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, which I will defend in April 2018, charts the progress of wind turbine development in Denmark over four 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 currently a fellow in the National Science Foundation IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program at UMass. I hold a 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 and interest in teaching across multiple subfields, including political theory, public policy, American politics, research methods, and the philosophy of social science.
Dissertation: Precarious Pipes: Governance, Informality, and the Politics of Access in Karachi
I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science with a specialization in comparative politics. I study state-society relationships, social conflict and political order with a focus on urban Pakistan. My dissertation, entitled Precarious Pipes: Governance, Informality, and the Politics of Access in Karachi, studies everyday water access in Pakistan’s largest, most notoriously conflict-prone city to examine how states institutions and vulnerable urban populations respond to resource scarcity. My research is motivated by a broader interest in the politics of South Asia, as well as the deepening intersection between urban development, public service access and political participation in the region’s so-called megacities. As a comparativist, I have received extensive training in qualitative and ethnographic research methods. My fieldwork has been funded by the UMass Department of Political Science, UMass Graduate School, and the American Institute of Pakistan Studies. I am currently an American Council for Learned Societies/Mellon dissertation completion fellow (2019-2020). While at UMass, I have taught intro-level comparative politics as well as higher level courses in comparative and international political economy. I have served as the primary instructor for “Government and Politics of South Asia” and “International Political Economy” for one semester each and was nominated for the Distinguished Teaching Award in fall 2018. I hold an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Before UMass, I lived in Karachi where I worked primarily as a journalist for The Express Tribune.
Dissertation: Latino Race Cards? Demographic Change, Negative Campaign Advertisements, and White Mobilization
I am a doctoral candidate (Ph.D. expected May 2018) concentrating within the fields of American Politics and Public Policy. My research is focused in the field of American politics and examines the impact of changing racial demographics on the public opinion, political behavior, and public policy. I am currently writing my dissertation in which I explore the impact that negative campaign ads featuring Latinos have on white vote choice and public opinion. This is a multi-method research project for which I was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (DDRIG). I am also a five-term incumbent City Councilor at Large in Hoyoke, MA. I identify as a scholar-practitioner and have found that being able to articulate a theoretical phenomenon with local actors or anecdotes is really rewarding because it demonstrates that politics is not something that happens “out there,” but instead is something that we are all engaged in and shaping to a greater or lesser extent.
Ana Maria Ospina Pedraza
Dissertation: Grammars of Identity: Languages of Activism in Argentina and the United States
My dissertation is motivated by two questions: how do political culture and intellectual traditions shape the implementation of global ideas about collective action? Do local conventions of activism produce unique political subjects despite shared political principles? I address these questions in a paired study of two cases of broad social mobilization where popular assemblies reached international significance: the neighborhood assemblies of Buenos Aires in 2002 and the New York General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street in 2011. These movements were connected by transnational networks of activism and shared a commitment to internal democracy, but their operationalization of the principle differed as a result of distinct political histories and cultures of activism. My research is a qualitative study of original material produced by each movement such as pamphlets, minutes and serial publications. A Pre-Dissertation Research Award and a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant by the University of Massachusetts Amherst allowed me to conduct extensive archival research in Buenos Aires. Dominant scholarship on Argentine assemblies overlooks struggle and depicts a unified front on the adoption of internal democracy. Original data I collected demonstrates that through everyday conflict and debate, participants colored the practice as radical equality and independence from the political class. When ‘independent’ neighbors enacted radical equality at the assemblies, they discovered a mechanism of empathy that transformed neoliberal subjectivities and awoke democratic virtues. Alternatively, in Occupy a tradition of activism that revendicates internal democracy overlapped with feminist legal rhetoric and the intellectual primacy of intersectionality. In this case, I show that a uniquely North American activist tradition infused the movement with an investment in language-use, making democratic spaces designed to support inclusion unintentionally drawn towards the management of speech-acts. My findings show that despite embracing almost identical principles, Occupy demanded a virtuous subject able to recognize their role in the reproduction of power relations and cater their language accordingly, whereas assembly participants in Buenos Aires demanded an ‘independent’ subject untarnished by previous party politics and who could embrace post-neoliberal practices.
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.