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Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy

About the Workshops

Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy are weekly seminars hosted by the Center for Political Studies. Speakers present current research on a wide range of topics. Archives of past workshops are available in the menu to the right.​

Workshops typically take place on Wednesdays at noon, in room 6080; alternative rooms are starred below.

2024 events

Black Cities: Race and Representation in American Cities during the post-Civil Rights Era

January 24, 2024 | Noon to 1:00 PM EST
Robert A. Brown  (Spelman College)

In this talk, Brown examines the influence that Black urban representation has had upon the governance and decision-making of American cities — one of the central and long-standing areas of research within African American and urban politics. It is well known that the growth in the number of Black mayors and city council members has been a major development of American Politics over the past fifty years. Yet, Blacks’ greater influence in urban political representation raises some fundamental questions. Have Black mayors governed their cities in ways different from white mayors? How did Black mayors govern over the past fifty years as many cities experienced significant economic and demographic change — change that often was quite detrimental to the viability of many cities? Specifically, did Black mayors and city council members increase cities’ social policy spending and areas of spending for vulnerable citizens?

Using data collected by the Census Bureau and the Joint Center for Political Studies, Brown’s dataset of the social, economic, and political characteristics and the fiscal revenues and expenditures of all American cities with at least 50,000 residents (approximately 380 cities) from 1972 to 1990. A basic expectation of my work is that Black officials increased spending in such social policy areas as housing and community development and public welfare to alleviate the vulnerable conditions of many Black urban communities.


Money as Muscle in American Elections

March 6, 2024 | Noon to 1:00 PM EST
Danielle Thomsen (University of California, Irvine)

Most Americans are convinced that money influences politics, but political scientists have been more skeptical. This book approaches the meaning of money in a new way. The main argument is that money matters because a variety of political actors—candidates, donors, journalists, and party leaders—coordinate around fundraising as a focal point. Money is the most widely used indicator of viability and strength, long before the election and well after the votes have been cast. The chapters explore several mechanisms through which money exerts its influence. Candidates prioritize raising money so they are seen as serious contenders. Donors direct their contributions to those with a track record of fundraising. Journalists cite dollars to indicate electability and support. Party leaders reward better fundraisers with better positions in office. Early money is critical because it serves as a first impression and molds expectations about what is likely to follow. Fundraising is the “performance” that spectators watch. We have to look beyond the ballot to capture the value of money in American politics.


Sacred Foundations: the Religious and Medieval Roots of the Modern State

March 20, 2024 | Noon to 1:00 PM EST
Anna Grzymala-Busse (Stanford University)

The medieval church was a fundamental force in European state formation. Existing accounts focus on early modern warfare or contracts between the rulers and the ruled in explaining how the state arose. In contrast, I argue that the Catholic church both competed with medieval monarchs and provided critical templates for governing institutions, the rule of law, and parliaments. The result was both a territorial fragmentation unique to Europe, and the rise of several distinctive institutions: taxes, rule of law, and parliaments.


What’s in a name?: Black Racial Conservatism and Internalized Racism

April 10, 2024 | Noon to 1:00 PM EST
D’Andra Orey, Jackson State University

This study investigates the complex relationship between emotions, mental health, and political engagement in Black communities. It reveals how trauma and anger can act as catalysts for political activism, while depression often creates barriers to such involvement, specifically among Black men. The research highlights anger’s particular effectiveness in driving actions like protests and community organizing, yet notes its limited impact on voting behaviors. Trauma, conversely, has a mixed effect, enhancing protest participation but dampening voting tendencies.