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Dissertation Workshop

The meetings of the CES Dissertation Workshop offer graduate students at Harvard a collegial and stimulating environment in which to present their current research to peers and faculty interested broadly in the study of Europe. It is a student-run, student-centered project. Graduate students and faculty are encouraged to attend. Papers will be pre-circulated on the e-mail list. Refreshments will be served. Students attending the workshop will be entitled to dine for free at CES’s in-house, delicious Friday lunch. For location details and times, please consult the CES events calendar.

2018-2019 Dissertation Workshop Schedule

October 26, 2-4 p.m., Hoffmann Room

Elissa Berwick, Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Politics and Methodology, MIT

"Substate Nationalism and The Scope of Redistribution: Evidence from Spain"


In this paper, I argue that the mobilization of substate identities has profound implications for both comprehensive measures of ideology and particular preferences for redistribution. Focusing on Spain, a high-capacity, modern state distinguished by the variety and intensity of the substate identities found within its borders, I find that for strong identifiers with mobilized substate identities, policy scope, the political community in which a policy is intended to apply and be carried out, is nearly as important as policy content, the actual intended effects of a policy. My empirical analysis proceeds in two steps. First, I investigate the structure of policy preferences in Spain by estimating latent differences in multidimensional ideological preferences across regions. Second, I identify the mechanisms connecting substate identity to preferences for policy scope using the results of an original survey I conducted in Spain in June 2017. The results of an experiment embedded in the survey reveal that strong identifiers are more likely to support redistribution when its scope is the community with which they most identify. Moreover, the importance of scope is not merely due to the familiar mechanism of in-group/out-group bias. The importance of scope also stems from differential trust in political elites, such that shared identity between respondents and elites increases support for redistribution.

November 9th, 2-4 p.m., Hoffmann Room

Louis Gerdelan, Ph.D. Candidate in History, Harvard University

Prophecies of doom or the doom of prophecy?Debates over the astrological prediction of disasters in the Atlantic world, c.1650-1700

Abstract: The inhabitants of the early modern world had no single explanation of disastrous events.Instead, they possessed a diverse range of ideas drawn from many intellectual traditions, including theology, natural philosophy, astrology, medicine, architecture and others.Of these types of catastrophic knowledge, we know least about astrology, which has largely escaped the attention of historians of disaster.In fact, I argue, it was extremely important in the early modern intellectual world, and the changing nature and status of astrology played a crucial role in shaping how contemporaries understood disasters.From the 1650s, debates over the relationship of comets, eclipses and celestial conjunctions to what we now call natural disasters were an important feature of the intellectual landscape in Europe and the Atlantic world.One of the reasons historians have missed this connection is that the historiography of early modern astrology has tended to produce narratives in which astrology played second fiddle to science.The conventional historical picture claims that after a very long history stretching back to the ancient world, astrology experienced first a heyday in the mid-seventeenth century and then a rapid decline over a few decades, in which it was utterly dethroned by the natural sciences and eventually disintegrated by its critics.There are significant problems with that (largely Anglo-centric) narrative.By taking the specific case of disaster astrology and situating it within the context of the wider intellectual ecology, I show that astrological theories actually played a crucial role in shaping understandings of disaster.Rather than treating astrology as a hermetically-sealed knowledge paradigm, I trace its connections and conflicts with rival traditions.Astrology adapted to critiques, and even sceptical naturalists relied on the existence of astrology as an opponent to legitimise their own disciplines.

November 30th, 2-4 p.m., Hoffmann Room

Ian Kumekawa, Ph.D. Candidate in History, Harvard University

"Lugers and Londonderry: World War I, Ireland, and the Origins of Modern British Gun Control"


This presentation discusses the origins and application of the Firearm Act of 1920 and with it, the principal legal framework for British gun control up to the present day. The Act, which gave police wide powers to regulate gun sale and ownership, emerged at a moment of uncertainty and fear in the immediate wake of World War I, during which guns flooded the British market and Irish nationalists clashed openly with British authorities. This presentation will explore how World War I, the unrest in Ireland, as well as class and industrial interests shaped British gun control policy.

External Funding Workshop

Each year, CES offers the Workshop on External Funding which discusses a range of external grants relevant for doctoral students in social sciences and looks into strategies for developing a strong proposal. In addition, it parses specific proposals, both successful and less effective, in an attempt to offer some hands-on tools for mastering the skill of successful proposal writing. In the past, CES graduate students who won some of the most competitive external grants have joined the student programs advisor and shared their insights and prose samples during the workshop.

To subscribe for workshop updates or to sign up as a presenter, contact the workshop organizers:

Past Dissertation Workshops