Lisa Sundstrom

Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Small islands of democracy in an authoritarian sea: explaining Mongolian and Kyrgyz democratic development (2019)

My dissertation investigates the democratization of Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, small states in the Sino-Russian sphere of influence. Taking Mongolia as a primary case, I ask why an electoral democracy has succeeded in an authoritarian neighbourhood where Western democracy promoters lack interests and leverage. Bridging the international relations and comparative politics literature, I develop a theoretical framework to examine how geopolitical interests of great powers and the presence or absence of a strong political party impact the democratization process in a small state. I posit two explanations for Mongolia’s successful transition to and consolidation of electoral democracy. First, I contend that the absence of direct geopolitical competition of Western and neighbouring great powers made Mongolia’s democratic transition possible and Western democracy promotion credible. I explain how the absence of direct geopolitical competition fosters contestation in domestic politics whereas the presence of direct geopolitical competition among great powers reduces the likelihood of democratization. Second, I argue that the presence of a strong political party that is highly institutionalized and dominated by pro-reform and collective leadership prevents political violence and hijacking of state institutions by populist leaders during the transition stage. The survival of a former ruling party provides a model and anti-incumbent impetus for new parties and contributes to the development of a competitive party system in the consolidation stage. To apply my framework to other cases, I examine the democratization process of Kyrgyzstan and find that the main causes of reversal were the re-emergence of direct geopolitical competition of great powers and the former ruling party dismantlement, which resulted in a weak party system. The study of Kyrgyzstan shows how overriding security interests undermined Western democracy promotion efforts, while the absence of a strong party explains the transfer of political power through violent protests rather than regular, competitive elections. This framework applies to the democratization of small states, many of which have operated in authoritarian neighbourhoods. The majority of these states conducted political reforms in favourable international settings in the post-Cold War period, but some succeeded whereas others failed. Geopolitical and political party dynamics could explain such divergent outcomes.

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The new global politics of responsible investment (2018)

This dissertation offers new perspectives on long-standing debates about private actors in global politics. It does so via three journal-length papers on the role of institutional investors in advancing human rights compliance by multi-national firms. The thesis innovatively bridges international relations scholarship on private authority, human rights norms and transnational advocacy, with academic work on corporate governance, responsible investment and business ethics. These disparate academic themes are unified through an empirical focus on the institutions through which responsible investment activism occurs, and how these institutions respectively inform and challenge existing conceptions of shareholder power, as a form of transnational private authority. Using comparative analysis, the first paper examines how Dutch and Norwegian pension funds responded to allegations that a Chinese state-owned firm in their portfolios was complicit in human rights violations in Sudan and Burma. In this paper, I argue that state-based institutional checks on shareholder power can affect the tactical strategies employed within investor-led human rights advocacy, and in some cases, can limit the scope for ethical deliberation on these strategic choices. The second paper maps thirty-three investor-driven governance networks to show how their institutional design choices vary significantly in the degree to which they allow for meaningful engagement with civil society. This paper argues that although the mainstreaming of responsible investment has relied heavily on a narrative of values alignment with stakeholders, governance mechanisms to incorporate stakeholders within investor activism on sustainability issues remain rare. The third paper analyses 72 shareholder proposals on the topic of global human rights filed in Canada from 1982-2017. The analysis confirms that contrary to dominant viewpoints, shareholder power is not ethically neutral. Rather, its use reinforces particular social hierarchies that do not advance global human rights, despite the appearance of doing so. The dissertation’s key contribution highlights the need for institutional adaptations to enhance the democratic qualities of global investor activism in ways that move the global business and human rights agenda towards collective publics rather than individual and private solutions. This study represents the first systematic effort to theorize and empirically evaluate shareholder power in the context of global human rights.

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Elections, Political Participation, and Authoritarian Responsiveness in Russia (2016)

For decades, elections were thought of as the necessary but not sufficient condition for democracy. After the end of the Cold War, however, the world witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of regimes that combined the democratic institution of elections with authoritarian practices. Despite the presence of regular and free multi-party elections, these regimes did not liberalize or democratize. However, elections continued to matter and sporadically elections became focal points for social dissent and protest. In a series of three papers, this dissertation examines elections in Russia. The first paper presents an in-depth analysis of the 2013 Moscow mayoral election. I make the argument that in order to secure the legitimacy that elections can bestow, the authorities in this case promoted electoral competition by helping all the candidates for mayor surmount a high procedural barrier to participation. This paper contributes to scholarship on the manipulation of elections which has previously only considered measures that restrict electoral competition. Elections where authorities promote competition are still unlikely to result in opposition victories but may dampen voter participation. The second paper uses Albert Hirschman’s Exit, Voice and Loyalty framework and evidence from twenty-nine semi-structured interviews to analyze political participation in an authoritarian state through the experience of individuals running for local political office in Moscow’s municipalities. I find that citizens without substantial previous political experience, but galvanized by anti-fraud protests, ran successful political campaigns with help from civil society organizations and political parties. Counterintuitively, once in office, they adopted hyper-legal strategies to combat corruption and waste. The third and final paper uses regression analysis to test two explanatory models for electoral competition under authoritarianism: voter preferences and regime manipulation. Relying on an original dataset of protests across Russia’s regions, I find partial support for both models. Previous protest activity both increases electoral competition and provokes more pre-election manipulation of the field of candidates. In addition, voter mobilization in support of regime candidates is especially effective in generating pro-regime results. Replacing long-sitting but economically predatory governors before the election can dampen the impact of voter disapproval again boosting pro-incumbent results.

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Deliberative Capacity in Post-Soviet Transition: Effects of Colour Revolutions, Institutional Design and International Discourses on Inter-Cultural Relations in Ukraine and Georgia (2015)

This dissertation explores the issue of deliberative capacity in the context of inter-cultural relations in the democratizing post-Soviet states of Ukraine and Georgia. Specifically, it enquires about (1) the effect of deliberative capacity on inter-cultural relations, (2) the factors that affect deliberative capacity itself, and (3) the extent to which implementing deliberative democratic models is feasible in the context of post-Soviet Ukraine. It is argued that both ethnic studies and democratic transition studies significantly benefit from the application of the deliberative democracy approach. Based on the application of this approach, this work suggests three further arguments. First, deliberative capacity is the underlying feature of a multitude of ethnic mobilization theories. It suggests that instead of treating the different factors of ethnic conflict as competing, they can be looked at as each illuminating a different form or aspect of the deliberative capacity in a specific case. This dissertation suggests that such an overarching explanation simultaneously provides a more comprehensive and parsimonious story of ethnic radicalization while, usually, nuanced complexity and parsimony are at odds in theory building. Second, this study argues that a variety of factors that influence deliberative capacity affect its various components in different ways. It follows that factors of deliberative capacity are not necessarily entirely positive or negative. Instead, certain factors may create mixed effects on deliberative capacity by facilitating some of its features while jeopardizing the others. This is illustrated with the examples of such factors as colour revolutions, institutional design and the international national minority regime. Third, this dissertation draws attention to the existence of different kinds of deliberative systems that create very different contexts for politics and policies. This dissertation also explored the difficulties of applying the deliberative model in Ukraine and found that it is as difficult as it is necessary. These difficulties are nevertheless counterbalanced by a number of opportunities, and several deliberation precedents. Finally, the work formulates practical recommendations for national ethnic policy-makers, institutional designers, deliberation experiments developers, and international actors, that are expected to increase the level of deliberative capacity and thereby the level of inter-cultural peace.

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Gender Mainstreaming Strategies in the International Development Context: Why Practice Has Not Made Perfect (2014)

The literature surrounding international organizations and policy cycles has overwhelmingly focused on the dynamics of why policies are adopted to the detriment of asking why they are or are not translated into implementation. This study asks first, what factors explain the differences in adoption and implementation of gender mainstreaming policies in international development organizations, and second, what these dynamics tell us about the reasons for the persistence of such policies in the face of recognized failure. Research was conducted on case studies of UN agencies in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. The findings argue that policy is better studied as a non-linear process where each stage is influenced by different mechanisms emerging from the policy context. Policy adoption depends on the overarching influence of world culture on the attitudes and behaviors of relevant senior management actors who are part of the world polity. However it is also contingent on the dynamics of bureaucratic politics, which can be either personality or policy driven, and can either block policymaking or be used as a tool to overcome differences. The dynamics of implementation on the other hand rely much more on the norms and values of middle management than research up to now has recognized. However for implementation to happen norms are a necessary but not always sufficient factor; they must be paired with organizational behavior protocols that can support implementation among those who are passive towards the relevant norm and there must be ways to sanction programme managers who oppose it. So the support of senior management may be a necessary condition for policy implementation but it is far from sufficient. This study represents a break from the typical IR approach of using one theoretical argument to explain an entire phenomenon and reasserts the importance of opening up the black box of organizations to examine actors at different levels and their interactions. Improving the success of mainstreaming policies, such as gender, HIV/AIDS or the environment ultimately depends on recognizing these mechanisms and addressing the previously underestimated role of middle management.

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Choosing Rights: The Puzzle of the Rights Frame in HIV Activism (2013)

HIV activists are at the vanguard of a critical point of expansion in the use of human rights discourse in advocacy, marking a site of civil society innovation. Drawing frequently and emphatically on rights in place of more traditional frames of development or public health, civil society groups working on HIV provide valuable insight into how and why the language of rights is being adopted in new fora. This dissertation examines why civil society groups conducting advocacy on HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, the region of the world hardest hit by the pandemic, choose to (or choose not to) employ the language of rights in their advocacy.Using a comparative case-study approach, this study examines nine civil society organisations conducting advocacy on HIV. Organisations were selected from countries (Ghana, Uganda, Botswana, South Africa) in the three regions of sub-Saharan Africa (West Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa). Within these countries, civil society groups were identified with variation in regards to their use or non-use of the rights frame. A total of 145 semi-structured interviews were conducted within these organisations, as well as with other organisations in the HIV sector, international organisations, and government officials. Data from interviews was triangulated with information from naturalistic observation, analysis of organisational materials, and laws and press accounts.These case studies highlight the roles and beliefs of individuals, as leaders, advocates and recipients. Organisational adoption of rights is heavily influenced by leadership, and by secretariat-based organisational structures which allow for a high level of interaction with leaders. Within these groups, a strong personal belief in the rights frame is common. The chief motivation for rights use in advocacy within these organisations is rooted in a belief that the rights frame has a profound impact on the identity and behaviour of the group’s constituents. Proponents understand rights as an empowering force enabling their target group to better seek and access health care services and to do so from a position of strength and entitlement. In contrast, in groups with limited or no rights use, need-based claims highlighting vulnerability were dominant.

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Opposition and dissent in petro-states : international oil markets and political mobilization in Russia (2013)

Using Russia as the main case study over a number of historical periods and Venezuela as a secondary case for comparison, this dissertation proposes an argument which links oil rents to political contestation in petro-regimes and suggests that this, along with the elites’ actions, is the key factor that helps to explain the regime type and the direction of the change in times of external economic shocks. When oil prices are high, petro-states have overwhelming incentives to expand social spending in order to ensure obedience and calm down potential political opponents, which appears to be an easy means of securing legitimacy. The state has more freedom to advance its policies and is less vulnerable to societal demands because it has access to external rents. However, the society is also affected: social groups demand the redistribution of oil wealth and engage in rent-seeking instead of establishing formal channels of interest representation. Consequently, the social contract that emerges is based on the shared understanding of the role of the state as a re-distributor of oil rents and guarantor of societal welfare. When oil prices drop, the state can no longer meet the expectations associated with its legitimacy, becomes more vulnerable to internal and external pressures; social forces tend to mobilize in response to cuts in social spending, and the social contract may break down. The pre-oil features of social organization and state-society relations shape the configuration of the resulting social contract and its disintegration.The main contribution of this dissertation is to create a compelling theory that convincingly explains the empirical observations with respect to one case, by identifying the mechanisms of how oil rent fluctuations translate into regime fluctuations and testing the hypotheses on the effect of external economic shocks on the state’s behavior and popular contentious claims, as well as the choices made by contenders to voice their political demands. Beyond that, I add another shadow case study for a substantially different polity, and demonstrate that the mechanisms I identified work very similarly in different sociopolitical systems, although the specific outcome depends on pre-existing sociopolitical features of the state.

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Inclusiveness and Status in International Organizations: Cases of Democratic Norm Development and Policy Implementation in the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe and the United Nations (2012)

The tension between sovereign equality and democratic status, or hierarchies based on democratic governance, is under-analyzed in scholarship of international organizations (IOs).IOs with formally inclusive compositions derive moral authority and legitimacy from their inclusiveness. Yet this inclusiveness is challenged by democratic status, with varied consequences. Scholarly explanations of democratic norm development in IOs typically creditthe favorable environment at the end of the Cold War, interests of a hegemonic power, those of established democracies, interests of new democracies to “lock in” democratic systems, or the autonomy of international institutions. Existing accounts have thus under-emphasized inclusive institutions and democratic status as important (and interacting) explanatory variables. This dissertation draws on insights from literature on institutional design, constructivism, and social psychology to examine the evolution and roles of inclusive institutions and democratic status in the development of democratic norms and policy implementation in two inclusive IOs: the United Nations (UN) and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe/Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE/OSCE) between the respective origins of the organizations in 1945 or 1973 and 2010. While inclusive institutions sometimes lead to deadlock, under certain conditions, andcounter to conventional wisdom, they have occasionally proven highly supportive of democratic norm development. This study examines influential mechanisms, including relations between inclusive institutions and windows of opportunity, norm restatements and re-consideration of failed proposals, issue linkage, contributions of procedural legitimacy to norm expansion, inclusive institutions’ role in (re-)authorizing (or inhibiting) implementation policies, and vulnerability to shifts in political will. The dissertation draws on content analysis through process tracing of archival data and statements, counterfactual analysis, and semi-structured interviews. To assess the evolution and influence of democratic status, new indicators are developed. The study employs and adapts concepts from social identity theory and emphasizes additional factors (e.g. salience of democratic status, appeal of prototypical states, and prestige of IOs) that also affect states’ pursuit of strategies of social mobility, social competition, or social creativity, thus contributing to cooperation or discord for democratic norm development in inclusive IOs. Counter-intuitively, the institutionalization of a norm can, in fact, lead to regress.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Beware the Russian bear: the effect of energy insecurity on perceptions of Russia in postcommunist Europe (2019)

This thesis analyzes the effect energy insecurity has on perceptions of Russian interference in postcommunist Europe. It operationalizes energy insecurity as the level of energy dependence and hypothesizes a positive relationship between this and concerns of Russian interference: the more energy dependent a country is, the more it worries about Russian interference. The first section of this thesis explicates and defines energy insecurity as part of a trilemma wherein a state has unaffordable, unreliable, or undiversified energy prone to domestic and or foreign politicization. The second section tests energy insecurity’s effect on concerns over Russian interference by creating a new metric: ‘net dependence’. This metric goes beyond existing literature to consider energy production and exports in conjunction with Russian imports. However, contrary to the primary hypothesis, the second section finds that the relationship between energy dependence and fears over Russian interference is inverse: the more energy dependent a country is, the less it worries over Russian interference. Macro-level alternative variables find similar results. The third section examines three case studies: Poland, Romania, and Hungary. These cases show the importance of history, contemporary politics, and the legacy of the post-Soviet transition as key to perceptions of Russian threat and the severity of a state’s energy insecurity. Energy insecurity is more complex than previously considered and can be attenuated by domestic production or exacerbated by excessive exportation. Furthermore, its effect on concerns over Russian interference are contextually based.

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Crimean Tatars and the politics of sovereignty: small state instrumentalization of ethnic minority sovereignty claims in geopolitically disputed territory (2019)

This thesis analyzes the contemporary case of Ukraine and its shifting posture towards the ethnic minority group, Crimean Tatars, by tracing the relationship of Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian Government prior to and following the 2014 Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. After annexation, Ukraine has pursued a policy of recognizing, embracing, and advocating for the indigenous rights of Crimean Tatars in the wake of Russia’s annexation of this strategically located peninsula and the lingering territorial dispute between the two countries. This is significant as it represents a distinct departure from how national governments have traditionally accommodated this ethnic minority with indigenous claims to the Crimean Peninsula. On 20 March 2014, Ukraine officially recognized Crimean Tatars’ indigenous claims to Crimea, with Ukraine only prioritizing these claims once Crimea was de facto controlled by Russia, suggests an instrumentalization of the Crimean Tatar’s indigenous claims. This thesis argues that the actions of Ukraine in this instance could be the first of more to come for small states hoping to perpetuate a particular conception of state sovereignty which relies on the compliances with international legal norms—now including respect for indigenous rights. This particular conception of sovereignty is most advantageous to small states, who often have fewer resources to secure their sovereignty in other realms.

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Not milk? Agribusiness and Canada's food guide (2019)

Food and Agriculture are two of the most direct factors in human and environment health. However, the global industrial food system benefits large agribusinesses, and skews the state – industry power dynamic in the favour of economic growth, not human or environmental wellbeing. Traditionally, agribusiness exercises power in three key ways – media and outreach, market power, and lobbying – impacting agricultural, food and nutrition policy. Therefore, in cases where federal policy changes, it can generally be understood as a response to a shift in one or more of these three factors. In early 2019 Health Canada released Canada’s Food Guide, the newest edition in over 70 years of nutrition advising. However, unlike prior versions which prioritized industry over nutrition, this new food guide is a more accurate reflection of both nutrition and environmental research. Most remarkable in this change, is that the power and interest of agribusiness in Canada does not appear to have changed considerably in order to initiate these changes. As such, five additional factors that collectively minimized the power given to agribusiness are explored - increased awareness of nutritional information, the rise of vegans and vegetarians, demographic and political economy trends, social pressure and bureaucratic changes, and consideration of diet co-benefits and costs. I conclude by highlighting that regardless of the reasons behind the changes to Canada’s Food Guide, without changes to agriculture policy to meaningfully increase the accessibility of the recommended food, the new recommendations are unlikely to impact Canadian eating habits.

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What is left behind: the normative legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (2019)

Ever since the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia handed down its final verdictin November 2017, there has been much speculation regarding the achievements and legacies leftbehind by the historic judicial institution. However, less attention has been given to the Tribunal’snormative influence. By outlining three of the ICTY’s normative legacies the study seeks toilluminate the Tribunal’s unique normative capacity. The ICTY’s role in the codification of thenorm against wartime sexual violence is further analyzed to explore how internationalorganizations such as the Tribunal can contribute to norm development and norm diffusion. Limitsto normative influences are revealed, which put into question whether the Tribunal has actuallyleft a lasting impact in the region that matters the most; Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.Analyzing the Tribunal’s normative capacity will shed light on the prospects and limits ofmandates for future international judicial institutions.

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Taking Class Seriously: Alternatives to the 'Income Paradigm' (2016)

The recent surge in literature on economic inequality in the United States has provided new insights into the political ramifications of growing economic stratification. This literature has also revealed particular methodological standards by which such inequality is measured and understood. In lieu of more robust, sociological conceptions of class, political scientists largely conceive of group-based economic inequality in terms of continuous proxy variables, such as income. This paper addresses the underlying logic and motivations of this practice, sometimes referred to as the ‘income paradigm.’ The paper is divided into two sections; in the first, prevailing income-based research strategies are evaluated in terms of their generic and specific advantages and disadvantages. I argue that income is a less productive measure in describing the nature of actual inequality than is frequently assumed, and suffers from problems of causal ambiguity in the explication of satisfying and comprehensive causal explanations. In the second section, I propose three alternative conceptualizations of class developed in the sociological tradition of class analysis. These class models, derived from Weberian, Marxist and contemporary empirical traditions, are advantageous over proxy-based standards because of their a priori theoretical robustness. I argue that political scientists should transgress the disciplinary boundaries which have implicitly prohibited the use of class-based methods.

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Trauma and Transitional Justice in Guatemala: How Conceptions of Trauma Inform Transitional Justice Practices (2016)

The concept of trauma has been playing an increasing role in contemporary culture and politics, and more nuanced understandings of this concept have begun to slowly influence conversations around identity and historical memory in the transitional justice literature. This thesis explores psychobiological, historical and cultural/social forms of trauma, considering the relationship between these forms of trauma and mainstay transitional justice mechanisms. It examines the differences that emerge in how civil society and government actors in Guatemala understand the concept of trauma and the bearing this has on the transitional justice mechanisms they view as necessary to address the country’s violent past. This data was gathered via eight semi-structured interviews in Guatemala with four members of civil society and four government actors and a critical narrative analysis was used to uncover the connections between participant conceptions of trauma and views of transitional justice mechanisms implemented throughout the country. Specifically, this thesis asks how participants understand trauma and to what extent this understanding informs their views of transitional justice in Guatemala. It identifies key differences between civil society and government conceptions of trauma and the way in which these conceptions inform their approaches to transitional justice. These differences serve to highlight the importance of actively including civil society in the design and implementation of transitional justice mechanisms.

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Canada's Non-Compliance with the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): Neo-liberal Policy and the Suppression of Women's Rights in Canada (2015)

In 1981, Canada ratified the Convention of Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in what would be perceived as an attempt to create a more just and equal society for women. However, with the implementation of harsh neo-liberal policies that emphasize privatization and minimal government intervention, women in Canada, particularly those most disadvantaged, are facing human rights violations. The past decade has been especially damaging as Canada’s conservative government led by Stephen Harper made drastic funding cuts to women’s organizations and serious cutbacks to social services through austerity measures. These neo-liberal policies are not only incompatible with the CEDAW, but are in direct opposition to its mandate, and democratic values in general. I will outline the recommendations made by CEDAW to the State of Canada, and discuss the State’s blatant disregard towards the CEDAW and its principles of eliminating discrimination against women. I will describe the actions that the Canadian government, specifically the current conservative government, has taken to intentionally hinder the advancement of women’s rights. I will argue that that these violations are an attempt to suppress threats to the current politico-economic system, neo-liberalism, which, I will argue, is inherently discriminatory. I will further argue that, especially in light of its colonial past and neo-colonial present, Canada must support autonomous women’s rights movements and provide extensive social services if an effort to eliminate discrimination against women is to be made.

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Consensus and Continuity: The Use of Ideology in Putin's Russia (2015)

The literature on Russian politics has devoted limited attention to the role of ideational factors in the development of the post-Soviet political system. The aim of this work is to bring ideology back in the discussion on the evolution of the regime under Vladimir Putin. This work argues that Putin’s regime has used ideology as a political tool to achieve two main goals: to foster consensus and to assure regime continuity beyond leadership change. Consensus was imposed around patriotism and through the figure of a super partes president. The emphasis on patriotic rhetoric allowed the Kremlin to gain control over the political spectrum and provided an ideational backing to the centralization of political power. Regime continuity was promoted by increasing the ideational capital of the presidential party – United Russia – in a threefold strategy: the formulation of “sovereign democracy,” the formalization of intra-party wings, and the adoption of “Russian conservatism” as an ideological label. This process to endow the party of power with an ideology marked a temporary decline in the regime’s personalist component and a permanent strengthening of its party element. Because ideology was formulated post-hoc to consolidate power, its coherence and persistence are subordinated to its utilitarian purpose. The result is an ideological product that sacrifices coherence for political expediency and discards certain ideological tenets when they fail to achieve their goal (sovereign democracy) or when they are no longer needed (Russian conservatism).

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Civil Society in a Non-Western Setting: Mongolian Civil Society (2012)

Civil society development is one of the measures of the democratization process. Yet the examination of civil society is complicated due to varying understandings and approaches. This thesis suggests an analytical framework that enables us to investigate the existence of civil society space, its institutionalization, its actors, and the internalization of democratic values and norms. Using the framework advanced here, it examines Mongolian civil society, which is often described by scholars, politicians, and civil society practitioners as ‘vibrant’ and ‘strong’. The thesis concludes that while civil society space does exist in Mongolia, it is neither fully institutionalized nor respected by the state, by politicians, by business or by other actors. Moreover, democratic values and norms are not internalized because internalization is something that takes several generations to accomplish. The widespread reliance on informal networks undermines efforts to promote democratic values and norms as well as trust in democratic institutions. Mongolian civil society is therefore vulnerable.

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Intergenerational disjunctures in the Dene Tha First Nation of Northern Alberta: Adults' Nostalgia and Youths' Counter-Narratives on Language Revitalization (2012)

This thesis analyzes generational differences that create social and linguistic ‘disjunctures’ (Meek 2010) influencing revitalization ideologies among members of the Dene Tha First Nation of northern Alberta. Unlike many First Nations people in Canada, most Dene Tha adults still speak their language, Dene Dháh, the Dene language, fluently. Individual fluency among younger generations, however, varies as language shift to English has begun to affect the extent to which children learn and use Dene Dháh. Dene adults and Elders observe increasing disinterest among younger people in maintaining their heritage language and culture, and they often contrast these observations with their own experiences of learning about traditional customs and values. Nostalgia for the past, and romanticizing a “proper” Dene way of living and behaviour, is commonplace among older generations of the Dene Tha. I argue that, although young people are criticized for their disinterest in the Dene language and culture, their narratives, which I describe as ‘counter-narratives’ following McCarty et al. (2006), suggest deeply felt concerns about the future of their language and culture. In particular, youth are developing eclectic ways of blending traditional culture and contemporary practices that may not necessarily fit with “proper” Dene ways, as understood by Elders. Their ‘counter-narratives’ instead reveal youths’ interest in maintaining and ‘modernizing’ their own language and culture.

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Knowledge and know-how: a new model of academic freedom and dissent in non-democratic countries (2012)

For scholars of political change, the Arab Spring movements constitute a major world event with both obvious short-term consequences and more elusive long-term and diffusion effects. This thesis contributes to the literature on regime change and political dissent by modelling the conditions under which one key group of elites (academics) are most likely to take-up an anti-state platform in the wake of a key world event such as the Arab Spring. Ultimately, the herein proposed model hypothesizes the relationship between the likelihood of an academic dissent movement and three country-level indicators: (1) the level of legal protections for academics, (2) feelings of relative economic, social, and academic deprivation by university faculty, and (3) the social and scholarly prestige associated with the social sciences and humanities (SSaH) in comparison with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In addition to a literature review and formal model construction, the thesis includes a focused discussion of a mixed-methods approach to the study of academic dissent in non-democratic countries. Bringing such methods as Cost-Benefit Analysis, qualitative interviewing, J-Curve modelling, and ex-ante hypothesizing to bear on the study of academic dissent, opens a previously understudied area of inquiry to rigorous empirical testing.

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Civil Society in a Non-Western Setting: Mongolian Civil Society (2012)

Civil society development is one of the measures of the democratization process. Yet the examination of civil society is complicated due to varying understandings and approaches. This thesis suggests an analytical framework that enables us to investigate the existence of civil society space, its institutionalization, its actors, and the internalization of democratic values and norms. Using the framework advanced here, it examines Mongolian civil society, which is often described by scholars, politicians, and civil society practitioners as ‘vibrant’ and ‘strong’. The thesis concludes that while civil society space does exist in Mongolia, it is neither fully institutionalized nor respected by the state, by politicians, by business or by other actors. Moreover, democratic values and norms are not internalized because internalization is something that takes several generations to accomplish. The widespread reliance on informal networks undermines efforts to promote democratic values and norms as well as trust in democratic institutions. Mongolian civil society is therefore vulnerable.

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Can democracy function alongside weak civil society? The case of post-communist Europe (2010)

Post-Communist Europe poses a theoretical puzzle for students of democracy. There is a large body of political science literature that argues that civil society is not only good for democracy but critical for democratic deepening. While civil society is generally regarded as an essential feature of stable democracy, twenty years after the collapse of communism, post-communist civil society is relatively weak. This thesis examines the relationship between civil society and democracy in post-communist Europe. Using the 2008 European Values Survey I conduct regression analysis to test whether or not there is a statistical link between relative differences in the strength of civil society and indicators of democracy at both the country and the individual level. I find no statistical link between civil society and democracy at the country level and found a relatively modest link between democratic values and membership in civil society organizations at the individual level. These results suggest that the link between civil society and democracy in post-communist Europe is relatively modest. The thesis concludes by conducting a case study of Poland where I explore the relationship between civil society and democracy in a more extensive manner.

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Intergenerational disjunctures in the Dene Tha First Nation of Northern Alberta: Adults' Nostalgia and Youths' Counter-Narratives on Language Revitalization (2012)

This thesis analyzes generational differences that create social and linguistic ‘disjunctures’ (Meek 2010) influencing revitalization ideologies among members of the Dene Tha First Nation of northern Alberta. Unlike many First Nations people in Canada, most Dene Tha adults still speak their language, Dene Dháh, the Dene language, fluently. Individual fluency among younger generations, however, varies as language shift to English has begun to affect the extent to which children learn and use Dene Dháh. Dene adults and Elders observe increasing disinterest among younger people in maintaining their heritage language and culture, and they often contrast these observations with their own experiences of learning about traditional customs and values. Nostalgia for the past, and romanticizing a “proper” Dene way of living and behaviour, is commonplace among older generations of the Dene Tha. I argue that, although young people are criticized for their disinterest in the Dene language and culture, their narratives, which I describe as ‘counter-narratives’ following McCarty et al. (2006), suggest deeply felt concerns about the future of their language and culture. In particular, youth are developing eclectic ways of blending traditional culture and contemporary practices that may not necessarily fit with “proper” Dene ways, as understood by Elders. Their ‘counter-narratives’ instead reveal youths’ interest in maintaining and ‘modernizing’ their own language and culture.

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