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Areas of Research

ASU School of Politics and Global Studies faculty are engaged in a wide variety of research, stretching across and interlinking many disciplines. Several on-going and innovative, collaborative research projects being done by our faculty are described briefly below.

Global Studies

Cultural Perspectives & Place

Globalization occurs in particular places. This feature of globalization is important for three reasons. First, as the products of particular places, global forces have properties that are locally derived. Second, global forces from diverse sources encounter the influences of local places that then mediate them. Third, as mediators of these globalizing processes, local places are themselves changed. Among the many modes of globalization – economic, political, social, cultural and environmental – culture figures prominently because economic, political, social and even environmental systems spring from a particular cultural perspective, i.e., the collection of values, identities and practices that inform everyday life.

Global Studies faculty apply the concepts of culture and place to their research of globalization in a variety of ways. Global projects involving economic development, political conflict, social movements and environmental protection, for example, must take into account the features of local places where global efforts finally touch the ground and either take root or wither away. Faculty specialties include place as it is conceived as a geographical culture area such as Southeast Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean, China, and Africa, not to mention other kinds of places such as those in which individual consumer choices are made or where global warming makes its mark on everyday life. Developing an acute understanding of how cultural perspectives and particular places mediate the forces of globalization is essential to success in any global career ranging from governance to entrepreneurialism to activism.

Economic Development

The global flows of goods, services, capital, population and ideas has opened up new opportunities to enhance living standards, increase quality of life, and alleviate poverty. The goal of the economic development track is to help students learn how market forces can be harnessed to free developing countries from poverty traps, and to understand the importance of institutions, such as the World Trade Organization, International Labor Organization, that regulate these forces.

This track introduces students to basic economic concepts and principles underlying globalization. It focuses on the systematic study of economic development processes in which the firm, the market, the law, and values all interact with each other. We have particular strengths in economic development theory, the role of government and business in development, international development organizations, behavioral economics and new institutional thinking, and economic transformation in East and Southeast Asia, especially China and Thailand.

Students in this area of emphasis will become familiar with key economic issues in both developing and developed economies as they relate to globalization processes. Skills obtained in the classroom, through internships, and research with faculty will enable students to pursue careers that require basic understanding of global economic processes in private firms, government, international organization and NGOs, and research think tanks.


Some of the most pressing global problems today are environmental in nature. For example, global climate change has the potential to threaten human welfare and security and consequently quality of life in a manner unprecedented in recent history. The approach of the Faculty of Global Studies is based on the principle that environmental issues and conflicts (with resulting policy and management ramifications) cannot be studied without careful examination of place-specific and pertinent political, cultural, historical and natural factors. Our strength is that analyses of global environmental issues importantly include understanding of institutional issues that will largely determine the fate of global environmental action, e.g., analyses of global organizations, institutions and governance structures and global trends. Our second area of comparative advantage is that Global Studies interweaves local and comparative analysis with global perspectives. Current research work by faculty in environment includes assessments of the costs of adaptation to climate change in Asia, comparative governance regimes for biodiversity in Asia and Latin America, and the impact of climate as a driver of migration.

The Environment area of emphasis helps students understand global environmental issues and conflicts from an interdisciplinary perspective. Global Studies offers opportunities for students to work on these and related issues with faculty through classes, internships, and honors projects, and prepares them for careers in international environmental fields with businesses, government agencies, international organizations, conservation organizations and other NGOs.

Global Governance

Within the area of global governance, we study how institutions, organizations, and other forms of governance, and the conflicts surrounding them, are interconnected across local, national, international, and global levels. Global Governance includes the study of governmental and international regimes, organizations, law, institutions, and popular participation at these various levels. We pay close attention to international governmental organizations, like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, to international nongovernmental organizations that number in the thousands worldwide, to international law, courts, and tribunals, and to the vast array of civil society associations. Policy or issue areas addressed include development, environment, human rights, corruption, state failure, religious/cultural/ethnic mobilizations, and participation/protest. Global Studies faculty study how democracy, civil society, human rights, legitimacy, authority, and identity shape and are shaped by global processes.

Ongoing faculty research includes: the interplay among states, IGOs, corporations, and NGOs in diverse issue areas, development governance, environmental global governance related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, theoretical problems in the governance of global public goods, justice and institutional responses to genocide, religious rights and religious movements, global health governance, and alien rule and issues of legitimacy.

Urban Systems

Cities, particularly cosmopolitan “world cities”, are hubs of globalization processes; they are key producers, mediators, and diffusers of global forces including youth culture, communications, and production.

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be urban, contrasting with 7% in 1850. China and Sub-Saharan Africa will each add close to half a billion urban residents between 2010 and 2050. Already cities account for close to 80% of the world’s economy and are the prime sources of innovation, goods production, frequently based on global divisions of labor. But virtually no city is free from global threats, including terrorism and economic shocks. Most large urban regions are coastal, threatened by sea level rise. In the looming post- peak petroleum world, it is unclear how today’s fossil-fuel dependent cities will be powered and fed. In the School of Global Studies, we are interested in: (i) better understanding the role that urban regions play in mediating global and local forces, (ii) how cities will mitigate green house gas emissions and adapt to climate change, (iii) how global cities compete and cooperate, and (iv) city building world-wide, increasingly impacted by global “best practice” disseminated by international organizations.

Global Studies’ students better understand global urban processes through classes, internships, study abroad programs, research work with faculty, and honors theses. Graduates pursue a variety of futures including graduate school (frequently in urban planning), employment with international organizations, local governments, NGOS.

Violence, Conflict & Human Rights

In this area of emphasis, Global Studies faculty examine the causes, dynamics and consequences of mass violence, armed conflict, and processes of dehumanization. Central to this area is the study of human rights mechanisms to prevent atrocities or to alleviate their impact. The transdisciplinary perspective of our research and teaching draws attention to the political, legal, religious, ethical and historical dimensions of mass violence and human rights.

This area of emphasis addresses such key issues as:

  • The causes of genocide, communal violence and ethnic and religious conflict
  • The challenges of enforcing state compliance with international law and human rights norms
  • The potential and limits of international war crimes tribunals
  • The political and legal implications of international military interventions
  • The ethical and legal debates surrounding torture and the “war on terror”
  • The plight of survivors of human rights abuses and trauma

Political Science

American Politics

Faculty emphasize political behavior and use survey research, experimental designs, and content analysis to collect data and conduct statistical analyses of mass voting patterns, campaign strategies, party politics, the role of the media in political communication, agenda setting and policy development in Congress, and elite-mass linkages.
Other faculty study decision making on state and federal courts, judicial independence, and public perceptions of the Supreme Court using data from actual court decisions, longitudinal and comparative data on changes to the rules governing judicial selection and retention, and experiments and surveys to examine public reaction to court decisions and support for courts.

Comparative Politics

Faculty in Comparative politics investigate a variety of topics in several world regions. Research interests include political and economic development, political parties, race and politics, women and politics, political participation, corruption, religion and politics, problems of collective action, political violence, civil war and ethnic conflict, and ethnic-based movements. Faculty incorporate a variety of approaches and methodologies, including political behavior, political processes, rational choice theory, and policies, as well as incorporating both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
Regions of particular emphasis include Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and Africa. 
Faculty in the comparative area have been awarded grants and fellowships from a variety of sources including the National Science foundation, United States Department of State, Ford Foundation, European Institute, Hoover Institution at Stanford University and American Association of University women. In addition, faculty have won teaching awards and consulted for organizations such as the World Bank.

International Relations

International relations encompasses a diverse set of issues related to international security and political economy, and is fundamentally concerned with how international politics is organized and how it functions. Faculty in the IR subfield focus on a range of topics, including foreign policy, national and regional security, international order and state sovereignty, human rights and repression, terrorism and insurgency, religion, race, ethnicity and gender in global politics, and global migration. Our faculty employ a diverse set of tools and philosophical approaches to understand these issues, including quantitative and formal methods as well as critical theory and comparative case study analysis.


Methods and Models includes the study of quantitative and qualitative methods as well as formal theory. Faculty focus on the development and application of mathematical methods and models for broad use in the social sciences, and offer rigorous training that is integrated with the major substantive areas of political science. Faculty have conducted research and published on a broad range of methods and applications, including algorithmic modeling, survey and field experiments, model averaging and selection, causal inference, graphical models, statistical computing, game theory and social choice theory. Faculty have also done important work linking qualitative methods with both quantitative and formal analysis. ASU provides a dynamic environment in which to discuss, develop and design methods and models of politics. In addition to departmental seminars that highlight innovative research on new methods and models, the broader university has variety of fora of interest to political methodologists, including for example the Center for Geospatial Analysis and Computation,Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity, Agent-Based Modeling Consortium, and the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center.

Political Theory


Faculty research interests cover a range of topics in the history of political thought and contemporary political theory. Historical topics include Rousseau, histories of concepts, and modern liberalism. Research in contemporary political theory includes: autonomy and freedom; rights and obligations; citizenship, civic virtues, and the idea of the common good; various issues in democratic political theory (with particular attention to education); aspects of political and legal theory regarding corporate personality; conceptions of self in various cultures; analysis of the myths in aboriginal societies (particularly Native Americans); punishment; justice; community; language and politics; social ecology; and peace and nonviolence.

Public Policy

Faculty in the Public Policy field are interested in the laws and regulations produced by governments, the societal and institutional influences on policymaking, and the implementation and outcomes of public policy. Faculty examine policy processes at various scales:  local (especially urban policy), national, and global. A particular area of emphasis is science, technology, and environmental policy, with faculty research focused, for example, on the governance of emerging technologies and complex technological systems, on efforts to integrate societal and ethical concerns in the work of science, and on the role of scientific experts and institutions in the policy process.