Austin Sarat - Chair of the Political Science Department
Welcome back! Hope you had a wonderful summer. All of us in Political Science are eager to resume teaching and working with our extraordinarily talented students.
Meanwhile, we are pleased that Jaeyoon Park has joined us as a post-doctoral fellow. We are also pleased to welcome both Scott Smitson and Gilles Verniers who are visiting with us. I urge you to check out their classes.
And we are thrilled that Manuela Picq has been appointed to a continuing position in the department.
All of us are eager to see you and catch up. Stay safe. And good luck with the start of the semester.
Austin Sarat William Nelson Cromwell Professor Jurisprudence & Political Science, Political Science Chair 2022-23 Amherst College Amherst, MA. 01002 413-542-2308 (tel) 413-542-2264 (fax)
News from our Faculty
Amrita Basu just published a co-edited book, Women. Gender, and Religious Nationalism (Cambridge University Press, 2022). She also contributed several chapters to edited books, including:
“Revisiting Modalities of Violence in Populist India,” Edited by Thomas Blom Hansen and Srirupa Roy, New Hindutva and the Politics of Authoritarian Populism, (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2022).
“Prefiguring Alternatives to Autocratization: Democratic Dissent in Contemporary India,” in Sten Widmalm, Ed. Routledge Handbook of Autocratization in South Asia. Routledge, Abingdon & New York. 2022).
“Changing Modalities of Violence: Lessons from Hindu Nationalist India,” in Karen Barkey, Sudipto Kaviraj and Vatsal Naresh eds., Negotiating Democracy and Religious Pluralism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021).
She is looking forward to teaching the Political Science seminar for honors students in the fall.
Professor Javier Corrales along with Amherst alumn, Jack Kiryk '21, just published a new article in The Oxford Research Encyclopedias - Politics, (August 2022), titled "Homophobic Populism".
Populism often emerges with a strong homo- and transphobic orientation. This is the result of an alliance between populism and conservative religion. Populist movements have incentives to reach out to religious voters and vice versa. We argue that the alliance between populism and religion is both a marriage of convenience and inconvenience. Populists can offer attacks on pluralism and liberal social policies (e.g., pro-LGBTQ laws), which conservative religious groups often welcome. In return, religious groups can deliver loyal acolytes across classes, which populists also welcome. Religion enables populist movements to expand their constituency beyond their base of economically anxious and nationalist voters. That said, this alliance works best only where the conservative religious electorate is growing (or, at least, not declining). Even then, this union can still incite internal frictions within populist coalitions. These frictions tend to be more salient within left-wing populist coalitions than rightwing ones. This explains why the populist-religion nexus is more resilient among right-wing populist movements, as cases from the Americas and Europe illustrate
Professor Mattiacci's new peer-reviewed book is finally out with Oxford University Press. Volatile States in International Politics explains when and why countries shift inconsistently between cooperating with other countries and fighting against them. The book leverages a wealth of data and methodological tools to offer the first in-depth account of why countries' treacherous foreign policies often have harmless origins, how this predicament shapes international politics, and what to do about it. Her second book-length project will explore how the natural environment changes during wars. In the Spring semester, she’ll be teaching her class on the International Politics of Climate Change and supervise Victoria Gallastegui '23's honors thesis on the biology of war.
She's presented preliminary work from this project at the European Political Science Association annual conference in Prague and at the American Political Science Association annual conference in Montréal Together with the IR Lab@Amherst College that she directs, she is preparing a brand new class titled Natural Worlds that will explore the fate of the environment in international politics. In addition, she is teaching an intro to IR class.
Jaeyoon Park comes to Amherst from the University of California, Berkeley, where he recently completed his doctorate in Political Science and Critical Theory. He works across the fields of political theory, cultural studies, and the history of the human sciences, and his research aims to illuminate the distinctive ways in which “the human” is figured and constructed in late-modern American society. He is currently working on a book manuscript which charts how the addict has been constituted as a paradigm of the human subject in the U.S. over the last forty years.
Park will teach courses on canonical and contemporary political theory. He aims to make the great works of political theory available to students as prisms through which to see new powers, conundrums, and possibilities for repair and transformation in our world. In 2022-23, he will teach two courses: “Marx, Nietzsche, Freud” (fall) and “Twentieth-Century Visions: Beauvoir, Fanon, Marcuse, Foucault” (spring).
This book argues that a new set of transnational social welfare arrangements has emerged that challenge traditional social welfare provision based on national citizenship and residence.
The idea that social rights are something we are eligible for based on where we live or where we are citizens is out-of-date. In Transnational Social Protection, Peggy Levitt, Erica Dobbs, Ken Chih-Yan Sun, and Ruxandra Paul consider what happens to social welfare when more and more people live, work, study, and retire outside their countries of citizenship where they receive health, education, and elder care. The authors use the concept of resource environment to show how migrants and their families piece together packages of protections from multiple sources in multiple settings and the ways that these vary by place and time. They further show how a new, hybrid transnational social protection regime has emerged in response to the changing environment that complements, supplements, or, in some cases, substitutes for national social welfare systems as we knew them. Examining how national social welfare is affected when migration and mobility become an integral part of everyday life, this book moves our understanding of social protection from the national to the transnational.
Constantine Pleshakov's book The Tsar's Last Armada: The Epic Journey to the Battle of Tsushima, originally published in 2002, has been recently released as an audiobook narrated by David de Vries.
Due to uneven economic reforms, Chinese provinces have developed distinct approaches to governing that impact social policy priorities and policy implementation. Ratigan shows how coastal provinces tended to prioritize health and education, and developed a pragmatic policy style, which fostered innovation and professionalism in policy implementation. Meanwhile, inland provinces tended to prioritize targeted poverty alleviation and affordable housing, while taking a paternalist, top-down approach to implementation. This book provides a quantitative analysis of provincial social policy spending in the 2000s and qualitative case studies of provinces with divergent approaches to social policy. It highlights healthcare, but also draws on illustrative examples from poverty alleviation, education, and housing policy. By showing the importance of local actors in shaping social policy implementation, this book will appeal to scholars and advanced students of Chinese politics, comparative welfare studies, and comparative politics.
From the beginning of the Republic, this country has struggled to reconcile its use of capital punishment with the Constitution's prohibition of cruel punishment. Death penalty proponents argue both that it is justifiable as a response to particularly heinous crimes, and that it serves to deter others from committing them in the future. However, since the earliest executions, abolitionists have fought against this state-sanctioned killing, arguing, among other things, that the methods of execution have frequently been just as gruesome as the crimes meriting their use. Lethal injection was first introduced in order to quell such objections, but, as Austin Sarat shows in this brief history, its supporters' commitment to painless and humane death has never been certain.
This book tells the story of lethal injection's earliest iterations in the United States, starting with New York state's rejection of that execution method almost a century and half ago. Sarat recounts lethal injection's return in the late 1970s, and offers novel and insightful scrutiny of the new drug protocols that went into effect between 2010 and 2020. Drawing on rare data, he makes the case that lethal injections during this time only became more unreliable, inefficient, and more frequently botched. Beyond his stirring narrative history, Sarat mounts a comprehensive condemnation of the state-level maneuvering in response to such mishaps, whereby death penalty states adopted secrecy statutes and adjusted their execution protocols to make it harder to identify and observe lethal injection's flaws.
What was once touted as America's most humane execution method is now its most unreliable one. What was once a model of efficiency in the grim business of state killing is now marked by mayhem. The book concludes by critically examining the place of lethal injection, and the death penalty writ large, today.
Save the Date. Book Launch and Signing. September, 28, 2022, 4:30-6:00 PM at Amherst Books
Gilles Verniers comes to Amherst from Ashoka University, India, where he teaches in the Political Science Department. He completed his PhD in Political Science from Sciences Po in 2016. His work focuses on questions of democracy and political representation in India, with a focus on gender and minority representation and participation in electoral politics. He is the director of the Trivedi Centre for Political Data, a research centre that builds and disseminate primary data on Indian politics and public elites, across politics, the bureaucracy and the judiciary. He is currently working on a book manuscript which charts the formation of a new political class in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and addresses the tension between the politics of inclusion and the resilient elitism of India’s representative assemblies.
Gilles will teach a course on democratic erosion in India. The purpose of this course is to make an empirical assessment of India’s recent democratic trajectory using both quantitative and qualitative data, as well as to engage critically with the general literature on democratic erosion and see how it applies to a non-Western case.
2022 Densmore Berry Collins Prize Winner (Best Political Science Thesis)
Thesis Title: Rural Reimagined: The Political Economy of Rural Short Video Production in China
Abstract: The glistening skylines and high-tech megacities that define China today tend to overshadow the devastating effects that the largest urban migration in world history has had on China’s rural communities. Since the 2000s, the Chinese Communist Party has attempted to address rural neglect, but these strategies have revealed a critical shortcoming: the necessity of bottom-up grassroots innovation to support and balance top-down government intervention. My thesis examines the emergence and rapid growth of short video platforms Douyin (TikTok) and Kuaishou in rural China and demonstrates how these platforms have begun to fill this rural development shortcoming by enabling remarkable innovation and entrepreneurship in rural China from the bottom-up. Through the analysis of several case studies, I illustrate how rural creators and entrepreneurs are beginning to record a multi-dimensional picture of the changing Chinese countryside and fuel a powerful new engine for rural revitalization. As I present these cases, I also present a timely and important update on how we ought to think about rural development in contemporary China in the wake of the pandemic.
Meet the Political Science Faculty
Political Science Faculty
The Amherst Political Science department offers a broad range of courses, including small introductory offerings in areas such as political theory, war and refugees, and contemporary China, and advanced seminars in geopolitics, nuclear security, Machiavelli and more. Follow the link below to meet our faculty.
What do we mean by politics? Amherst’s Department of Political Science treats the study of politics as a liberal art, offering students new perspectives on political phenomena. The Department offers a diverse range of courses in three broad areas of study:
Domestic Politics and State–Society Relations
International Politics and Practices
Our courses engage theoretical assumptions that underlie political life and examine different institutional arrangements and political practices. They provide the resources by which students can critically evaluate and engage contemporary political life.
The International Relations Certificate offers students an opportunity to pursue an interest in international affairs as a complement to their majors and shows graduate schools or future employers that they have a strong interest in world affairs. The Certificate is designed to encourage motivated students to develop a global perspective on the origins of the current international system, the salient concerns in international relations today, and the emerging challenges humanity will face in the years ahead. The Certificate encourages students to explore how global, regional, and domestic factors influence relations between actors on the world stage. Students are advised to make interdisciplinary connections between the complexities of numerous global challenges, such as competition among the great powers, nuclear proliferation, transnational terrorism, regional and ethnic conflict, migration, environmental degradation, demographic stress, global climate change, socioeconomic and cultural globalizations and wide disparities in global economic development.
Earning the certificate requires demonstrating competence in a contemporary foreign language (four semesters of a single college-level contemporary foreign language) and earning at least a B in each of seven courses on world politics and institutions, the international economy, the history of the international system, US foreign policy, and the politics, history, economy, or culture of one or more foreign areas.
The courses listed in these sections of the IR Certificate program can be used to fulfill your International Relations Certificate. It is important to know that courses listed below may or may not be offered during each academic year at Amherst College. However, you may be able to take similar courses at the other four participating institutions or while studying abroad. There may be additional courses offered which fulfill your requirements during the academic year which do not appear in the printed catalog but can be found in the on-line version of the course catalog.