US Centre staff members at an event

Undergraduate Research Assistantships


Encouraging interdisciplinary research collaborations between academics and undergraduate students

In Michaelmas 2017, the Centre launched the US Centre Undergraduate Research Assistantship programme as a means of encouraging US-related interdisciplinary research collaborations between academics and undergraduate students at LSE. After resounding success and generous donations from alumni, the Centre is running the programme once again in 2021 for a fifth cohort of students.

The Research Assistantship program was one of the highlights of my LSE experience and has given me a myriad of personal, academic and professional skills.

Eileen Gbagbo, Undergraduate Research Assistant 2019-20

The program gave a real-world application to the theoretical knowledge I built in the classroom. It gave me a sense of how the topics I'm studying can be taken and applied to creating new knowledge.

Katherine Bennett, Undergraduate Research Assistant 2019-20

Collaborating over the course of an academic year, undergraduate students are paired with LSE academics who require assistance in collecting or processing new data, gathering archival resources, writing-up a blog article, or conducting library searches. 

Read the donor report of the successes of the 2020-21 program. For more information on the previous years' research projects click here

 2021-22 Research Projects

1. Effective policy approaches to support single-parent families

Faculty: Amanda SheelyDepartment of Social Policy
Research Assistant: Isolde Hegemann, Department of Social Policy 

In 2018, around 25% of American single-parent families were poor and evidence suggests poverty in these families has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite their continued vulnerability, the American policy approach to single-parent families has stayed the same since the mid-1990s – to encourage paid work and to provide limited financial support. Evidence from other high-income countries shows that high poverty among single-parent households in the US is the exception; for example, poverty rates among single-parent families in European countries is much lower. For this reason, comparative scholars have argued that poverty is high in the US simply because single parents are provided less public support.

This project will build on research on single-parent families to contribute an introduction to a special journal issue, edited by Dr Sheely, whose aim is to extend our understanding of single-parent families and the most effective policy approaches to promote their economic well-being, using evidence from high-income countries. While the research in this issue will examine numerous high-income countries, the core aim of the volume is to highlight lessons for research and policy in the US.

Read the report.

2. Public housing, politics and ideology

Faculty: David MaddenDepartment of Sociology     
Research Assistant: Jan Jakob Krüger, Department of Social Policy

Public housing in the United States is at a crossroads. Decades of underfunding have led to widespread austerity and the undermining of public housing. Earlier eras of privatisation and demolition have been supplanted by more recent, financialised initiatives such as the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which has been having an especially large impact on the New York City Housing Authority. On the more positive side, bills now before Congress promise to greatly enhance the funding environment for public housing, and there is growing interest in the potential for public housing to address the housing crisis. On top of these somewhat countervailing developments, other political trends—such as efforts to militarise both policing and migration policy—are also being built into the management of public housing. 

This study will trace and interpret recent policy and ideological changes in American public housing with the goal of understanding how recent political trends are reshaping the politics and policy of public housing in America, in order to provide a better picture of contemporary housing struggles and a clearer sense of how public housing sits within the American state and political formations.

Read the report.

3. China and the United States Since 1949

Faculty: Elizabeth InglesonDepartment of International History             
Research Assistant: Rosalie Roechert, Department of International Relations

The project has two goals. First, it will create a primary source database listing important speeches and documents (articles, reports etc) from each presidency from Truman to Biden. Second, it will analyse these sources with particular attention to three key themes: discussion of China’s size (population size and land mass); meanings of engagement (including, during the Cold War, how lack of engagement was discussed and justified); and predictions of China’s economic future.

This research project will require one Research Assistant to gather and analyse the public speeches and documents made by presidents about the US’ China policy. By collating these documents, analysing them in their own context, and tracing these three themes over time, the Research Assistant will help produce crucial research into the changes and continuities in the last seventy years of US China policy.

Read the report.

4. The Bayou of Pigs: The US-led plot to invade Dominica

Faculty: Imaobong UmorenDepartment of International History                        
Research Assistant: Ariba Fatima, Department of Law 

This project will contribute to an article Dr Umoren is writing about the US-led plot in the early 1980s to invade the island of Dominica, which was subsequently dubbed “The Bayou of Pigs” by the media. The Research Assistant will be tasked with summarising recently acquired FBI and US and Dominican court files surrounding the trial of those involved in the attempted coup of Dominica between 1980-1983. Bibliographic and referencing help will also be required.

Read the report.

5. Anglo-American financial cooperation from the First World War and beyond

Faculty: James MorrisonDepartment of International Relations           
Research Assistant: Matthew Prescod, Department of International Relations

Building on earlier work, this project investigates American financial cooperation and the “passing of the torch” from the UK to the US following the First World War. This research will first, explore the 1917 Anglo-American loan, which proved crucial to funding the UK’s continuation of the conflict. Second, it considers the interaction between political economy and security, particularly as they came together in the form of reparations at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and after. Third, we may return to earlier work which uses this history to consider the (apparent) retreat of the US from this position of leadership. Last it will continue exploring the role of economist JM Keynes in re-shaping the Anglo-American alliance across the first half of the 20th Century.

Read the report.

6. Progressive Policing in the Gilded Age

Faculty: Johann KoehlerDepartment of Social Policy
Research Assistant: Vaneeza Jawad, Department of Anthropology

During the half-century that followed the Civil War until the Great Depression, America was in a state of abrupt flux. Rapid industrialisation, mass migration, spare regulation of business and development, and tightening strictures of Jim Crow coalesced in a new vision of “Progressive” America. Yet during the same period, criminal justice in many large American cities was also characterised by patterns of crime and its control that would surprise observers today — in particular, low homicide rates, permissive law enforcement, and spare punishment. To that end, police departments in Chicago and New York during the Progressive Era (1865-1920) serve as sites of a new — and deeply complicated — reinterpretation of the relationship between state and citizen. Through an analysis of archival texts produced during the early years as those departments modernised, this project opens a window into the Progressive Era contradictions of historical liberalism and progressive penality.

Read the report.

7. Latinx Futures: The Civil, Cultural and Political Stakes for Southern California Latinx Communities

Faculty: Paul ApostolidisDepartment of Government
Research Assistant: Fernanda Alvarez Piñeiro, Department of Government

The ‘Latinx Futures’ project seeks answers to the following timely questions: what intellectual, cultural and political resources to counter American racial authoritarianism and support liberal democracy exist within Latinx communities in California’s ‘Inland Empire’ (IE)? In this densely populated region just east of Los Angeles that has become a national focus of Latinx population growth, migrant travel and labour, the expanding logistics industry and ecological damage associated with sprawling warehouses, how have prominent organisations in ‘Latinx civil society’ interpreted and responded to the racial-political dynamics of these circumstances? What potential do they offer as catalysts for efforts to contest the growing phenomenon of racial authoritarianism in America and reinvigorate a liberal-democratic political culture? What promise do practises of Popular Education, historically a central component of political mobilisation among Latinx working-class and impoverished people in the US and Latin America, hold for enriching the democratic and anti-racist endeavours of IE Latinx civil society organisations today? 

This project will develop a curriculum for a series of popular education programmes in the Inland Empire in collaboration with various NGO partners including an immigrant legal aid organisation, an environmental justice committee, an indigenous media group, a warehouse workers’ union, an artists’ association and a community boxing network. 

Read the report.

8. The State of the States

Faculty: Peter Trubowitz, Department of International Relations, and Chris Gilson, Phelan United States Centre
Research Assistant: Namrata Anil Menon, Department of Philosophy 

In 2018 the Phelan US Centre launched The State of the States, a map-based interactive online resource bringing together US state-level information all in one place. This resource went on to win a Guardian Universities Award for Digital Innovation in April 2019. The State of the States is now being developed into a new subscriber-based online platform to help those working for US state and local government to make better decisions about policy and implementation through a database with important and useful state-level facts and figures, and a repository of best practice case studies on policy implementation and effectiveness. 

This project will assist in the further development of The State of the States by providing support to build a network of US state policy practitioners and experts to inform the platform, source data and content (including case study outlines) and create literature reviews on state policy learning and policy diffusion.

Read the report.

9. Religion, party loyalty, and the Utah LDS Church

Faculty: Fenella Cannell, Department of Anthropology
Research Assistant: Kasia Micklem, Department of International History

This research project focuses on current political and religious developments centred in Utah. It will track key themes relating to religious and political free speech in the United States, through the lens of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). 

The complex and far-reaching changes in grassroots American politics under Trump and after, especially since the assault on the Capitol (January 6th, 2020) have an important and as yet under-recognised LDS dimension. Within the predominantly Republican-voting state of Utah the LDS Church leadership’s constitutionalism has seen a challenge from radical libertarian Utahans, including both those with religious breakaway theologies, and a wider group whose concerns include issues to do with farmers’ rights, as well as complex and diffuse prophetic and conspiracy theories which are both part of those nationally circulating in the US and yet also seem to be occurring in specific LDS variations. Meanwhile, many Utah voters have apparently been divided between their party loyalties and their concerns about both the political and personal directions of Trumpism and its correlates. 

Information about how this situation is perceived and experienced by ordinary members of the church is currently very limited.  The project will shed light on these complex changes by collecting and collating data from published sources, and from open-ended interviews with ordinary people in Utah, including students.

Read the report.

 

The programme has been generously funded by LSE Alumni. Read more about the programme at Supporting LSE.

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