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Students on the Market

The following Ph.D. candidates are on the job market for the 2014-2015 year:

Claire Abernathy

  • claire.e.abernathy@vanderbilt.educlaire
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Major Fields of Study: American Politics and Political Methodology
  • Dissertation Title: Legislative Correspondence Management Practices: Congressional Offices and the Treatment of Constituent Opinion
  • Dissertation Defense Date: Spring 2015
  • Dissertation Abstract: Studies of representation have shown that, generally, Representatives and Senators are responsive to constituent opinion. However, research focused on the policy congruence of elected officials has lacked attention to the important intermediate step of how members of Congress learn about district views. What practices do congressional offices engage in to develop their understanding of constituent opinion? Using data from an original survey of congressional staff from 107 House offices, my dissertation explores how congressional offices process information about constituent opinion, focusing, in particular, on how Representatives and their staffs use constituent correspondence to inform their views of district interests. The dissertation provides the first systematic account of how constituent letters, emails, phone calls, faxes, and social media contacts are treated in congressional offices. I find that offices have different policies for which types of constituent correspondence they will record in their contact databases, and how they will summarize and communicate the content of district correspondence to others in the office. In the dissertation, I test several explanations for this observed variation across offices, and I explore how the correspondence practices that offices adopt impact Representatives' legislative behavior. By concentrating on how Representatives come to understand the policy preferences of their constituents, my dissertation elaborates on how the representative-district relationship functions and assesses how meaningful a role constituency views play in congressional decision-making.
  • Advisor: Alan E. Wiseman

Matthew L. Layton

  • matthew.l.layton@vanderbilt.edu
  • Curriculum Vitaematt
  • https://my.vanderbilt.edu/matthewlayton/
  • Major Fields of Study: Comparative Politics and American Politics
  • Dissertation Title: Conditional Social Assistance and Democratic Citizenship in Latin America
  • Dissertation Defense Date: Spring 2015
  • Dissertation Abstract: Do conditional social assistance policies foster or undermine democratic citizenship in Latin America? This dissertation analyzes how Latin American political elites allocate conditional cash transfer (CCT) benefits, how those benefits alter the civic and political engagement of recipients, and the extent to which recipients encounter stigmatization in society. Applying methods that range from statistical matching techniques and hierarchical modeling to content analysis, I assess public opinion survey data from Latin America, program data on assistance allocation, and focus group interviews conducted during fieldwork in Brazil. I present a theoretical framework and empirical evidence that link current anti-poverty policies to deficiencies in fostering vibrant citizenship among recipients. Across a series of analyses, I find biases in the distribution, operation, and perception of contemporary conditional social assistance programs. I conclude by identifying reforms that governments and funding agencies could pursue to allow these programs to better contribute to the strengthening of democracy in the region.
  • Advisors: Mitchell A. Seligson and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister

Arturo Maldonado

  • arturo.maldonado@vanderbilt.edu
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Major fields of Study: Comparative Politics and Political Methodology arturo
  • Dissertation Title: Beyond Turnout: The Origins and Behavioral Effects of Compulsory Voting in Latin America
  • Dissertation Defense Date: Spring 2015
  • Dissertation Abstract: Compulsory voting is a trademark in Latin America. This region has more countries implemented it and more citizens under this electoral rule than any other region in the world. Going beyond its direct effect of increasing turnout, this dissertation answers three questions: (1) how legislators decided to implement compulsory voting in some Latin American countries and why they did not in others; (2) how laws governing whether voting is compulsory change the weight of each constituent element of the decision to go to the polls; and (3) taking insights from the literature on psychology about the relationship between incentives and the intrinsic motivation to perform an activity, how compulsory voting, with its related threat of punishment for non-compliance, undermines citizens’ sense of civic duty. Generally speaking, I find that a convincing relationship emerges between rules and institutions and citizens’ political behavior tendencies. My dissertation suggests that those who see compulsory voting as a remedy for low levels of turnout have not sufficiently considered its side effects. A key finding in my dissertation is that enforced compulsory voting undermines citizens’ intrinsic motivation to turn out to vote, which I operationalize as civic duty. A declining motivation in compulsory voting systems is unwanted because it may mask a faulty democracy as a healthy one. As a result, high levels of electoral participation would not indicate engaged citizens, but coerced citizens, who, according to these findings, are more likely to be disengaged about the electoral process and the democratic system.
  • Advisors: Mitchell A. Seligson and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister

Mason Moseley

  • mason.moseley@vanderbilt.edu
  • Curriculum Vitaemason
  • Major Fields of Study: Comparative Politics and American Politics
  • Dissertation Title: Ballots and Blockades: The Normalization of Protest in Latin American Democracies
  • Dissertation Defense Date: Spring 2014
  • Dissertation Abstract: This dissertation asks why mass protest has become a normal, almost routine component of the participatory “repertoire” in certain democratic systems, but not others. Drawing on cross-national surveys from Latin America and qualitative and quantitative subnational data from Argentina, I find that this often-sharp variation is the result of differences in political institutions and trends in citizen engagement across and within developing democracies. Specifically, I find that ineffective institutions coupled with highly engaged democratic citizenries precipitate more radical modes of political participation in certain contexts, as governments’ ability to deliver on citizens’ expectations for democracy fails to match the capacity for mobilization of politically active democrats. However, at the provincial level in Argentina, I also discover that political institutions can become so exclusionary as to thwart contentious political participation altogether. This project received a dissertation grant from the NSF to conduct fieldwork in Argentina during the 2012-2013 academic year.
  • Advisors: Jonathan Hiskey and Mitchell A. Seligson

Stephen Utychutych

  • stephen.m.utych@vanderbilt.edu
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Major Fields of Study: American Politics and Political Methodology
  • Dissertation Title: A Matter of Life and Death: The Psychological Effects of Casualties of War
  • Dissertation Defense Date: Spring 2015
  • Dissertation Abstract: The decision to go to war is a political choice with clear and serious life and death consequences. I examine how casualties of war are discussed by political elites and influence the attitudes of American citizens. Research on foreign policy suggests that Americans are sensitive to hearing about American casualties in war, though they are not sensitive to deaths of citizens of other countries. In my dissertation, I argue that the rhetorical strategies of political elites are used to obscure the fact that individuals are dying in war. Language that sanitizes casualties of war, or dehumanizes the enemy, has serious consequences for how the average citizen views casualties of war. In this dissertation, I use data from Congressional speeches, existing surveys, and experimental data to examine how language is used to discuss casualties of war, which types of individuals are predisposed to respond to civilian casualties of war, and the consequences of sanitized and dehumanizing language about death for public support of foreign policy actions.
  • Advisor: Cindy Kam

Daniel Zizumbo-Colunga

  • daniel.zizumbo-colunga@vanderbilt.edu
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • https://my.vanderbilt.edu/danielzizumbo
  • Major Fields of Study: Comparative Politics and Political Medanielthodology
  • Dissertation Title: Taking the Law into our Own Hands: The Joint Importance of Trust in the Law and in the Community
  • Dissertation Defense Date: Spring 2015
  • Dissertation Abstract: In recent years, a number of communities in Mexico and other Latin American countries have created vigilante organizations in order to fight crime directly. Why do citizens faced with security concerns turn to their neighbors to defend themselves from crime? I propose that social capital and distrust in the law enforcement interact as determinants of vigilante justice (understood as extralegal collective law enforcement). That is, citizens are more likely to invest their social capital to defend themselves from crime when they distrust the law enforcement. In the first empirical chapter I find, in a series of in-depth interviews, that the erosion of the legitimacy of the local authorities together with the strength of the citizen-run organizations in Cherán (State of Michoacán, Mexico) played an important role in the emergence and consolidation of the vigilante movement that emerged in early 2011. In the second empirical chapter I test my hypothesis using two large crime victimization surveys in Mexico. I find that citizens' trust in their neighbors and distrust in the police interact to determine their likelihood of engaging in vigilante justice. In the third and final chapter I conduct two in-the-field laboratory experiments to test the causal logic of my theory, one based in vignettes and a second one using a game set-up. I find that perceived trust in the community and perceived distrust in the law enforcement interact to cause an increase in the likelihood of supporting and engaging in vigilante justice. My research has been supported by Mexico's National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT), Vanderbilt University's Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). Other research I have developed on related topics has been published in Comparative Political Studies and Política y Gobierno.
  • Advisors: Elizabeth J. Zechmeister and Mitchell A. Seligson
  •  

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