Dissertation: Alternative Power: The evolution of wind technology in Denmark and the politics of energy transitions.
The need for industrial societies to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels is urgent, but the growing recognition of and response to this imminent global challenge from many sectors—including across the academy—are raising the prospects of achieving a renewable energy revolution. The main goals of my research are to contribute to these efforts to build more sustainable societies, and, in the process, to advance understanding of the social and political dynamics of technological change. It is widely acknowledged that making the transition to renewable energy is technically and economically feasible; the obstacles are primarily political. My research asks how these obstacles can be overcome in practice, and with what consequences for broader dimensions of sustainability, and for the organization and exercise of political power. To address these questions, I conducted six months of fieldwork in Denmark, where a renewable energy transition is reaching a tipping point. My dissertation project charts the progress of wind turbine development in Denmark over five decades, as the Danes became world leaders in the production of renewable electricity. My mixed-methods study draws on dozens of in-depth interviews with key stakeholders and a new quantitative dataset of Danish wind turbines to analyze how the country's electricity system has evolved, and the consequences of these changes for democratic politics. I identify several important recent shifts in the character of Danish wind development—including the increasing centralization of the industry—and argue that engaging a greater diversity of actors may lead to a system that is more stable, resilient and sustainable. I work mainly in the subfields of comparative politics and political theory, but my research is informed by and engages with a broadly interdisciplinary community of scholars. I am a fellow in the National Science Foundation IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program at UMass, and I am currently a visiting faculty member at Mount Holyoke College, where I teach courses in comparative politics and political theory. I hold Master's Degrees in political science, philosophy, and science and technology studies from Virginia Tech. In the past, I have conducted research on mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia, and participated in an NSF-funded study comparing renewable energy policies at the state and local levels around the United States. I have also worked in the electric utility industry on nuclear power issues. I am prepared to teach courses at the undergraduate or graduate levels in my areas of specialty—energy, environment, science and technology policy—but I also have experience teaching across multiple subfields, including American politics, global politics, public policy, research methods, and the philosophy of social science.
Dissertation: Precarious Pipes: Governance, Informality, and the Politics of Access in Karachi.
Scholars of environmental security argue that water scarcity causes violent conflict in weak state contexts – particularly in urban areas. Using the case of Karachi, my dissertation instead studies the causes and consequences of unequal public service access in one of South Asia’s largest, most conflict-prone cities. Precarious Pipes: Governance, Informality, and the Politics of Access in Karachi thus uses water as a lens to study wider processes of urban stasis and transformation in a Third World megacity. I argue that Karachi’s water provision and politics need to be understood in the context of urban planning practices emerging in the 1980s that aimed to legalize, and hence “improve” the city’s burgeoning unplanned areas. My dissertation makes three empirically-grounded claims in this vein. First, I argue that improvement policies have led to the de-facto privatization of water in Karachi’s unplanned areas. Second, despite making access to water extremely expensive, I argue this informal privatization of water nevertheless prevents disorder and instability in parts of Karachi where scarcity would otherwise cause violence. Third, I argue that the urban poor are contesting these political economies of service access through new, religiously-grounded electoral subjectivities in the context of Pakistan’s fledgling return to democracy. I demonstrate these arguments through original field and archival research. I draw on seven months of field research in Karachi, including 48 semi-structured and ordinary language with 78 informants as well as participant and direct observation of daily water access. I also draw on two original datasets; a Planning Archive (PA) of official state planning documents from 1952-2019 (N=25) and a Discourse Archive (DA) of newspaper articles, third party reports, and policy documents from 2001 – present (N>500).
Dissertation: The Public Life of Hurricanes: Asserting State Power in a Warming Globe.
I am a Ph.D. candidate in comparative politics and political theory. My dissertation, “The Public Life of Hurricanes: Asserting State Power in a Warming Globe,” examines the political effects of global climate change by focusing on the power struggles which attend tropical cyclones in Oman and the United States. Employing ethnography, interviews, and archival research, I document how natural disasters challenge state power materially, by removing the capacity to govern specific territory, and symbolically, by focusing popular attention on the inability of modern states to control the vicissitudes nature. A Fulbright Research Award funded my year-long field work in Oman. My teaching focuses on comparative politics and political theory, and I have acted as the primary instructor for “Politics and Government of the Middle East” for two semesters, and “Interpretation and Analysis” for two semesters. My department's honors students awarded me the Recognition for Excellence in Teaching Award, and I was twice nominated for the university-wide Distinguished Teaching Award. I have presented my research at several conferences, including twice at the Annual Meeting of Middle Eastern Studies Association (2016 and 2018), as well as “Vision(s) of Politics: the Thought of Sheldon Wolin,” at York University, “On Protest: a Research Symposium,” at UMass Amherst, and “A Cultural Approach to Human Security” at the University of Toronto. I hold an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto, and a B.A. in Philosophy and History from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Dissertation: Globalization from the Grassroots: Power and Transnational Linkages in Guatemala.
I am a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst as well as a Visiting Scholar at the University of Michigan’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. I study how marginalized actors use transnational connections to engage in political action and what form that action takes. In my dissertation I ethnographically study an organization of returned migrants and their network through 8 months of fieldwork and 5 years of contact. This network includes foreign NGOs, small-scale producers, Spanish schools, and other grassroots organizations. My dissertation shows that transnational linkages, often facilitated by migration, engender new forms of socio-political organization that provide disadvantaged local actors leverage vis-à-vis outside actors albeit under the constant threat of both structural and interpersonal violence. My dissertation contributes to literature on social movements and resistance, transnational studies, and grassroots development. I have presented my research at the New England Political Science Association, Midwest Political Science Association, and the Latin American Studies Association. My teaching experience includes both online and in-person courses at UMass and Eastern Michigan University. As the sole instructor, I am currently teaching or have taught courses on Global Politics, Introduction to Comparative Politics, Introduction to International Politics, and Latin American Politics. I have also TA’d for courses in Comparative Political Economy and Political Theory.
Dissertation: The Violence of Nostalgia: Conspiracy Theorism, White Nationalism, and Restoring American Exceptionalism
I am a PhD Candidate (expected May 2022) in Political Theory who studies white nationalism and conspiracy theory in American Politics. My work analyzes the language and behavior of political actors in groups like the Proud Boys, interpreting their words and lending it both historical and political context. I show that groups like the Proud Boys rely on a framework of loss and nostalgia to situate their claims for restoring ‘a spirit of Western chauvinism’ in the United States. I also show how conspiratorial thinking animates violent right-wing groups, binds them together in loose coalitions, and draws in an ever-greater number of supporters who might not otherwise openly express white nationalist, violent, and/or racist right-wing beliefs. In part, I display - through the language of believers - how the phenomenon of QAnon adherence reflects the power of conspiratorial thinking. Such power is revealed in the violent political effects QAnon has had when it has escaped beyond the internet imageboards on which it was born.
In addition to my research, I have served as an instructor in the Department of Political Science over the past 3 years, teaching courses such as Conspiracy Theory & the American Imagination, Modern Political Thought, Interpretation & Analysis, and a First Year Seminar on Power & Politics in the University. I also teach general Social & Behavioral Science (SBS) First Year Seminars, and am currently the Program Assistant for First Year Seminars in SBS.