lloyd’s lectures in 1833 in Oxford where he discusses hypothetical herders who each endeavor to “rationally” maximize self-gain and thus inevitably deplete the common pastures.In citing this, the argument Hardin makes nods to privatization as a necessary solution to offset the selfishness intrinsic to the human condition. Needless to say, this “evidence” is not sufficiently problematized, distinctly echoing Abbot’s definition of semantic explanation where things are – for a lack of a better word – “reduced” to the “final realms” of explanation where we take things as plainly “true”. For instance, in the Tragedy of the Commons, “[t]hey go no further because they think selfish behavior is self-evident; it needs no explanation”.This factor, among others such as differences in social norms/identities, cultures, property and varying access to the resources (commons or otherwise) by individuals, begin to further flesh out my aforementioned “puzzle”.
In keeping with my curiosity about actor behavior and the problematization of motive, I find it relevant to briefly mention my readings on the alternative topic of human rights intervention, including Mutua’s “Savages, Victims, and Saviors” which inspects the discursive frameworks that justify human rights intervention.
Hardin, Garrett. “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Science162, no. 3859 (December 13, 1968): 1243–48.
Obeng-Odoom, Franklin. “Property in the Commons.” Review of Radical Political Economics48, no. 1 (September 2015): 9–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/0486613415586976.
Abbott, Andrew. Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences. New York: Norton, 2004. Page 9.
Lloyd, William Forster. Two Lectures on the Checks to Population. Oxford University, 1833.
Abbott, Andrew. Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences. New York: Norton, 2004.Page 50-51.
Mutua, Makau W. “Savages, Victims, and Saviors: The Metaphor of Human Rights.” Harvard International Law Journal42, no. 1 (2001): 201–45.