Monday, April 27, 2009

My B.A. thesis proposal

Well, I gave in a BA proposal today, and for anybody who might be interested here it is.

I am interested in investigating political violence in the modern Middle East, particularly violence that takes place within national borders. This classification will primarily include civil conflict, as in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Mandatory Palestine; repressive violence perpetrated by the state against its citizens and the political ramifications thereof, as in Iraq, Syria, and the Gaza Strip under Hamas, may also be considered. Finally, time and length permitting, I hope to explore the products of torture and other state-sanctiond and –practiced forms of institutionalized, ongoing violence within the broader political landscape of violence in relevant countries (Iraq, Syria, Gaza, perhaps Pakistan).

My aim is to create a healthy balance between theoretical analysis and fact-driven, concrete insights. (I may or may not include policy recommendations, depending on the structure of my conclusions, but I would like to.) Theoretically, I hope to investigate such violence from a political science perspective, discussing the political mechanisms and structures that variously shape, allow, encourage, thrive off, or are destroyed by such violence; and from an anthropological perspective, attempting to understand the meaning of violence in specific cultural and temporal locations, its technologies, and what work it does for its constituents. I will employ Foucauldian analytical tools throughout in considering the power structures and institutions shaping the environments in which violence has developed. Concretely, I plan to incorporate statistical and econometric research on conflict onset, statebuilding and state repression; firsthand research documents such as Crisis Group Reports and, I hope, my own observations from the two months I am about to spend in Syria this summer; and, of course, a historical perspective, examining causes and effects on a broad timescale. When completed, the paper will offer one attempt at a fairly comprehensive perspective on some of the most controversial and thorny political intra-state conflicts of the 20th century. If I am successful in achieving my desired balance between theoretical and grounded analysis, the paper will function both as an edifying policy document and as an interesting academic analysis.

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