Frederic C. Schaffer, Chair
Frederic C. Schaffer is a Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst. His area of specialization is comparative politics. Substantively, he studies the meaning of democracy, the practice of voting, and the administration of elections. What sets much of his work apart from other empirical research on democracy is a methodological focus on language. By investigating carefully the differing ways in which ordinary people around the world use terms such as “democracy,” “politics” or “vote buying” – or their rough equivalents in other languages – he aims to arrive at a fuller appreciation of how they understand and make use of electoral institutions. This richer appreciation, he believes, is both intrinsically interesting and crucial to tackling real-world political problems. A good deal of his research, to be more specific, has taken up three basic but understudied questions: (1) Does democracy, when translated, mean what we think it does? (2) Why do attempts to make elections less fraudulent and error-prone so often backfire? (3) What exactly is vote buying, why is it bad, and can it be reformed away?
Professor Schaffer’s publications include four books, Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture (Cornell University Press, 1998), Elections for Sale: The Causes and Consequences of Vote Buying (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2007), The Hidden Costs of Clean Election Reform (Cornell University Press, 2008), and his most recent, Elucidating Social Science Concepts: An Interpretivist Guide (Routledge, 2016).
Nick Cheesman is a Fellow in the Department of Political & Social Change, Australian National University, where he convenes the Interpretation, Method and Critique network with April Biccum. His research sits at the nexus between law, violence and politics, in principle and in practice. Currently, he is studying the work that torture does in mainland Southeast Asia. He is the author of Opposing the Rule of Law: How Myanmar’s Courts Make Law and Order (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and joint editor of the Southeast Asia Publications Series for NUS Press. From 2019 he is hosting a new podcast series, New Books in Interpretive Social Science, on the New Books Network.
Samantha Majic is an associate professor of political science at John Jay College, City University of New York. Her research lies in the fields of gender and American politics, with specific interests in sex work, civic engagement, and celebrities and politics. She is the author of Sex Work Politics: From Protest to Service Provision (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), co-editor (with Carisa Showden) of Negotiating Sex Work: Unintended Consequences of Policy and Activism (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), and author (with Carisa Showden) of Youth Who Trade Sex in the US: Agency, Intersectionality, and Vulnerability (Temple University Press, 2018). Her research has also appeared in numerous political science and gender studies journals. A Fellow of the American Association of University Women, Dr. Majic is also a member of the editorial boards for Perspectives on Politics, PS: Political Science and Politics, and Critical Policy Studies.
Ido Oren is an Associate Professor and past Chair of the Department of Political Science, University of Florida. Professor Oren earned a BA in Middle Eastern and African Studies from Tel-Aviv University, an MA in Political Science from New York University, and a PhD in International Relations from the University of Chicago. His intellectual and research interests range from IR theory, international security affairs, and U.S. foreign policy, through the history and politics of American political science, to interpretive methods of political research. Oren’s book, Our Enemies and US: America’s Rivalries and the Making of Political Science, was published by Cornell University Press and translated into Chinese and Japanese. His articles have appeared in journals such as Perspectives on Politics, International Security, the European Journal of International Relations, and Comparative Studies in Society and History.
Professor Oren is a former Vice President of the International Studies Association and former President of the Association’s Southern region. In Spring 2010 he was a Fulbright lecturer at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. Oren has given invited lectures/presentations in Germany, Denmark, Turkey, Israel, Japan, and at various Chinese universities.
Timothy Pachirat works as an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University ofMassachusetts Amherst. He is author of Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight; Among Wolves: Ethnography and the Immersive Study of Power; “The Political in Political Ethnography”; and “The Tyranny of Light”; among others.
Joe Soss is the inaugural Cowles Chair for the Study of Public Service at the University of Minnesota, where he holds faculty positions in the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, the Department of Political Science, and the Department of Sociology. His research and teaching explore the interplay of democratic politics, socioeconomic inequalities, and public policy. He is particularly interested in the political sources and consequences of policies that govern social marginality and shape life conditions for socially marginal groups. Professor Soss has pursued a wide variety of methodologies and methods in his scholarship and regularly teaches graduate courses in this area.
Joe Soss is the author of Unwanted Claims: The Politics of Participation in the U.S. Welfare System (University of Michigan Press, 2000), co-editor of Race and the Politics of Welfare Reform (University of Michigan Press, 2003), co-editor of Remaking America: Democracy and Public Policy in an Age of Inequality (Russell Sage Foundation, 2007), co-author of Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the Persistent Power of Race (University of Chicago Press, 2011), and author or co-author of numerous scholarly articles. In 2010 and 2017, he received the campus-wide Outstanding Faculty Award from the University of Minnesota’s Council of Graduate Students (COGS). In 2016, Professor Soss was honored with the University’s campus-wide award for outstanding contributions to graduate education, named a Distinguished University Teaching Professor, and inducted into the UMN Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Outside his academic work, Soss is an active musician and recently released an album, The Sound of Sweet Ruin.
Lisa Wedeen is the Mary R. Morton Professor of Political Science and the College and the Co-Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory at the University of Chicago. She is also Associate Faculty in Anthropology and the Co-Editor of the University of Chicago Book Series “Studies in Practices of Meaning.” Her publications include three books: Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria (1999; with a new preface, 2015); Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power and Performance in Yemen (2008); and Authoritarian Apprehensions: Ideology, Judgment, and Mourning in Syria (2019). Among her articles are : “Conceptualizing ‘Culture’: Possibilities for Political Science” (2002); “Concepts and Commitments in the Study of Democracy” (2004), “Ethnography as an Interpretive Enterprise” (2009), “Reflections on Ethnographic Work in Political Science” (2010), “Ideology and Humor in Dark Times: Notes from Syria” (2013), and “Scientific Knowledge, Liberalism, and Empire: American Political Science in the Modern Middle East” (2016). She is the recipient of the David Collier Mid-Career Achievement Award and an NSF fellowship.
Rina Verma Williams received her B.A. (Political Science) and B.S. (Chemistry) from the University of California at Irvine, and her A.M. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University. She is currently Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati, where she is also Affiliate Faculty in Asian Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She teaches and researches in the areas of gender and identity politics; religion, law and nationalism; politics of developing countries; and South Asian and Indian politics. Her dissertation, it turns out, was frame analysis before frame analysis was frame analysis. Her first book, Postcolonial Politics and Personal Laws: Colonial Legal Legacies and the Indian State (Oxford University Press), examined the role of gender and religion in the construction of Indian nationalism after independence. Her current book project examines what women’s changing participation in religious nationalist political parties over time have meant for religious nationalism, for women, and for Indian democracy. Other current collaborative projects include a comparative analysis of how gender, religion and nationalism manifest in popular Indian cinema (“Bollywood”), and a multi-method study of gender and methodology in political science including oral histories of prominent women political scientists. She carries out her research using a range of methods including—but not limited to—historical/archival document analysis; elite interviews; visual and film analysis; and ethnographic observation. She has even been known to run a regression or two when it’s called for.
We remember: Lee Ann Fujii
Lee Ann Fujii, chosen to be the IMM Executive Committee Chair in the Fall 2017, died unexpectedly on March 2, 2018. She was an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Her first book was Killing Neighbors: Webs of Violence in Rwanda (Cornell University Press, 2009). Her second book, Interviewing in Social Science Research: A Relational Approach (2018), was released in August 2017 as part of the Routledge Series on Interpretive Methods.
At the time of her death, she was working on a third book, entitled Show Time: The Logic and Power of Violent Display. Show Time examines the meaning-making power of “violent display” in three different sites of killing (Northwest Bosnia, Central Rwanda, and the mid-Atlantic region of the United States). She had just presented the work at Johns Hopkins University a week before her death, and it is hoped that she left a sufficiently robust manuscript draft that it can be published. Prof. Martha Finnemore, University Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, is working on that.
Founding Executive Committee Members (2008)
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, American University
Cecelia Lynch, University of California, Irvine
Julie Novkov, SUNY Albany
Ido Oren, University of Florida
Timothy Pachirat, then at The New School
Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, University of Utah
Dorian Warren, then at Columbia University
Dvora Yanow, then at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Past Executive Committee Chairs
Peregrine Schwartz-Shae and Dvora Yanow, 2008-2013
Ido Oren, 2013-2017
Lee Ann Fujii, 2017-2018
Ido Oren and Dvora Yanow (interim co-chairs), 2018-2019
Program Chair, IMM Conference Group @ APSA, 2018-2019, 2019-2020
Nicholas Rush Smith
Nicholas Rush Smith is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York–City College. His main research interests are the politics of crime, policing, and vigilantism in democratic states, with a particular focus on South Africa. His first book, Contradictions of Democracy: Vigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. Based on approximately 20 months of ethnographic and archival research, it asks why South Africa has experienced extraordinarily high rates of vigilantism despite a celebrated transition to democracy, a lauded constitution, and massive transformations of the state’s legal apparatus following apartheid.
He has two additional book projects under way: one, provisionally entitled Deadly Democracy: Death and Life for Young Men in Post-Apartheid South Africa, explores the ironies of democracy by examining the exploding mortality rates young men experienced after the collapse of apartheid, a moment where they expected rapid upward mobility after having been at the forefront of the struggle against apartheid; the other, an edited volume in development with Erica S. Simmons (University of Wisconsin–Madison) provisionally entitled Rethinking Comparison in the Social Sciences based on a conference they organized, explores logics for conducting comparative research that go beyond the controlled comparisons that usually form the basis for graduate methods training in the social sciences. Nick’s work has appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, Comparative Politics, African Affairs, and PS: Political Science and Politics, and he has received grant and fellowship support from the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and Fulbright-Hays, among others.
Past Program Chairs
2009: Peri Schwartz-Shea, University of Utah, and Dvora Yanow, VU Amsterdam
2010: Kevin Bruyneel, Babson College, and Julie Novkov, SUNY Albany
2011: Ido Oren, University of Florida
2012: Ron Schmidt, California State University, Long Beach
2013: Fred Schaffer, UMass Amherst
2014: Rich Holtzmann, Bryant University
2015: Doug Dow, University of Texas, Dallas
2016: Ed Schatz, University of Toronto
2017: Lee Ann Fujii, University of Toronto
2018: Denise Walsh, University of Virginia
2019: Nicholas Rush Smith, City College of New York
Aarie Glas serves as the webmaster for the IMM group. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Faculty Associate in the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University. He received his doctorate from the University of Toronto. His research makes use of interpretive methodologies and methods to examine norms and practices in regional organizations, with a particular focus on ASEAN. His work has been published in the European Journal of International Relations, International Affairs, Journal of Global Security Studies, PS: Political Science and Politics, and Qualitative & Multi-Method Research, among other outlets. You can read more about him here.