Department of Political Studies Graduate Theses

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    Running Out of Space: Ethno-federalism, capitalist restructuring, and the political economy of peri-urbanization around Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Haile, Fikir Getaneh; Political Studies; Soederberg, Susanne
    Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and largest city, has long been expanding horizontally into the surrounding rural areas, creating profound transformations in these spaces. In recent years, these transformations have ignited violent confrontations between rural and urban land uses and livelihoods, turning the spaces in the peripheries of the city into sites of tension, conflict, and political instability. While the issue of land governance has been a central area of research in the political economy of Ethiopia, the existing literature offers few insights on the distinct geographies that are emerging amid the material and socio-environmental transformations occurring in Addis Ababa’s peripheries. To speak to this silence, this dissertation employs a Marxist Political Economy – Political Ecology (MPE-PE) lens and a three-phase qualitative research plan involving desk research, archival research, and interviews to unpack the link between the Ethiopian ethno-federal state, capitalist expansion and restructuring, and the emergence of distinct, dynamic, and politically volatile geographies around Addis Ababa. The dissertation advances the argument that the transformations unfolding in the city’s peripheries are best conceptualized as peri-urbanization, a historically and materially constituted process of socio-environmental transformation driven by the geographical expansion of urban capitalism and shaped by the multi-scalar exercise of material and political power. The dissertation additionally reveals that, situated within the dynamics of global capitalist governance, peri-urbanization around Addis Ababa is facilitated by the Ethiopian ethno-federalist state’s exercise of material, discursive, and coercive power but has paradoxically served to weaken and destabilize the state. The dissertation offers two key insights that contribute to the academic and public debates. First, utilizing the MPE-PE theoretical framing, it provides a comprehensive conceptualization of the Ethiopian state and the class and ethnic dynamics of power therein, providing a novel theorization of the authoritarian, developmental-capitalist, ethno-federal state. Second, identifying the multi-scalar drivers, unique material and socio-environmental conditions, and distinct features of Addis Ababa’s peripheries, the dissertation offers an original conceptualization of peri-urban geographies. In so doing, the dissertation provides theoretical and empirical insights that contribute to the literature in Ethiopian Studies, International Political Economy, and Political Ecology.
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    Nationalist Networks: How Civil Society Influences Nationalist Movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country
    Sainz Martinez, Bernardo; Political Studies; Csergő, Zsuzsa; McGarry, John
    Nationalist political parties in both Catalonia and the Basque Country challenge the state by seeking a higher degree of autonomy or independence, but they do not operate alone; they are embedded in social networks of organizations that often create and support social movements. This doctoral thesis explores the intricate relationship between civil society organizations (CSOs) and nationalist movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country and seeks to uncover how these social networks influence whether nationalist parties adopt moderate or radical strategies and objectives. Employing a qualitative multi-method approach that encompasses interviews and documentary analysis, this research presents a process-tracing account of the role of CSOs inscribed in nationalist social movements, with particular emphasis on critical periods of tension with the state. For the Catalan case, this period spans from 2010 to 2022, with a focus on the 2017 independence referendum. In the Basque case, the analysis covers the period from 1988 to 2022, highlighting the 2005 “Ibarretxe plan.” Furthermore, this thesis provides in-depth descriptions of these nationalist networks and their countermovements through a social network analysis (SNA), which complements the process-tracing account. The primary contribution of this research is the finding that civil society can foster a bonding effect at the level of political elites and grassroots activists that gives unity to a nationalist movement across political ideologies. This bonding can lead to the radicalization of the nationalist movement. The Catalan case illustrates how the influence of CSOs can give organizational tools to political elites to challenge the state, and how the inclusion of activists into formal politics intensifies polarization and fosters countermovements. Catalan party elites formed a tight coalition with CSO leaders and drove Catalan leaders to pursue disobedience and escalation. Additionally, by contrasting the Catalan and Basque cases, the thesis highlights how the history of violence, and continued division over its acceptance and justification in Basque society, disrupted the bonding influence of Basque CSOs within the nationalist movement. Consequently, the Basque movement remained primarily political elite-driven, with limited involvement of civil society and more flexibility for politicians to strategize, and did not evolve towards unilateralism or disobedience.
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    Religious Minorities in Diaspora: A Study of the Political Mobilization of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Community in Canada and the United States
    Estafanous, Lilian E.; Political Studies; Haklai, Oded
    As a diasporic community, Copts in North America have seized political opportunities and engaged in vigorous activism, resulting in the establishment of a plethora of organizations. However, despite their best efforts, most Coptic organizations have experienced limited influence. This study, focusing on Copts as a previously overlooked immigrant minority, aims to explain the disparity in their transnational mobilization efforts through two questions. The first question addresses how Copts, as a diaspora of a religious minority, form their organizations and advocacy groups in Canada and the US. The second question explores the factors influencing the type of activism they engage in and the level of solidarity and sustainability of their organizations. The study addresses the lack of research in these areas by utilizing various approaches within the scope of social movement theory. The study starts by exploring the historical background of Copts in Egypt and their interactions with the Muslim majority. This historical context is essential for grasping their position as an indigenous religious diaspora. It then examines how the Coptic diasporic community was formed through various waves of migration, resulting in the globalization of socio-political grievances from Egypt. A critical aspect of the research is its differentiation between the various types of Coptic organizations in North America, including human rights advocacy associations, charitable and philanthropic organizations, and educational foundations. Lastly, by drawing upon various approaches in social movement theory, the dissertation examines the primary advocacy challenges encountered by the Coptic diaspora. The intricacies of Copts’ mobilization dynamics, the nature of diaspora activism, and the sustainability of Copts’ advocacy efforts are shaped by an interplay of factors that emphasize the complex triadic relations among the church, the regime, and the Copts. These factors are closely intertwined with 1) the framework of opportunities and constraints in both the country of origin and the country of residence, 2) the diaspora’s organizational capacity, and 3) the framing of Copts’ traumatic memories and the grievances linked to their cultural and ideological roots in their place of origin. The findings further elucidate the varying significance of these three dimensions in shaping the trajectory of Copt activism.
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    Ghost in the Democratic Machine? Attack ads, voters, and the unconscious mind
    Abray, Timothy J.; Political Studies; Rose, Jonathan
    This project is about the effects of campaign attack advertising on the choices of voters. But, rather than re-engage the perennial, unresolved debate and adopting one of the standard yes-they-do/no-they-don’t binary positions and employing conventional, survey-based methods to investigate, this dissertation takes a page from studies in political psychology and consumer behaviour. It begins by engaging with a routinely begged question: do human cognitive responses to negative ads measure up to the expectations of orthodox theories of democratic functioning? The answer arrived at here is: no, they do not. The case is made in three parts: • First, by examining the literature and spotlighting the underlying challenges that routinely plague studies of negative/attack ads; • Second, by arguing that one of the reasons the literature so consistently produces contradictory and confounded results may be rooted in the mismatch between the individual-centred theory that underpins democratic systems (and the importance of explicit information sharing/debate to those systems) and the survey-driven, multi-variate, inferential approach that is most often employed. Drawing from adjacent fields of study, this dissertation argues that increasing our focus on experiments aimed at isolating and testing individual psychological mechanisms may help add useful grist to the mill of this ongoing debate. • Finally, it proposes a methodology for investigating the individual-level cognitive effects of attack ads, operationalizing and testing that methodology in a randomized, controlled experiment involving nearly 300 demographically diverse subjects. The findings of this project demonstrate that re-orienting the investigative frame to focus on the mechanisms of individuals’ cognitive processes is possible (consistent with related work in cognitive psychology, consumer behaviour, and political psychology), and that individual, isolated cognitive effects can be efficiently accessed and systematically studied, and, finally, that this re-orientation can generate important insights into the mechanisms at play at the individual, cognitive level. The results of the study underline the fragility of voters’ conscious assessments of political information, by showing that the effects of attack messaging are measurably present in the post-exposure behaviour of individual subjects, unconsciously altering their considered assessments of subsequent political information, contrary to the expectations of orthodox theories of voting behaviour.
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    Improving our Ethical Debates on Moral Enhancement Technologies: Acknowledging the Role of Virtue and Justice in the Good Life
    Guiho, Jennifer R.; Political Studies; Farrelly, Colin
    The objective of this dissertation is to improve the quality of our ethical discussions on moral enhancement technologies. This is a worthwhile goal, as our normative perceptions and judgments about these technologies will ultimately shape their development, and subsequently, the eventual way in which they are used and regulated in our societies. My dissertation is therefore purposed with answering the following question: How have we typically engaged in ethical discussions about moral enhancement technologies, and how can we improve the quality of these discussions? In my second chapter, I explore how the current state of our ethical discussions maps on to the typical patterns found in the ethics of new and emerging science and technology (NEST-Ethics), and question whether this framework fails to capture any considerations that are deserving of further reflection. I conclude that while concerns about consequences have dominated our ethical debates, reflections about justice are largely absent from the literature. Further, I conclude that although NEST-Ethics readily captures bio-conservative arguments related to the good life, it fails to account for virtue ethical conceptions, which have the potential to be highly instructive in guiding our judgements and perceptions on moral enhancement technologies. In my third chapter, I focus on how justice can guide our normative theorizing about moral enhancement, concluding that principles of justice urge us to shift our perceptions about the goals of moral enhancement from interventions able to solve some of the most complex global social problems (e.g. terrorism or climate change) to something that individuals may choose to access for the purpose of self-improvement. In my fourth chapter, I explore the merits and shortcomings of using a virtue ethics framework in evaluating the ethical use of moral enhancement technologies, concluding that virtue ethics offers us a worthwhile alternative to typical consequentialists frameworks that naturally supports the framing of moral enhancement as a tool for self-improvement. These insights both improve our discussions about moral enhancements and help us to avoid repeating injustices of the past while creating a future where the development and use of these technologies does not automatically lead us to sacrifice other things of value.