Gunitsky reports from Princeton

December 27, 2014

Reporting from Princeton

This year I’ve had a chance to spend some time as a Fung Fellow at Princeton University. Housed at the Institute for International and Regional Studies, the fellowship brings together six early-career scholars who work on a particular theme, with Global Diffusion as this year’s topic.

The interdisciplinary nature of the program means interacting with sociologists and historians who are approaching the subject of diffusion from very different perspectives. Just to take a few examples: one of my colleagues is studying the spread of the metric system, and the surprisingly complex politics behind its adoption (or non-adoption, to invoke the infamous American exception). Another fellow is examining the evolution of historic preservation policies across European and American states. Yet another is a former engineer (I never thought I’d learn about solvents and solutes!) who is examining how the idea of “efficiency” grew out of the Industrial Revolution and spread around the world.

Despite our diverse research backgrounds, we all share a research emphasis on relations and linkages among actors as important drivers of outcomes. Democracy (my own area of interest), for example, has traditionally been studied by looking at factors inside the country, such as economic development and civil society. I’m interested instead in how external factors – and in particular, the relationships between powerful states – can also facilitate and hinder the spread of democracy around the world. While here I plan to finish two article-length projects and complete the final manuscript of my book.

I am very grateful to both Ryan Balot, last year’s acting chair, and Lou Pauly for being so accommodating in letting me pursue this opportunity to further my research, and look forward to rejoining my colleagues this summer!