May 17, 2024

Sam Harshbarger ’24, a member of the 2022–2023 and 2023–2024 cohorts of LISD’s International Policy Associates (IPAs) and senior in the Department of History; Uma Menon ’24, research assistant to LISD’s Barbara Buckinx and senior in the School of Public and International Affairs; and John Patrick ’24, a member of the 2022–2023 IPA cohort and senior in the School of Public and International Affairs, have been named the winners of the 2024 LISD Senior Thesis Award. The award recognizes the best senior theses on the self-determination of nations, groups, and individuals in international politics.­

Thesis: Between Decolonization and the Cold War Turkey and Afro-Asia, 1955-1960
Advisor: Michael Laffan

Harshbarger’s thesis explores Turkish engagement with the initial steps toward the Non-Aligned Movement in the second half of the 1950s. Harshbarger investigates Turkish involvement at the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, in April 1955 and Turkish support for the Algerian nationalist movement using diplomatic cables, contemporary Turkish press, and memoirs of state officials and conservative intellectuals. He evinces that these officials and intellectuals remained engaged with political currents of pan-Islamic and pan-Asian solidarity, even in the decade of Turkish accession to NATO. In doing so, he posits that the more ambitious, less assiduously pro-Western diplomacy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has its roots in the Democrat Party’s governments in the 1950s.

Thesis: From Dharna to Demonstration: Determinants of Political Protest Participation in India
Advisor: Barbara Buckinx

Menon’s thesis examines the empirical determinants of political protest participation in India through statistical analysis of survey data, newspaper content analysis, and interviews. Several interesting findings emerged from her research, including a negative correlation between protest participation and trust in local and state governments; the overrepresentation of well-educated individuals among protesters; an increase in the representation of marginalized communities in protests over the past few years; and the salience of government repression faced by protesters. The thesis also uncovered notable trends in political engagement in India and presented insights for building a more inclusive democracy.

Thesis: The “Rhetorical Toolkit”: Proposing a New Theory to Explain the Varied Implementation of Xi Jinping’s Sinicization of Religion Campaign
Advisor: Gary Bass

In 2015, China’s Xi Jinping announced a new campaign—the “Sinicization of Religion”—to strengthen the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) control over religious groups. Patrick’s thesis presents the first comprehensive study that compares the official tenets of the campaign (as defined by legislation and CCP-approved academic literature) to religion policies at the local level. While prevailing Western scholarship characterizes the Sinicization of Religion as a top-down campaign, this study identifies wide variation in the campaign’s local implementation, ranging from toleration for religious believers to brutal actions that far exceed the CCP’s stated vision. This variation corresponds closely with the CCP’s political interests, suggesting that China’s treatment of religious groups is dictated by calculated political considerations rather than a general ideological commitment to curbing religious expression. As such, the thesis concludes that the Sinicization of Religion campaign allows the CCP to pursue its diverse interests while maintaining the image that these varied strategies represent a unified campaign that adheres to the rule of law.

LISD Executive Director Nadia Crisan and Research Scholar Barbara Buckinx hosted the award ceremony in the presence of our 3 winners,  faculty and family.

Congratulations to our 2024 prize-winning undergraduate students!