Research Portfolio Post #2: Mentor Meeting 1

I met with my faculty mentor, Professor Bachman, on August 30th and September 6th. The first time I stopped by his office, we spent some time getting to know one another and spoke of our respective research interests for about thirty minutes. I briefly outlined my proposed puzzle, making sure to convey that I am open to branching out into other avenues. Professor Bachman’s expertise lies in international humanitarian law with a focus on United States violations. During our first meeting, I expressed my interest in how the Soviet Union and Russia contribute(d) to shaping international law via the state’s violation of it (i.e. extra-judicial assassinations on foreign soil). Although the fluctuating trend of these “state-sanctioned” assassination by the USSR/Russia is an interesting puzzle to unpack, the aforementioned feedback loop is not exclusive to Russia. In my second meeting with Professor Bachman on September 6th, we discussed adding another comparative dimension to my research project: a parallel study of the United States’ relationship to extra-judicial assassinations on foreign soil. Not surprisingly, my mentor had a wide array of information/sources for conducting this type of research. Professor Bachman also informed me of the difference between U.S. ‘signature strikes’ and ‘personality strikes’, and we decided that the latter better corresponds to the targeted assassinations of defectors by Russia. In particular, he mentioned one “personality strike” of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, that was conducted in Yemen under the Obama administration. Unlike the Russian Foreign Ministry, that vehemently denies participation in the assassinations in question, the United States Judicial Department released a “White Paper” that attempts to justify its actions ex-post facto. Delving into a comparative analysis between Russia’s justifications (or lack thereof) and the United States’ is a possible route for the future. That said, after speaking with Dr. Boesnecker, it is clear to me the importance of not settling for a particular methodology just yet. Although my puzzle seems to lend itself more towards an interpretive direction and my faculty mentor considers himself as an interpretivist researcher, I recognize the benefits of keeping my options open and envisioning my research with various methodologies. Additionally, my mentor and I briefly discussed customary law and the concept of jus cogens during our later meeting. My next steps will be reading secondary sources on international law and which forces contribute the most to shaping it. Whilst reading, I will be inputting notes into Zotero and keeping track of possible “buckets” to sort scholars and theories into. These are all important stepping stones for me to get familiar with before I delve deeper into the puzzle.

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One thought on “Research Portfolio Post #2: Mentor Meeting

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    Dr. Boesenecker

    It sounds like you have had two productive and informative meetings with Prof. Bachman. You are correct to note that you don’t want to allow any particular methodology to drive the project, but rather at this stage you want to concentrate on identifying the conceptual puzzle at the core of your research. It is interesting that you note that you seem to gravitate towards an interpretivist methodology (nothing wrong with that at all) given the others statement that “…a comparative analysis between Russia’s justifications (or lack thereof) and the United States’ is a possible route for the future.” as the comparative project would be explicitly neopositivist/causal (small-n case comparison) in nature! Overall it sounds like you are on the right track, so just keep thinking about the suggestions from Prof. Bachman as you work on developing and refining your research puzzle, and keep reading and researching. I look forward to seeing how the project develops.