UCL Institute of the Americas


Research Students

Francesca Akhtar

The Pentagon’s Spies:  A Critical History of the Defense Intelligence Agency, from JFK to Trump 

My PhD research is a historical study examining the evolution of US defence intelligence, from the Cold War to the present day, through the lens of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was set up in 1961, by Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, as an attempt to streamline and improve the accuracy of military intelligence. On the 55th anniversary of the Defense Intelligence Agency in October 2016, President Obama commented that the agency had been a “critical component” of the United States national defense, both in war and peacetime. However, outside of the US intelligence community, the role of the DIA is largely unknown, as historians have tended to focus on the exploits of the Central Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency. Former intelligence officer William R. Corson has stated that: “President Kennedy’s efforts and, to a lesser degree, those of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara in breathing life into the DIA is an often overlooked major contribution of the Kennedy Administration to the evolution of American intelligence.” My research intends to fill a gap in the historical literature regarding intelligence history, and also add to the overall understanding of the importance and role of military intelligence in US foreign policy. My thesis will examine the DIA's contribution to US national security since 1961, and trace its evolving role from a focus on counter-terrorism in the 1980s and involvement with joint DOD-CIA operations in Central America, to the expansion of its HUMINT (human intelligence) capability in the post 9/11 era.

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
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, endeavours 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.

Elliot Askew

Requiem for Reality: An Intellectual History of the Response to Neoliberalism in 1980s and 1990s America
My project examines the intellectual responses to the entrenchment of neoliberalism during the 1980s and 1990s within the United States. The responses are drawn from public intellectuals and critics who are either on the political left or who are nearer the mainstream but lack a coherent and consistent political ideology. I aim to outline and analyse the logic of neoliberalism, how intellectuals were understanding neoliberalism and its effects during the last two decades of the twentieth century, and how this relates to a wider ‘war of ideas’ framework. The majority of the scholarship on neoliberalism either aims to explore the intellectual roots of the ideas that neoliberalism stems from, or it is of a more sociological persuasion and develops theories on how neoliberalism as a system operates. I aim to bridge this divide within the literature by using the perceptions of intellectuals to provide a bottom up understanding of the neoliberal system, whilst simultaneously temporally advancing the literature on the roots of neoliberalism by exploring the intellectual response from new angles at the moment when it took hold.

Morgan Baker

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

Alin Barbantan 

Free-Riding in the Far East: the impact of burden-sharing on US hegemony 

My research is on the topic of free-riding within US alliances, with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific. Free-riding and burden sharing have been prevalent topics in the study of the NATO alliance, however, a short study of America’s alliances in the Asia-Pacific will bring to light the fact that many Asian allies of the US have been similarly labeled “free-riders” and also have been accused of not “doing their part” in the regional security framework. 

Considering these similarities, my thesis aims to see if free-riding does actually occur in the post-Cold War Asia-Pacific by focusing on three case studies: Japan, South Korea, and Australia. How these countries, members of the San Francisco “Hub and Spokes” system, interact with the US can give proper insight into the broader question the research aims to address: if there is “free-riding” in Asia, does the act itself compromise US hegemony, or does it provide an alliance with unforeseen positives?" 

Jonathan Bartho

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

Michael Byrne

'Succeeding Greatness': a comparative study of the challenges faced by four U.S. presidents who succeeded ‘transformational presidents’ of their own party, having first served as their vice president.

Fourteen men have become president of the United States having previously served as vice president.  Four (Andrew Johnson, Chester Alan Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon B Johnson) succeeded presidents who had been assassinated.  Another four (John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Calvin Coolidge and Harry S Truman) succeeded presidents who died in office.  A further four (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren and George H W Bush) were elected in succession to their immediate predecessors.  One (Richard Nixon) had earlier served as vice president, and one (Gerald Ford) succeeded to the presidency on the resignation of the incumbent.

My research will focus on the particular problems facing a president who comes to office in immediate succession to a transformational predecessor of his own party.  Definitions of 'transformational' can obviously vary but for the purpose of this study I will compare the experiences of John Adams (president 1797-1801 in succession to George Washington), Martin Van Buren (president 1837-1841 in succession to Andrew Jackson), Harry S Truman (president 1945-1953 in succession to Franklin D Roosevelt) and George H W Bush (president 1989-1993 in succession to Ronald Reagan).  The study will focus on how each of these 'successor presidents' coped with the legacy and inheritance of the predecessors; how they were accepted (or not) by their predecessors' supporters; whether and to what extent they managed to set a course that differentiated their administrations from those of their predecessors; and whether any larger lessons can be learned from their particular experience of 'Succeeding Greatness'.

Mercedes Crisóstomo Meza

Women, Violence and State Formation: Two Rural Communities in Ayacucho before, during and after the Peruvian Armed Conflict
The aim of my research is to examine the role that violence plays in shaping relations between rural women and the state in Peru before, during and after the internal armed conflict. Scholars have begun to explore state formation as a historical process and the factors that shaped the internal armed conflict at the local and national level. However, the participation of rural indigenous women in the formation of the Peruvian state remains under-explored.

I will analyse how state institutions interact with rural women in two indigenous communities in Ayacucho, the region most affected by the internal armed conflict, paying particular attention to how the state manages the political participation of indigenous women. Through an examination of two contrasting communities, I will aim to uncover how violence structures relations between the state and rural indigenous women who mobilise politically. My study is grounded in literature on state formation, state violence and intersectionality. I will use historical and anthropological methods. I will draw on regional archives, and conduct ethnography. My research is intended to shed new light on the role of rural indigenous women in the historical constitutions of the Peruvian state.

My research is supported by the UCL Overseas Research Scholarship.

Jaskiran Chohan

Between Compliance and Resistance to the Global Corporate Food Regime in Colombia: ZRCs and Prospects for Food Sovereignty
The PhD looks to ground the Global Corporate Food Regime in the country case study of Colombia. It will use this framework to provide a contextualisation of Colombia's food system. This will illustrate the conditions in which the figure of the Zona de Reserva Campesina (ZRC) exists. This legal figure looks to empower grass-roots rural organisation, encourage environmentally friendly farming methods, as well as control and use land according to localised practice. The thesis will comparatively analyse campesino agricultural practices, economy and impacts on local ecologies within two localised case studies: the ZRC of Valle del rio Cimitarra and the ZRC of Cabrera, to underline the different regional processes and histories that very much influence outcomes and agricultural realities.

Catalina de la Cruz Pincetti

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

Elizabeth Evens

Not your choice but ours: women’s role in the regulation of abortion before Roe v. Wade
My doctoral project examines women’s role in suppression of abortion when it was illegal in the US, between the 1850s and 1950s. The meaning, significance, and practice of abortion were contested throughout criminalisation, therefore regulation was a constant and necessary part of the era of illegal abortion. Gender historians have asserted women’s role in the formation of the welfare state in this period, however my research focuses on women’s function within the regulatory state: I look at female physicians, police officers, philanthropists, as well as cultural influencers such as film directors, authors, journalists, and advice columnists, who worked to restrict access to abortion.

I am interested in abortion as an issue to which women had a particular relationship, however my project engages with questions of women’s history, the history of sexuality, and healthcare and medicine. My project is supervised by Professor Jonathan Bell and is supported by a Wolfson Scholarship in the Humanities.

Twitter: @lizzieevens.

Daniela Giambruno Leal

Anti-poverty social policies in Chile, and concerns for social justice in neoliberal times: a vision from below
The purpose of this thesis is to explore the citizenship potential of the contemporary development, expansion, and institutionalization of social protection policies in Chile since the 1990s, specially targeted on “the poor” and “the vulnerable”. Chile constitutes a paradigmatic case study, considering its positive records in regards to the systematic reduction of poverty since 2000 as a result of anti-poverty policies, while at the same time keeping high levels of income inequality during the same period. Simultaneous and contradictory trends that by the middle of the 2000s onwards, has produced strong critiques about the lack of redistributive impacts of this anti-poverty agenda, questioning the residual character of social assistance policies, as well as the dual provision of social services based on the existence of public and private channels. A social critique focused on the stratified conditions of social integration and wellbeing prevailing in the country, something that implies, in practice, the constitution of citizens of a different class. Read the complete abstract here.

David Gomez

Canals and Borders: Economic Diplomacy and the Belize Territorial Dispute, 1845-1865
My PhD research examines economic influences on British foreign policy towards the territorial claim to Belize in the mid-1800s. The aim is to provide a better explanation for the variations in the expected foreign policy behaviour of Britain in relation to the territorial dispute between 1845 and 1865 by elucidating the factors that may have shaped such policies and by examining how economic considerations likely combined with changes in power-relations in the international system in the first half of the 19th century, as well as with shifts in the logic of Anglo-American relations to affect Britain's handling of the dispute. Britain's objectives over Belize have long been viewed as a desire for colonial expansion, yet its refusal to have declared Belize a colony earlier; and its failure to have settled the dispute in the 1860s when Guatemala had already agreed to terms thereto has never been adequately explained. The territorial dispute over Belize is today one of the longest unsettled territorial disputes in Latin America and remains a constant source of tension between Belize and Guatemala.

Fernando Gutiérrez H.

Memory, attachment and appropriation of the public space in historical urban areas in Mexico

My research focuses on social practices, behaviour, and interactions within the public space in historical urban areas in Mexico City. My thesis analyses the case of Alameda Central, which is located in the Historic Centre of Mexico City and one of the oldest public parks in Latin America. It studies how new urban policies have contributed to transform identity, collective memory and meaning of this place. It identifies historical and socio-spatial features that are contesting to the latest urban regeneration, such as people’s behaviour, displacement, and uses in La Alameda.

My study is supported by the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT – Mexico) and co-supervised by Dr Paulo Drinot (UCL Institute of the Americas) and Professor Ann Varley (UCL Department of Geography).

Email: fernando.gutierrez.13@ucl.ac.uk

Josephine Harmon

The Conservative Coalition and Gun Politics, 1986-2010

My research looks at what motivates political behaviour in coalition. My thesis studies co-operation in the conservative coalition in pursuit of gun rights from 1986 to 2010. It uses social science methods with a historicist framework.

My interests include whether political ideas impact real-world politics, what motivates political co-operation, where theory fits into political history, and how to interpret the preponderance of conservative politics in the last forty years.

Upcoming publications include a chapter of my thesis, and an essay on culture and political thought.

My research is supervised by Dr Nick Witham and Dr Alex Goodall.

Before my PhD, I was a public policy researcher in Westminster, working on EU policy among other things. I use French and German language scholarship in my research and promote multilingual research methods.

Teaching: Module Tutor for ‘The Making of Modern America, 1920-present’
Chair of the UCL Americas Research Network (2018/19)
Associate Fellow of the HEA

Twitter: @Josephine_HAR

Mario Hidalgo Jara

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

Christopher Hoekstra

“US Special Operations Strategy in South Vietnam, 1954-65”

My research focuses on the military and political role of US special operations in South Vietnam. My PhD is a historical case study that has resonance for contemporary issues in American special operations policy.

The dissertation explores recently released documentation on the Vietnam War to examine Washington's special operations strategy and conduct, especially during the period of 1954 to 1965. Commentators in the field of Vietnam War 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 strategy.

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 special operations during the Vietnam War. The thesis addresses this by covering the historical background of special operations doctrine during the Roosevelt and Truman years, the growing application of this to South Vietnam under Eisenhower, and the expansion and evolution this strategy under Kennedy and Johnson up to conventional escalation of the war in 1965.

Maximilian Hoell

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

Work and Sexuality in the Sunbelt: Homophobic Workplace Discrimination in the US South and Southwest, 1970 to the present

Josh H
My research explores historic workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the south and southwest United States, and the social movements that emerged to counter this discrimination. I seek to uncover how the emergence of a movement for gay liberation effected the ways in which LGBT 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. Each chapter of my thesis explores episodes of discrimination in different Sunbelt industries, including: education, telecommunications, oil, defence, manufacturing, retirement communities, service and tourism.

My research is supported by a Wolfson Scholarship in Humanities.

Supervisor: Professor Jonathan Bell

Quintijn Kat

Quintijn Kat
The Importance of Smaller State Consent and Agency in the Maintenance of U.S. Hegemony in Latin America

Understandings of hegemony in international relations often assume an active role of the hegemon in upholding the hegemonic system while smaller subordinate states are seen as passive subjects within this system. My research seeks to challenge this assumption and instead assesses the role of smaller state consent and agency in the maintenance of hegemony. Taking the U.S. in Latin America as a case, through process tracing methodology the project examines four individual country case studies, two of which focus on trade negotiations (Brazil, Peru) and two with a focus on counter-narcotics cooperation (Colombia, Bolivia). Comparing examples of consent and dissent, active cooperation and active obstruction to U.S. hegemony in the region, I test the hypothesis that hegemony, here understood as a combination of realist and neo-Gramscian notions of the concept, can only be maintained if the interests of smaller states are taken into account and properly addressed by the hegemon. When the hegemon fails to do so, smaller states will challenge the system leading to an inevitable decline of hegemony. Through this approach my research aspires to provide a nuanced understanding of the interactions between hegemonic and subordinate states in international relations and the decisive influence smaller states have within a hegemonic system.

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 Entrepreneurship in the Colombian Pacific Region


I study the political economy of socio-environmental conflicts in the Colombian Pacific lowlands, arguably one of the most biodiverse, resource-rich and conflict-ridden regions in the world. Specifically, my research is focused on the role played by community leaders from rural Afro-Colombian communities -a historically marginalised ethnic minority in the country- in two closely interrelated outcomes. First, the development of small-scale productive enterprises -mostly based on the extraction of natural resources- as an economic alternative for communities beyond subsistence economies. Second, collective resistance to the penetration and expansion of illicit economies (e.g. mining and coca).

As 'brokers' who are able to mobilise different forms of capital and connect communities with external actors, leaders seem to be potentially better endowed -and, from a structural point of view, more advantageously located- to help achieve two long-standing aspirations of Afro-Colombian communities. Politically, strengthening their voice in the public sphere. Economically, developing more productive enterprises that use the region's natural resources sustainably. Whether the leaders' potential is effectively deployed and whether it helps alleviate conflicts (rather than exacerbate them) are both questions of empirical rather than normative value to which this research provides possible answers. 

Thomas Maier

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

Phoebe Martin

Culture as protest: the uses of writing, art and performance to tackle cultural gender norms in Peru

How have women in Peru used cultural contestations to challenge dominant discourses? Cultural forms of protest, or 'cultural contestations', have long been crucial in allowing marginalised groups, particularly women, to provide alternative and oppositional narratives. My project looks at how cultural contestations have been used by women in Peru; comparing how cultural actors, activists, mainstream media, and the state construct narratives in relation to sexuality, the body, motherhood, and sexual violence.

Culture, such as writing, art and performance, plays a part during periods of mobilisation, but also during times of abeyance. While NGO-based activism that pursues state-centred goals has an important role to play, it is also crucial to look at contestations that function on the level of culture when challenging cultural norms. In this way we can see how women can use culture to amplify their voices in their full diversity.

My research is co-supervised by Dr Paulo Drinot and Dr Jelke Boesten (King’s College London) and is supported by a London Arts and Humanities Partnership studentship.

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.

Naomi Oppenheim

Countercultures of Print: History, Identity and Activism in Caribbean publishing in Britain, 1958-1982

An important part of diasporic community building, my thesis uses print culture as a window onto post-war black settlement, the dawning of the post-colonial world, and explorations of racial identity within a context of dislocation. It explores my idea of ‘countercultures of print’ – the unique and interconnected cultural phenomenon of publishing, teaching and activism, that blossomed within Britain’s Caribbean diaspora communities. I will analyse the production of history within these countercultures of print. By redefining the parameters of where history is produced and disseminated, not only in history books, but through periodicals, public speeches, and materials produced for supplementary schools, this thesis will examine the nature of the connection between history, activism and print.

This PhD is in collaboration with British Library as part of the AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme.

Carolina Paez Vacas

The Children of Chuzalongo: the Politics of Motherhood in Ecuador
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.

Verónica Ramirez Montenegro

Municipal Planning Councils and Victims' Boards: Participatory democracy in South-west Colombia
During the last decades of the 20th century, the thesis of popular participation and participatory democracy reached formal recognition in most 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 was granted constitutional level in Colombia.  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.

 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.

Eva Renon

Bring the firm back in: state-business relations in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia in the 2000s

My thesis offers a theory of business organisation that redefines the forms of business organisation and their causes. It will be essential in understanding policy outcomes and how political systems respond to powerful private actors. During the wave of neoliberal reforms of the 1980s, the success of political efforts to create a more open economy depended on support from the industrial sector. Likewise, during the 2000s, the success of political efforts to create a more inclusive society with quality jobs led growth will depend on business actors' behaviour and support. My research redefines business organisation along two dimensions: the type of business organisation (macro-corporatist; cartels; pluralist) and whether business coordination is situational or stable over time. It uncovers two determinants: Costs of collective action and whether industrial policy is stable and consistent.

Juan Smart

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

Midou Tian

Promoting Peace? US Soft Power towards China, 1989-2016

Since China has developed to the point of potentially challenging the predominance of the United States, the Sino-American relationship has become increasingly important in the international system. In the context of globalisation and a multipolar world in the post-Cold War era, soft power theory was strongly recommended as an effective strategy for a United States adapting to a changing international order. This project is to research the extent to which US soft power towards China influenced the Sino-American relationship from 1989 to 2016. The theoretical approach (liberalism and constructivism) will be used to improve the soft power theory. Further, it will assess the formulation and implementation process of US soft diplomacy towards China. This project will prove that US soft diplomacy towards China involved a complex historical process including penetration, aid, containment and cooperation; it has tangible influence on the Sino-American relationship; and can under certain conditions promote a peaceful relationship.

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.