Soboleva and Pozsar Win Best MA Thesis Awards

June 28, 2021
It is our honor to announce that the Department chose the winners of the Best MA Thesis Award of the AY 2020-2021 and the committee selected the following students:
MA1 Program: Anastasiia Soboleva
Thesis: When Is Power-Sharing Not Enough? Military Inclusion and Coup-Conflict Link
Abstract: The thesis addresses conflict-promoting military defection through the link between coup d'état and civil conflict. As the Arab Spring shows, disobedience by the ruler’s ethnic rivals hitherto included in the army is puzzling because they should have enjoyed their intra-regime strategic position. This research develops a framework of power-sharing between the incumbent and non-dominant factions in fractionalized, potentially unstable societies by adapting Svolik’s (2012) model. As argued, defection becomes preferable when credibility of a coup threat is diminished – i.e., when the ruler reneges via enhancing own praetorian forces, which is coupled by the faction’s low initial capabilities and present social unrest offering a moment for defection. Illustration of the model on Syria reveals that a decent place of Sunni officers and concurrent strength of security forces produced lasting co-habitation under Hafez al-Assad, accompanied by a lacking opportunity for defection. Thirty years later, however, the Arab Uprising gave Sunnis a good chance to abandon Bashar al-Assad, which had been preceded by disempowerment and parallel enhancement of elite units. Quantitative analysis on Roessler’s (2011) data supports the role of the praetorian build-up in inducing defection and rebellion, such that reneging features greater explanatory power than the extent of inclusion alone. Whereas unrest and the parameters’ interrelation are not evidenced statistically, it might indicate limited applicability of the framework or equally the need for a more case-oriented approach. Greater attention is therefore required to the ruler’s interaction with opponents who can prefer insurgency once capabilities turn insufficient for a credible coup threat.
Supervisor: Matthijs Bogaards
MA2 Program: Maria Henriete Pozsar
Thesis: How Discourse Strengthens Online White Supremacy: Strategic Framing on Stormfront
Abstract: Far right political violence has undoubtably been getting bolder in the United States over the past decade. One expert hypothesis is that online white supremacist spaces might contribute to this phenomenon because they may be conducive to processes of radicalization. This project aims to provide a building block for the fields of study dealing with white supremacist online radicalization by examining ideological framing processes present in an original dataset containing seventeen years of speech from the oldest online platform dedicated to white supremacy, Stormfront. In doing so, this project also aims to present an example of a mixed-methods study approach to the topic, including Natural Language Processing and Social Network Analysis, applied on the basis of social science theories from social movements and communication studies, such as framing theory, the concept of political dog-whistles and rhetorical distance. The results of the analysis come in opposition to previous findings obtained mainly from qualitative study designs which support the idea that strategic re-framing of racist and white supremacist ideas is prevalent, or at least, on the rise, in online white supremacist communities. The current findings discover that the opposite frame, dealing with racist speech and ideas in an overt, direct way, may have been underestimated, and continues to occupy an important position in the Stormfront network.
Supervisor: Levente Littvay
Congratulations to Anastasiia and Henri and their supervisors for the exceptional work! Both theses will be available via the CEU Library.