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 program as a means of encouraging US-related interdisciplinary research collaborations between academics and undergraduate students at LSE.

There is nothing quite like working with an LSE undergraduate research assistant to help you jumpstart a piece of research. They are resourceful, committed, open-minded -- an invaluable combination in the early stages of a project.

Fabien Accominotti, Assistant Professor (Department of Sociology)

Working with budding academics from across the School gives a remarkable opportunity to reimagine our own research focuses. It also challenges us to have an even greater openness to interdisciplinary insights and question our most basic hypotheses

John Collins, Executive Director (LSE's International Drug Policy Unit)

The Undergraduate Research Assistantship program has been an opportunity for students to involve themselves directly in internationally-oriented scholarship on America’s changing role in the world. Collaborating over the course of an academic year, undergraduate students were paired with academics who required assistance in collecting or processing new data, gathering archival resources, writing-up a blog article, or conducting library searches.

Read the 2019-20,  2018-19 and the 2017-18 donor reports for more information on the programmes.

The Undergraduate Research Assistantship program has been generously funded by LSE alumnus Stefan Guetter (Msc Accounting and Finance 1995, and Executive Summer School 2010). 

"My gift is supporting the provision of internships for undergraduate students, enabling them to work with faculty on professional research programmes that emanate from the Centre. I thought it was a very good idea as it provides a different academic challenge that would not otherwise be undertaken in undergraduate study. Separately I thought it made a lot of sense to support something that is having a close look at US relations from a European perspective; obviously this is highly topical at the moment."

- Mr Guetter outlined his motivation for donating to the programme on page 21 of LSE's Impact Magazine.

 For information on the 2020-21 programme please click here.

2019-20 Research Projects

1. US Aid and international drug policy- evaluating the US role in the global drugs and development debate 

Faculty: John Collins, International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU)

Research Assistant: Karen Torres, Social Policy 

The US is generally viewed as the lead protagonist in the global “war on drugs”. This has generally manifest through the traditional lens of militarisation, repression and policing which are widely viewed as often ineffective and counterproductive. Another, less examined, strand of US drug diplomacy is the stick and carrot wielded through the provision of development aid. This research project will aim to gain a better understanding the US’ complex diplomatic and geopolitical interests and roles in global drug policies via the drugs and development debates. Further it is intended to understand how US policies can and could intersect more productively with global efforts to align drug policies more closely with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Read the report.

2. The New Politics of Inequality: How It Works - and Fails - in America 

Faculty: Lloyd Gruber, International Development

Research Assistant: Colin Vanelli, International History 

This book project will examine the surprisingly understudied relationship between globalization, economic inequality, and domestic politics.  While we know a great deal about globalization’s impact on economic inequality, the second link in globalization’s causal chain—the link from inequality to politics—has been subjected to far less scrutiny. If recent trends of globalization continue, a great many congressional districts will soon by populated almost exclusively by wealthy families, just as other districts will soon find themselves the exclusive preserves of poorer households. If this pattern continues—if America’s inequality-winners keep clustering into some political districts, the inequality-losers into others—we will soon be seeing stable inequality-generated “tyrannies” of precisely the sort that worried James Madison, Alexis de Tocqueville, and John Stuart Mill in the past and inspire (and motivate) populists and their supporters today.

Read the report.

3. The changing role of high culture in American social stratification over the 20th Century

Faculty: Fabien Accominotti, Sociology

Research Assistant: Nicholas Robben, General Course

The project will use a unique database of subscribers to the New York Philharmonic – one of the oldest and most prestigious orchestras in the United States – to explore the changing role of high culture in American social stratification over the twentieth century. The project will explore the data covering 1910 to 1990, with emphasis on the post-war period (1950s-1990s). The post-war era was one of important shifts in patterns of social stratification in the US, with the three decades between 1950 and 1980 often described as the time of the rise of the “great American middle class,” and the 1980s and 1990s in contrast as a time of renewed inequality and elite closure. The goal of the project will be to explore how these dynamics were reflected in the audience of one of the most prominent, elite-sponsored, cultural institutions in the United States. 

Read the report.

4. Race and Gender in US Politics in Historical and Contemporary Perspective

Faculty: Imaobong Umoren, International History

Research Assistant: Eileen Gbagbo, International Relations

Given our current moment, with surging white supremacy and sexism directed toward, in particular, Black politicians and the overwhelming significance of the African American vote in the upcoming 2020 US Presidential elections, it is worth reflecting on the intersecting influence that race and gender has had both historically and in contemporary times. This research project is based on the seminar series 'Race and Gender in US Politics in Historical and Contemporary Perspective'. The seminar series will bring together historians, political scientists and sociologists to share current research on the theme of ‘race, gender and politics’. While race and gender will be the central themes, the seminars will also explore other issues surrounding religion, immigration, incarceration, and poverty.

If you would like to know more about Eileen's journey on the programme, watch her Undergraduate Research Assistantship Video Diaries here and here.

Read the report.

5. The failure to restore the international financial system after World War I

Faculty: James Morrison, International Relations

Research Assistants: Anna Cooper (International History) and Katherine Bennett (General Course)

The project traces the attempts to restore a cooperative international financial system following World War I, the failure of those attempts, and the disasters that followed. Much of this is rooted in the documents surrounding the collaboration of the central banks of the US and the UK. Documents covered include a large collection from US Treasury Department official Harry Dexter White related to ongoing US-UK collaboration in the 1930s and 1940s as well as original private memos from Winston Churchill and John Maynard Keynes.

Read Anna Cooper's report.

Read Katherine Bennett's report.


2018-19 Research Projects

1. The Rise and Fall of US Drug War Hegemony: Rethinking Bilateral Perspectives

Faculty: John Collins, International Drug Policy Unit

Research Assistant: Maria Cerdio, Anthropology

The US has traditionally been viewed as a key actor in international drug control. Indeed many accounts highlight the US as the key protagonist, or hegemon, responsible for the creation of the UN drug control system, as codified under the various UN drug control treaties. The relationship between US bilateral diplomacy and its negotiated process around exporting the US model of drug control to specific key states has received less attention. This research aims to develop a more vivid and clear picture of the US’s role in the drug policies of states around the world and thereby discern some of the mechanisms and leverage points the US was able to exert in its export of the “war on drugs” model.

Read the report.

2. Jimmy Carter and Global Human Rights

Faculty: Roham Alvandi, International History

Research Assistant: Joss Harrison, International Relations

This is a book project, which examines the relationship between the ‘human rights revolution’ of the 1970s and the Iranian Revolution of 1979. It explores the ways in which transnational human rights activism in the United States and Europe, involving American, Iranian, and European activists, helped to spark the Iranian Revolution. The project involves looking at the human rights policies of the Carter administration.

Read the report.

3. The Decline and Fall of the Gold Standard

Faculty: James Morrison, International History

Research Assistant: Maitrai Lapalika, International Relations

This is a book project on the “Decline and Fall of the Gold Standard” in the interwar period. The project traces the attempts to restore a cooperative international financial system following World War I, the failure of those attempts and the disaster of the Great Depression, and the radical departures from the gold standard system in the 1930s. 

Read the report.

4. Eugenia Charles and US-Dominican Relations, 1980-1995

Faculty: Imaobong Umoren, International History

Research Assistant: Christina Ivey, Government

LSE Alumna Eugenia Charles made history in 1980 when she became the first female Prime Minister in the Caribbean. Sweeping to victory in the Dominican elections, Charles simultaneously became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence and Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs. Charles won three consecutive elections serving until 1995. With conservative political views and close ties to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan, Charles gained the title 'Iron Lady of the Caribbean'. The research assistant will be involved with conducting research in US and Caribbean newspapers about Eugenia Charles and US-Dominican relations between 1980-1995. In particular, the research assistant will investigate the media and public reaction to the US invasion of Grenada in 1983, the influence of US aid in Dominica, and how Charles was represented.

Read the report.

5. Islamophobia Discourse in the British, American and Australian media

Faculty: David Smith, US Centre

Research Assistant: Arundhati Suma-Ajith, International History

This research project maps the political discourse of Islamophobia in Britain, the United States and Australia. “Islamophobia” is a highly contested term, and the political use of it has changed over time and has been different in different places. By exploring the development of Islamophobia as a concept in different countries, this project seeks to answer the question of why different states have responded to the problem of Islamophobia in different ways. 

Read the report.


2017-18 Research Projects

1. A Return to Mercantilism

Faculty: James Morrison, International Relations

This project attempts to rethink mercantilism using the political and economic work of John Locke, to assess that theory in light of modern developments in political economy, and to explain the return to mercantilism (particularly in the United States) today. This will be either a set of articles or a small book project.

Research Assistant: Olivia Horn, 3rd Year International Relations student 

2. US State-Level Partisanship and Political Blogging

Faculty: Peter Trubowitz, International Relations

While political polarization is not new, the 2016 presidential election brought this phenomenon into sharp relief. Previous studies have used Twitter and other social media sources, as well as broadcast and online news media, to examine partisanship, but to date there have been no comprehensive studies of partisanship at the US state-level, which have closely examined commentary in the form of political blogs. 

This project aims to explore the connection between US state-level partisanship and political blogging. Broadcast and online media at the national level have become very polarized in recent years – but is this the case with state-based commentary as well? How is state-based partisan commentary linked to partisanship in the states? In order to achieve a large enough sample to draw conclusions about partisanship, this project will use a web census of all state-level political commentary blogs across the US. Alongside this, the project will also involve a survey questionnaire and text-mining. The project output will be a series of blog articles and potentially a peer-reviewed publication.

Research Assistants:James Sanders, 3rd Year Government and History student
Gabriel Chua, 3rd Year Economics student  

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