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

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.

Nicholas Rush Smith


Nicholas Rush Smith is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York – City College and a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg. His research uses the politics of crime, policing, and vigilantism in South Africa as a lens through which to understand the ways in which democratic states use violence to produce order and why citizens sometimes use violence to resist that order. His first book in this area, Contradictions of Democracy: Vigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa, was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. Additionally, Smith has written about the relationship between comparative and ethnographic methods, including in a forthcoming volume, Rethinking Comparison: Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Research(co-edited with Erica S. Simmons), due to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2021.

Susan Thomson

Susan Thomson is Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Colgate University (USA).  She received her PhD in Political Science from Dalhousie University (Canada) in 2009.  Thomson’s scholarship is dedicated to understanding how systems of power structure the lives of individuals, and how individuals subject to state power experience it in so-called times of peace. Her focus on how individuals live through and rebuild their lives after violence also drives Thomson’s interest in studying the practical and ethical challenges of doing field-based research in post-conflict and other difficult settings. She is the author of Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda (Wisconsin University Press, 2013), Rwanda: From Genocide to Precarious Peace (Yale University Press, 2018) and co-editor of Emotional and Ethical Challenges for Field Research in Africa: The Story Behind the Findings (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013). 

Lisa Wedeen

Lisa Wedeen

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.

Michelle D. Weitzel

Michelle D. Weitzel is the Sinergia Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Basel. Her research brings topics in security, decision-making, and governance into conversation with the sensory and material world. She received her PhD in Politics from the New School for Social Research in 2020, where she trained in international relations and comparative politics and specialized in the political systems of the Middle East and North Africa. Her papers have been accorded the Wilson Award (2018) and the Hayward R. Alker Award (2017) and her dissertation received an honorable mention for the Malcolm H. Kerr Award in social sciences (2020). Her current book project, entitled “Sound Politics: Affective Governance and the State,” draws on empirical case studies in Palestine, Israel, Algeria, France, and Morocco. It asks how sound constitutes a form of political power.

Rina Williams

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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

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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-Shea and Dvora Yanow, 2008-2013
Ido Oren, 2013-2017
Lee Ann Fujii, 2017-2018
Ido Oren and Dvora Yanow (interim co-chairs), 2018-2019

Farah Godrej, University of California, Riverside

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
2020: Nicholas Rush Smith, City College of New York
2021: Natasha Behl, Arizona State University


Aarie Glas


Aarie Glas serves as the webmaster for the IMM group. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University. He received his doctorate from the University of Toronto. His research explores regionalism and diplomacy in Southeast Asia and elsewhere in the Global South as well as interpretive methodologies and methods. 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. His book, Practicing Peace: Conflict Management in Southeast Asia and South America (Oxford University Press) will be available in August 2022. You can read more about him here.

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