All posts by Sören Stapel

Protests in Brazil and Turkey: Not yet social movements

These days, we are witnessing an interesting number of social upheavals around the world. There is the Arab Spring which has re-awakened the interest in the North African region. We have seen student protests in the streets of London. People went on the streets of Moscow to express their allegations of electoral fraud in 2011. And, to keep in mind, there is the still ongoing civil war in Syria. Very recently, two countries, often referred to as the power houses of their regions, have witnessed the discontent of their populations: Turkey and Brazil.

At a first glance, both cases seem to be different stories. Whereas the Taksim Gezi Park protests seem to be rather spontaneous, the Brazilian protests have deeper and long-lasting roots. So what happened? Are there also similarities? And how can we make sense of these contemporaneous events?1

The Turkish case

Reasons for demonstrating in Turkey
Own figure. Data source: Konda.

Continue reading Protests in Brazil and Turkey: Not yet social movements

Links: Protests in Brazil, Eurozone, Spying, MOOCs

People protesting in the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Source: Wikimedia (public domain)

Usually, I try to find common themes for the links when it’s my turn in the link duty. Today I do not live up to that. So, here’s a rather cursory collection of what I’ve read over the last couple of days.

So far, we did not cover much of the protests in Brazil and I expect this to change soon. Meanwhile, Natalia Bueno shows who is protesting in Brazil. In case you missed it, check out Jay Ulfelder’s critique regarding laundry lists of causes for social unrest. At least, Gamman and Young’s argue that protests in Brazil are not just about the economy. Robert Kelly speculates whether the protests could spread to Asia’s corrupt democracies.

Continue reading Links: Protests in Brazil, Eurozone, Spying, MOOCs

Links: European floods, Middle East, NSA, Game of Thrones

Flood disaster in Central Europe

Central Europe has to bear with a lot of water as the rivers Danube, Elbe, Saale, Inn, Mulde, and several more tributaries are swollen up to the upper limit. The video* above shows dyke watches in Central Germany (in the city of Schönebeck). That’s how pretty much every place around these rivers looks like while the dams are about to burst – and if they have burst, it’s just worse. Railways hat to be closed and thousands of people are evacuated from these masses of waters. While in some places the clearing work has started by now, the worst is yet to come for Northern Germany and Hungary. The Danube river alone affects 10 countries.

This has happened before, of course, but those record surges are unknown of and they happen at the same time in several countries across Europe (for instance, Germany, the Czeach Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary are flood-affected). Some people link the floods to consequences of climate change and sealed surfaces. I am wondering just why the dyke building has not advanced as much as it should have after the 2002 and 2005 floods in Germany. And, what about transnational cooperation in river management / flood control / disaster management? Has anyone come across some piece that is taking up the coordination between e.g. Czech and German officials?

* The video is from a small local newspaper in Saxony-Anhalt and I wanted to promote it here. Continue reading Links: European floods, Middle East, NSA, Game of Thrones

Conference advice from an assistant’s viewpoint

tl;dr: ~1600 words

Over at the Duck, Stephen Saideman presented some great ideas of belated conference proposal advice for the International Studies Association 2014. It’s more of a general piece which is equally helpful for other conferences. His four main points are

(1) do organize panels if you can – they are more coherent. Have a mixed crowd on the panel; do not submit the individual paper(s) as well
(2) have short and clear abstract– keep it simple, do not give too much detail, have a clear and exciting title (see also Leanne Powner’s abstract-writing worksheet)
(3) you do not need to link your submissions to the theme by all means – ISA sections have panel allocations independent of the theme or may issue separate calls
(4) make sure to send your submission(s) to the right section(s)

While these points are worthwhile, I think that Steve is too rigorous on some other points. I started off writing a comment given my experience working for last year’s ISA conference but quickly realized that I would have quite a long list of additional points which go beyond a mere “comment”. So, I will  spell these out in more detail. And, following Megan MacKenzie’s ISA survival guide and Steve’s proposal advice, I would add some points regarding the months in between so that we have covered the whole ISA cycle. Continue reading Conference advice from an assistant’s viewpoint

MOOC: publicity bubble or game changing development?

Lots of questions regarding MOOC. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

2012 is considered to be the year of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), most related media contributions date back only a few weeks, and the MOOC movement has reached Germany. While first-tier universities in the US have been pushing the MOOC agenda over the last couple of months, German academics have been proven resistant to this new teaching and learning concept so far. But it is here in the end, both the MOOC movement and the related discussions. While the fronts between proponents and critics of the MOOC seem to be hardening, I feel like sitting on the fence not knowing what I should make out of the MOOC idea.

Continue reading MOOC: publicity bubble or game changing development?

After the referendum: political maneuvers in Zimbabwe

Earlier this year, I informed you that there would be held a constitutional referendum in Zimbabwe this March. The outcome was positive and the Zimbabwean people have agreed on a new constitution. The referendum was only one step out of several others agreed upon in the roadmap to democratic elections in the South African country as foreseen in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and negotiated with the SADC and the main Zimbabwean parties. Elections shall be held this year and consultations about the date are currently under way.

So how does the outcome look like? Little surprising, the new constitution has been approved by the majority of the electorate. A huge a majority of 95% of the votes were in favor of the new constitution. Also, more than half of the six million eligible voters went to the ballots. While the high number of approval is not very surprising given that the proposed draft had been supported by the two large Zimbabwean parties, ZANU-PF and MDC, one needs to say on a more positive note that the number of electoral participation was higher than expected. Remember, the process was overshadowed by political tensions, politically motivated violence, and the exclusion of NGO and media representatives.

Continue reading After the referendum: political maneuvers in Zimbabwe

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

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

Links #2: Governance measurements, job prospects, IR theory, regionalism

Francis Fukuyama’s commentary “How should we measure governance?” has provoked a series of replies at the governance blog, inter alia reactions from Bo Rothstein, Thomas Risse, and Shiv Visvanathan. This might be a good starting point if you want to think about governance as such or the quantification / measurement problem in IR.

An article about desperate grad students who turn to external career advisors in order to improve their job prospects in academia has upset Steve Saideman. So, just don’t do it and go to your supervisor instead, is what he’s advising.

Over at Theory Talks, New Lebow is interviewed “On Drivers of War, Cultural Theory, and IR of Foxes and Hedgehogs”. Also, he certainly doesn’t mince words:

On the American side of the pond, positivist or game-theoretical behaviorist or rationalist modeling approaches dominate the literature; it’s just silly, from my perspective. It’s based on assumptions which bear no relationship to the real world. People like it because it’s intellectually elegant: they don’t have to learn any languages, they don’t have to read any history, and they can pretend they’re scientists discussing universals. Intellectually, it’s ridiculous.

OK, let’s turn to the regionalism stuff.

Continue reading Links #2: Governance measurements, job prospects, IR theory, regionalism

Links #1: Tuesday links

This is one of these days when you’re so swamped with organizational work that you don’t get anything done. So, I’m brief on the links today.


While results of the Kenyan elections are still pending, I have had a glance at some articles about the possibility of violence and international media coverage in the country.


What about regionalism news?

The Third Africa-South America Summit concluded a week ago or so, following-up on the two others held in Nigeria in 2006 and in Venezuela in 2009. Participants are calling for more cooperation and South-South unity.

Former Chief Justice of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal, Ariranga Pillay, reflects about the reasons why the Tribunal has been suspended and attacks South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma.

NAFTA at 20! The Congressional Research Service provides an overview and trade effects for the last 20 years. Interesting if you want to put your hands on the topic.


And, finally, some Pope election coverage shouldn’t be missing since the conclave preparations get into top gear. The Making Electoral Democracy Work project has set up the Vote for Pope website which provides insights about different electoral systems and invites us to take part in a fictional Pope election. Check it out. (via The Monkey Cage)