Monthly Archives: March 2013

A “Conference / workshop / methods school” on Identity


As a graduate student, you regularly go to academic conferences. This is important for a number of reasons: First, and probably most importantly, a usual conference comes with a deadline. Being accepted thus means that you are forced to write and hand in something that you might otherwise contemplate about for another six months. Conferences thus provide structure to the life of the graduate student. Plus, you usually meet nice people who you already know or would like to get to know (see also: “free booze”). So, there’s nothing wrong with the big conferences.

However, they can also be quite disappointing. You may be lucky and end up with a discussant helping to improve your work tremendously. Or you may not. Occasionally, you just don’t find people dealing with similar theoretical and methodological questions. Finally, most conferences last only one to three days so that you don’t have the time for repeated conversations over a few days.

Last week, I had the privilege to participate in a different type of event: the Young Scholars School (YSS) on European Identity, which took place from March 17 – 23 in Jena and was organized by the convenors of the ECPR Standing Group Identity, Viktoria Kaina and Pawel Karolewski.

What made this “conference” quite special was the fact that the event did not fit into one of the regular forms of academic interaction on the graduate student level. Neither could it be labeled a method summer/winter school, nor was it a series of lectures or a mere graduate conference. Continue reading A “Conference / workshop / methods school” on Identity

On Dijsselbloem

Why everyone should calm down – and be careful when speaking in their second language

Jeroen Dijsselboem
Jeroen Dijsselboem

The last two days the European media (and markets) were in a state of shock. Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem had supposedly said in an interview with the Financial Times and Reuters that the Cyprus bail-in strategy could be a template for resolving banking crises in the future. The result was a truly Europeanized response.

There seemed to be a great consensus that Dijsselbloem was disquieting the markets, that he is unfit for the job, while he was even labeled as ‘chaos crisis manager’. The Süddeutsche Zeitung noted that the inexperienced, agricultural economist Dijsselbloem should ‘choose his words’ wiser.

Dijsselbloem subsequently published a short statement saying:

Cyprus is a specific case with exceptional challenges which required the bail-in measures we have agreed upon yesterday. Macro-economic adjustment programmes are tailor-made to the situation of the country concerned and no models or templates are used.

Four brief points on this whole charade are in order. Continue reading On Dijsselbloem

Meet us at ISA 2013


Some of us will be leaving for San Francisco next week to attend the ISA Annual Convention. For me, it will not only be the first big conference, but also my first time to California. A few people have given me tips already –best burrito in town etc., thanks D.!-, but I was still glad to see Megan MacKenzie’s ISA Survival Guide for Grad Students over at the Duck of Minerva.

A good part of her advice is, very pragmatically, concentrated on finding as much free booze and food as possible. We’re happy to help fellow grad students (and everyone else) in that regard: A great opportunity to meet some of the people blogging here is going to the reception held by the Collaborative Research Center (SFB 700) and Research College (KFG) “The Transformtive Power of Europe”.

There will be lots of nice people from Berlin … as well as food and drinks:

Joint Reception & Poster Presentation by SFB 700 & KFG
Wednesday, April 3, 7:00 to 8.30 p.m.
Continental 6 Ballroom
Hilton San Francisco Union Square

See you around, or somewhere else at ISA 2013! (Next to offering free booze, SFB/KFG also host a number of interesting panels, by the way…)

Is International Development IR? Canada says yes.

Is international development a sub-set of everyday IR? In other words, should foreign aid be another means of furthering Canada’s “national interest”? The Canadian government seems to think so, announcing last week that it plans to merge the formerly independent Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). But what does this mean for Canada’s development priorities, and most importantly, for recipients of Canadian aid? Are Canada’s international political and economic objectives complementary to those it claims to promote through aid assistance?

CIDA’s stated goal, since its creation in 1968, has been to support sustainable development in poor countries “in order to reduce poverty and contribute to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world”. Since its founding, CIDA has been an independent government agency although ultimately reporting to parliament. In fact, since the time of CIDA’s first president, Maurice Strong, there has been recognition that CIDA needs institutional autonomy in order for development objectives to remain separate from political considerations. Last week’s decision changes that.
Continue reading Is International Development IR? Canada says yes.

Nap your way to a PhD!

the author at work
The author & his Ostrich pillow

As PhD students, we’re knowledge workers in the business of intellectual production. The self-determined quest for truth or knowledge is a huge privilege. Yet it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task at hand: to successfully manage a several-year project and, crucially, yourself. Given the nature of the research process, fatigue or drowsiness may soon become a troubling issue.

Thinking and writing can be tiresome – literally. We usually expect the magic to happen while gazing at a screen, sitting up and fully conscious. Now of course intellectual production and mental alertness is a very personal thing. You may be an early bird or a late riser, plan things step-by-step or prefer to muddle through, work better from your office space or in a café. But isn’t that typical midday dip from about 1 to 3 p.m. – post-cafeteria fatigue – something that unites us all? Next to PhD candidates’ archenemies of distraction and procrastination, don’t we all share those foggy-brained states of sliding into lazy thinking or fighting to stay awake?

Turns out that forcing your tired memory neurons to unduly fire during the siesta hours is simply not an effective strategy for surviving the cognitive slump: as sleep experts – and common sense – will tell you, simply hanging in there usually results in downslope concentration and recollection or, worse, bad decision-making and outright sloppy work. Finding a balance between immersion and relaxation that works for you is probably the key to successful brooding and typing about your topic of inquiry. And just like regular exercise and eating healthy are often recommended, sufficient sleep matters! So why not try napping your way to the PhD? Continue reading Nap your way to a PhD!

When political scientists draw their weapons

It is not so much a secret that politicians increasingly use twitter to present their opinions, discuss political ideas, or just to get in touch with people. Barack Obama has 28.6 million followers and the German government spokesman Steffen Seibert addresses almost 94,000 people; of course, those are rather prominent examples. Over at the Monkey Cage, Heather Evans shows that politicians use twitter not just to babble about their daily irrelevances, but to actually boost their campaigns and to engage in (more or less) serious debates. Likewise, political scientists frequently use Twitter as a tool to stay in contact with their colleagues, to comment on real-world events – or if only to promote their newest article and newest blog post. Some of them participate in this:


Continue reading When political scientists draw their weapons

Links #3: “No time” edition

'Detector! What would the Bayesian statistician say if I asked him whether the--' [roll] 'I AM A NEUTRINO DETECTOR, NOT A LABYRINTH GUARD. SERIOUSLY, DID YOUR BRAIN FALL OUT?' [roll] '... yes.'
xkcd #1132
What’s this, not even a handful of links? Well, sorry, but the whole editorial team is busy attending a workshop on process tracing, Bayesian reasoning (see above) and, uh, Sherlock Holmes.

“you are once again a representative of the Secret One World Government, and you have been temporarily flown in to pull the strings in the island of Surpyc, which is currently experiencing a bailout crisis…”

PhD Pitch #3: Does Foreign Aid Undermine Human Rights in Recipient Countries?

Video Source: “No Censorship!” in Youtube

The video as shown above vividly demonstrates the complex issues about counter-terrorism and human rights. It appears that public security is always pitted against human rights protection. Our  intuition dictates that intensified counter-terrorist efforts can lead to an increase in state-initiated human rights abuses.
Continue reading PhD Pitch #3: Does Foreign Aid Undermine Human Rights in Recipient Countries?

Wealth, income, (in)equality

If you have some Facebook or Twitter friends who study social sciences, chances are you have seen a certain video on “Wealth inequality in America” already: Which percentiles of the population own which share of wealth?


I have two problems with this six-minute clip. First, it does not sufficiently explain the underlying data: The poll results are not as clear as it seems, and the video lacks comparisons to other countries. Second, more importantly, the clip fails to acknowledge that wealth is almost per definition distributed in a highly unequal way. Continue reading Wealth, income, (in)equality

A flash in the pan? The Zimbabwean referendum and the road ahead

In Zimbabwe, a constitutional referendum will be held on Saturday which will end a process that started almost five years ago. As of now, the draft constitution is said to be constraining presidential powers, setting a maximum of two terms for the presidency, and strengthening political freedom. But what else is to be expected this year? With the current tense political situation around the polls this Saturday and the intra-party quarrels, the referendum and the likely to be-accepted new constitution are only the first steps in Zimbabwe’s democratization endeavor. The real litmus test is still to come: the presidential elections.

Continue reading A flash in the pan? The Zimbabwean referendum and the road ahead