#Scifund Round 3 is underway and each day I will highlight a new proposal from the Challenge to give you a more in-depth understanding of each participant and their research.
Today I present Amelia Hoover Green. Her research focuses on understanding the degrees of violence (“repertoires of violence” as it is referred) against civilians during wartime.
Tell us about yourself, where you are from, and where you see yourself going.
I’m a political scientist, an expert cookie baker, a data geek, a dog lover, and an Assistant Professor at Drexel University, where I started in the Department of History and Politics this fall. I got my Ph.D. from Yale, but my heart belongs to Swarthmore College, where I did my undergraduate degree. I grew up in Grand Forks, North Dakota and have been thinking about politics pretty much since I could think. (Everyone at home is pretty surprised that I ended up working on international human rights issues rather than American politics.) Where do I see myself going? In the literal sense of that question, I’ll be spending a lot of time in transit the next few years, as I work with interview populations in El Salvador and several US states. More figuratively, I’m excited to get my SciFund project off the ground, because the Armed Group Institutions Database plays an important role in the book I’m writing now. I also expect to continue working with (and for) human rights advocates who need help with data gathering and analysis.
How did you get involved in your research project?
During my first semester in graduate school, I took a course called Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict, from Elisabeth Wood (who later became my Ph.D. advisor). At this stage, I was still planning to research American politics — but the topic wouldn’t let me go. I ended up writing a dissertation on repertoires of violence in armed conflict — and realizing in the course of the dissertation project that political science, as a discipline, was doing a lousy job incorporating the insights of social psychology in its thinking about violence. The Armed Group Institutions Database is basically an attempt to get a handle on the structures that groups build to influence individual soldiers’ psychology and behavior. What’s interesting to political science here is that decisions about whether to build institutions for education, in particular, are highly politicized and often strongly influenced by political ideology.
Why is your research important to you? Why should others fund it?
Why is it important to me? Mostly because it’s my baby. I built it, I believe in it, and it’s part of an intellectual community that is making real changes in the ways that we protect civilians during armed conflicts. The part of the project funded by SciFund — six months of paid research assistance — is particularly important because it gives me the opportunity to mentor and collaborate with an undergraduate student. I think that too often we are asked to look at research and teaching as opposing sides in some sort of tenure-track war of attrition. This project directly contradicts that message…which I suppose is one of the main reasons that folks should support the project financially. We’re doing good in so many directions here — producing a public good for political science researchers (the database), making research that has real-world benefits, and at the same time, training a young researcher.
Do you have a favorite story that came from working on your research project?
I have lots of favorite stories. The weekend I spent with my research assistant and her family in Chalatenango, El Salvador, was a real highlight. I went swimming with the kids of the family, interviewed my RA’s mother and older sisters about their experiences during the war, helped an aunt with her English homework, and practiced making pupusas, which if you haven’t had any recently, well, you should. (Pupusas are thick tortillas filled with beans and cheese or (less frequently) meat, and forming the masa just the right way — so as to hold in the filling without being too thick or tough — is an art.)
Why did you decide to particpate in the SciFund Challenge?
There’s a lot of complexity and social science formality in what I do — and that’s a good thing. Many of the conventions that have grown up in political science research are really important to our ability to understand each other and evaluate research across the discipline. Unfortunately, as with any specialty, sometimes our language and processes distance us from the people our research is intended to help, particularly when those folks have less access to education than we do, or when their situations are difficult and dangerous. More generally, when we don’t practice translating our research to everyday language, we lose the ability to talk effectively to people outside the discipline. Which sucks, because I think this research is interesting and important to a lot of non-academics. SciFund is a way to raise awareness (and, yes, money), but it’s also a way to get out of the Professor box for a bit and communicate more broadly about my work.
What was the most difficult aspect of building your SciFund Proposal? What was your favorite?
GAAAAAHHHHHH VIDEO EDITING IS HARD. (But also YAY I LEARNED A NEW SKILL.) My favorite part of the process was coming up on the fly with the sentence “War is bad for your brain” — this is the sort of shorthand that wouldn’t fly in a more strictly academic setting, but it is exactly the right way to express a big concept in my work, which is that there are a lot of factors in war zones that make people more violent, and that controlling violence is really difficult in that context.
Tell us something random. Something funny. Something borrowed. Something blue.
I am really into disaster narratives these days. Have you read _Endurance_, Alfred Lansing’s account of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated voyage to the South Pole? I have, and I will never complain about my job again.
Thanks Amelia for sharing your science! And to save you time from scrolling up, you can read about her project and contribute here.