Research Students

Current research students

Paul Angelo

Security Sector Reform and U.S. Security Assistance Strategy in Latin America in the 21st Century: The Cases of Colombia, Mexico, and Honduras

Paul Angelo

My PhD dissertation is a comparative study of U.S. efforts to encourage security sector reform in Colombia, Mexico, and Honduras--the three countries that have benefitted most significantly from U.S. investments in the security sector in Latin America during the 21st century. My research aims, firstly, to evaluate the success of U.S. security assistance programs (i.e., Plan Colombia, the Merida Initiative, and the Central American Regional Security Initiative/Central American Strategy) in professionalizing military, police, and judicial forces in the three countries of concern and, thereafter, endeavors to interpret the anticipated variation on the dependent variable, security sector reform, through qualitative, case-study methodology. My research is supported by the UCL Graduate Research Scholarship and the UCL Overseas Research Scholarship.

Morgan Baker

The 2001 AUMF: A Tonkin Gulf Relapse or the Creation of a Unilateral War President?

Morgan Baker

My research will examine the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) and the expansion of U.S. Presidential war power. I will be examining how the 2001 AUMF affected Bush’s and Obama’s presidential war power. More specifically, I will be investigating whether Bush’s and Obama’s use of the 2001 AUMF signals a reversion to 20th century policies of expanded executive war power (like the 1964 Tonkin Gulf Resolution dealing with Vietnam and Southeastern Asia) or whether its use signals a shift toward a substantially different and potentially unconstitutional increase in executive war power for the 21st century. The aims of this proposed research project are to investigate the 21st century expansion of executive war power and place it into context with previous administrations. And, my thesis will highlight the historical significance of legislative precedent and Constitutional interpretation.

Academic focus tends to be placed on presidents exceeding the limits of constitutional war powers without congressional legislation approving military action. My research, however, will be investigating a case in which presidential war power may have increased as a result of congressional legislation. By targeting the authorization itself, my research intends to illustrate the significance of congressional legislation dealing with warfare and executive war power.

Jonathan Bartho

The Role of the South in Ronald Reagan's presidential campaigns

Jonathan Bartho

My thesis is a historical examination of the role the South played in the presidential campaigns of President Ronald Reagan – including in his failed bid for the GOP nomination in 1976, in taking him to the White House in 1980 and in his re-election campaign of 1984. In the words of a Georgia Republican speaking after President Reagan’s death in 2004, “For as long as the South is Republican, it will be because of Ronald Reagan.” Reagan’s political relationship with the South had dramatic consequences not only for Reagan himself but also for the region, the Republican Party and the landscape of American politics more widely.

My research will explore numerous aspects of this story, particularly the appeal of Reagan to conservative Southerners, the importance of Reagan’s support from evangelical Christians across the South, and how Southern states rescued and revitalised Ronald Reagan’s election campaigns – and even his political career – between 1976 and 1980. By researching this previously overlooked aspect of Reagan’s political life, I hope to gain a greater understanding of the impact the Southern states had on his career and, more importantly, the role of Reagan’s campaigns in the transition of the formerly solid Democratic South into a loyal stronghold for Republican presidential candidates.

Sharon Betts

Political Wives to Political Lives: The Evolution of Women in American Politics on Screen

Sharon Betts

My research looks at gender representation of women on screen in political movies from 1930’s to present day and examines the development of character in line with development of women in real-life politics.

My work focuses on the tropes that movies and media follow when representing women on screen and how these have developed and changed in line with the on-set of feminism and women’s rights. I focus on the use of film with politics as a medium in which a handful of people, from writers to Hollywood studios, can reach and influence the general populace with their own political thoughts and agendas, which in turn affects the socio-cultural understanding of gender in society. 

My thematic interests include: media, women’s history, women’s rights, gender portrayals of political spouses and film and politics.

Sacnicté Bonilla Hernández

New Peasantries in 21st century Mexico: the defence and adaptation of rural life by campesino youth


During my life I have been related to rural life in different ways. Now, I have committed myself to do a research which aims to provide a wider understanding about rural life of young campesinos in Mexico.  My main goal is to engage rural young people into a reflective process to analyze their decisions. They will then reflect on why have they decided to remain living in the countryside, which is their role in preserving traditional knowledge of food production and in Mexicans’ food sovereignty. The ambition of this study is to highlight the key features of the modern campesina life of those young women and men who have chosen small food production as their way of life. I will also address the interaction between rural youth decisions and grassroots groups, civil organizations, peasant movements and social policies that are focused on rural youth.

Jaskiran Chohan

Agrarian Reform in Colombia: Failures and Horizons of Hope

Jaskiran Chohan

Historically Colombia, like many developing nations around the world, has had a turbulent relationship with land and agrarian reform.

The peace accords between the government and FARC-EP depend on mapping out the future of agriculture but more importantly than this, the lives of many rural and marginalised Colombian communities depend on a favourable outcome. At this pivotal moment, my thesis will look to argue for the nationwide extension of Zonas de Reserva Campesina. This model looks to empower grass-roots rural organisation, encourage environmentally friendly farming methods, as well as control and use land according to localised practice.

Catalina de la Cruz Pincetti

Determinants of subjective well-being in private life: new indicators, old inequalities? Evidence from Chile

Catalina de la Cruz

This thesis explores the contradictions between the progress experienced in Chile – one of Latin-Americas “success-stories”– and the barriers women face accessing the benefits of that growth. Chile exhibits both, one of the lower rates in female workforce participation and one of the highest gender pay gaps on the continent. Those barriers are in a substantial part a result of how the sexual division of labour is institutionally organised. Little effort has been made to include a gender perspective in the primary development index measures, thereby preventing possible institutional changes in this regard. I argue that recent indexes –such as those aimed at measuring the subjective perception of well-being– replicate this deficiency, perpetuating deleterious conditions for women.

The research will be conducted in different stages and its outcomes could be used as dimensions in Subjective Well-being indexes.

María De Vecchi Gerli

Enforced disappearances in Mexico: State and relatives discourse and its relation to impunity


Enforced disappearances in Mexico are, nowadays, a public problem that needs to be studied. According to official sources, there are more than 26,000 people disappeared in the country. This research aims to analyse the discourses and the struggles of the relatives of the disappeared during the last presidential period (2006-2012) linking it with those of the disappeared in the 1970s. Through an analysis of public policies launched by the State, I will also try to understand why enforced disappearances have not been solved but rather have increased in a worrying proportion in Mexico. For this, I will use three theoretical frameworks: i) theories of memory and of dealing with the past, ii) discourse analysis and iii) Transitional Justice literature.

Daniela Giambruno Leal

Democratization and everyday social interactions in Chile today

Daniela Giambruno Leal

One of the most salient features of Chilean society is its level of inequality. It is a well known phenomena documented by many Chilean social scientists as well as international institutions. Nevertheless, the research focus about this issue has been concentrated on economic inequality, in terms of income distribution and social stratification. Nevertheless, there are a number of new Chilean scholars that have identified a growing concern among individuals in Chile about unequal treatment in everyday social interactions. Although economic inequality is something realized and criticized by Chileans today, there is an important degree of social unrest linked to experiences of abuse and disrespect which are now judged as unfair and unjust. What is an issue here for many people is how an unequal treatment constitutes an underestimation of their personal value, in other words, of their dignities. In this context, there are a series of questions that emerge about cultural change and democratization that will guide the research project to be addressed at UCL.

Mario Hidalgo Jara

Impact of citizen participation in the control of corruption in Ecuador and Uruguay

Mario Hidalgo

Corruption is an endemic problem that attacks the foundations of democracy and avoids full development of societies, depriving them of better access to education, basic services, infrastructure, among other issues.

Multiple efforts have been made ​​to combat corruption and multiple surveillance mechanisms have been implemented for the same effect. Citizen participation and its various mechanisms of social control is one of them. Its existence's aim is, among others, to have people monitoring and controlling public institutions. However, there are specific problems that undermine the effectiveness of these mechanisms and dilute their essence, thus allowing corruption to perpetuate with impunity.

The objective of my research is to determine, based on the experience of Ecuador and Uruguay, the impact of citizen participation in controlling corruption and to establish what obstacles make this participation less efficient.

James Hillyer

Promoting Keynesian Liberalism: Walter W. Heller and U.S. Economic Policy, 1940 - 1987

James Hillyer

My research project examines the career of the American economist Walter W. Heller and uses this as a lens onto the rise, ascendancy and eclipse of Keynesian liberalism in the United States. Throughout his career, Heller championed the use of Keynesian economic policies to achieve liberal ends. He rose to prominence as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson administrations, and successfully convinced both presidents to use Keynesian policies to underwrite the liberal agenda of the 1960s. Because of this, Heller is widely regarded as one of the most influential and effective economic advisers in US history, however he has been curiously understudied by historians. My research project seeks to foster a greater academic appreciation for Heller. By doing so, it will examine the way in which Keynesian economists helped shape the political success of liberalism from the 1940s through to the 1960s, before exploring how they responded to the rise of conservative economic doctrines as American politics turned rightward in the 1970s and 1980s.

Christopher Hoekstra

In Defense of Democracy: The Political Role of US Special Operations in Vietnam 1961-75

Christopher Hoekstra

My research focuses on the role of US special operations in Vietnam, 1961-75.  It is a historical case study informed by contemporary American policy. The dissertation explores recently released documentation on Vietnam to examine Washington’s conduct of special operations both then and today.  Commentators in the field of Vietnam studies have characterized special operations as the most successful element in addition to the most misinformed aspect of the war. Yet no fully comprehensive study explores American special operations in Vietnam as a matter of policy and political agenda.

This provides a unique angle for my thesis, which investigates a period recently cited by the Pentagon as a priority area for special operations research. It aims to understand what American policy makers were trying to do by employing and extending the effort they devoted to spec ops during the Vietnam War. 

Maximilian Hoell

What role for Washington? US hegemony and the diversification of Latin American international relations

Maximilian Hoell

Drawing on international relations theories of hegemonic behaviour and power transition, my PhD thesis examines the notion that the United States is undergoing at least relative decline in Latin America. I employ a comparative case study to analyse the impact on the role and influence of the United States resulting from general efforts of Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela to diversify their foreign ties, for instance by intensifying relations with the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran. A long perspective (1823-today) will help identify shifts in Washington’s role and interests in the Western hemisphere, although the main focus of this study is on the post-Cold War period. My research is supported by the Klaus Murmann Doctoral Fellowship Programme of the Foundation of German Business (sdw).

Joshua Hollands

Out at Work: Gay Liberation and 1970s Workplace Organisation

Joshua Hollands

My research explores the historic interaction between gay liberation movements and organised labour during the 1970s in the United States. I seek to uncover how the emergence of a movement for gay liberation effected the ways in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people organised in their workplaces. Little attention has been paid to the experience of LGBT workers in states where 'right-to-work' laws have weakened union organisation and militancy. Where studies have focused upon LGBT working lives, they have focused on the industrial north where trade unionism in the 1970s was relatively strong. My research proposes to contrast these experiences by exploring LGBT union activism in the 'sunbelt.'

My research is supported by a Wolfson Scholarship in Humanities.

Quintijn Kat

Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, and the Decline of US Hegemony in Latin America and the Caribbean

Quintijn Kat

The main purpose of my research is to identify the causes and the extent of the decline of US hegemony in Latin America and the Caribbean since the end of the Cold War. To this end, I look at the interaction between US administrations and their Latin American and Caribbean counterparts and apply process-tracing methodology in order to make causal inferences about the decreasing influence of the US in the region. My main hypothesis is that inter-American relations have changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War while the US government has not managed to adapt its policy with similar speed, thus continuing to implement out-dated policies that, instead of maintaining US hegemony, in fact contribute to its further erosion. 

Hegemony, understood here as a combination of realist and neo-Gramscian notions of the concept, relies on three main areas of influence: the military, economic, and ideological areas. Through process tracing of several selected events that took place since the end of the Cold War, each of which fit within one of the aforementioned areas of hegemony, my project provides causal explanations alternative to those currently offered by the existing literature on the topic.

Neil Kinghan

A brief moment in the sun: Francis Cardozo and Reconstruction in South Carolina


My research will focus on the life and career of Francis Cardozo, the first African American to be elected to state-wide office in the US, an honest man and an effective political leader during the Reconstruction, who was imprisoned following a show trial after the white supremacists returned to power, and whose story has been largely neglected since then. His life is fascinating for itself; it is also a symbol of the history of Reconstruction, its background before the Civil War, its failures and successes and its aftermath.

Ivan Lobo Romero

Agency in Collective Action: The Role of Community Leadership on Environmental Entrepreneruship in the Colombian Pacific Region

Ivan Lobo Romero

From a theoretical standpoint, my current research is focused on understanding the role of agency in collective action and social movements. 

I specifically analyse the nature and dynamics of collective enterprises for sustainable development in rural Afro-Colombian communities in the Colombian Pacific Region (one of the most biodiverse regions in the world). I am particularly interested in the role played by community leaders as both ´brokers´and ´catalysers´of those enterprises. The Political Ecology and Political Economy of social and environmental conflicts within these communities are thus relevant frameworks for my inquiry.

Beyond much-needed and mostly elusive macro-institutional changes, communities in the so-called 'developing world' -particularly those often regarded as ´peripheral´ to mainstream political, economic and social structures- will likely play a critical role in the unfolding of more sustainable forms of development. Hence the relevance of understanding these communities' micro-dynamics as well as their relation to broader structures.

Thomas Maier

The Shape of the State to Come: Transnationality and the Social Imaginary of the Welfare State in Argentina, 1930-1952

Thomas Maier

My research focuses on the social imagery of the welfare-state in Argentina between 1930 and 1952. I am particularly interested in the productive space between the knowledge production in the social sciences of the time, and the political realm across the whole political spectrum in issues of welfare and the regulation of the social. Additionally, I will focus on the transnationality of the discourse about the formation of a modern welfare state in Argentina. Both the diffusion of ideas about modern social policy from different, nationally organized societies, the translations of concepts and debates about the relevance for the Argentine reality, as well as the mobility of social actors in the Atlantic world are of interest.

Kazuma Mizukoshi

The Workers’ Party in Brazil: Implications for the Nationalization of the Latin American Left


My thesis seeks to explain why the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) has become a dominant party in contemporary Brazil. Given the executive-centered decision-making and/or the plebiscitary electoral systems that developed under dictatorships, by and large Latin America’s political parties had functioned as dependent and instrumental vehicles of traditional political elites. Especially in Brazil, the political traditionalism represented by latifundismo and a weakly institutionalized electoral system had been strongly associated with party-system fragmentation.

The unprecedented ascendance of the PT, and potentially other leftist parties in the region, makes Brazil a highly relevant basis on which to revisit the classic but still-debatable explanations of party formation and development set out by Lipset and Rokkan and also by Duverger.

Verónica Ramírez Montenegro

Municipal Planning Councils and Victims’ Boards: Participatory democracy in South-west Colombia

Veronica Ramirez-Montenegro

In this context, my research aims to identify if the innovations introduced in the second institutional generation are being successful in helping to enhance the local participatory processes in South-west Colombia, and what the remaining limitations are. The findings will contribute to the academic debates about the effectiveness of participatory institutions as attempts to deepen democracy, as well as to the discussions about the ongoing reforms of the Colombian political system.

During the last decades of the 20th century, the thesis of popular participation and participatory democracy reached formal recognition in some Latin American countries. A more participatory version of democracy would help to include and empower vulnerable social groups, and would make the state more responsive to their demands. In 1991, participatory democracy in Colombia was granted constitutional level. 20 years later, the country started to upgrade its participatory institutions, inaugurating what can be called a ‘second generation’ of institutions for participatory democracy. Moreover, the more recent peace accords with the FARC-EP demand further improvements, announcing what could be generation three.

Carolina Paez Vacas

The Children of Chuzalongo: the Politics of Motherhood in Ecuador

Carolina Paez Vacas

In the 1990’s, for the first time, the Ecuadorian state addressed adolescent pregnancy as a public health problem. Despite two decades of public efforts to deal with this issue teenage pregnancies had climbed at alarming rates, therefore the implementation of laws, programs and strategies was considered an appropriate mechanism; unfortunately not even average results could be met as the more extensive the program the less positive the outcome. Current researches either investigate the causes of adolescent pregnancy or show how young women are disciplined into motherhood. My research situates daily actions that adolescent mothers display in order to provide care within a state project.

Eva Renon

Business and Economic Elite’s Organisation Facing Taxation Efforts: Brazil and Ecuador under Left-wing Governments

Eva Renon

My PhD thesis focuses on the bargaining process of tax reform in Brazil and Ecuador. It investigates how, through taxation efforts, governments provoke business and economic elite to reorganise; and on what makes business and economic elite invest in different resistance strategies, some of which erode popular political representation by using non-electoral and extra-institutional means. Because business and economic elite’s forms of association and resistance strategies impact their success in blocking taxes, this work could indirectly contribute to future research on taxation outcomes. This area of research is relevant to the issues that the governments of Brazil and Ecuador have been experiencing recently. Since the fall of commodities revenues, debt has begun to endanger both Ecuadorean and Brazilian inclusive policies’ model. In such a context, the success of tax reform is crucial to ensure the remaining in power of redistributive coalitions. 

Juan Smart

A comparative study of indigenous and rural communities’ responses to human rights abuses by extractive industries in Latin-America

Juan Smart

My PhD aims to explore the links between private entities’ human rights abuses, community responses to those abuses, and the effects which may create human rights responsibilities/liabilities of non-state actors. To do so, this research will explore the struggle of communities against extractive industries in the Andean region of Latin America (specifically in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru), trying to identify the common/different strategies based on a human rights language and their outcomes.

Bethany Tasker

South-South Cooperation in Latin America: The changing face of aid


My research looks at the role of emerging donors in Latin America and the impact they're having on aid delivery in the region. For decades, the donor countries making up the Development Assistance Committee have dominated the provision of aid to the Global South and been able to exert certain amounts of control on individual countries as a result. However, the South is now being offered an alternative system of aid, loans and assistance from countries that not long ago were aid recipients but due to their rapidly expanding economies have now undertaken the role of donors. These new donors are known for providing unconditional aid, promoting a sense of partnership rather than superiority, and respecting national sovereignty. In regards to Latin America, three major players have emerged - China, Brazil and Venezuela. Each of these nations has different motives and goals behind their aid agenda but together they are providing a significant challenge to traditional donors trying to retain influence in the region.

Lupita Valdez

Effects of Higher Education on Gender Equality for Indigenous Women in Mexico


My research work draws upon the effects that Higher Education has upon Mexican indigenous women's roles within society. Higher education for indigenous women constitutes in itself a shift in the social arrangements within their communities, but as the process of education takes place, this shift might extend further and even reshape indigenous gender dynamics. It is important to understand how the acquisition of specific knowledge and the development of agency, critical consciousness and freedoms, encourage indigenous women to challenge existing structures of power and non-egalitarian social arrangements that surround them. My fieldwork will be with universities in the south of Mexico, like the ISIA in Oaxaca and the UNICH in Chiapas. I also expect that my research will explain the limitation of human capital theory to deal satisfactorily with issues of culture, gender and identity while making a case for the importance of embracing frameworks that take an account of various non-economic and social benefits of education, particularly when it comes to social minorities.

Theo Williams

Socialism and Pan-Africanism in Britain, c.1928-1945

Theo Williams

My research explores how the international movements of socialism and pan-Africanism intersected in Britain. It seeks to understand the reasons for both conflict and cooperation between black activists and socialist organisations, and to examine how the politics of class interacted with the politics of race and anti-colonialism. This serves as a corrective to histories of socialism which have overlooked the range of left-wing ideas about imperialism and the influence that black activists such as George Padmore and C.L.R. James had on the white Left, as well as to histories of pan-Africanism which have obscured or downplayed the Marxist or radical class politics of leading pan-Africanist figures. My thesis will also examine how transnational circuits of people and ideas impacted the arenas of politics and activism in Britain as a case study of internationalism from below in the era of the League of Nations and the Comintern.

Theo's research is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP) consortium, which encourages collaborative work between various institutions within the University of London.

Daniel Willis

The Testimony of Space: Exploring Sites of Violence and Memory in Peru's Internal Armed Conflict

Daniel Willis

Almost twenty-three years on from the capture and imprisonment of Abimael Guzmán, and twelve years since the publication of the Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación’s Informe Final, the Shining Path insurrection which engulfed Peru in the last two decades of the twentieth century remains a highly political issue that raises questions of racism, justice and memory. However, whilst the current body of literature on the conflict has developed significantly during this time with contributions from many different academic fields, little attention has been paid to the spatiality of the conflict. Since the nineteenth century, Peru has been characterised as a nation divided into three spaces, each of which has its own spatial practice; la costa (the coast), la sierra (the highlands), la selva (the jungle). Spatial practices and processes not only produce violence, they shape ideas about, and the manifestation of, concepts including race, justice and memory. For this reason, my research project will attempt to fill the gap in the current body of literature from which a spatial approach to Peru’s internal armed conflict is missing.

Research students who have completed their studies at UCL-Institute of the Americas

Verena Brähler

The Inequality of Security in Rio de Janeiro


This research elaborates a new concept called the 'Inequality of Security' which shows how security is a societal good and human right that is inequitably distributed among Rio de Janeiro’s different social classes and geographic areas. The most important variable to consider for the Inequality of Security concept are the security providers – namely armed forces, police, UPPs, private security companies, drug trafficking factions and militias. Organised in a complex security network, these state and non-state actors deploy violence in multiple forms for their economic and political ends, forcing us to reconsider notions of citizenship and the rule of law.

Richard Dotor

The Southern Policy of Uysses Grant


My thesis is a revisionist history of the Southern policy of Ulysses S. Grant. Focussing almost entirely on the Grant Papers, my intention it to account for policy choices, and define Grant's Southern policy, primarily through an interpretation and analysis of his own words. My thesis analyses issues along racial and political lines so as to account for key policy choices made by Grant. Each chapter focuses on a specific stage in his public career linking personal beliefs or political aims to specific actions. By following a chronological order my thesis identifies a certain evolution within the policy but also emphasises a continuation of Civil War era ideals.

Michael Espinoza

The Red Tandem: Conservative Republicans and Socialism in Contemporary America


My PhD thesis focuses on conservative Republican criticism of Democrats in post-Cold War America. From the conservative perspective, Democrats support policies that favour government over the free-market. Conservative rhetoric uses key words to further bolster their assertions. This rhetoric accuses Democrats of supporting core ideals which are liberal, socialist and un-American in their tendencies. The intent of conservatives is to portray their party as the party that will defend true and authentic American values against the liberal values of big government Democrats. In each chapter I analyse how Republican conservatism now embodies a movement that is much more flexible and extremist in its language, and as a result makes modern day Democrats (and even Republicans of previous eras) out to be supporters of socialism.

Sarah Fearn

Finding Voice at Last? Institutional Continuity and Change and Indigenous Politics in Peru


My PhD thesis is a comparative study of indigenous political participation in Peru. It aims to demonstrate the pattern of indigenous political participation at the sub-national level, taking the Andean departments of Huancavelica and Puno and the Amazonian department of Loreto as case studies. It then attempts to explain this pattern using a tri-dimensional analysis that looks at state-indigenous relationships, intermediary-indigenous relationships and local community relationships in the three regions. Peru is chosen as a ‘deviant case’ due to its less evident ethnically based political participation compared to the recent political history in neighbouring countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia.

Geoff Goodwin

The 'double movement' in the Andes: land reform, land markets and indigenous mobilisation in Highland Ecuador (1964-1994)


My thesis explores land reform, land markets and indigenous mobilisation in Highland Ecuador through a Polanyian lens.  Fresh insight is provided into the design and implementation of land reform, the construction and reconstruction of land markets, and indigenous struggles over land. I emphasize the crucial role indigenous organisation and mobilisation performed in implementing land reform and cast new light on the nature of the 1990 and 1994 indigenous levantamientos. The thesis also offers a fresh perspective on the use of Karl Polanyi’s concepts to explore social, political and economic change in Latin America. The contemporary relevance of the research is demonstrated through the analysis of natural resource conflicts under Rafael Correa, concentrating on indigenous and peasant attempts to bring the use and distribution of land under social control. 

Sam Kelly
Ethnicity, Race, and Racism in Contemporary Peruvian Politics: Elections, Stereotypes and Public Images


My research focuses on the role of ethnicity, race and racism in contemporary Andean politics. Specifically, I am interested in how ethnic identity and racial attitudes may influence voters’ electoral decision-making – the ways in which voters construct, and evaluate, socio-political profiles of electoral candidates, their parties and political projects during electoral campaigns – and how such (stereotypic) profiles, or images, impact on voters’ electoral preferences. It is hoped that the combination of ‘macro-level’ cross-country comparative analysis (largely based on existing survey data) with a more ‘micro-level’ investigation of how voters gather and process political information (drawing on data from a computer-based ‘election simulation’ and a series of focus groups and interviews), will provide important insights into how (and perhaps why) race and ethnicity are drawn into, and may shape, electoral politics in the region today.

Carmen G. Sepulveda Zelaya

The Legal and Political Battles Behind the Distribution of Emergency Contraception in Chile under Ricardo Lagos (2000-2005) and Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010)


My research focuses on the legal and political battles behind the distribution of emergency contraception in Chile -- under the Concertación governments of Ricardo Lagos (2000-2005) and Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010). I am interested in the role of institutions and actors in the policy process, particularly feminists, lawyers, and doctors, as well as judges and courts within a context of increasing judicialisation of women’s reproductive rights. I believe my research contributes to current debates on feminist political science and sociology of law. My thematic interests include: feminism, women’s movements, sexual and reproductive rights, gender and health, abortion, public health, democratisation, judicialisation processes.

Alejandra Serpente

Diasporic Argentinean and Chilean identities in Britain: The traces of dictatorship in second-generation postmemory


My PhD looks at second-generation Chileans and Argentineans living in the UK, and their postmemories contained within their personal life narratives in relation to the last military dictatorships in those countries. It argues that within these individual memories formed in a familial terrain, we can also trace the contours of a much more collective memory that reflects a different and alternative memory landscape to that found in the Southern Cone. My research interests are in intergenerational memory, diasporic identities, exile, gender, oral history, and migration.

Anthony Teitler

US Foreign Policy Towards Afghanistan, 1979-2014: A Case Study of Constructivism in International Relations


A case study of US foreign policy towards Afghanistan from the Soviet intervention of 1979 to the exit of US/ISAF combat troops in 2014, my thesis examines how the interpretation of America’s interests and identity have shaped its long-term involvement with that country. This sets it apart from the existing literature, which predominantly emphasises how the US has been motivated by its own self-interest in its dealings with Afghanistan. Whilst it does not entirely reject the importance of both realist and neo-realist assumptions, this thesis mainly deploys a constructivist theoretical approach to achieve its objectives.

The work also aims to contribute more broadly to international relations and US foreign policy scholarship through its interdisciplinary approach.

Juan Venegas

Chilean Youth Political Disaffection: Analyzing its historical trends and its associated factors


This research aims to explain current high levels of political disaffection among Chilean youth. Since the return to democracy in 1990 Chile has experienced good levels of both economic development and political stability. However, with the pass of years the youth have increased their levels of hostility towards formal political institutions. Moreover, in recent times these feelings of disaffection have begun to be expressed through strong social movements. This dissertation intends to understand this problematic situation through both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the relationship between youth and the Chilean political system taking into account current popular mobilizations.

Dylan Vernon

The Making of a Patronage Democracy: The Nature and Implications of Rampant Political Clientelism in Post-Independence Belize


Using Belize as an illustrative and critical national case study, the thesis revisits the modern politics and democratisation experiences of the Commonwealth Caribbean through the analytic lens of entrenched political clientelism. It explores the origins of political clientelism in Belize since adult suffrage and the emergence of political parties in the 1950s, tracks and explains its rapid expansion and persistence in the post-independence (1981) period, and critically assesses the implications presented for democratic governance in Belize and other small states of the Commonwealth Caribbean. The research project is being conducted with the support of a United Kingdom Commonwealth Scholarship.