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Dissertation and Thesis Presentations

Candidates who are in the process of defending their doctoral dissertation or master's thesis may submit their information to the Office of Graduate Studies for posting to this page. Submissions intended for this page should be sent at least two weeks before the date of the defense.

Dissertation Presentation

Student Name: Lindsay MacNeill
Graduate Level: PhD
Field of Study: History
Committee Chair: Richard Breitman
Committee Members: Lisa Leff, Michael Brenner, and Edward Westermann 
Date of Presentation: March 2, 2020
Presentation Location: History Lounge, Battelle-Tompkins Room 130
Time of Presentation: 3 PM
 Title of Dissertation: Professionalism and Brutality: The Viennese Police and the Public in Extraordinary Times, 1918–1955. 

Using the Vienna Police Directorate as a case study, my dissertation illuminates the relationship between Nazism, the Holocaust, and twentieth-century ideals of professional policing. To do so, I take a longer view and examine the Vienna Police Directorate under four regimes: the Austrian First Republic, the Austrofascist dictatorship, Nazi Austria, and Allied-occupied Austria. My dissertation primarily focuses on the decisions, policies, and attitudes of Viennese policemen, but I also pay close attention to the perspective of those whom they policed. Oral histories, memoirs, court testimonies, and newspapers reveal that many Viennese had strong opinions and memorable interactions with policemen. My inclusion and prioritization of their stories reflects my goal, inspired by Saul Friedländer’s work on the Holocaust, of writing an “integrated history” of the Vienna Police Directorate that understands interactions between the police and the public as causal. In the midst of instability and regime change, professionalism became the metric by which both the Vienna Police Directorate and the Viennese public judged police conduct. Police claimed authority based on their status as neutral professionals, while the public accused the police of brutality and bias. These discourses shaped the Viennese-police relationship throughout the 1918 to 1955 period, transcending Austria’s democratic, dictatorial and Nazi regimes. My dissertation thus calls into question standard associations between police professionalism, brutality, politicization, and democracy. 



Dissertation Presentation

Student Name: Ruth Gabor
Graduate Level: PhD
Field of Study: History
Committee Chair: Dr. Eric Lohr
Committee Members: Dr. Anton Fedyashin, Dr. Christine Ruane (Prof. Emerita, University of Tulsa), Dr. Steven Barnes (George Mason University)
Date of Presentation: March 2, 2020
Presentation Location: Battelle-Tompkins 130
Time of Presentation: 10am
Dissertation Title: Exposing Couture: Soviet Fashion on Display during the Cold War

This dissertation explores Soviet fashion’s international interactions, reception, and evolution during the Cold War. In the late 1950s, fashion began to play an important role in the competition over living standards with the West, reflecting the Soviet Union’s commitment to socialist values, embrace of inclusivity, and artistic and industrial productivity. At the same time, fashion helped to foster cultural exchange in ways that transcended the East-West divide. Soviet designers followed global trends, but they became known for their national designs too. As Soviet fashion’s reputation continued to grow, it debuted on the world market in 1966 as an export. A year later, Moscow became a fashion capital of sorts when it hosted the International Fashion Festival and Clothing Exhibition. Thereafter, the Soviet Union continued to promote sartorial ties internationally, despite deteriorating economic conditions at home. These connections helped to establish Moscow’s contemporary status in the fashion world.

Utilizing a diverse range of archival and periodical sources, such as exhibition comments books, official reports, women’s and fashion magazines, and newspapers, this dissertation analyzes Soviet fashion from a variety of perspectives over the course of approximately thirty years, while also considering its legacy today. Beyond the Soviet perspective, American, British, and French interpretations paint a complex and nuanced picture of Soviet style that reflects not only Cold War stereotypes and misperceptions, but also the ways in which fashion promoted mutual understanding as a universal concern. There were also variations in terms of how different countries in “the West” interpreted Soviet fashion. The analysis also offers some comparative insight into how both the East and West propagated and perceived fashion in the Cold War, and it looks at the role that women’s bodies and appearances played in the competition because of their connection to national identity and clothing production and consumption. This dissertation contributes to the scholarship on the cultural Cold War, challenging notions of Western cultural predominance, and studies of Soviet, socialist, Russian, and international fashion.

Dissertation Presentation

Student Name: Dania Thafer
Graduate Level: Ph.D. 
Field of Study: Political Science
Committee Chair: Dr. Eric Hershberg
Committee Members: Dr. Jie Lu and Dr. Gerd Nonneman
Date: March 17, 2020
Location: Kerwin Hall, Rm # 109
Time: 8:30 AM
After the Arab Spring shook governments throughout the Middle East in the early 2010s, youth activism has increased  with simmering tensions over corruption, obstacles to economic empowerment, and the deteriorating welfare state as states across the Gulf region witness their youth majorities evolve into a working-age population. This opportunity to capitalize on this age structure and increase economic productivity is an exigent matter of both political and economic stability in the Gulf rentier states along with the broader Middle East. With the wealth of the Gulf States based largely on hydrocarbon resources, these states share a unique economic situation, and often are termed “rentier economies.” The resulting institutional ecosystem is often extractive by design and undermines innovation at its core. Thus, the capacity of the state to attain a demographic dividend― a sweet spot in the age structure that can be the highest opportunity for economic productivity―will be limited for decades to come if not framed by the appropriate institutional design and policies that allow for innovation-led development.

Theoretically, the dependency on hydrocarbons creates distinct interaction between the institutional environment of the economy and the political logic of stakeholders such as the business elite and the labor force.  In this context, this dissertation’s question is : How does the institutional environment of state-business relations affect the necessary economic reform that fosters innovation needed for rentier economies to convert youth bulges into demographic dividends?  
This dissertation has three primary arguments. First, that rentier economies’ institutional characteristics and market dominance by elites can stifle innovation, which consequently undermines prospects of achieving the demographic dividend.  Through a cross-national quantitative analysis the results indicate that rentier economies generally have a negative relationship with innovation, but that institutional quality and design can drive successful innovation in these economies.  Second, by applying a historical institutional approach, this study explains how rentier economies originated from particular socio-political antecedents and were influenced by various power brokers in the pre-oil era economies, impacting the institutional structure that undergirds the politics of economic reform.  This historical arrangement spurred differing levels of business elite dominance in the economy and therefore caused variance in the level of state-led capitalism across the three states— Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain.  In evaluating the histories these three case studies, one main variable emerges that influenced different institutional development pathways—economic diversification. Diversification was a driving force behind the trajectory and influence of merchants on the private sector’s institutional development, and that elite roles have affected contemporary political obstacles for innovation-led economic development. Third, in the current context, the institutional arrangements of rentier states, the state with the highest level of centralized state-led capitalism and lowest level of business elite dominance is more empowered to realize the innovation-led economic development necessary to successfully attain the demographic dividend.
Existing currents of thinking on the literature on the resource curse, rentier economies, and the demographic dividend have failed to highlight the connection between political forces and the economic policies that affect societies with youth bulges. A central goal of mixed-methods research is to illuminate this gap and to point to alternative strategies to make the most of an extraordinary moment of opportunity that may only arise once for decades to come.