Organski Award

The Kenneth Organski Scholars Fund supports graduate students doing quantitative research in international politics and or political development. A.F.K. Organski was a distinguished scholar and a legendary teacher for many years at the University of Michigan. He is best known for his theoretical and empirical work on political capacity and demographic and power transitions. In prior years, Organski Scholar funds have also been used as matching funds allowing several graduate students to compete for funding to support their doctoral research.

Application Process

Applications are available starting in February each year. Information about the competition, award amount, and eligibility will be available on this website.

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Award Winners

2022: Microfoundation of Naming and Shaming: Survey Experiment to Identify Backlash against Foreign Criticism

By Saki Kuzushima

Project Description

My research focuses on how public accusations of human rights abuses, or the so-called “naming and shaming” strategy, can improve domestic human rights practices. While NGOs and international organizations often make public criticisms about human rights violations, recent studies find that such practices can be counterproductive. In other words, international accusations of human rights abuses can sometimes be perceived as undue foreign interference, face domestic backlash, and can lead to further abuse of human rights. My research aims to uncover the conditions under which naming and shaming improve human rights as intended, or turn out to be counterproductive.

2019: Resistance and Violence: The Legacy of Political Mobilization and Civilian Violence during the Korean War

By Hojung Joo

Project Description

What accounts for variation in civilian killings during wars? Previous research has argued that civilian killings are best explained as  strategic moves made by conflict parties to retain resources and support from the population (Wood 2010; Zhukov 2017; Schwartz and  Straus 2018; Azam and Hoeffler 2002), activation of existing local grievances (Kalyvas 2006), manifestations of state repression during  times of war (Boyle 2009), or remnants of prewar elite competition (Balcells 2010). We argue that the prewar political and economic  conditions matter greatly in shaping violence against civilians during wars. We intend to contribute to the literature by bringing forward  the value of collective action experienced by civilians before the war, and how it affects levels of civilian killings during wars. If a region has experienced political mobilization in the prewar period (Kopstein and Wittenberg 2011; Finkel 2015), would it be at a lower risk of  civilian killings because of this experience of solidarity, or would it be at a higher risk of civilian killings due to preemptive repression  from the state? 

We intend to answer this question by exploring patterns of civilian killings during the Korean War. The Korean War provides a useful  test case due to four reasons. First, neither ethnicity nor religion was a salient issue. Literature addressing how ethnicity explains civilian  violence does not apply in this case (Fjelde and Hultman 2014). Victims were not identifiable by ethnicity or religion, so the occupying  forces had to rely on local information to identify victims’ membership in target organizations. Anecdotes from the Truth and  Reconciliation Commission (Truth and Reconciliation Commission Republic of Korea 2010) reports adds weight to the claim that  civilian killings during the Korean War involved some cooperation (whether it be coerced or voluntary) from the local population.  Second, the dynamics of the Korean War provided most communities with the opportunity to call out collaborators on both sides. Both  the DPRK and ROK forces almost succeeded in capturing the entire peninsula, leading to a switch in occupying forces in most parts of  the peninsula. Anecdotes from the TRC reports show how villages experienced “rounds” of killings as those who cooperated with the  North Korean forces were called out and killed when the ROK forces recaptured the areas. Hence it is safe to conclude that areas most  affected by these killings do not reflect an allegiance to a particular side in conflict – although this assumption can be relaxed by  evaluating killings by the type of perpetrator. Thirdly, the war broke out shortly after the end of a long period of colonial rule, which  allows us to use events during the colonial period to measure successful mobilization against authority without conflating it with  mobilization against a specific conflict party. We argue that mounting a successful collective action against authority puts a community at a lower risk of experiencing future civilian killings during wars, as members of that community are more experienced at creating  solidarity and preventing defection when faced with an external threat.  

The proxy we will use to measure successful mobilization against authority are protests against Japanese Irrigation Association Agency  installations during the Rice Production Plan period between 1920 and 1945. Installation of the Irrigation Association Agencies was the  crux of Japanese plans to increase production of rice as these agencies oversaw 90% of the projects that the Japanese initiated under the  land improvement initiative. Between 1920 and 1934, 187 agencies were installed. However, due to the project’s tendency to favor large  landowners (many of whom were Japanese), 113 installation proposals faced protests from local farmers and out of the 113 protests  48 successfully stopped the installation (Han, Lee, and Gil 2009). What is notable about these protests is that they were cross-class  protests between share croppers and small to medium size landowners. Changing waterways by installing these agencies often benefitted  a few large landowners who initiated the projects but put other share croppers and smaller landowners at risk. Although the protests did  not always succeed in stopping the installation of agencies, it provided an opportunity for sharecroppers and landowners to unite under  shared interests.  

Preliminary research at the level of the province seems to show that successful political mobilization reduces the number of civilians  killed during the war. For example, the Gyeonggi province, a province of 3927 mi2and Southern Jeolla province of 4729 mi2, are both comprised of relatively even terrain and were both areas deemed suitable to grow rice by the Japanese. In both the Gyeonggi province  and Southern Jeolla province, farmers protested around 50% of the installations (8 out of 16 and 10 out of 21), but the success rate for  protests in Gyeonggi was much higher (63%, 5 out of 8) compared to the Southern Jeolla province (30%, 3 out of 10). Gyeonggi province  has much fewer reports of civilian killings during the war (980) compared to that of the Southern Jeolla province (6,143), which is  striking considering that the Gyeonggi province is closer to North Korea. We intend to collect more information about variation in the  proposed irrigation projects and protests at the county level2to better account for the mechanism leading from successful protests  against irrigation agency installations to fewer defections among county residents during the war. 

We intend to carry out archival research at the National Archives of Korea located in Daejeon and Seoul where detailed documents about  the Irrigation Agencies are available. We have the list of the names of 187 agencies and their provincial locations, but further information  about county-level location of the agencies, the identity of the landowners who signed the contracts, and the size of the proposed projects  are currently unavailable online. Second, we will search for the details of each protests, such as their sizes, diversity among membership,  and tactics used to appeal to the Governor-General of Chosun. Third, we will look for alternative sources for measuring civilian killings  during the Korean war apart from the data we have coded from the TRC reports. One such potential source is the List of civilians killed  during the Korean War (Department of Information Bureau of Statistics 1953), which the TRC used to cross validate the interviews by  the victims’ relatives. It contains the name, sex, age, address, job, status, and location of killing for each of the 59,964 civilians killed  during the Korean war. Once organized, it will provide a more fine-grained analysis of the killings than the 23,310 confirmed killings  we coded from the TRC reports. Together with the county-level data that we have access to currently (population at 1909, 1949, and  1955; tenant-landowner ratio among Koreans at 1909; Japanese land ownership at 1910; 1948 election results; soil quality reports created  by the Japanese in 1905; elevation data), archival data that we can gather in Korea will allow us to evaluate the effect of collective action  against installment of Irrigation Agencies on civilian killings during the Korean War. 

2018: The Effect of Internet Access on Contentious Politics in Authoritarian Regimes

By Yuri M. Zhukov and Nadiya Kostyuk

Project Description

The internet allows autocratic governments to monitor their populations and potentially repress opposition groups. At the same time, internet access allows these groups to self-organize and mobilize collective action. We argue that, at a low internet penetration rate, opposition groups are more likely to mobilize and express their dissent. Yet this effect reverses at higher internet penetration rates, due to more targeted government monitoring and repression. We test this argument by conducting a meta-analysis across hundreds of subnational datasets from the xSub data library (, along with estimates of internet penetration from 1982 until 2016. These (expected) findings highlight the curvilinear relationship between repression and dissent, and have important implications for scholars and policymakers interested in the effects of information and communications technology in authoritarian regimes.

2014: Religious Regulation and Political Mobilization in Central Asia

By Pauline Jones Luong and Dustin Gamza

Project Description

Many scholars have argued that in the broader context of government corruption and deteriorating economic conditions, Islam has served as the primary basis for mass mobilization against the incumbent regime in the Middle East and North Africa (e.g., Kepel 2002). Scholars have paid less attention, however, to the way in which religious regulation itself can foster political mobilization. Since the 1960s, states in the predominantly Muslim world have largely opted to regulate the dominant religion (Islam) in an effort to constrain its potential political power. They have faced religious-based mobilization, however, to varying degrees. The purpose of our project is to explore the link between religious regulation and political mobilization through a controlled case comparison of three predominantly Muslim states in Central Asia – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Consistent with the literature on the political economy of religion, we conceptualize religious regulation on a continuum and define it as the extent to which the state endorses a particular faith or singular interpretation of that faith; in other words, the degree to which the state establishes a religious monopoly. Building on recent work by Jonathon Fox (2013) and Anna Grzymala-Busse (2012), we add to this definition the insights that a) this monopoly can be established via subsidy or repression and that b) these forms of regulation are usually combined such that there is a delicate balance between subsidy and repression; and c) that this balance can shift over time. Departing from the existing literature, which illuminates the indirect effects that that state regulation has on political attitudes and behaviors via its impact on the level of religious beliefs and participation (e.g., Finke & Stark 1988, Finke 1990), we seek to illuminate the direct effects that religious regulation has on political attitudes and behavior. Specifically, we are interested in the conditions under which state regulation fosters political mobilization. Our preliminary hypothesis is that it is most likely to do so when the balance between subsidy and repression shifts decisively toward repression. Our intuition is that religion is more likely to become politicized when the state appears to be obstructing rather than supporting the dominant faith, irrespective of the level of religious beliefs and participation.

2013: Indebted Disputes: Foreign-Currency Denominated Debt and Trade Disputes

By Andrew Kerner and Timm Betz

Project Description

Many countries finance their government debt primarily by issuing bonds denominated in foreign currencies. Barry Eichengreen, Ricardo Hausmann and others have argued that the inability to borrow in domestic currency – what they call “original sin” – leads countries to horde hard currency reserves and thus poses severe problems for the conduct of monetary policy. This project argues that the sensitivity to foreign currency reserves induced by original sin also leads countries to purse trade disputes more aggressively at the WTO in order to protect trade-based access to hard currency.

2008: Achieving Breadth and Depth in International Multilateral Agreements: the Strategic Design of Membership Provisions

By Barbara Koremenos and Papia Debroy

Project Description

Achieving cooperation in a multilateral agreement of states with different distributional preferences, commitment mechanisms and domestic capacities to cooperate presents a puzzle to scholars of international organizations: how can divergent preferences converge such that deep cooperation is achieved? Literature in the field focuses on how states achieve such cooperation by trading off between the breadth of cooperation to achieve more depth. Yet, an empirical overview of multilateral organizations suggests that multilateral institutions can achieve both breadth and depth of cooperation. This empirical finding suggests that our understanding of the conditions under which multilateral institutions form and find success is yet incomplete. This poses the important question: under what conditions do actors create multilateral agreements and how do they design membership provisions so that actors in such organizations can achieve deep cooperation?

2007: Who Creates and Supports International Human Rights Agreements (and Why?)

By Jana von Stein and Michelle Allendoerfer

Project Description

Over the past 60 years, the United Nations and other international organizations have created a large body of international human rights agreements (HRAs). These include (but are not limited to) the elimination of torture, civil and political rights, women’s equality, and economic and social rights. Historically, HRAs have received little attention in the World Politics literature. In recent years, however, scholars have begun to examine this area of international law, focusing primarily on the effectiveness of HRAs. In general, the literature takes HRAs as ‘given’: given the existence of an HRA, who commits? Who complies and why? We believe the existing literature has overlooked some important puzzles about the origins of these agreements. Who creates HRAs and why? It is commonly thought that the staunchest supporters of HRAs are small, advanced democracies with wealthy citizens. Why do these states push for the creation of these agreements?

The Organski Award facilitated my entry point into an important research question: what factors determine the degree and form of politicization of religion, and what role does state repression and subsidization of religion play in determining political attitudes and political behavior? The Organski Award allowed me to collect data on thousands of protest events in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and to prepare for my fieldwork in Kyrgyzstan. The insights this work generated contributed to a successful co-authored NSF proposal, leading to a nationally representative survey on religious attitudes and political behavior in Kyrgyzstan that is currently being expanded to other Central Asian countries. 

Dustin Gamza

2014 recipient of the Organski award


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