Undergraduate Research Assistantships

Encouraging interdisciplinary research collaborations between academics and undergraduate students

In 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.

Blown away by the brilliance of my UGRA Emily. I would have made exactly zero progress on this project without her work and her work is just so, so good

Rebecca Elliott, Associate Professor (Department of Sociology)

From a faculty member's standpoint, you imagine some of your best students in your classes coming and helping you with your research, it's hard to imagine something more useful or enjoyable than that

James Morrison, Associate Professor (Department of International Relations

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 2020-212019-20,  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 2021-22 programme please click here

2022-23 Research Projects

Trade, Human Rights, and US-China Relations: 1979-2001

FacultyElizabeth Ingleson, Department of International History
Research Assistant: Mei Yuzuki, Department of International History

This project will explore the relationship between trade and human rights in US-China relations, starting with the US-China Trade Agreement (1979) and concluding with China’s entry into the WTO (2001), and stems from the book project, China and the United States Since 1949: An International History. The project’s focus will be on US Congressional debates that connected trade concessions with human rights, and will analyse the different ways that human rights have been defined and understood over this twenty-year period, paying particular attention to the distinctions between civil and political rights on the one hand and economic, social, and cultural rights on the other hand.

The research assistant will conduct a literature review, identifying the core books and articles that address these topics, familiarise themselves with the research the faculty lead has already done into this topic and do further research to help create a primary source database of relevant documents, and work with the faculty lead onanalysing the primary sources; in particular identifying the key ways US congress members defined human rights (i.e. economic, social and cultural and/or civil and political) in different moments.

Read the report.

Occupational Paranoia: The Case of Chicago Policing, 1862-2022

Faculty: Johann Koehler, Department of Social Policy
Research Assistant: Vani Kant, Department of International Relations

This study theorizes how an organization manages and responds to institutional anxieties that arise from perceived threat, disruption, or sabotage —a phenomenon we call “occupational paranoia.” It draws on over a century and a half of annual reports from the Chicago Police Department (1862-2022).This study equips sociologists with a framework to study how paranoia affects the organizing structure of policing and analogous professions that understand themselves as providing a beleaguered service.

The research assistantwill assist in the creation of a codebookand thecoding and analysis of annual reports produced by the CPD from 1862-2022, which will help inform the findings for a research article. They will also write bi-weekly descriptive memos analysing the codes based on the rich qualitative and quantitative data contained in the annual reports. These tasks will require initiative and creativity in handling archival materials (all of which have been digitised and prepared for the RA’s use), an interest in criminal justice policy, and an excitement about American history. The work can be completed remotely, though the RA will be invited to biweekly zoom meetings to monitor progress, ask questions, and provide mentorship and training.This project will provide valuable experience in the design, preparation, and execution of an original research project. In particular, the student will be trained in qualitative coding, which can be applied to content analysis projects they might undertake in the future.

Read the report.


Passing the economic torch from the UK to the USA in the 20th Century

Faculty: James Morrison, Department of International Relations             
Research Assistant: Irmak Dyonmez, Department of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific Method

This project extends my broader research agenda, specifically on Anglo-American financial cooperation and the “passing of the torch” from the UK to the USA in the 20th Century. This project will first explore the tense dynamics between the UK and the USA in funding the Allied efforts during the two world wars. Second, it will explore the role of John Maynard Keynes in re-shaping the Anglo-American alliance across the first half of the 20th Century. Third, it will expand to some new territory specifically related to the creation of the post-World-War-II Anglo-American order.

These projects are rooted in the documents surrounding the political-economic collaboration between the US and UK across the first half of the 20th Century.The research assistant will help organise, review, and process documents including more than 5,000 pages of materials from Harry Dexter White, the key official in the US Treasury who, with JM Keynes, designed the Bretton Woods Institutions: the IMF, and the World Bank. They will read these documents for their content and organise them according to set rubrics. The research assistant will need to have a passion for reading and investigating digitised primary documents about the global economic order in this period, an eye for detail, and the ability to work in an organised, systematic fashion. The work can be done remotely.

Read the report.

Anglo-American Relations after the US Civil War

Faculty: Rohan Mukherjee, Department of International Relations                      
Research Assistant: Maia Halle, Department of Government

This project will study Anglo-American relations in the second half of the 19th century, following the United States’ Civil War (1861-1865). The Treaty of Washington in 1871 is often cited as a pivotal moment when Britain and the US decided to resolve several outstanding disputes and lay the foundations of longer-term rapprochement and eventual alliance. This period is also studied as a rare case of peaceful transition in world politics between a dominant power (Britain) and a rising power (the US).

The research assistant will undertake a thorough review of the theoretical literature on peaceful transitions and the secondary empirical literature on Anglo-American relations between the end of the Civil War (1865) and the Treaty of Washington (1871) and beyond. The main deliverable will be an annotated bibliography of books, journal articles, and other materials relevant to this question and period. If time permits, the RA will also visit the British Library to help determine the relevant collections that contain evidence of British deliberations on relations with the US in this period. The RA will be expected to check in with their supervisor once every two weeks to discuss progress on the annotated bibliography and what they are learning in the process of putting it together. Working on this project will provide insight into the research process and help the RA develop the necessary skills to conduct high-quality research of their own in future.

Read the report.

Climate change and the US right

Faculty: Laura Pulido, Department of Geography and Environment          
Research Assistant: Arjan Singh Gill, LSE Law School

This project examines the role of the right in preventing action on climate change in the US, also known as climate refusal. While it is well-known the extent to which the fossil fuel industry and utilities have sought to sow doubt, disinformation, and blocking meaningful action, less understood is the role and motivations of right-wing politicians. While there is widespread support for climate action across the U.S., including among Republican voters, GOP elected officials refuse to support climate action.

Climate refusal can be understood as a form of “collateral damage,” as white nationalism and anti-statism fuel support of the right. Because white nationalism cannot be contained or channelled, its surplus nature actively contributes to a variety of right-wing projects, including climate refusal. The research assistant will help to builda comprehensive list of climate refusal actions on the part of right wing legislators, officials and judges from the 1990s to the present. This work can be done remotely.

The RA should have a basic understanding of U.S. political systems and structures as well as climate change policies; excellent writing skills; be deeply curious; attentive to details; familiarity with Excel; and, most importantly, be fearless in tracking down information!

Read the report.

State supervision of poor families in Los Angeles

Faculty: Amanda Sheely, Department of Social Policy
Research Assistants: Bashirat Oladele, Department of Sociology, and Maria Constanza Novellino Ron, Department of Sociology

One of the primary goals of governance in the United States is the supervision and management of poor people. For poor mothers, this supervision is carried out by multiple systems, including the adult welfare, child welfare, and criminal justice systems. Research highlights that state supervisory systems are at the same time overlapping and contradictory.

This study will interrogate this contradiction by conducting a medium sized population study examining the historical development and current structure of state supervision of poor families in one local area – Los Angeles, California. It will seek articulation of the racialized and gendered dynamics of policies and practices with a view to highlighting where systemic harms can be mitigated or where care objectives can be realigned.

The student will create an annotated bibliography of historical research around state supervision by the criminal justice, welfare, and child welfare systems with an emphasis on poor mothers. To support them with this task, they will be provided with a training session with LSE library about how to find literature on a given topic, as well as using Zotero for reference management. The supervisor will also provide the student with detailed instructions on creating annotated bibliographies. The student will also organize and start the analysis of archival documents. This will include using Excel to create a master list of documents, creating a Zotero database for documents found, and preparing the documents for qualitative analysis. To support them, the supervisor will organise weekly project meetings with the student.

Read Bashirat's report.

Read Maria's report.

Investigating the role of nuclear weapons in US alliance politics

Faculty: Lauren Sukin, Department of International Relations
Research Assistants: Annabelle Gouttebroze, Department of Government, and Adrian Matak, Department of Government

This research project will explore how U.S. allies evaluate the credibility of the U.S. nuclear security guarantee, using archival research and survey experiments to analyse how states assess various U.S. signals of resolve.This project also assesses the conditions under which U.S. nuclear security guarantees may backfire, as strong signals of resolve can create fears of reliance on the nuclear capabilities of the United States, leading to support within U.S. allies for stronger and more independent military capabilities.

This project requires two research assistants toconduct library and archival research, assist with the design and analysis of survey experiments, and contribute to project management. Throughout this project, research assistants will develop their qualitative and/or quantitative research skills, project management experience, experience with research software, and substantive knowledge on international security, U.S. foreign policy, alliance dynamics, and nuclear politics. Research assistants will gain valuable insight into the process of conducting academic research. Research assistants can expect to conduct both remote and in-person work, including regular meetings with the project supervisor.

Read Annabelle's report.

Read Adrian's report.

The Phelan US Centre Sustainability Syllabus Hub

Faculty: Peter Trubowitz, Department of International Relations, and Chris Gilson, Phelan United States Centre
Research Assistant: Honour Astill, Department of Government

As part of a broader project focusing on climate change in the United States, the Phelan US Centre is building a syllabus hub for its website to collate reading lists from around the world which address climate change and sustainability as they relate to the US. The objective of this project is to create a free-to-access repository of syllabuses and reading lists that students, academics and other interested audiences can use to facilitate their research on climate change and the US. The research assistant will support the Phelan US Centre team in delivering this project by conducting a search for relevant syllabuses and reading lists, assisting in obtaining permission from their authors for the US Centre to host copies of them, and organising them thematically on a new page on our website. The student will gain an enhanced understanding of the current state of the literature on climate change and the US, as well as web-editing skills.

This project is funded by the LSE Sustainable Projects Fund. Find out more about the LSE Sustainability team here.

Read the report.

The State of the States

Faculty: Peter Trubowitz, Department of International Relations, and Chris Gilson, Phelan United States Centre
Research Assistant: Jimin Oh, Department of Social Policy

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.

The research assistant(s) will assist in the further development of The State of the States by providing support to source data and content, including researching and writing state policy case studies,and creatingliterature reviews on state policy learning and policy diffusion.

Read the report.


 2021-22 Research Projects

1. Effective policy approaches to support single-parent families

Faculty: Amanda Sheely, Department 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 Madden, Department 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 Ingleson, Department 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

Faculty: Imaobong Umoren, Department 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 Morrison, Department 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 Koehler, Department 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 Apostolidis, Department 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.

2020-21 Research Projects

1. Charismatic infrastructure for climate change adaptation in the US

Faculty: Rebecca Elliott, Department of Sociology                                             
Research Assistant: Emily Douglas, Department of Geography and Environment

In the absence of national leadership, some American towns and cities have begun to marshal immense resources – financial, political, and intellectual – to confront and prepare for the worst effects of climate change. This adaptation often takes the form of major investments in new infrastructure projects meant to defend existing landscapes of people and property from the encroachment of rising seas, extremes of heat and cold, and more intense natural disasters. This project will assess what makes such projects a compelling or ‘charismatic’ strategy when compared to, for instance, forms of climate change adaptation that unbuild, retreat, or maintain existing structures rather than building new ones.We will reflect on how particular infrastructure solutions to climate change, and not others, come to be understood as precisely that: solutions.The research will follow the social lifecycle of this infrastructure in order to examine how what ultimately gets built – the form a project takes, where it is sited, who pays for it, and who or what it protects – reflects local configurations of political power, authoritative knowledge practices and expertise, and cultural ideas about human-environment relations. 

Read the report.

2. The acceleration of prison reform in the age of COVID-19

Faculty: Johann Koehler, Department of Social Policy                   
Research Assistant: Hawa Patel, Department of International History

Prisons and jails rank among the world’s densest and most transmissive hotbeds of viral contagion. This insight worried the penal reformers of the 18th century who were concerned with typhus and ‘miasma’ just as acutely as it does the policymakers of the 21st century who worry about COVID-19’s spread. Yet while the suppression of disease spurred the prison’s invention and proliferation three centuries ago, today it prompts serious discussion about whether the institution has outlived its purpose. The management of COVID-19 has forced states across the US and beyond to consider the mass release of people held behind bars. Such measures are far more drastic than the preferred solutions of first resort in progressive criminal justice, which typically are modest, piecemeal, and incremental. This research project looks at how might we make sense of the spontaneous shift toward taking seriously penal reforms—such as the mass release of people from prisons—that were considered unthinkable shortly before. 

Read the report.

3. The disasters of the international financial system after World War I

Faculty: James Morrison, Department of International Relations               
Research Assistant: Johann Power, Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

This project will examine the attempts to restore a cooperative international financial system following World War I, the failure of those attempts, and the disasters that followed.  By analysing the documents surrounding the political-economic collaboration between the USA and the UK in this period, this project will consider the interaction between political economy and security, particularly as they came together in the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles. It will also explore the longer-run role played by JM Keynes in re-shaping the Anglo-American alliance across the first half of the 20th Century. 

Read the report.

4. Examining the legacy of Henry Kissinger

Faculty: Roham AlvandiDepartment of International History                        
Research Assistant: Sajjad-Ali Mohajerani-Irvani, Department of International History

2023 will mark 100 years since the birth of former diplomat, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger. This project will consider the scholarship on Henry Kissinger, and address the questions: why does Henry Kissinger matter, and to what extent are we living in a world of Kissinger’s making? It will examine the legacy of Kissinger’s decisions during his time in office, as well as the debates and controversies surrounding those decisions today, especially the accusation that he is a 'war criminal'. Why do we still talk about Kissinger more than 40 years after he left office? The project will include Kissinger's legacy as an architect of superpower détente and the opening to China, and the legacy of his decisions in various theatres, such as his 1973-74 Arab-Israel shuttle diplomacy, the 1973 coup in Chile, the civil war in Angola, and the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. 

Read the report.

5. How using Zoom has changed Congressional hearings on economic policy

Faculty: Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey, Department of Government                  
Research Assistant: Matthew Bradbury, Department of Economics

Legislative committees in the US Congress play an important role in holding policymakers to account in oversight hearings. While most empirical studies to date which look at how these committees deliberate have focused on the words and arguments spoken, very little work has been done on the effect of nonverbal communication in accountability hearings. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of Zoom and other visually remote ways of communicating have made the importance of nonverbal communication even more important. This project will examine the hearings on economic policy by the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee, both immediately prior to the lockdown conditions brought about from COVID-19 and then those conducted remotely in the months following these restrictions. It will also examine whether the nonverbal challenges that have been raised by remote sessions have significantly diminished (or enhanced) deliberative quality. 

Read the report.

6. How US state institutions seek to control socially marginalised women

Faculty: Amanda Sheely, Department of Social Policy 
Research Assistant: Sarah Ang, Department of Social Policy

This project will examine the relationship between socially marginalised women and state institutions in the United States. There has been increasing recognition among scholars that governance in the US has shifted dramatically, with criminal justice and welfare systems increasingly working together to control the behavior of socially marginalized people through punishment and supervision. However, there is important variation among states in both the provision of welfare, as well as the reach of the criminal justice system. Research has found that states with Republican lawmakers, as well as with more African American residents have higher incarceration rates and more stringent welfare policies. This project will build on the existing literature in three important ways. First, rather than focusing on understanding state punitiveness, this project will instead seek to understand how states are seeking to regulate and control behaviour instead. Second, it brings in an explicit focus on gender by examining state supervision of women under three systems: the criminal justice, welfare, and child welfare systems. Third, the research will be designed to look for divergences, as well as coordination between these systems.

Read the report.


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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