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.

Please contact us with any questions about the competition. 

Award Winners

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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